Outdoor Adventure Therapy
Outdoor Adventure Therapy
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stresses that a holistic approach to treatment offers the best possible outcomes. Outdoor adventure therapy is an experiential treatment that’s been shown to help treat addiction when it’s used along with traditional “talk” therapies.
Experiential therapies are a type of complementary treatment that involves hands-on experiences to help people express difficult emotions and develop essential coping skills. Other examples of experiential therapies include art therapy, horticultural therapy and equine therapy.
Outdoor adventure therapy is a type of therapy that takes place during outdoor adventures. It’s an active approach to psychotherapy that involves engaging participants in activities like boating, hiking or climbing and then discussing their thoughts, emotions and reactions during the activity. Participants create meaning through the insights they gain by experiencing, discussing and then transferring the lessons learned into other areas of their lives.
A range of processes create real and meaningful change for those who participate in outdoor adventure therapy. For example, participants gain self-confidence through the successful mastery of a skill; identifying and developing similar skills they possess; re-evaluating irrational thoughts and beliefs about themselves; and applying skills and sub-skills to improve self-confidence in other areas, such as their relationships or career. A trained and qualified adventure therapist leads participants through this process as the adventure unfolds and during the intensive discussions that follow.
Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle
Educational theorist David Kolb writes that learning “is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” Experiential education only works if all four stages are involved. An outdoor adventure alone won’t precipitate learning or change without observing, conceptualizing, and applying the skills learned. His four-stage cycle embodies his theory on experiential learning:
7 Main Concepts of Outdoor Adventure Therapy
Types of Activities in Outdoor Adventure Therapy
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience As the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Outdoor Adventure Therapy Promotes Long-Term Recovery
According to the Institute for Outdoor Learning, outdoor adventure therapy has far-reaching effects for those who fully participate. 4 These include:
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