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There are many different components to an effective addiction recovery program. This is because various factors help cause a person to develop a substance addiction. For example, not taking care of one’s physical body by not sleeping can trigger the appearance of a mental illness that one has a predisposition to have. Such a mental illness can then cause one to start to abuse substances to cope. This can then lead to the development of a co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse.

Because one’s physical, mental, and emotional health can so greatly impact one another along with one’s substance abuse issues, there are different forms of therapy within addiction treatment programs that cater to a person’s physical, mental, and/or emotional needs. One of these forms of therapy is adventure therapy.

What is Adventure Therapy?

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Adventure therapy is a type of experiential therapy that uses adventurous recovery activities to help engage people on a physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral level. Most forms of adventure therapy occur outside in nature. This is because of the dangers of spending too much time indoors.

This type of therapy employs challenging recovery activities to support the process of therapeutic healing. By engaging in these activities, individuals can cultivate healthy identity development and a growth mindset. During their participation in an adventure therapy program, people have the opportunity to partake in a variety of new activities and immerse themselves in unfamiliar environments.

At our drug rehab in Santa Barbara, California, adventure therapy activities are intentionally facilitated in a manner that promotes therapeutic benefits. Students engage in more than just rock climbing or skiing; they also learn to actively listen, prioritize their safety, develop emotional regulation skills, and cultivate grit as they push themselves to overcome challenging tasks. The activities presented through our adventure programming are specifically designed to assist in the formation of a strong identity, enhance resilience, and augment self-efficacy.

Types of Adventure Therapy

There are three main types of adventure therapy. These three types of adventure therapy are described below.

1. Wilderness Therapy

This type of adventure therapy usually takes place in a remote, wilderness site. Usually, only small groups of people will attend a wilderness therapy program. These small groups of people typically stay the same throughout the program.

2. Adventure-Based Therapy

These types of programs are typically for groups of people in intensive, multi-day programs such as residential treatment programs or intensive outpatient treatment programs. The groups of people that attend adventure-based therapy programs typically change as the program goes on.

3. Long-Term Residential Camping

This form of adventure therapy puts people in outdoor camps or mobile training units. An example of a mobile training unit activity is learning how to sail a boat.

Long-term residential camping programs usually occur for an extended time. They often occur for a year. This is so that the individuals who attend a long-term residential camping program can learn how to better manage their day-to-day triggers. Long-term residential camping also helps people develop a better peer culture.

The Benefits of Adventure Therapy

Every individual has a personal story and unique challenges to overcome. Although treatment plans are tailored to each student, adventure is an essential component in all of them. By incorporating adventure into a nature-based treatment plan, we observe several advantages:

While every person has their narrative, the adventure therapy model is adaptable enough to cater to their specific requirements. Individuals will go through a process of learning, facing challenges, experiencing setbacks, and ultimately achieving success. This process is then combined with an advanced clinical approach. The combination has proven to be highly effective in addressing a wide range of mental and behavioral health issues.

7 Adventure Therapy Techniques

There are seven core adventure therapy techniques. These seven core techniques include the following:

1. Action-Centered Therapy

This therapy technique refers to the fact that adventure therapy programs get their patients to go outside in a more holistic environment and move their bodies.

2. Unfamiliar Environment

This technique refers to the fact that adventure therapy programs purposely put people in unfamiliar environments so that the people are stripped of all of their usual comforts.

3. Climate of Change

This technique focuses on adding positive forms of stress to the lives of those in adventure therapy. That way, the patients can prove to themselves that they are capable of changing their behaviors and attitudes while under stress.

4. Assessment Capabilities

This technique refers to putting adventure therapy patients in natural habitats so that their full identities can be shown.

5. Small Group Development

This adventure therapy technique refers to the practice of putting people in small adventure therapy groups with people in them who take into account each other’s needs. The small group development technique also helps people build community.

6. Focus on Successful Behavior Rather Than Dysfunctional Behavior

This technique of adventure therapy helps people focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

7. Altered Role of the Therapist

This adventure therapy technique allows the therapist to participate in the therapy program’s recovery activities. By doing this, the playing field is leveled and the patients can act as themselves.

What Are the Dangers of Spending Too Much Time Indoors?

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Woman driving a van and enjoying road trip. Laughing young female having fun on her vacation.

There are numerous dangers to spending too much time indoors for a healthy person without an addiction, let alone a person with an addiction. One reason why spending too much time indoors is dangerous is that it can cause one’s circadian rhythm to get off balance.

A circadian rhythm is a person’s internal clock that signals to his or her body that it’s time to either go to bed or wake up. Naturally, sunlight is the signal to a person’s circadian rhythm that it’s time to wake up.

Thus, if a person stays indoors, away from all sunlight, for an extended time, his or her circadian rhythm will get confused. This, in turn, will cause that person to no longer sleep well. Such a lack of sleep can trigger the appearance of a mental health or substance abuse issue.

Another way that spending too much time indoors can trigger mental health and substance abuse issues is by causing a person to experience boredom and loneliness. Because spending time indoors usually means sitting around the house and not exercising, doing it too much can cause physical health issues as well. For example, always sitting and not exercising can lead to obesity and heart issues.

Spending all of one’s time indoors negatively impacts the brain by making it hard to concentrate. When a person is experiencing difficulty concentrating and focusing, that person is said to have mental fog.

Health Benefits of Spending Time in Nature

When people start to spend more time outside in nature, their physical, mental, and emotional health will likely improve. This is especially true when people participate in holistic recovery activities.

Holistic recovery activities are outdoor activities that benefit the body, mind, and soul and help people achieve and maintain recovery. Examples of holistic recovery activities include riding and caring for horses, gardening, rock climbing, walking outside or hiking, biking, camping, and kayaking.

Examples of health benefits that holistic recovery activities can cause include reduced depressed feelings, reduced risk of relapsing on drugs, increase in Vitamin D intake, better sleep, more energy, a better outlet for stress and anxiety, improved physical fitness, and improved cognitive function.

Why Outdoor Time is Essential in Recovery

Just as outdoor time is essential to one’s overall physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being, it’s also essential for a person to achieve and maintain sobriety. This is because the health benefits of outdoor time show that there are positive ways to experience the high-like feelings that many turn to drugs for. By improving one’s physical, mental, and emotional health, outdoor recovery activities also limit the factors that can trigger the appearance of substance abuse and addiction issues.

Risks of Adventure Therapy

While adventure therapy is beneficial to those who participate in it, it does have some risks. For example, because adventure therapy requires patients to partake in outdoor activities, there’s always a chance that someone will get injured.

Thus, it’s best to speak to both a physical and mental health doctor before partaking in adventure therapy. That way individuals can determine what best adventure recovery activities would best suit them.

How Effective is Adventure Therapy?

Research shows that adventure therapy is, at the least, moderately effective at getting people to better manage their behavior and emotions. The American Psychological Association (APA), the AEE Therapeutic Adventure Professional Group (TAPG), the American Counseling Association (ACA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) all endorse adventure therapy as an effective means of treatment.

Receive Adventure Therapy at Santa Barbara Recovery

Here at Santa Barbara Recovery, we provide our patients with top-notch addiction and mental health treatment. We offer treatment programs in the form of partial hospitalization program (PHP) treatment, intensive outpatient program (IOP) treatment, and outpatient program (OP) treatment. We also offer addiction therapy services such as individual therapy and group therapy, aftercare treatment, and ongoing clinical services along with sober living environments.

All of the Santa Barbara Recovery treatment programs are evidence-based. Furthermore, the people who work here are certified professionals with extensive knowledge of all things mental health and addiction treatment and recovery.  Therefore, you can trust that you’re in good hands when receiving addiction and mental health treatment at our facility.

One form of therapy that we offer our patients who are in rehab for addiction is adventure therapy. This is because adventure therapy contains recovery activities that help our patients learn new, effective ways to manage their addiction triggers.

To learn more about adventure therapy or the services we offer, contact us today. Our staff is here to answer any questions that you may have.

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