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Elements of a Credible Adventure Therapy Program

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There are many Adventure Therapy programs currently in existence. It is imperative to find one that is credible, based on a model of success, and uses adventure activities in a meaningful way.

Ideally the program should use a  hands-on, strengths-based, student-integrated clinical model where participants quickly learn new, healthy coping strategies, behavioral and emotional regulation, skills, leadership skills, and life skills that lead to future success.

An effective Adventure Therapy program equips young adults with a variety of tools to help them overcome the negative issues in their lives. An effective program will include:

1. Clinical Support

Through weekly individual and group therapy sessions, participants are able to learn new coping strategies, work through prior issues, and learn how to better regulate their behavior and emotions. During group therapy sessions, participants learn to verbalize and discuss their own struggles. Group therapy also allows for these individuals to connect and empathize with others who face similar struggles. During individual therapy, participants are able to dive in further and develop personalized coping strategies and assessment.

2.Wilderness Environment

Research suggests that mere exposure to the outdoors has many psychological and emotional benefits, which is a key component of any credible adventure therapy program. Many young adults who are in need of adventure therapy come feeling broken or frozen in their place in life. Placing these individuals in a wilderness environment allows them to rebuild their confidence and sense of self through the healing power of nature. Research suggests that mere exposure to the outdoors has many psychological and emotional benefits including stress resilience and ADHD symptoms.  

3.Sequenced Adventure Activities

Adventure therapy components can include surfing, rafting, backpacking, sea kayaking, certification courses, rappelling, horseback riding, and more. The benefits of physical activity paired with exposure to new experiences facilitates a dynamic way for young adults to overcome their fears, build self confidence, establish character, and create self-efficacy.These challenging and strategic activities require intense focus and awareness. Throughout, participants face fears and difficult situations, ultimately overcoming them and gaining a new perspective on what they are capable of. The self efficacy built translates to everyday life situations once the student returns home. The new awareness of self grit supports a student to take on life’s bigger obstacles

4. Cultural Immersion* (This is an added component that not all Adventure Therapy Programs offer, but may be beneficial for your young adult.)

A unique offering that can further enrich a young adult’s experience is cultural immersion.Taking a step back from the pressures of everyday life and immersing themselves in a culture with different values can be a refreshing vantage point for these young adults. When young adults are immersed in a culture where things like fresh water and plenty of food are huge blessing, many realize, “Wow, I am really lucky to have a family who is so supportive and a wonderful life at home. These people have so little, yet are so appreciative of everything in their lives.” Engaging in community outreach activities helps young adults gain a new perspective on life. Young adults can explore and strengthen their own core beliefs by being exposed to cultures that place a high significance on intrinsic values.

To learn more about the elements of effective Adventure Therapy Programs, download our white paper, Lasting Change for Young Adults with Adventure Therapy.

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