outdoor therapy

How Can Outdoor Therapy Treat Addiction

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Each person is different in the way their drug addiction develops and they develop a unique way in which they display attitudes and behaviors when under the influence. When they make the commitment to undergo drug treatment to address those underlying issues that allowed their substance abuse to flourish, traditional treatment approaches may not be enough to help those struggling with addiction overcome those obstacles that may prevent them from finding sobriety. While individual and group therapy, life skills training and relapse prevention education are effective and proven to work, there may be some new to recovery who may require alternative types of therapy to help them make the breakthrough they need in order to achieve lasting sobriety.

An increasing number of drug treatment facilities nationwide are adding these emerging therapies such as, Wilderness therapies as a part of their drug treatment programs. One of the most popular of these holistic-based therapies is outdoor therapy. Through a variety of physical activities done in the great outdoors, those who participate in outdoor therapy for drug addiction learn to explore their boundaries, learn to problem solve, acquire healthy decision making skills and allows those new in recovery to engage in new hobbies and passions without the use of drugs and alcohol. If you are looking for a drug treatment center that features outdoor therapy as part of their treatment programming, call First Steps Recovery today.

What is Outdoor Therapy?

man camping outdoors

Also commonly known as recreational therapy, outdoor therapy combines various forms of physical therapy and exercise along with the incorporation of outdoor recreational activities. By doing this, those who are newly recovering can fill their leisure time with pursuits that promote physical and mental health. Additionally, outdoor therapy programs for addiction can give participants that “rush” they experienced when they were using drugs and alcohol, but the highs they experience come from within and not through illicit substances or alcohol.

For those professionals who practice outdoor therapy in a drug treatment setting, the underlying philosophy of outdoor therapy lies in the fact there is a strong connection between substance abuse and leisure time. The progression between casual experimentation and full-blown addiction is seen as happening in a series of four steps:

  • Social Use–most people start drinking or taking drugs as part of their leisure time activities. They experience positive effects on their mood and it enhances the leisure experience.
  • Goal-Oriented Social Use–The use of drugs and alcohol in social settings becomes more reinforced, and as a result people start to engage in unhealthy behavior. Eventually, the goal of feeling happy and fulfilled through substances starts taking the place of any type of healthy activities they once enjoyed.
  • Dependence–People start becoming dependent on substances, any type of healthy leisure activities are abandoned. While people who are dependent on substances may see the negative consequences of use, they feel the positive effects outweigh any negative consequences.
  • Addiction–In this final stage, people who become addicted to drugs and alcohol use substances in order to feel normal. People who are addicted to substances also continue using to sustain the euphoria they feel and to ward off the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal.

The goal of outdoor therapy in drug treatment is to help those new to recovery transform their current depressive and withdrawn state to one of relaxation, happiness and satisfaction. The ultimate goal of any outdoor therapy program is to help those new to recovery feel true satisfaction from within and without the use of drugs and alcohol.

Incorporating Outdoor Therapy in Drug Treatment

For many who decide to make outdoor therapy a part of their overall treatment program, they may start the process with considerable hesitate and uncertainty. Many of the activities offered in an outdoor addiction therapy program may be new to those in the program. The prospect of trying an activity for the first time may put fear in patients, and there may be the fear of failing or looking foolish in their attempts at a new activity. While these feelings are understandable, it is important to understand that part of the recovery process involves taking risks and trying new things in order to learn more about yourself.

There are a variety of activities that people can take part in and enjoy while participating in an recreational therapy program for substance abuse. Some of the most popular outdoor therapy options include rope courses which combine obstacles both on the ground and up in the air in trees or constructed towers. These courses encourage team building and allow people to confront and overcome their fears and other personal barriers they have put up during their active addiction.

Another popular outdoor therapy activity are climbing walls where an artificial wall structure is constructed using fitted attachments to simulate rock faces for climbing practice. These walls can be found in gymnasiums, fitness centers or can be constructed outdoors. Other examples of outdoor therapy activities can include biking, hiking, trekking, and team sporting activities that emphasize trust building and working with others. Additionally, other activities such as fitness programs, music and nature hikes can also be incorporated into a comprehensive outdoor therapy program.

The benefits of these programs are numerous. People learn to develop healthy coping skills and can learn to deal with anxiety, disappointment, confusion and other emotions that can be triggers for relapse. Another obvious benefit of outdoor addiction therapy programs is the physical exercise. Addiction erodes physical health, and through vigorous activity people can look better, feel better and minimize the chances of slipping back into drug and alcohol use. With increased activity, people can also better manage the stresses of everyday life.

Are You Interested In Outdoor Therapy As Part of Your Recovery Plan?

If you have made the commitment to drug treatment and are interested in incorporating outdoor therapy as part of your comprehensive treatment plan, First Steps Recovery can help you. Our recreational programs are evidence based and serve as an excellent complement to our traditional therapy and wellness programs. Call First Steps Recovery today and take your recovery to new heights.

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