Adventure therapy is the use of experience experiences, typically in natural settings, given by mental health experts.  Individuals, families, and groups are expected to participate on physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioural levels during the encounters.

It is based on the Outward-Bound Process Model, which assists participants in overcoming self-limiting beliefs.

A study of Outward-Bound participants who completed a 21-day course found that they had lower recidivism (the likelihood that a person who has committed a crime will do so again) than teens who completed an intensive outpatient therapy programme instead.

Adventure therapy is a type of counselling that focuses on helping people to experience life in a new and exciting way. It helps individuals to explore their feelings, thoughts, and emotions through activities that are both challenging and fun. 

 

Types of adventure therapy

Adventure therapy is classified into three types: wilderness therapy, adventure-based therapy, and long-term residential camping. The structure of these three types may differ greatly, but the goals are the same:

  1. Wilderness therapy: This is typically done in remote wilderness settings in small groups over several days. Unless someone drops out, the group stays the same throughout the process. Outward Bound is frequently used as a model for these programmes.
  2. Adventure-based therapy: These programmes are frequently held at or near the location where the person is being treated—usually for people in multi-day programmes such as intensive outpatient treatment or residential treatment. The groups change as people come in and out of the facility, and the activities are sometimes more staged (for example, rock climbing walls at a treatment facility.

 

  1. Long-term residential camping: This involves putting people in outdoor camps or “mobile training units” (such as learning to sail on clipper ships) for an extended period of time, often a year, to teach them how to develop a positive peer culture while confronting problems inherent in daily life and dealing with natural consequences of their actions.

 

Techniques

Adventure therapy techniques are used to help people feel more engaged and excited about their lives, as well as to increase their sense of control and mastery over their environment. 

Adventure therapy can be used in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, and prisons. 

The goal of adventure therapy is to help people identify and explore their interests and passions, both professionally and recreationally. 

Adventure therapy is founded on seven fundamental principles:

  • Traditional therapy takes place in a sort of vacuum, with only one other person in the room. Adventure therapy takes people outside and places them in a more “holistic” environment where they can observe body language.
  1. Unfamiliar surroundings: Many people come to therapy unwilling to change. This takes them out of familiar environments, where it may be easier to take a different (literal) perspective.
  1. Climate of change: One goal of adventure therapy is to introduce “eustress” (good stress) into people’s lives in order to demonstrate that they are capable of changing their behaviours and attitudes.

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