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Wilderness Activities for Addiction Treatment

One factor that can be a significant driver in substance abuse and addiction is a feeling of disconnection, be it from other people, personal motivation, or connection to one’s surroundings.

Adventure-based activities offer a nontraditional approach to substance abuse treatment that can help patients reconnect with themselves, their instincts, and their broader surroundings.

Alternative treatments like wilderness activities can serve as a useful complement to traditional treatments for addiction, such as behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and psychoeducational groups.

At Vertava Health of Texas, wilderness activities may assist some patients in learning and practicing important recovery skills in a non-clinical setting.

How Do Wilderness Activities Work?

Wilderness activities are group-based, experiential learning experiences that primarily take place outdoors for holistic healing. They are based around the idea that nature can serve as a setting for people to reconnect with their survival instincts, explore their emotions, and build a healthy skillset of tools and strategies that may help them in recovery.

Wilderness activities for addiction typically occur over the course of several weeks and are guided by a trained mental health professional. A small group of patients are guided through a number of outdoor skill-building activities and exercises.

These wilderness activities may include:

  • finding and building shelter
  • fire-building
  • water purification
  • trap setting
  • gathering food
  • meal preparation
  • practicing mindfulness and grounding techniques
  • maintaining positive support within the group

Following these exercises, or at the end of each day, patients will be directed to participate in a debriefing, which involves discussing emotions, challenges faced, and personal milestones.

Benefits of Wilderness Activities in Rehab

While not a proven therapy approach, wilderness activitiescan be used to address a variety of emotional and psychological challenges that people can often face in overcoming addiction and may enhance the patient’s rehab experience.

Common goals with these wilderness activities may include:

  • addressing and managing emotional difficulties
  • promoting group collaboration and support
  • learning to trust oneself and others
  • learning useful tools for coping with triggers and other challenges a person may face in sobriety
  • reconnecting with survival skills

 

What Are The Benefits Of Wilderness Activities For Addiction?

Because outdoor recreation has long been believed to offer positive benefits for mental and physical health, wilderness activities may help some patients in their recovery journey. They act as ancillary services next to evidence-based modalities and may offer some patients an opportunity to reconnect to their survival instincts, learn useful skills, and practice grounding techniques in a natural, outdoor setting.

Although research on the benefits of wilderness activities for addiction are limited, supporters believe these activities may help some patients:

  • improve self-esteem
  • strengthen social skills
  • response better to stress
  • feel accomplished
  • experience a unique learning opportunity outside of the typical rehab setting

Wilderness Activities At Vertava Health of Texas

Many people picture drug and alcohol residential treatment centers as hospital-like settings where people sit inside, attend groups, and occasionally attend individual therapy sessions. While this can often be part of the picture, this does not always always reflect the full reality.

At Vertava Health of Texas, we take a holistic approach to treatment that recognizes the potential healing properties of outdoor recreation for some patients alongside traditional proven therapy programs. Our wilderness activities include a four-week curriculum that is available five times a week on our many acres.

 

Sources:

The Open Psychology Journal — A Meta Analysis of Adventure Therapy Outcomes and Moderators

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