Sometimes individuals need more than traditional talk therapy. To work through their substance abuse or improve their mental health, some clients need alternative treatment options.
Westwind Recovery® provides numerous experiential therapies designed to get clients out of their comfort zones and into living their best lives. Among these in our adventure therapy program, we count the following:
- Water sports
- Hiking, surfing
- Planetarium outings, and much more
What Is an Adventure Therapy Program
Adventure therapy sometimes called experiential or recreational therapy, is an alternative form of therapy, that gets clients out into the world doing activities. This approach centers on whole-body health as clients recover from substance abuse or work on their mental health.
As clients experience the world with others, they improve their communication skills, self-esteem, and mindfulness, all while finding new ways to express themselves.
Because some clients need treatment beyond traditional individual or group therapy, Westwind Recovery® designs innovative, fun, and challenging adventure therapy programs. Our adventure therapy helps clients unlock their emotions while learning new coping skills to deal with sometimes overwhelming feelings.
The experience, hiking, surfing, or group therapy outings, allows you to understand and process your emotions. It does so by giving you an avenue to express yourself you may not have had previously.
Also, adventure therapy provides a context, the wilderness, or ocean, for example, where relationship building is a must-have tool. Developing trust is vital for any recovery, whether for substance abuse or mental health.
Therapeutic Benefits of Adventure Therapy
Every patient that attends Westwind Recovery® for addiction has their own story and challenges. Though treatment plans are unique for every patient, adventure is a crucial part of each aspect. When an adventure therapy program is part of a wilderness treatment plan, several benefits occur such as:
- A decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms
- Learning to self-advocate for needs
- Improved executive functioning
- Accurate clinical assessments
- Improved interpersonal skills
- Increased self-efficacy
- Identity development
- Trauma resilience
- Improved grit
Even though every patient comes to Westwind Recovery® with a unique story, the adventure therapy model is adaptable enough to meet every patient at their level. As the patients go through the process of learning, facing challenges, and failing, they eventually succeed.
This process is combined with an advanced clinical method. The combination is proved to be highly effective at addressing a variety of behavioral and mental health issues.
Foundation Principles Behind Adventure Therapy
Adventure therapy is extremely effective at assisting patients in developing foundational psychological principles.
Identity refers to an individual’s sense of self and how they define themselves in terms of beliefs, values, and roles in the world. Self-identity can form the basis of self-esteem later in life.
Self-efficacy is the belief that individuals have the ability to succeed in a specific situation, particularly the ability to meet the challenges ahead and successfully complete a task. It plays an important role in not only how we feel about ourselves, but whether or not the goals are successfully achieved.
Flow, in psychology, means “the holistic sensation that individuals feel or experience when they act with complete involvement.” When a person is currently in flow, it means “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away, and time flies.”
“Every thought, movement, and action follows inevitably from the previous one. The individual’s entire being is involved, and the other part of this is using the skills to the utmost.”
Grit is “the combination of passion and perseverance towards long-term goals.” It’s when a person is able to harness the power of passion and turn it into persistence, tenacity, stamina, and resolve. It works towards goals that endure over a period. Grit is constant, diligent work.
A growth mindset is considered the underlying belief that individuals have about intelligence and learning. When students believe that they can get smarter, they begin to understand that effort makes them much stronger. Therefore, these individuals put in a longer effort and time. This leads to higher achievement.
How Do Individual Adventure Activities Assist the Healing Process?
Individuals engage in adventure therapy that assists with the healing process through the following:
Backpacking is a fundamental outdoor activity. It teaches grit and can be utilized as a platform to build a group culture. Patients can improve their social and interpersonal skills as they undergo what’s it like to be part of a group. When the two are paired together, a common goal is completed such as reaching the top of a 10,000 ft peak.
An on-site challenge course is a low ropes course that is used to teach social pragmatic skills and strengthen group cohesion. Patient groups work together through a series of demanding tasks.
All the tasks require leadership, listening, effective communication, and cooperation in order to overcome. Through coaching, perseverance, and failure, patients learn what it takes to be team players.
Mountain biking can challenge patients to assess the risk accurately and it pushes the individuals to react to obstacles as they approach. Patients can discover that they don’t have the time to think about what the next challenge in the trial is.
Instead, it’s ideal to trust the training and their instincts. Mountain biking helps to build trust in individuals. Therefore, it allows them to learn or practice being present in the moment.
Rocking climbing puts patients in a place where comfort comes so they can confront their physical challenges, lack of confidence, fears, and many other challenges to success. They face an apparently insuperable wall, and through coaching, effort, planning, and practice reach new heights. This is an all-powerful metaphor to generalize for the rest of their life.
Skiing challenges patients to think less and be more in the moment. Patients learn about “flow therapy” when individuals enter a mental state where they react to their constantly changing world without time for fear and anxiety. There is a natural high is both a counter to anxious thoughts and a healthy coping mechanism.
Adventure Therapy Assist With Common Mental Health Struggles
Adventure therapy is considered highly adaptable in treating behavioral and mental health diagnoses. This unique method is helpful in different ways for individuals struggling with different challenges. The first mental struggle adventure therapy helps with is depression/anxiety.
Depression and Anxiety
When patients struggle with depression and anxiety, adventure therapy can be vital for treatment due to the benefits of physical activity on the patient’s mood. Bringing exercise into a person’s routine has been proven to improve physical health and create ideal treatment outcomes. Patients end up developing good habits that surround the daily exercise routine.
As individuals learn how to do various adventure activities, the skills continue post-treatment. Patients will be able to experience the benefits of physical activity of the mood. When patients struggle with depression and anxiety, good treatment outcomes have occurred through incorporating adventure therapy.
These activities trigger flow-theory concepts. Skiing and mountain biking meet various requirements to trigger a mental “flow” state. This is where patients learn how to eliminate the thought cycle between sensory input and action.
Individuals read and then react to the current terrain in front of them without stressing about possible outcomes. This is the opposite of anxiety. Mountain biking can create a euphoric experience that is highly effective at treating anxiety and depression.
When individuals are able to overcome an apparent impossible challenge such as climbing a rock wall, it helps build self-efficacy. Once self-efficacy is increased, it’s one of the building blocks that contribute to overcoming mental health challenges.
All and all, adventure therapy is considered a healthy alternative for substance-seeking behaviors. It often allows access to a new network of friends who are participating in the same adventure activity. This can draw individuals away from negative influences that can encourage relapse. Adventure therapy truly excels in the following:
- Allowing for a healthy dialogue between patients struggling with similar issues
- Increasing resilience related to maintaining sobriety
- Effective in raising awareness of strengths
- Promoting positive family relationships
Our Adventure Therapy Program
In our adventure therapy program, you’ll face challenges. You’ll take risks. But you’ll be surrounded by supportive, prepared professionals as well as encouraging peers as your teammates and partners.
Thus, you’ll tackle your issues in a new environment with new tools in a controlled, calculated manner. Whether it’s camping, hiking, team sports, educational tours, surfing, or snowboarding, our outings keep you active both physically and mentally.
The insight you gain in an adventure therapy program is felt. You can’t underestimate the power of literally overcoming obstacles and coming to realize you have the power, the ability, and the skill to do the same with your issues. In this way, an adventure therapy program impacts some clients in a more significant way than talk therapy.
Thus, because everyone’s journey through recovery is unique, Westwind Recovery® offers a variety of programs and treatments. Aside from our adventure therapy program in Los Angeles, we offer:
The best recovery centers provide more than just traditional rehab services. You may find exactly what you need with Westwind Recovery®. Adventure therapy is clinically proven to help overcome substance abuse problems.
Any client of any age or walk of life will benefit from Westwind Recovery®’s adventure therapy program. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment or program. Lasting recovery caters to your specific needs.
Whether you’ve never been an outdoorsy person or you consider yourself active and athletic, adventure therapy can push your limits. Also, it can expose you to new and exciting techniques giving you fresh coping tools and making your recovery a reality.
Contact Westwind Recovery® for addiction and mental health treatment programs. Call us to personalize your addiction treatment plan with the adventure therapy program in Los Angeles.
Dr. Deena is the Chief Clinical Officer of Westwind Recovery®, an award-winning outpatient treatment center in Los Angeles where she oversees the clinical and administrative program and treatment methods. Dr. Deena is a doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker since 1993. LCSW #20628. Originally from the East Coast, Dr. Deena has worked running treatment centers, worked as a therapist in psychiatric hospitals as well as school settings and currently has a thriving private practice in the LA area. Dr. Deena has appeared regularly on the Dr. Phil Show as an expert since 2003. She has also been featured on many other TV shows, podcasts and has contributed to written publications as well as podcasts.