The Basics of Wilderness Therapy for Substance Abuse

When a person begins experimenting with alcohol or drug abuse, he or she never intends to become addicted. In fact, substance abusers almost always maintain the belief that they will be able to remain in complete control of their recreational substance abuse, able to indulge as often as they please and able to stop before they become fully addicted. Unfortunately, this has proven not to be the case. While there are many people who pass through substance abuse as a brief phase, it’s estimated that approximately ten percent of the American population over the age of 12 currently suffers from a substance abuse problem or addiction, which is a rate that’s grown at an alarming rate of the past several decades. As such, an increasing concern has been finding ways of effectively treating or even preventing the development of an alcohol or drug addiction.

No two individuals develop an addiction in precisely the same way. There are many possible factors and circumstances that can contribute to one’s becoming an addict, each of which varies from person to person. Moreover, each addict experiences the effects of addiction on a very personal level; in other words, the worst consequences of one individual’s addiction may be different from the worst consequences of someone else’s addiction. Due to the complex nature of the disease of addiction, recovery involves an addict coordinating a treatment regimen by selecting the individual treatments and therapies that address his or her specific recovery needs. While there are many different therapies available, including actual psychotherapy and counseling, wilderness therapy has been increasingly implemented in some individuals’ addiction treatment curricula. Therefore, the following will offer a concise overview of wilderness therapy, explaining what it is and how it can be beneficial for the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction.

What is the Purpose of Wilderness Therapy?

Most people probably associate recovery therapy with psychotherapy, even picturing the patient lying on a couch while telling a therapist about his or her childhood; while individual counseling and psychotherapy are an important part of the addiction recovery process, there are other forms of therapy, or modalities, that have been used to great effect in the treatment of forms of addiction. In some of these alternative therapies, individuals don’t simply sit and respond to a therapist’s prompts. Instead, the individuals will participate in one or more of a number of different activities, which might include such

things as role-playing, exploration, interacting with or caring for animals, and so on. While either participating or observing, a therapist will make inferences about the patient and his or her potential underlying issues by observing the patient’s actions and interactions. This form of therapy is called experiential therapy.

Wilderness therapy is a form of experiential therapy that has been increasingly used as an alternative to more traditional therapy in the treatment of a variety of psychological disorders as well as in treating addiction. As its name would suggest, wilderness therapy is an outdoor-based method that can take a number of different approaches. For instance, the professional who is facilitating the wilderness therapy might have patients participate in obstacle courses in a similar manner as in adventure therapy; alternately, wilderness therapy might involve a camping trip to some remote location, lasting as little as a couple days or as long as a couple weeks. Widely considered to be great for character-building, wilderness therapy for substance abuse has become especially common for adolescents, teens, and young adults as they stand to benefit the most from the survival skills and independence one acquires while camping.

How Wilderness Therapy Can Be Beneficial to Substance Abuse Treatment

There are many benefits to wilderness substance abuse therapy. One benefit is that it’s a very social form of treatment. Patients often participate in wilderness therapy in groups that consist of a number of patients and either one or two professionals, depending on whether the counselor is also skilled at wilderness survival. While in wilderness treatment, patients will learn teamwork as well as cooperation, asking or offering help, and become more comfortable with communicating with peers.

Although survival- and adventure-based skills are a factor, there are also times during which individuals will be receiving more traditional counseling as the supervising counselor will often seize opportunities to pull each patient aside for one-on-one therapy; during these times, patients are able to work with the counselor on some of their more specific underlying issues, allowing them to overcome the factors that led to their development of addictions. Wilderness therapy has also been proven to be beneficial because it teaches patients responsibility, accountability, and independence, all of which are essential for achieving a long-lasting recovery.

Learn More About Wilderness Therapy or Other Treatments with Recovery Hub

The path from addiction sobriety might be long and difficult at times; however, choosing to overcome one’s addiction will inevitably result in a life of health and fulfillment. Don’t let the disease of addiction claim you or your loved one as another casualty. For more information about wilderness therapy or other forms of treatment, call Recovery Hub today at 1-888-220-4352. We have a team of recovery specialists available at all times for free assessments and consultations, so pick up your phone and make the call that will change your life for the better.

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