Therapy is changing for children and young adults in a form of treatment known as adventure therapy treatment for kids. A typical therapy session, whether for psychological or substance issues, will place the client indoors with the therapist. The setting may be occasionally changed to facilitate group discussion, but aside from this one deviation, clients (especially children and teenagers) may find office sessions dull or uninteresting. Fortunately, the face of therapy is changing with adventure therapy treatment for kids.
This therapy can assist clients of all ages and ailments, although it can be especially effective for teenagers. By engaging in outdoor adventures like rock-climbing or orienteering, a client can walk away from the session with a new appreciation of responsibility and a feeling of empowerment toward their own goals.
What is Adventure Therapy?
Adventure therapy is a form of psychotherapy that developed in the 1960s, though the idea of outdoor therapy is not a new one. People in ancient Greece believed that outdoor activity could help alleviate or solve mental issues. While there is no concrete definition for the field, adventure therapy does utilize learning through outdoor activities, usually with some form of risk (whether real or perceived) to create a physical or emotional challenge for the client.
Adventure therapy treatment for kids can be the form of trust exercises, games, outdoor activities, and wilderness adventures. By learning something new about themselves throughout the course of the activity, a client can use that new knowledge to assist in their recovery.
Adventure Therapy Treatment for Kids
Adventure therapy, sometimes called “wilderness therapy,” can take the form of a camp, lasting as short as a day or as long as a month. An adventure therapy hiking trip might be physically exhausting, helping to reduce the barriers toward open and honest communication around the campfire that night. Therapists will continue to meet with the client one on one throughout the experience, although group therapy also occurs as a way of strengthening social bonds. Once the physical barrier of the excursion has been overcome, the clients may be left to their own quiet introspection, sometimes for as long as three days. During this time alone, a client may more easily see that they will need to rely on their own strength and fortitude if they want to change their actions.
This introspective aspect of adventure therapy is especially beneficial for troubled kids or teenagers. After all, it can be difficult for teenagers to open up about issues that are very personal or that they feel the therapist won’t understand. Adventure therapy encourages teens to remove themselves from the restrictive environments of school or home in order to take a look at their problem from a new angle.
For example, adventure therapy for teens with drug issues might involve a rock-climbing exercise. At the top of the rock wall, the teenager may feel exhilarated, accomplished, and full of endorphins, sensations that they may have come to associate exclusively with drugs. This experience can help remind the client that drugs are not the only source of positive feelings and can help restructure their preconceived idea of what they are capable of.
The Benefits of Adventure Therapy
Adventure therapy is unique in that instead of passively sitting in an office, listening to a therapist’s analysis and suggestions, the client becomes an active participant, exerting energy and taking responsibility for the outcome of the exercise. In addition to the benefits of professional, engaging psychological therapy, simply spending time outside can boost a client’s mood and reduce stress.
Trained therapists are always available during the exercise to maintain a safe environment and to provide care if necessary. Instead of a boot camp, which a child or teenager may feel as though they were sent to as punishment, adventure therapy is all about presenting the client with an open-ended challenge, with no penalties or yelling if they fail or decide not to participate.
For a client, adventure therapy may seem like nothing more than a camping trip where they and a group of peers talked about their lives and worked together to cross a river. When the camping trip ends, however, the client re-enters daily life with a new appreciation for themselves, and sometimes, that new sense of appreciation is enough to help them turn their lives around.