How Outdoor Adventure Therapy Helps Heal Trauma
Today, several treatment facilities are set in certain locations that offer various outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, kayaking, rock climbing, rope courses, mountain biking, and more. Choice House, located in Boulder, Colorado has a great setting to facilitate the healing process since the facility is located near the Rocky Mountains. Choice House uses a combination of therapeutic outdoor activities with other traditional therapeutic modalities for healing trauma. Outdoor adventure therapy is a modality used by facilities like Choice House for the treating trauma survivors. Additionally, it has other beneficial outcomes such as building leadership skills, fostering open communication, improving trust, and creating fellowship.
What is Outdoor Adventure Therapy?
Outdoor adventure therapy combines various activities to facilitate change, improve self-confidence, challenge irrational thoughts and beliefs, build confidence, and create a sense of fellowship and trust between participants. It also has psychotherapeutic value because participants will be able to break down and process the emotions that come up while engaging in the activities. Through the experience and the processing, participants gain a more in-depth understanding of themselves and learn how to apply these lessons into real-life situations.
What Activities are Involved in Outdoor Adventure Therapy?
Depending on the setting and the time of year, outdoor adventure therapy activities will vary.
Due to its mountainside setting, clients at Choice House are able to engage in outdoor therapeutic activities that are unique to the winter season. A few of these winter activities are:
- Snowshoe Treks
- Cross-country Skiing
Spring, Summer, and Fall Activities
Colorado has plenty to do during the warmer months, allowing for even more opportunities to engage in adventure therapy. These activities can facilitate bonding, trust, improvement of self-confidence, and more. Activities to do in the spring, summer, and fall include:
- Trail running/walking
- Disc Golf
- Kayaking or paddle boarding
Special Occasion Activities
Choice House also offers a unique immersive experience of a three to four day excursion during residential treatment stays. For those who wish to participate, a trained guide will take a group of men on an unforgettable adventure. During this time they are camping, hiking, fishing and climbing- to name a few activities. These excursions take place both in Colorado or in other beautiful surrounding areas depending on the weather. Unplugging from technology and day to day modern distractions, the clients have an experience of leaning into their feelings, getting into their bodies while enjoying the beauty that nature has to offer.
Benefits of Outdoor Adventure Therapy for Trauma
Out of Your Head and Into Your Body
A great benefit of outdoor adventure therapy is that it can help participants find a newfound connection with their bodies. Oftentimes, a trauma survivor will have a hard time connecting with their bodies due to dissociation. Dissociation can be a way of coping and avoiding negative thoughts or feelings related to their traumatic event. The individual will detach or disconnect from their sensory experience in order to create a feeling of safety. Some may feel a sense of unreality and lose connection to time, place, and even their identity. Outdoor adventure therapy is a great tool to help those participants who may have lost a connection to their body and senses to learn how to reconnect their thoughts and become more present in their bodies.
Foundation for Further Healing
This method of treatment also builds a stable foundation for further, more intensive therapies that may be presented further along in their healing journey. The men at Choice House who participate together in outdoor adventure therapy and create a unique bond may feel more comfortable with being vulnerable and open during more traditional group therapy such as talk therapy. These shared experiences help build new healthy attachment bonds that serve as models for other relationships in their lives. Processing the emotions that come up during or after participating in an outdoor experiential activity along with the bond that is created within the group can help to strengthen the foundation and support needed during the recovery journey.
Outdoor adventure therapy can also help with gaining a greater understanding as to whether one’s thoughts, behaviors, and coping methods are serving them. Participants engaging in outdoor therapeutic activities will be offered an opportunity to learn more about themselves when faced with a situation where they will need to draw upon their problem-solving skills. Learning how to manage these various situations that require rational thinking, teamwork, and confidence teaches the participant that they are capable of walking through challenging moments and eventually apply these lessons to real-life. They may have more courage to take risks and understand how to weigh consequences, approach challenges, and have a more positive outlook when facing a problem. Additionally, the skills learned while engaging in outdoor adventure therapy can help to cope with the negative memories and potential triggers that may come up during their healing process.
The fellowship and bond created while engaging in outdoor adventure therapy helps to improve the overall communication skills of the participants. There are numerous activities in which the group’s participants must rely on one another and create a need for communicating in order to accomplish a shared goal. The other lessons that are taught to help improve communication can be how to set and respect boundaries and communicate their needs and wants. Many trauma survivors do not know how to set personal boundaries or be vulnerable. Engaging in outdoor adventure therapeutic activities helps to build trust and become comfortable with vulnerability without the fear of being hurt.
The healing journey for a trauma survivor can be challenging and may take longer than one expects because of the complicated emotions and negative memories that have to be faced in order to heal. Another benefit of outdoor adventure therapy is building resilience. Resilience is the ability to navigate and overcome adversity and continue normal development. Outdoor adventure therapy facilitates the building of resilience in its capacity to hold the space where individuals can learn how to face potentially challenging situations and witness their ability to get through them. healing, but the stressful situations that individuals must work to accomplish help improve mental health. What may feel like an impossible situation to overcome, may now be feasible to walk through and even be able to thrive on the other side of it. In the trauma healing process, individuals can utilize their new skill of resilience to help to face the darkness of their traumatic past and walk through its dark shadows and come out of it into the light.
Choice House is uniquely capable of offering outdoor activities because it is surrounded by Colorado’s stunning landscape. Because of its location, the staff can provide a wide variety of outdoor adventure therapy activities to help their clients heal and learn how to deal with the challenges that can arise along the recovery journey. Various activities are available for different seasons, including a unique activity where clients visit a nonprofit to bond with wolf-dogs. Outdoor adventure therapy helps individuals heal from trauma by teaching problem-solving skills, providing a foundation for further healing, developing interpersonal relationships, and building resilience. You learn how to deal with challenging situations and how to trust other individuals to help you get through them. This is why Choice House uses this unique approach for trauma healing treatment. We are constantly seeking better ways to help our clients heal, and outdoor adventure therapy has shown great results for treating addiction and trauma. For more information concerning outdoor adventure therapy and how it can help you recover, contact Choice House at (720) 577-4422.