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What is Wilderness Therapy and why does it work?
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Wilderness therapy is an alternative therapy for substance abuse that takes place in the great outdoors, and that helps patients overcome addiction by exposing them to challenging situations in nature. Wilderness therapy is often geared toward children and adolescents but can be therapeutic for nearly anyone who needs help developing responsibility, self-esteem, and important life and interpersonal skills as part of addiction recovery.
Wilderness therapy, also known as adventure-based therapy, allows patients to spend the majority of their recovery time outdoors performing a series of tasks and activities designed to build character, confidence, and self-esteem. Patients are placed in an unfamiliar outdoor environment and made to learn primitive skills such as building and starting fires and traveling in the backcountry. The processes used in wilderness therapy are designed to address problem behaviors surrounding substance abuse by fostering personal, social, and emotional growth.
Wilderness therapy programs use many of the same evidenced and practiced methods as those used in traditional rehab settings, such as individual and group therapy, family therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. These programs are often facilitated by licensed therapists and counselors who develop individualized treatment plans for each patient. Wilderness therapy features therapeutic assessment, intervention, and treatment of problem behaviors, and assessment of outcomes. Though wilderness therapy is available for anyone in recovery from addiction.
Wilderness therapy is a unique mental health and substance abuse treatment that helps adolescents grow in healthy ways both physically and mentally. This therapy teaches individuals how to become more independent and self-aware, and how to work with and get along better with others.
The elements of wilderness therapy teach people more about personal and social responsibilities and offer a safe environment in which these valuable lessons can be applied. The activities involved with wilderness therapy help patients develop a better internal focus on control and a greater sense of self-worth. A major advantage to wilderness therapy is being able to go completely outside your former environment to a basic, primal place where you can get to know yourself better at your core. These healthy outdoor environments are usually far different from the places where substances are used and can facilitate full healing.
Wilderness therapy programs often use many of the same therapies as those used in traditional rehab settings, but customize them for outdoor settings. For instance, counselors may chat one-on-one with patients throughout the day as they cook together, go hiking, or perform various other activities. Patients generally report feeling more at ease in these casual settings than in structured, professional clinical settings. Group therapy, however, usually takes place when all patients are present at mealtimes or around the campfire together after dinner.
Before wilderness therapy begins, treatment professionals meet with and assess patients to create individualized treatment plans that determine which actions are needed to help them overcome substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders. A proper assessment helps ensure patients are placed with therapists and peers who can relate to similar issues. Parents of teens who receive wilderness therapy usually work directly with clinical supervisors to develop relapse prevention plans, so the necessary support is in place should a relapse occur.
Wilderness therapy is available in the form of expedition therapy and base camp programs. Expedition therapy typically lasts anywhere between three and eight weeks and requires patients to stay outdoors continuously on an expedition for the duration of treatment. Base camp programs are more structured and allow patients to leave on expeditions that last for a period of time and return to the base camp for follow-up activities. In addition to receiving therapy, patients take part in activities such as backpacking, white-water rafting, building shelters, starting fires, and navigating through the wilderness using a compass. Periods of alone time for introspection are an important part of many wilderness programs.
There are three main phases in wilderness therapy:
Treatment centers that offer wilderness therapy will provide you with all the information you need surrounding what type of clothing and equipment you should bring with you to therapy. Otherwise, there is no other specific preparation, and you’ll be provided with everything else you need at the treatment center.
Text courteous of : addictions.com