Outdoor Therapy

As the name suggests, Outdoor Adventure therapy is a form of experiential therapy that involves various types of adventure. Adventure therapy is often conducted outdoors, although some adventure therapy activities are done indoors. Activities may include things like camping, hiking, navigating ropes courses, rock climbing, sailing, and cooperative games. Adventure therapy allows participants to take calculated risks and explore personal issues in a safe, supportive environment under the guidance and support of mental health professionals.

Like other types of experiential therapy, adventure therapy uses the experience itself to help individuals face and overcome emotional issues, addictions, behavioural problems, and many other challenges. It also helps participants develop important life skills that can benefit them throughout
their lives.


Primary Elements of Adventure Therapy

  • Therapy clients are directly involved in their treatment rather than merely observing from the side-lines.
  • Individuals receive positive therapeutic benefits from the process because they are motivated to participate in it.
  • Ongoing reflection during therapy enhances personal growth and progress.
  • The activities that are chosen must teach lessons that are applicable to both past and future experiences.
  • The experience is both meaningful and real to the participants because it reflects their real life.
  • Types of Adventure Therapy.



Types of Outdoor Therapy Activities

There are several different types of approaches and activities that are utilized in adventure therapy. These include:

  • Cooperative activities or games
  • Wilderness excursions (e.g. camping, backpacking, hiking in the mountains and other remote areas)
  • Problem solving initiatives
  • Trust activities
  • Outdoor activities (e.g. kayaking, rock climbing and rappelling, horseback riding)
  • Ropes courses (high and low)

Each of these activities is designed to be therapeutic in nature. They may focus on fostering communication and cooperation, building trust in self and others, or developing and improving problem-solving skills.


Disorders, Issues, and Conditions that can Benefit from Adventure Therapy

Adventure therapy can be a very effective treatment for many different mental health disorders, challenging life issues, and other conditions and problems with which people struggle. Studies have shown it to be beneficial in the treatment of:

  • Adolescents with substance abuse issues
  • Behavioural problems in adolescents
  • Juvenile offenders
  • Conduct disorders in teens
  • Anger management issues
  • Eating disorders
  • Recovery from trauma
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Individuals with developmental disorders
  • Adolescents with emotional problems
  • Grief and loss issues
  • Depression
  • Adults with substance abuse problems
  • Relationship problems
  • Issues with co-dependency

Adventure therapy can also benefit families in conflict, individuals struggling with low self-esteem or lack of self-confidence, and those who struggle with taking initiative.


Benefits of Adventure Therapy

Adventure therapy has many wonderful benefits for those who participate in it, including the following:

  • Trust in oneself as well as others
  • Opportunity to model healthy behaviours of therapy staff in a safe, supportive setting
  • Sense of personal empowerment and accomplishment
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Increase in leadership skills
  • Stronger self-esteem and greater self-confidence
  • Greater sense of self-awareness
  • Greater problem-solving skills
  • Emotional discovery and healing
  • Greater sense of self-reliance
  • Increase sense of worthiness and personal value
  • Better communication skills
  • Ability to give and receive constructive feedback
  • Ability to set appropriate limits and boundaries
  • Ability to cooperate with others to achieve a common goal
  • Greater sense of personal responsibility
  • Reflect on experiences and learn valuable lessons from them
  • Recognition that actions have natural consequences
  • Willingness to accept help from others when needed
  • More optimistic outlook on life
  • More positive attitude
  • Appreciation and respect for the needs of others
  • Increased ability to face one’s fears rather than avoiding or numbing them
  • Improvement in fine motor skills and coordination
  • Greater willingness to step outside one’s comfort zone
  • Decrease in denial
  • Greater focus and attention
  • Increased ability to identify unhealthy patterns of behaviour
  • Greater awareness of personal strengths and weaknesses



Adventure Therapy Programs

Adventure therapy can be fun, exciting, and challenging. It’s a great way to learn and practice new behaviours, improve your interpersonal skills, face your fears, overcome personal obstacles and challenges, and heal painful emotions. Adventure therapy programs are available throughout the country. If you’re interested in adventure therapy for yourself or a loved one, or if traditional therapy hasn’t really worked, contact the staff of a program that interests you. They can help you determine if it’s a good fit for your needs and goals.