Believe it or not, treatment doesn’t just have to be you and a therapist on uncomfortable chairs in a stuffy, stale room. We completely agree that vertical blinds and outdated floral patterns don’t really put out welcoming and exciting vibes. New Start is all for catering treatment to the individual and making our clients feel accepted and comfortable. But we’re also all about growth, progress, and enthusiasm. That said, did you know addiction could be treated with adventure? Hiking and working out can’t be the only aspects of a treatment program, of course. But treatment works best when it’s dynamic, holistic, and involved. Enter: adventure therapy.
Adventure therapy is a unique and holistic approach to psychotherapy. It melds outdoor experiences and hands-on activities to help add meaning, insight, and a more dynamic awareness into a person’s treatment program. Adventure therapy activities can include hiking, camping, and horseback riding. However, for these activities to be beneficial during treatment, they need to have therapeutic value. Generally, the support staff, therapist, or case manager will talk to the group during or after the activity and help them to make connections and draw insight. This discussion and awareness helps the clients turn the things they’ve learned during the experience into real-life behavior changes.
Benefits of Adventure Therapy:
One of the biggest benefits of adventure activities is that they’re team activities. Sure, you use your own two legs on a hike, but you’d be doing it with a group of fellow recovering addicts. It’s important to still feel connected to the others in your treatment program even when the facility’s roof isn’t directly over your head.
Outdoor, hands-on activities require a different type of communication. No one is sitting in front of you and asking you to share your feelings as you and your fellow program mates sit in a uniform circle and take turns speaking. Think of it as “real world” communication. When a recovered addict leaves treatment, very rarely is a normal, everyday person going to ask him “How does that make you feel?” or “What did you think about that exercise?” You’ll need to be able to communicate with others in real time about current events as well as figure out where you fit in the conversation, setting, or group. Adventure therapy helps people learn how to do just that.
For example, let’s say you go on a bike ride with your group. You’ll probably ask questions about where you’re going, who gets what bike, and how long the ride will be. Once you’re on the ride, the group will need to communicate with each other about caravan order, oncoming traffic, direction, and speed. Being put into situations in which this type of real-time communication is needed will not only improve communication skills but also boost a person’s confidence that he can communicate easily and effectively when prompted.
The word adventure connotes fun and excitement. That’s what makes adventure appealing on the surface. No one ever sighs depressingly when they say “I’m going on an adventure.” No, you say that with excitement and fervor! Hiking, rock climbing, bike riding on the beach… these all sound like fun rewards rather than therapeutically valuable treatment activities. But in actuality, these activities can often reach a client in more ways than individual therapy can. (But that’s not to say that individual therapy isn’t important, too!)
That fun and excitement helps reinvent the way an addict views change. Fun, engaging activities stimulate a person’s awareness and positivity. That positivity helps to break habitual negative thinking while the excitement of new activities help the addict see that change can be a good thing.
Physical activity is obviously good for your physical health. But did you know that just moving the activity outdoors can heighten those benefits? There’s actual science behind the physiological benefits of being surrounded by nature. It’s called Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing.” Have you ever noticed that taking a breather outdoors or just walking through a park can help you to feel less stressed or anxious? That’s what Shinrin-yoku is about.
The physiological and emotional benefits of taking your adventure outside include:
- Improved immune function
- Lower stress levels
- Increased happiness
- Boosted energy levels
- Better focus capacity
So, whether your group’s adventure for the week is a hike through a preserved park or a bike ride underneath the Pacific coast’s palm trees, you can rest easy that the outdoors are improving your physical and emotional wellbeing while you appreciate its wonder.
Strength Building and Empowerment
Addiction takes a toll on a person’s emotional wellbeing as well as their physical health. It’s important that a treatment program doesn’t get stuck on solely healing a recovering addict’s mind but also helping them build up physical strength as well. Adventure can do this. The physical activity of an outdoor adventure will help things like muscle function and cardio activity.
New Start offers this through our Amplified program. Clients participate in physical and therapeutically valuable activities with Phoenix Multisport, a CrossFit gym that specifically caters to recovering addicts.
Some of our Amplified activities include:
- Bike riding
- Gym-based workouts
- Indoor rock climbing
These activities also help clients to strengthen their minds through empowerment. Participating with a group and completing something new or challenging is definitely empowering. Completing the challenge that adventure presents will boost confidence and instill happiness. You know that dopamine boost that comes with an opioid high? That occurs naturally and healthily when an adventure or challenge is successfully achieved or completed. It’s completely safe and void of any dark, dangerous consequences (like addiction).
“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller
No matter how small it is, adventure can really improve your recovery and your life. It only takes a bit of willpower to start out. Ditch the vertical blinds and chairs that could’ve totally come from your great-aunt Sylvie’s living room and opt for adventure and the holistic, dynamic benefits that come with it.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, give us a call at 855-737-7363. New Start is here to help you.