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Adventure Therapy and Mental Health

Take a moment to think about the things that you enjoy. How often have you thought about going to a new country or visiting a different biome that only exists high up in the mountains, or maybe you even imagined what it would be like to be up in a hot air balloon?  It could just be as simple as wanting to leave the city you are in to see how much bigger the world is. Believe it or not, one of the best forms of therapy is a change of scenery and exploration. 

Adventure therapy can positively affect a person’s overall mood, outlook on life, and confidence. Have you ever walked outside during a sunny day and noticed that perhaps you smiled a bit or felt a sort of relief when the sun hit your face? It was likely caused by the effect that sunlight naturally has on a person’s mood. Vitamin D is good for the skin, and sunlight itself can positively impact mood and be calming. 

Get Out There

Often, there is a feeling of lethargy in mental health disorders like depression or anxiety and a need to be in bed with little or no contact with others. Someone may sleep longer and struggle to fall asleep, resulting in a poor sleep schedule. This itself is a tie into isolation and refusal to leave the house or the bedroom. These are factors that hinder the treatment of a disorder. 

It is common for patients to be put on a sleep schedule during inpatient treatment and encouraged to make their bed and stay in groups to discourage poor sleep habits. It can be challenging to resist the urge to sleep when in a state of distress. Sleeping can feel therapeutic since it is a relief of mental pressure, if only temporarily for some. This is why literally “getting out” is highly recommended. Rediscover what brings you joy, what gets you thinking, and offers a new perspective on life.

Going on an Adventure

What exactly is adventure therapy? According to the article ‘Wilderness adventure therapy effects on the mental health of youth participants,” published by Science Direct, “Adventure therapy uses experiential learning activities in outdoor environments for assessment and intervention at an individual and group level in order to effect psychological and/or behavioral therapeutic change.” A few examples of these include:

  • Problem-solving activities
  • Rope challenge courses
  • Rafting
  • Caving
  • Camping
  • Backpacking 

Truly going on an adventure can include a wide variety of activities. This kind of therapy is relatively new and only began in the later twentieth century as a more recent treatment.

The same ScienceDirect article states that a Wilderness Adventure Therapy (WAT) outpatient program was developed by Simon Crisp. This WAT included a ten-week manualized part program divided into four components. Within this, a study was conducted on a 15-year-old patient (Susan) that yielded surprising results. Upon program completion, Susan showed increased self-confidence, personal insight, assertiveness, sociality, and clarity of future plans. At the two-week follow-up, Susan had returned to mainstream schooling with perfect attendance, and psychometric evaluation showed an increase in coping skills, a reduction in reported emotional problems, and a slight increase in self-esteem. At the six-month follow-up, Susan continued to attend school full-time and was involved in a range of extra-curricular activities.

Boosting Self Esteem

Human beings are capable of many things when encouraged and provided opportunities and enrichment. When an achievement has been reached, whether it be in a game, work, or cultivation, the feeling of completion can be encouraging to some and provide that boost of motivation needed to feel like you are capable of so much more. Going on an adventure and discovering something that you enjoy can give you a sense of purpose and bring back a sense of self-realization and importance that perhaps was once lost. 

In the article “Therapy gone wild,” published by the American Psychological Association, psychologists have found that these journeys can also be taken amongst family just so good habits are encouraged and continued. AccPh.D.ing to this article, “Psychologist Scott Bandoroff, Ph.D., launched the field of ‘wilderness family therapy’ in 1990 when he observed that young people who had made great gains on wilderness therapy trips tended to lose ground when they got home, the result of returning to negative family dynamics.”

The Point of it All

Getting out of your comfort zone and discovering new therapies such as adventure therapy opens up a wide variety of possibilities and confidences. It may seem daunting, and starting small is also a good thing. Adventures don’t have to be halfway across the world or even in another state. They can happen in your own backyard. 

Opening up your front door, taking a walk, and observing nature in your backyard is an adventure on its own as it allows you just to take a moment and notice what our world has to offer. Smelling the rain just before it comes and listening to the sounds that birds or cicadas make can be just as rewarding as any far-off destination. Life is overwhelming, and sometimes a person just needs to stop time for just a little while to reconnect and discover what makes life worth living for them and what can be missed by being squished into the great compactor of life.

SoCal Mental Health offers Adventure Therapy as part of our many treatment options. This natural option may seem far more appealing for some people, especially if they enjoy the outdoors. Of course, it is encouraged for all, and all are welcome. The goal of Adventure Therapy is to get you back to a happier and healthier you. At So Cal Mental Health, we understand that not everyone is at 100% all the time, and there is no weakness in needing help. Here at our facility, we help you get well, show you that you are worth it, and give you exactly what you need to succeed. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. So Cal Mental Health specializes in both clinical and holistic treatment modalities, meaning there is always a therapy that will help you reach your greatest success. For more information on our program, call us today at (888) 627-6225.

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