The Benefits of Adventure-Based Therapy

Benefits of Adventure-Based Therapy

Table of Contents

Some mental health issues could require far more than what traditional therapy has to offer. One such example of non-traditional therapy is adventure-based therapy, where the person needing treatment is given experiences that could help them in their efforts toward recovery.

What is Adventure Therapy?

As the name would suggest, adventure therapy is a treatment approach intended to aid people with mental health issues by exposing them to challenging activities. These activities are intended to produce a sense of accomplishment in the patient, and in so doing, promote a greater feeling of well-being, a willingness to complete the therapy, promote a healthy identity, and develop a mindset that is set on growth.

The advantage of the adventure therapy approach lies in the fact that it allows the patient to be engaged either individually, or with groups, such as friends or family. As it entails various activities as well, it also engages the patient on the physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral levels. Adventure therapy is also a chance for the patient to get into a discovery phase where they learn that they could do things they did not think they could do before, and this sense of discovery also provides them with a sense of reward as people tend to be pleased when they discover a little more about themselves.

In most cases, the difficulty in any kind of therapy is the presence of some self-limiting factor. This could slow any progress done during treatment, and it could even prevent a person from achieving any kind of breakthrough during therapy. Experiencing something new, like going on an adventure, helps remove these self-limiting barriers by allowing the patient to realize that they are capable of so much more than they thought possible.

What are the Benefits of Adventure Therapy?

Adventure-Based Therapy

Most would think that the concept of adventure therapy would appeal more to the sense of physicality rather than having anything to do with mental health treatment. The reality is that more than just enticing the patient to engage in physically challenging activities, adventure therapy also challenges how they perceive and approach a situation. This means delving more into their cognitive processes and seeing how their perceptions translate into actions and behavior. This approach allows mental, physical, and behavioral aspects of the person to be evaluated in one go.

Adventure-based Therapy Applies to Different Age Groups and Mental Health Issues

Adventure therapy is not a treatment form that is limited in application to only a few specific groups or issues. This approach is supported by documented evidence as being highly effective in dealing with a wide array of mental health issues, such as depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even substance abuse disorders.

One of the more important discoveries about the efficacy of adventure therapy is how it has also proven to be effective in dealing with anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are among the most difficult to treat because the patient tends to be extremely withdrawn to the point that it takes an extreme effort from the therapist to even get through the barriers that anxiety sufferers build as a defense around themselves.

Adventure therapy has also been used in helping people with schizophrenia become more grounded in reality, allowing them a better perception of what is real around them. In many instances, people diagnosed with schizophrenic tendencies often have difficulty associating and perceiving reality.

Adventure Therapy Taps the Benefit of Natural Healing

While many might not buy into the idea that exposure to nature is highly beneficial to live beings and could promote healing, adventure therapy is proof that the great outdoors does have a therapeutic effect on people. Therapists have documented a significant decrease in stress levels and bouts of depression and anxiety in people who participate in adventure therapy. This is supported by scientific findings that exposure to nature has been observed to reduce the cortisol levels of people, which is a chemical associated with stress.

Compared to the jarring and harsh stimulus experienced with being within heavily-populated urban areas, the natural sounds that people are exposed to in wildlife preserves and nature parks have been observed to induce a state of calmness and tranquility. Even people known to suffer from specific phobias or paranoias have been seen to visibly relax after spending some time in nature.

This therapeutic effect of nature is also largely seen as why many professionals go on weekend trips to the country or to anywhere outside the city to destress and rejuvenate themselves.

Benefits of Adventure-Based Therapy

Adventure therapy is Real-time and Real-world therapy

It is not uncommon for many people to say that they don’t believe in the efficacy of talk therapy, as they might have tried it at one point in their lives to deal with some issues. This could largely be in the fact that the particular form of talk therapy might not have been appropriate or suited to the issue being addressed. It could also be that the therapist was not able to truly find the crux of the problem that the patient needed therapy.

Adventure therapy engages all faculties and senses of the person experiencing it, which is addressing all possible levels relevant to whatever issues there may be. This is the science behind the efficacy of being on an adventure in nature, as the person gets to see, hear, feel, and completely experience something new with every exposure they get to nature, as opposed to sitting down and trying to sort out issues in the confines of a small clinic.

Adventure Therapy is an Opportunity for Personal Development

Mental health issues are known to stunt the development of an individual. It does not help that many mental health-related conditions also create a mindset that effectively prevents a person from seeking help for their condition. The inability to seek help only serves to make the condition worse, and it could get to the point where no amount of therapy could do anything to treat the condition anymore.

One of the best things about adventure therapy is that the patient has a direct hand and say in their treatment. Compared to the traditional talk therapy approach, where the sessions are mostly guided by the therapist with the patient expected to patiently play along, adventure therapy puts the patient right in the middle of all the action. In this manner, the patient is responsible for any recovery achieved. Conversely, any failure is also put squarely on the shoulders of the patient, which makes increases the stakes of the endeavor. Because of this, outpatient services are often used to address mental health issues.

Adventure Therapy is an Exercise in Social Skills Development

While going on an adventure in pursuit of therapy is chockfull of benefits, it is also something that needs careful planning and support. As with anything that has to do with being in nature and far away from the usual urban areas, it is best not to do it alone. This is why adventure-based therapy programs are executed as group activities. Trying to go solo on an activity is not only unwise, but it could hinder any kind of progress while in the program.

Being in an unknown environment with a group will inevitably cause the group to bond, whether they are inclined to do so or not. This bonding is done under the best conditions as there is no pretense of building any kind of relationship other than that which would get the activities done. In this way, a truer bond based on personal interaction is created, which many of the participants in the program might not be able to do outside of the program.

Adventure Therapy Encourages Introspection

There is a philosophy that everyone is given a moment of undiluted clarity when faced with something much bigger, such as nature. This allows a person to enter a state where self-reflection becomes crystal clear, without the distractions that distract people while in an urban setting. This introspection is something that therapists struggle to get a patient into, as many could be in serious denial, or perhaps some other issues are preventing them from achieving it.

Being in nature will allow this state to come naturally and without any kind of encouragement needed to bring it about. Research into this phenomenon suggests that because all of the senses are engaged at the same time when a person is exposed to nature, all of the person’s mental faculties also become acutely aware of the self, and in a way that allows for self-realizations to occur.

Find The Mental Health Treatment that Works Best for You at Jaywalker

Benefits of Adventure-Based Therapy

Having others decide what treatment form could be best for your issues is not always the best way to go about it. In many instances, this could either be less effective or it might not even work. This is why Jaywalker, our addiction and mental health treatment center in Carbondale, CO, makes a point of knowing as much as we can about a person before we make any kind of suggestion relevant to treatment. There is always a better way to treat issues other than what is the popular one, and these are approaches that we also have a lot of success with, so talk to us now.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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