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 therapies such as wilderness programs offer a nontraditional approach to substance abuse treatment that can help patients reconnect with themselves, their instincts, and their broader surroundings.
Other closely related names for wilderness therapy include:
- wilderness adventure therapy
- outdoor behavioral healthcare (OBH)
- therapeutic camping
- adventure-based counseling
Alternative treatments like wilderness programs can serve as a useful complement to traditional treatments for addiction, such as behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and psychoeducational groups.
At The Treehouse, the wilderness program is offered as an experiential treatment for patients to learn and practice important recovery skills in a non-clinical setting.
How Does Wilderness Treatment Work?
Wilderness programs belong to a broader category of adventure therapies, which are group-based, experiential learning experiences that primarily take place outdoors for holistic healing.
Wilderness programs are based around the idea that nature can serve as a therapeutic setting for people to reconnect with their survival instincts, explore their emotions, and build a healthy skillset of recovery tools and strategies.
Wilderness programs for addiction typically occur over the course of several weeks, entirely based outside, guided by a trained mental health professional.
Throughout the course of the program, a small group of patients are guided through a number of outdoor skill-building activities and exercises.
These can include:
- finding and building shelter
- 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.
Goals Of Wilderness Therapy
Wilderness therapy can be used to address a variety of emotional and psychological challenges that people can often face in overcoming addiction.
The goals for wilderness programs can be diverse and may vary for each individual based on their own situation and goals for treatment.
Common therapeutic goals in wilderness therapy 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
Patients may also be encouraged to set their own goals for wilderness therapy participation.
Common questions to consider include: what am I looking to get out of this experience? How can I challenge myself? What skills can I practice here that can help serve me in my recovery?
What Are The Benefits Of Wilderness Programs For Addiction?
While outdoor recreation has long been believed to offer positive benefit for mental and physical health, wilderness treatment is distinct in that it offers a more structured course of treatment with defined therapeutic goals.
Differing somewhat from traditional treatment services, wilderness programs offer 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 effects of wilderness programs for addiction are limited, several benefits that commonly appear in this research include:
- improving self-esteem
- strengthening social skills
- improving responses to stress
- providing a sense of accomplishment
- supporting the natural release of endorphins for positive mental and emotional health
- offering a unique learning opportunity outside of the typical rehab setting
Wilderness therapy can also offer a pleasant change of scenery for patients who have been in rehab programs longer. These programs offer a unique learning opportunity to practice one’s recovery skills in an unfamiliar environment.
Wilderness Program At The Treehouse
Many people picture drug and alcohol rehab 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 reflect the full reality.
At The Treehouse, our rehab programs offer a holistic approach to treatment that recognizes the healing properties of outdoor recreation and promoting individuality within a cozy, residential setting.
Our wilderness program consists of a four-week curriculum that is available for patients to select five times throughout the week.
Led by a trained mental health professional, our wilderness program offers a valuable learning experience that takes place over our 65 acres of natural landscape.
In addition to wilderness therapy, our residential rehab program integrates a wide selection of traditional and alternative treatments to treat the physical, mental, and emotional effects of addiction.
Learn more about wilderness programs for addiction at The Treehouse today by contacting one of our treatment specialists.
The Open Psychology Journal — A Meta Analysis of Adventure Therapy Outcomes and Moderators
- The Open Psychology Journal — A Meta-Analysis of Adventure Therapy Outcomes and Moderators