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Adventure Therapy for Addiction Recovery


Individuals suffering from the disease of addiction often feel that happiness is a distant memory – lost forever and unreachable. After all, a life full of only drugs and alcohol is bound to be a sad and lonely one. Unfortunately, these feelings sometimes last into one’s recovery. Someone might experience isolation, loneliness, depression, and more when they first get sober. It takes time to adjust. One of the best ways for recovering individuals to reignite happiness and rediscover purpose is through therapeutic adventure therapy for addiction recovery. Experiences are often the pathway to transformation. The personal exploration that occurs while in nature helps cultivate empowerment, growth, and purpose. 

Whether it’s surfing, fishing, hiking, camping, yoga, expressive arts, gardening, service work, or music therapy – adventure therapy provides visceral opportunities for recovering addicts to integrate intellectual and emotional aspects of the therapeutic process of active learning. 

What is Adventure Therapy?

Adventure is defined as “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.” Adventure therapy became a separate form of psychotherapy in the 1960s and has continued to be an effective therapeutic approach for individuals in addiction recovery. This therapeutic process cultivates a safe environment for individuals who have struggled with drug or alcohol abuse to participate in various adventures. 

Outdoor and indoor exhilarating adventure therapy activities have one common trend – an element of perceived and/or actual risk. Often times, this risk factor includes trust exercises, working with others, or stepping outside of your comfort zone. The addiction professional will lead clients through trust-building activities that promote communication, builds confidence, challenges the mind, stimulates brainpower, and removes the client from the mundane tasks of everyday life. Forming these relationships is important in recovery, as sober support is one of the keys to long-term sobriety. 

Stimulating activities that clients participate in during adventure therapy are beneficial for individuals who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction as well as mental health disorders. This familiar territory may easily become a healthy coping mechanism to counter-condition the mind and body while letting go of the addicted identity. Adventure therapy for addiction recovery is utilized to challenge clients to overcome perceived limitations, overcome guilt, heal from emotional pain, overcome anxiety, and establish an enhanced sense of self. As a result, it’s becoming more and more popular at substance abuse treatment programs across the country. 

Types of Adventure Therapies for Addiction Recovery

Adventure therapy imparts knowledge and creates experiences that cultivate changed beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. These unconventional therapies use various activity-based approaches such as cooperative games, wilderness exploration, and other outdoor expeditions. 

Some generalized adventure therapies for addiction recovery include:

  • Trust activities – This category often includes various activities that are designed to develop teamwork, communication, trust, and support amongst peers or family members. Some trust activities may include:
    • Ziplining
    • Ropes courses
    • Group hiking
    • Obstacle courses
    • White water rafting
    • High-intensity group workouts
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
  • Outdoor activities – These are various recreational activities designed to provide clients with environmental awareness, experiential learning, recreation, and leadership development. Some outdoor activities may include:
    • Fly-fishing
    • Rock climbing
    • Solo camping experiences
    • Kickball
    • Basketball 
    • Paddle Boarding
    • Backpacking
    • Horseback riding
    • Gardening
    • Surfing 
    • Scuba diving

Benefits of Adventure Therapy for Addiction Recovery

Much like with any other type of therapy, the primary goal of adventure therapy in recovery is for clients to make progress towards mental health goals. The therapist or group facilitator will select holistic activities and guide each individual through each activity in a way to promote progress and self-development. Individuals will learn to share control, communication skills, and assume aspects of control and responsibility for themselves. 

When creating a plan for adventure therapy, it is important that the activities are suited to families as well as peer groups as well. Not only does adventure therapy teach recovering addicts how to have sober fun, but this therapeutic recreation program cultivates a foundation for clients to experience personal achievements and build self-esteem. 

Other potential benefits from adventure therapy for addiction recovery include:

  • Structure and concreate goals
  • Self-development and building self-esteem 
  • Establishing effective communication skills and building trust
  • Self-expression 
  • Promoting a sense of responsibility
  • Building positive relationships and learning to cooperate with others
  • Conflict resolution skills
  • Improving self-awareness and resiliency
  • Establishing healthy coping skills
  • Promoting therapy engagement
  • Creating meaningful opportunities to face real-life opposition and experiences

Adventure Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment

Adventure therapy is a beneficial therapy option that is often offered as a method for treatment for individuals with substance use disorders. The main focus of adventure therapy for addiction recovery is to provide each individual with a challenge, perceived risk, and an opportunity to overcome the challenges despite the risk. This process often helps recovering addicts develop self-esteem, a sense of self-control, acceptance, goal achievement, and the facilitation of communication skills, social skills, trust-building, and problem-solving skills. Adventure therapy is not the primary treatment for substance use disorders. However, it can also be incorporated into an individualized treatment plan. Addiction recovery is a lifelong process of renewal, in which individuals are frequently working on themselves. Recovery is an adventure that often includes unexpected challenges and a rewarding road to self-discovery. 

Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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