Adventure Therapy

Using Adventure Therapy to Heal From Addiction

People who seek treatment for addiction struggle with more than just drug and alcohol use. Many of them also experience anxiety, depression, traumatic memories, and behavioral challenges that make staying sober difficult. These individuals may struggle to stay sober because they have a hard time achieving self-confidence, happiness, and purpose in life.

Adventure therapy is often used in addiction treatment to help clients overcome the myriad of challenges they are faced with in early recovery. Adventure therapy, sometimes referred to as outdoor therapy, is an increasingly popular treatment approach that combines physical activity and nature to create a highly engaging form of psychotherapy.

What is Adventure Therapy?

Adventure therapy is a type of psychotherapy that was first used in the United States in the early 1960s. It was meant to promote self-discipline and self-confidence through physically and mentally challenging, yet rewarding, experiences in wilderness settings.[1] As a therapeutic approach that combines nature, community, and exercise, this therapy can help improve a person’s social, spiritual, physical, and psychological well-being.

Activities that are used in adventure therapy include:

  • Rock climbing
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • White water rafting
  • Camping
  • Canoeing
  • Skiing
  • Swimming
  • Paddleboarding
  • Fishing
  • Snowboarding
  • Ropes courses

Outdoor therapy is useful in the treatment of many different conditions, including substance use disorders, mental illness, and grief and loss. Various types of people can benefit from adventure therapy, including:

  • Trauma survivors
  • People struggling with drug and alcohol addiction
  • Youth with behavioral problems
  • Patients with low self-esteem
  • Those who are resistant to other forms of therapy

This hands-on therapy is not appropriate for seniors, those who are at a high risk of falling, people with breathing problems, and young children because the activities may be too strenuous or dangerous to engage in.

adventure therapy in addiction treatment

How is Adventure Therapy Used in Addiction Treatment?

Drug and alcohol treatment programs usually consist of behavioral therapies, educational workshops, and peer support groups. However, sitting in a room actively participating in therapy can be emotionally exhausting. At the same time, some people find it difficult to open up and talk about certain experiences. While behavioral therapy and counseling serve their purposes, there are other ways to heal from addiction.

Adventure therapy is used during substance abuse treatment to help promote sobriety, growth, and personal development through a means of structured physical activities. Whether the activity involves kayaking, rock climbing, or fishing, most adventure therapies are done in a group. Group adventure therapies can help spark behavior change by making clients work as a team, communicate with team members, and place their trust in the hands of others.

Adventure therapies require clients to have direct exposure to experiential activities that decrease depression and anxiety while improving self-esteem and emotional resilience. Doing an activity successfully can encourage feelings of accomplishment and self-love. Most importantly, adventure therapies accomplish all of these positive emotions without the use of drugs and alcohol.

Benefits of Using Adventure Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Adventure therapies are often paired with behavioral therapies to provide a whole-client approach to recovery. A few benefits of incorporating adventure therapy into one’s drug and alcohol treatment program include:

  • Building healthy relationships with others through healthy communication and team cooperation
  • Learning positive social skills such as team building and conflict resolution
  • Improving self-awareness, self-esteem, and emotional and physical resiliency
  • Promoting a sense of trust and confidence between clients and their therapists
  • Encouraging explorative, vulnerable, and personal emotional discovery
  • Creating positive memories that are associated with being sober
  • Decreasing symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, and trauma
  • Introducing clients to healthy activities they can do instead of using drugs or alcohol
  • Adding an element of excitement to the addiction treatment and recovery process
  • Eliminating feelings of self-doubt, incompetency, and personal insecurity

Patients who participate in adventure therapy may complete rehab with an increased sense of self-worth and improved physical, social, and psychological well-being.

Adventure Therapy for Trauma and Mental Health

Nearly half of all people who struggle with addiction also struggle with a mental health condition. Similarly, many people who have experienced trauma or have PTSD also struggle with substance abuse.[2] Adventure therapy is unique because it can be used during addiction treatment to address issues such as trauma and mental health.

The direct exposure and experiential techniques used in adventure therapy have been proven effective at treating depression, trauma, anxiety, schizophrenia, and more.[3] Adventure therapies help break down walls that have been put up as a result of trauma and allow clients to learn how to trust others once again. At the same time, it leaves individuals feeling confident, refreshed, and energized which can help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Adventure Therapy With Moving Mountains Recovery Center

Here at Moving Mountains Recovery, our hands-on and experiential approach to recovery utilizes adventure therapy to help destroy the negative mindset that many people enter treatment with. Our adventure-based challenges make anxiety and self-doubt become things of the past as clients grow, learn, and thrive in sobriety. 

We’ve witnessed first-hand the incredible transformative effect that adventure therapy in addiction treatment can have on individuals, and we want you to experience it, too. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, please give us a call today. One of our admissions coordinators is standing by to take your call and help you begin your journey to recovery.



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