Adventure Therapy & Wilderness Programs
Creating Experiences for Recovery in California
The Morningside Adventure Program (MAP) is a therapeutically intensive program where clients living at the beach go hiking in the mountains, white-water rafting, camping in the desert, and kayaking in the ocean. Not only is natural beauty a catalyst for serenity, MAP takes advantage of the experiential elements found in outdoor challenges to more deeply effect change in clients. This transformation is rooted in tangible and rock-solid experience. Therapeutic growth and change emerge in the individual and as part of group interaction.
Therapeutic adventure is a highly effective treatment modality based on the principles of experiential therapy. MAP leans against the natural world as a co-therapist, drawing upon the inherent healing properties of the wilderness to address clinical issues. This process of experiencing the challenge activity and reflecting on what has been experienced increases self-awareness and self-esteem. The reactions and emotions that arise during the carefully structured challenges serve as a deep reservoir of skills that can be used throughout the client’s life. The program gives the client a unique and positive experience to carry forward in their recovery.
Explore the Adventure Journals and photos from each Morningside Adventure Program trip below.
MAP moves the client from sluggish spectator to exuberant participant. Clients take responsibility for motivation, effort, and participation. Natural consequences are direct and real for the client. For example, a client who forgets to bring a raincoat gets wet. However, no one is forced to do any particular challenge activity. This “challenge by choice” concept allows each participant to take responsibility for his or her choice.
Activities are adapted and applied as needed with different groups to ensure safety. Safety is considered on both physical and emotional levels and group members also help take responsibility for the safety of the group. This is part of therapy, in that clients adopt an attitude of respect for themselves and others. With each activity there is an appropriate processing and debriefing period.
In Morningside’s Adventure Program, adventure is more than a thrill; it is built into activities to engender a therapeutic alliance. Activities such as rappelling, white water rafting or underwater exploration are so inherently exciting that they nudge clients out of their comfort zone. This in turn leads to therapeutic revelations.
Benefits of Adventure Therapy
Clients in adventure therapy explore many social skills; four basic benefits are:
- Recognizing social roles
Behavior in a group dynamic provides insight into the roles clients play at work, school, in relationships, and in their family.
- Improved self-management skills
Emotions such as frustration, hostility, fear, and grief are explored through a group structure. The accomplishment of a common goal often applies to a client’s individual concerns.
- Communication skills development
Most activities require clients to ask for help from others in the group. This opportunity for social growth builds trust in others and challenges clients to look beyond themselves.
- Increased cooperation
A client’s self-centered or anti-social behaviors naturally come out during activities, so he or she acquires understanding, applies appropriate coping skills, and processes the activity immediately.
The Morningside Recovery clinical team designs each adventure event so that clients receive the maximum therapeutic advantage. A primary therapist participates in each adventure challenge. Morningside’s Adventure Program gives clients a chance to:
- Build trustworthiness
- Address the mind, body and spirit
- Apply metaphorical applications
- Contemplate practices in nature
- Participate in ceremony and ritual
- Connect to natural rhythms
- Learn creative problem solving
- Adopt healthier coping strategies
- Appreciate natural beauty and spirituality
- Build self-esteem
- Face and overcome fears
To participate, clients must be medically and clinically cleared with 30 days of successful stabilization at Morningside or another facility. Adventure programming is administered by a Wilderness First Responder and Clinical First Responder certified counselor along with a Morningside Primary Therapist. These certifications are imperative for dealing with a client’s emotional and physical well-being in the wilderness.