How Can Wilderness Therapy Treat Addiction?

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You may have already noticed that you experience a certain rejuvenating effect when you go outside or go to a big park. Whether you do some hiking or camping and spend time in the quiet of the great outdoors, it can have a soothing and therapeutic effect on your state of well-being. Others have noticed that as well and turned it into a form of therapy. That’s why wilderness therapy has become a part of some treatment programs. How can wilderness therapy help when you suffer from a substance abuse disorder or mental illness?

What Is Wilderness Therapy?

Wilderness therapy began as a treatment aimed at adolescents to help with substance abuse disorder but expanded into adult treatment and group or family treatment. It offers an alternative treatment setting to an inpatient or outpatient setting that may simply be a meeting room in the facility or church.

Wilderness therapy is one way to reduce stress and depression for those who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse. It can take on many forms, from quiet, introspective activities such as hiking, to more active therapies such as engaging in obstacle courses as a group. Perhaps you have been living in a large city and you miss that connection to nature. You may also just want to find a little peace in a hectic world full of car horns and technology. Wilderness therapy can fill the gap.

Who Can Benefit?

Outdoor therapy is still used for teenagers, whether they participate in a ropes course with a group of other patients facing substance abuse or mental illness, or they can participate as a group with family members to get them more involved in their treatment.

Adults can use this approach with therapy in the wilderness as well, but they often engage in activities that reconnect them to nature such as hiking or camping. This approach may be more reflective and meditative in that sense.

What Does Wilderness Therapy Treat?

Wilderness therapy has been used to treat a variety of disorders such as substance abuse and addiction, but it also has treated several mental illnesses as well. These include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or schizophrenia. It’s also been used to treat physical disorders such as cancer or developmental disabilities.

What Activities Are Common?

Wilderness therapy can be something you do for a day or it can be an extended outdoor activity that can foster independence and help you learn survival skills. You may learn to read a topographic map to do some off-trail hiking. Learning to build a fire with various tools and how to cook a meal over an open fire can also teach life skills and perseverance. Working together to build a campsite can form a bond among groups engaging in wilderness therapy and provide a range of activities free of other distractions in the city and outside world.

What Kinds of Therapies Can You Integrate With Wilderness Therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common form of therapy used in substance abuse and mental health treatment. It is based on the principle that people can identify negative thought patterns and replace them with positive, constructive ones. With challenges that may be new to someone, such as learning to build a fire from scratch, they can go from negative thoughts such as “I’ll never get this” to approaching the task with calm determination and competence.

Therapists may also use techniques such as motivational interviewing (MI) or form a family group and conduct sessions during a camping trip.

Note that these kinds of therapies are for individuals who have completed detoxification. One doesn’t want to be out in the middle of the wilderness while experiencing detoxification or face an emergency medical situation for someone who needs more time withdrawing from drugs or alcohol.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Wilderness Therapy?

When someone goes out into the wild and learns survival skills such as building a fire and learning to cook on it, it gives them a sense of accomplishment. That builds self-confidence and teaches a person that they can overcome tough obstacles. They may start to see themselves in a whole different light as capable human beings and someone who can overcome challenges in life. It may help people feel more ready to take on responsibility and problem-solving skills that can come in handy not only in life but in an employment situation. When combined, the increase in self-esteem and problem-solving skills can help adolescents and adults learn how to adjust to challenges in life and with others.

Wilderness therapy is an alternative treatment that can be used in conjunction with more conventional methods such as medications and counseling. It was initially developed to treat adolescents but expanded to treat adults as well. There may be group activities such as a ropes course or you can simply camp and hike in nature. Learning basic camping and survival skills can help build confidence and a sense of reliability in oneself. At Everlast Recovery Center, we incorporate hiking in nature into our other therapies. These include yoga, art therapy, and equine therapy. Whether you’re suffering from substance abuse or mental illness, we can help give you the treatment you need to live a fulfilling and independent life free from addiction and anxiety. Our Riverside, California facility offers homestyle meals and you will never feel like a number with our low staff-to-patient ratio. Let us help you by calling us today and learn how we can help at 866-DETOX-25, (866-338-6925) today.

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