Tips and Advice,

What is Outdoor Therapy?

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Outdoor Therapy, commonly referred to as Adventure Therapy or Recreational therapy, is an approach used by drug and alcohol rehab centers as a supplement to addiction treatment.  It involves the use of challenges found in nature such as hiking, white water rafting, backpacking, and camping to provide growth experiences that can help people make key changes in their lives.  The first program of this nature was done by a group in Colorado in 1978.  This type of therapy is different from the conventional individual and group therapy sessions.  This is because each person’s addiction develops differently and at times, the traditional approaches may be insufficient to help patients overcome the hurdles they may be facing in their recovery process.

The benefits of outdoor therapy in drug and alcohol treatment centers include establishing a deeper connection with the natural world, nurturing the ability to trust one’s community through teamwork, developing a healthier approach to issues of control and taking responsibility for one’s actions.  Patients also develop the knowledge of how their actions affect others and it helps increase their self- esteem and joy.

Through these series of activities in the great outdoors patients are increasingly learning how to problem solve and engage in new hobbies and passions without the use of alcohol and drugs so this holistic therapy serves as a new social and creative outlet to the recovering addicts.  It enables them to fill their leisure time with activities that promote their mental and physical health while at the same time giving them the ‘rush’ that they experienced before but through the right ways.  The underlying tenet in outdoor therapy used in various drug and alcohol treatment centers is that there is a strong correlation between substance abuse and leisure time.

Outdoor therapy can help to tap into deeply painful issues and bring them to the surface and the therapy then provides ample room to confront them and begin the healing process that is essential to growth and recovery.

Getting away from the busy, pressure-filled day-to-day life and spending time with nature is therapeutic.  The fresh air and tranquility help in boosting the spirit and develop a newfound appreciation for life.   This is ideal for those patients dealing with past traumas, unresolved conflicts, suicidal ideations and emotional wounds.

The goal of outdoor therapy is to ultimately help those in recovery to feel a genuine satisfaction from within and not gain this from alcohol and drugs.  It helps them to also modify their depressive withdrawn state to that of relaxation, happiness, and satisfaction.

Since outdoor therapy may be a fairly new concept to patients and the activities may be ones they have not tried before, they may be a little hesitant to try them out.  Taking risks should be understood to be part of recovery.  Participants are also encouraged to share their fears with the group and keep detailed journals about their experience.  Keeping a log of this thoughts and feeling, which they can refer to later and reflect on their thought processes and how it changed throughout the therapy will help to look back on the progress that they were able to make.  This can be especially helpful for teens that have a difficulty in expressing and identifying feelings.

Outdoor therapy draws from a world of disciplines that include education, sociology, and psychology.  Cognitive behavioral therapy, experimental learning, and existential therapy (focus on the here and now) are some of the psychological theories that outdoor therapy draws from.  This form of therapy is beneficial to wide and varied groups of people.  It can help in loss and grief issues, anxiety disorders, adolescent behavioral and emotional problems, PTSD, anger management, substance abuse problems, and depression.

There are tremendous benefits that patients can get and they include a great deal of physical exercise, coping skills, dealing with anxiety, confusion and disappointment, self-awareness and personal reflection.  Teamwork and how to deal with conflicts and connecting with nature are some of the things to encourage you to take up outdoor therapy as part of your treatment plan.


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