Adventure Therapy for Addiction Treatment

Adventure therapy is a supplemental therapy type that can is often used to treat substance abuse. This form of therapy often includes outdoor activities that promote self-awareness, trust, communication, and positive thinking. Addiction Campuses provides adventure therapy alongside more traditional treatment modalities, such as individual counseling.

couple kayaking adventure therapy

Addiction affects people physically, mentally, and emotionally. Because of this, overcoming an addiction to alcohol or drugs can feel like a long process.

Many people may recognize their need to heal physically, but may not realize the impact addiction has had on their mind. Fortunately, participating in adventure therapy at an inpatient rehab center can help restore balance to mind, body, and spirit.

Each person who struggles with addiction has a unique story. Addiction Campuses values the individual and creates specialized treatment plans based on each person’s needs. Personalized treatment plans often include a blend of traditional and alternative therapies. For those who could benefit from enhanced self-awareness, adventure therapy could be an excellent option.

What Is Adventure Therapy?

There are multiple approaches to addiction treatment, and the most effective types of treatment will include a diverse offering of treatment modalities. These may range from group counseling to experiential therapies.

When a person enters addiction treatment, they may be feeling overwhelmed. There is usually an element of culture shock, and all the treatment terminology can be confusing. However, adventure therapy is just what it sounds like. This specialized type of therapeutic group captures a sense of excitement and healthy risk-taking.

Adventure therapy activities also allow clients to process thoughts and emotions outside of a clinical setting. These recreational therapy groups may also serve to help clients realize the possibility of fun without drugs or alcohol.

In adventure therapy, clients may engage in activities such as:

  • hiking
  • water activities
  • problem-solving scenarios
  • team-building
  • outdoor sports
  • communication challenges
  • intentional time in nature
  • high and low ropes courses
  • ATV excursions

These activities are specially designed to engage the brain in dopamine and serotonin production. These “feel-good” hormones help to create a sense of excitement and accomplishment among the group’s participants.

Being engaged as a team can also provide clients an opportunity to gain insight into their recovery process. After the activity, group members may be brought together to discuss how they felt during the session.

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Benefits Of Adventure Therapy In Addiction Treatment

People who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction often report low levels of energy, satisfaction, and self-esteem. While drugs and alcohol can initially seem exciting, substance abuse often leads people to feel trapped in the cycle of addiction.

Research shows that the brain responds positively to certain risks. If people (especially young people) aren’t provided healthy ways to experience risk, they will find unhealthy ways to take risks. This often leads people to experiment with substance abuse or crime.

Adventure therapy provides the brain with a healthy way to experience risk. By participating in sporting activities and friendly competition, patients are reintroduced to positive ways of relating to the self and others. Other benefits of adventure therapy include:

Increased Self-Awareness

Patients who engage in healthy risk-taking activities may show an improvement in assertiveness. The ability to be assertive comes from a place of confidence and self-worth, both of which may be diminished in active addiction. Rediscovering a sense of self can increase a person’s confidence in their own ability to problem-solve.

Adventure therapy also has a way of highlighting a person’s natural likes and dislikes. Addiction often robs people of their sense of identity, and people who are newly sober may feel disconnected from themselves. Getting back in touch with your own personal patterns and preferences can be an affirming factor in treating addiction.

Improved Trust And Communication

Team-building activities force people to communicate with a purpose. In adventure therapy groups, participants may be paired with another client or asked to be part of a team. These teams may be tasked with solving a particular problem or achieving a goal.

This type of scenario provides clients with an opportunity to practice skills such as negotiation and listening in a non-threatening environment. These leadership and communication skills are not only valuable during treatment, but will also be helpful for clients who have a goal of re-entering the workforce.

Stress Management

Often times, people get into the habit of turning to a substance when they feel pressured or stressed out. When a person decides to enter recovery, they may feel they are giving up one of their main tools for coping with life.

In recovery, it’s vital to learn new coping skills for managing stress. Exercise, an integral part of adventure therapy groups, can be a helpful way to relieve stress. During a long hike or an intense sporting activity, clients are able to release their worries and aggression.

Afterward, counselors may lead clients in a discussion that helps them to draw conclusions about emotions that surfaced during the session.

Adventure Therapy For Co-Occurring Disorders

Nearly 8 million Americans suffer from co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Often called dual diagnosis, co-occurring disorders require specialized treatment in order to address the whole person. When a person has an addiction alongside a mental health condition like depression, it can make the treatment that much more challenging.

Addiction Campuses is committed to providing customized, holistic treatment to those with a dual diagnosis. When coupled with traditional treatment models, adventure therapy provides a safe and supportive space for people with co-occurring disorders to feel seen, heard, and connected.

How Addiction Campuses Uses Adventure Therapy

At Addiction Campuses, we aim to offer a comprehensive range of recovery options. In addition to adventure therapy, our treatment centers provide cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), trauma processing, nutrition and wellness counseling, and family therapy.

This collaborative care model allows treatment teams to assess each patient individually, and provide a treatment plan that will serve them during treatment as well as in the future.

To learn more about adventure therapy, or to inquire about one of our inpatient rehab centers, contact an Addiction Campuses specialist today.

National Alliance on Mental Illness - https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Dual-Diagnosis

National Institutes of Health - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64214/

National Institutes of Health - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9751006

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids - https://drugfree.org/article/healthy-risk-taking/

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