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The Benefits of Outdoor Adventure Therapy in Addiction Recovery

Outdoor Adventure Therapy

Addiction, clinically referred to as substance use disorder (SUD), is characterized by compulsively engaging in rewarding stimuli despite negative consequence. It is a chronic, relapsing brain disorder, and is listed as such in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). There are many different types of treatment options and therapeutic modalities used to help people recover from addiction. 

Outdoor Adventure Therapy

Research reveals that environments and nature can reduce or raise stress levels and impact specific body systems’ functions. Adventure therapy is a form of psychotherapy aims to “improve an individual’s physical, social, spiritual, and psychological well-being through the healing power of the wilderness with evidence-based, experiential therapy, recreational activities, and wilderness expeditions.” It is derived from the principals of Outward Bound, which was founded in the 1940s by Kurt Hahn, as an experiential learning program. It was first was used in Great Britain to train British seamen with physical and emotional challenges and was later brought to the United States in the 1960s. Adventure therapy offers a unique way to engage individuals in the recovery process, as it provides participants with the opportunity to depart from their daily routines and venture outside of their comfort zones. To meet everyone at his or her level, the adventure therapy model is designed to be widely versatile. Outdoor adventure therapy typically involves participating in different physical group activities (e.g., kayaking, ropes course, mountain climbing, hiking, camping, swimming, rafting, skiing, etc.) and exposes people to the therapeutic properties of nature. 

Benefits

The purpose of adventure therapy is to inspire self-discipline and self-confidence through facing mentally and physically challenging experiences in a wilderness setting. As explained in the Encyclopedia of Counseling, First Edition, “the fundamental proposition of adventure therapy involves exposing a group of individuals to a novel setting in which they strive to negotiate a variety of challenging tasks that involve real or perceived risk and where the outcome of their efforts is directly affected by the choices that they make, both individually and in concert with other group members.” This can yield an array of benefits for people in addiction recovery, some of which include the following examples, provided by Verywell Mind

  • Develop a growth mindset.
  • Increased resilience.
  • Decreased symptoms of anxiety and/ or depression.
  • Improved self-esteem, self-confidence, and emotional/ behavioral functioning.
  • Enhanced self-advocacy skills.
  • Cultivate healthy relationships.
  • Refined interpersonal skills such as conflict resolution, communication, etc. 

Research has identified increased cognitive functioning as a key benefit of interaction with ecosystems. One study showed that exposure to natural environments is good for the brain as it improves one’s working memory, cognitive flexibility, and attentional-control tasks. A study published in Science Advances found evidence that contact with nature, which is a fundamental aspect of adventure therapy, is associated with increases in happiness, a sense of well-being, positive social interactions, and a feeling of meaningfulness in life.

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at: info@friendlyhousela.org

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