How Can Adventure Therapy Improve Mental Health?

how can adventure therapy improve mental health

Mental health is vital to the addiction recovery process. Many people who struggle with addiction also suffer from co-occurring mental health conditions. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “approximately 9.2 million adults in the United States have a co-occurring disorder.”[1]

Addiction treatment centers aim to help individuals overcome addictions to drugs and alcohol, but they also aim to improve the mental health of clients. This type of integrated treatment is described as dual diagnosis treatment. With the use of behavioral and holistic therapies, clients can overcome the symptoms of mental health conditions while they recover from addiction. 

One of the most rewarding forms of therapy used in dual diagnosis rehab programs is adventure therapy. Adventure therapy can improve mental health and promote recovery.

What is Adventure Therapy?

Adventure therapy is a form of experiential therapy that uses challenging adventure activities to help the therapeutic healing process. This treatment helps clients promote a growth mindset, the ability to overcome difficult situations, self-efficacy, and healthy identity development. 

Adventure-based therapy is hosted at or near the facility where the patient is being treated. This technique helps people overcome the symptoms of a wide range of mental health conditions, which include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Trauma
  • PTSD
  • Grief and loss 
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Schizophrenia 

Adventure therapy often includes problem-solving activities, trust-building activities, outdoor pursuits (i.e. cycling, rock wall climbing, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, etc.), and high adventure games like rope courses or tug of war. These activities help clients increase mindfulness, self-efficacy, and overall well-being. 

How Does Adventure Therapy Improve Mental Health?

People of all ages can benefit from adventure therapy in a wide variety of ways as it provides relief from a range of mental health issues. Being out in nature and tackling difficult activities can provide clients with the self-confidence that is needed to overcome mental health and substance abuse-related issues. 

Personal Development 

Adventure therapy asks clients to engage in activities that they may find difficult. In other words, adventure therapy takes people out of their comfort zone, giving individuals the opportunity to experience great personal development and growth. 

This type of therapy allows clients to better understand their thought processes, behaviors, and coping strategies while they engage in a fun and adventurous activity. Because these activities can be physically and mentally challenging, participants are forced to take a close look at their approach to solving problems and the coping strategies they use to overcome difficult situations. When someone is not using positive coping strategies, a therapist will suggest tools for them to use, teaching them how to overcome stressful situations. 

Interpersonal Skills

During adventure therapy, clients participate in activities that challenge their emotional intelligence. As the activity becomes difficult, they must use their emotional intelligence to overcome uncomfortable feelings and work with others to reach a common goal. 

Activities are often completed as a group so clients must interact with each other and support one another so the team can achieve its goals. Participants will improve their ability to communicate, give and receive feedback, and respect personal boundaries.

Adventure therapy also allows clients to lead and mentor others, which will improve interpersonal skills and provide the patient with much-needed self-confidence.

Physical Activity 

Exercise is vital for physical health. However, some people may not be aware that exercise and physical activity can improve mental health as well. Exercise is an effective therapeutic tool for mental health and addiction recovery. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, “Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.”[2]

Anxiety, depression, negative mood, low-self esteem, and social isolation are all common issues that people with mental health and addiction issues face. Adventure therapy gives clients the exercise they need to alleviate and overcome these feelings.

Being in Nature 

Adventure therapy encourages people to spend time in nature, which is proven to aid mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, “Spending time in nature is linked to both cognitive benefits and improvements in mood, mental health, and emotional well-being.”[3]

Being surrounded by nature provides people with tranquility, positivity, and stress relief, which are all important to the recovery from mental health issues. Additionally, it allows people to get out of their own heads and focus on something bigger than themselves. 

Adventure Therapy for Mental Health and Addiction Recovery

Addiction and mental health are often linked–nearly half of all people who seek treatment for substance abuse also have an underlying mental health condition.

If you or a loved one suffer from both addiction and a comorbid mental health condition, you should consider attending a dual diagnosis treatment program like Moving Mountains Recovery Center. Using an emotionally-focused approach, we help our clients dig deep to treat the root cause of their addiction, develop healthy coping skills, and embrace a sober lifestyle. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or mental health, give us a call today. Our team of qualified admissions coordinators is available all hours of the day to help you begin your recovery journey.


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