The Healing Benefits of Adventure Therapy

The word therapy can incite a vision of a counselor intently listening and taking notes while the client pours out emotions. You can describe the scenario as formal and professional, as the setting usually takes place in the organized office of the therapist. This setup can indeed be effective, but people who are not so eager to try the usual way of a counseling session have another option: adventure therapy.

What is adventure therapy?

This therapy program breaks free from the typical setting of a one-on-one counseling session. Instead of doing it in the confines of the counselor’s office, you take the therapy outside and immerse the client into different kinds of adventure.

History of adventure therapy

Adventure therapy sounds like a groundbreaking concept, but the program actually has a long history. Its earliest form was during the 1900’s with the introduction of tent therapy. One of the first institutions to try this program is the Manhattan State Hospital East in 1901, when they isolated the patients afflicted with tuberculosis. The main goal then was to prevent the communicable disease from spreading, but the tent therapy program was surprisingly beneficial to the patients. Exposure to nature brought significant health improvements to the TB patients.

Adventure therapy today

Today, adventure therapy is a great alternative program to help people suffering from problems such as substance abuse, juvenile delinquency or severe depression. The program is based on the philosophy of experiential education which states that people learn faster and easier with direct experience and interaction.

Adventure therapy is called by various names such as a wilderness therapy program or therapeutic excursions. The approaches and methods also vary as the activities can include the following: cooperative games, wilderness adventures (such as camping or hiking), outdoor adventures (like rock climbing or rappelling), problem solving initiatives and trust-building activities.

The type of adventure therapy may differ based on the problem that the program specifically wants to address. In spite of various ways of implementing adventure therapy programs, all methods involve interacting with others as participants embark on a new experience.

What are the healing benefits?

Organizations that offer adventure therapy programs claim that the opportunity to experience nature and try new things can effectively encourage positive behavioral changes. This claim is backed by research as the result of a study about the effect of wilderness adventure therapy, published by the International Journal of Human Science, revealed wilderness adventure effectively decreases delinquency problems in minors.

Apparently, activities that involve nature and group interaction are effective in boosting self esteem and enhancing social and communication skills. Individuals who participate in adventure therapy programs also develop leadership skills and become more independent.

These therapeutic activities can therefore help people overcome problems such as eating disorders, substance abuse, and juvenile delinquency. Adventure therapy can likewise aid in the healing process of people suffering from severe depression or traumatic stress.

For many people, adventure is synonymous to fun, relaxation and excitement. The activities may involve risks, but breaking free from the daily routine to do something different almost always leads us to learn new things. Everyone will agree that we all need a little adventure to keep our zest in life burning. All of us should therefore take advantage of the many benefits that adventure therapy can bring.

Brad and Julie DuncanThe Healing Benefits of Adventure Therapy

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