wilderness treatment for addiction recovery

Thin Places | Wilderness Treatment for Addiction Recovery

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir

How does Wilderness Treatment for Addiction Recovery Work?

  1. It helps clients find themselves
  2. It treats the whole person
  3. It develops life skills
  4. It interrupts normal life and its habits

Transformation is a beautiful reality that sometimes defies the ability to parse out or fully explain. Where transformation in addiction recovery is concerned, this is just as true as anywhere else in life. Why did a person make a change that seemed to truly alter their whole being? Where does lasting change take root in a person’s heart? Where does experience meet information in such a way that metamorphosis begins?

Though there is no way to have the full answer to that, our experience has found that when harnessed well, nature will almost always contribute to lasting change. This is why our wilderness treatment program for addiction recovery exists.

Thin Places

There exists a phrase/idea first brought into culture by the ancient Celts; it’s the idea of “thin places.” This phrase can be used to describe any place in this world that is mesmerizing—a place that captures your presence in an uncanny, nearly indescribable way. A haunting landscape or the powerful energy of a natural wonder.

However, the term goes beyond that. The Celts and later the Christians considered certain parts of the world as “thin.” Or actually, there are places on the planet where the separation between heaven and earth is thin. In this understanding, there is gap between the physical plane of earth and the spiritual realm of heaven—a certain distance. In some places that gap is very wide and in other places the distance is close, so the space between heaven and earth is thin.

These are places you might feel transcendence or beauty in an acute way. Places where introspection and deep stirrings seem to pour out from the very space. Thin places.

Wilderness Places

What does this have to do with recovery? It’s not surprising that traditionally these thin places are found in nature.

While the physical nature of heaven and earth is not necessarily where we put our understanding of addiction treatment, the metaphor rings true with wilderness treatment. And because transformation is beyond a single notion, our understanding of nature as a powerful impetus for change helps us take an intentional approach to harness its unique qualities and help our residents reach a place where transformation can take hold. This is the basis for our wilderness treatment program.

Proven Aspects

Of course, there’s more to it than the mystical. We also have evidence of skills and life changes. And when you add real treatment modalities to the powerful transformational essence of nature, you will see amazing results. Here are some of the ways it works.

Wilderness treatment helps clients find themselves

Nature is a conduit to inner thoughts and feelings. Which means under good guidance, this quality makes for powerful and effective counseling/therapy. Free from the noises of the outside world and more in touch with the bare essentials of life, when walking through nature, a person’s inner life becomes more vibrant and available. The wilderness is the perfect place or setting to allow people to delve deeply in a more clear way. As well, in our wilderness treatment program, counselors are on hand to harness the revelation of deeper emotions and direct the thoughts that emerge to help residents use them for reflection and recovery.

Wilderness treatment treats the whole person

The best addiction treatment focuses on more than just the symptoms of addiction; it takes into consideration all aspects of a person’s life. Wilderness treatment is an immersive way to focus on the whole person in an environment that breaks barriers and opens people up for a release of inner turmoil and stress. Because nature is out of the ordinary for most people with substance use disorder, they experience a freedom to engage with aspects of themselves that are often hidden. And confront them in an open and healthy manner.

Wilderness treatment develops life skills

Included in whole-person healing is confronting the poor life skills common in people with substance use disorder. Often this disease is exacerbated by personal deficiencies such as poor communication, poor anger management, impulsive behaviors, poor conflict resolution, unwillingness to take responsibility for actions, and more. Wilderness treatment has the unique ability to confront these things in a way that is non-threatening and encourage change. 

Wilderness treatment interrupts normal life and its habits

The Sierra Nevada Mountains are one of this world’s thin places. Thanks to its ideal location (in the foothills of the mountains), First Steps Recovery’s wilderness treatment program takes advantage of this to create a natural intervention in the lives of its residents. The person with an addiction is pulled from their environment and put in a place that allows them to confront many of the underlying issues that directly contribute to their addiction. It makes use of the thin place of nature. And guided by a professional counselor, residents move into exploration, self-discovery, and transformation for lasting recovery.

If you believe you or a loved one could benefit from First Step’s unique wilderness treatment program, or you would like to hear more about it, please call us today. One of our addiction specialists is available to answer all admissions questions and help you decide if First Steps is the right fit for you: 844-489-0836.

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Meet Our Team

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