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Adventure Therapy

Adventure therapy is just like it sounds. It’s a therapeutic process in which addicts and alcoholics participate in various “adventures” in a safe environment. Most adventure therapy activities are outdoors while some of the activities in adventure therapy may be indoors. All of them share one thing in common — an element of perceived and/or actual risk. Essentially, a professional leads clients through trust-building activities that promote communication, challenges their minds, stimulates brain power, and gets the client out of his/her day-to-day environment. Some people advocate wilderness adventure therapy as the primary avenue to take within the realm of adventure therapy. Others feel that a more low-key activity is equally effective, as long as the activity is inclusive of cooperative games, problem-solving initiatives, and trust-building exercises.

Adventure therapy is proven to be very effective across the board. Examples of wilderness expedition adventure therapy sessions include white water rafting, hiking extremely high mountains, dog sledding, sailing, and rock climbing. One of the goals of adventure therapy is to get the client out of his/her head and into action. Participating in active expeditions requires the person to use their physicality toward achieving a goal, such as getting the raft back safely or reaching a mountain peak. When tenacity and fortitude are devoted toward a goal in adventure therapy, the idea is that the same level of motivation and perseverance will be applied to the person’s life outside of the session. Recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction is an active engagement. People who want to recover and stay abstinent from drugs and alcohol must work every day to protect their sobriety, build a solid sober foundation, keep in touch with their support group, and reach out when the time is needed. Engaging in a group setting within the realm of adventure therapy sessions encourages the client to use the same cooperative mannerisms and methods of reaching out for help when engaging in their recovery.

Various encyclopedias site the long-term benefits of adventure therapy. They specifically mention ismorphic connections as a key component contributing to the success of adventure therapy. “Positive behavior changes, which are synonymous with psychological healing, can occur through ismorphic connections. An isomorphic connection is transferring learning from a specific experience to other life experiences.” As stated above, emulating the behaviors learned through adventure therapy in day-to-day life is one of the primary concepts behind adventure therapy. “Isomorphic connections occur through the structure of framing and activity. Framing is the creation of a metaphoric theme for a given activity or a series of activities that relates to a targeted treatment issue. Debriefing or processing the experience is a discussion during or after the activity that is related to the frontload, individual, and group treatment issues designed to facilitate ismorphic connection,” states an article in Wikipedia. Essentially, the particular adventure is followed by a group session. Participants sit down and share their feelings, thoughts, and emotions that transpired throughout the adventure. They share how their feelings fluctuated depending on what part of the exercise they were experiencing. For example, an adolescent teen participating in a wilderness expedition may have started out the trail encapsulated by fear and anxiety. Her feelings shifted from fear to fight or flight mode halfway through the hike when a bear peaked out at the group from behind a tree. From then on perhaps she felt a shift to survival, instinctual mode in which her brain focused on the ultimate goal of hitting peak before sunset. This goal precedented all other feelings at the time. Others in the group may nod in agreement and understanding. Once everyone has shared their feelings, the group feels more tight-knit and a sense of closeness is produced.

Overall research of adventure therapy’s effective nature surmises that it “increases group cohesion, aids in diagnosing conduct disorders in adolescents, improves psychosocial related difficulties, is effective in treating drug addicted and juvenile youth, treats sensation seeking behaviors, improves clinical functioning, facilitates connecting participants with their therapist and treatment issues, and increases interpersonal relatedness.” Such a wide array of benefits cannot be discounted. Hopefully adventure therapy will continue to be integrated into many people’s recovery programs and treatment regimens on a case-by-case basis.

To locate a treatment facility that utilizes Adventure Therapy please call (866) 206-8656

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