Wilderness Adventure Therapy: How to Deal with Depression, Low Motivation, or Failure to Launch
Young adulthood is a pivotal time in one’s life; there are often important decisions to make, which can increase the pressure that young adults face. When young adults are facing challenges in their lives, such as trauma, family conflict, depression, anxiety, or substance abuse, it can be easy to get lost on the road to independence. Many young adults don’t know how to deal with depression, low motivation, or whatever issues are contributing to their failure to launch. While “failure to launch” is not a clinical diagnostic category, the signs are very real. The phenomenon of young adults living at home and getting lost in the transition to adulthood is becoming more prevalent.
Recognizing that your loved one needs help with the transition to adulthood is the first step to getting him or her back on the road to independence. Wilderness therapy is a great way to help show young adults how to deal with depression, low motivation, family conflict, trauma, and other issues that may be contributing to a failure to launch.
How to Deal with Depression, Low Motivation, or a Failure to Launch in Young Adults
Wilderness therapy programs have become increasingly more popular and prevalent over the past few decades. The popularity that wilderness therapy has gained is due to its ability to aid young adults in overcoming mental health, social, and emotional issues.
A large part of the effectiveness of wilderness therapy programs is due to the individualized, therapeutic methods of helping each young adult work through his or her own personal issues. In fact, “the design and theoretical basis of a wilderness therapy program should be therapeutically based, with assumptions made clear and concise in order to better determine target outcomes and evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.” (Bandoroff & Scherer, 1994)
Wilderness therapy is extremely effective in showing young adults how to deal with depression, low motivation, and other issues that may be contributing to a failure to launch. Research suggests that mere exposure to the outdoors has many benefits, including:
- Improved clarity
- A reduction in ADD/ADHD symptoms
- Improved critical thinking and decision making
- Enhanced problem solving abilities
- Better executive functioning
Some treatment programs incorporate an adventure therapy component into their wilderness therapy programs, leading to a more actively engaged client base.
In addition to reaping the benefits of exposure to the outdoors, wilderness adventure therapy participants reap the benefits of adventure therapy, which include:
- An increased buy-in (especially among adolescents and young adults) to be more actively engaged in therapy, due to the variety of appealing adventure activities
- An opportunity to adapt and thrive in a variety of settings, activities, and adventures; this ability to overcome helps to build self esteem and develop one’s identity
- Learning healthy, physical activities that young adults can continue to participate in, long after treatment ends; this leads to a healthier, more active lifestyle in the long run
- Confronting challenges and an opportunity to overcome those challenges by utilizing one’s own method of coping; this also leads to further development of one’s identity
An adventure component also allows therapists to more effectively target an increase increase of self efficacy, as opposed to just increasing self confidence. Self efficacy is the belief in oneself to overcome adversity/difficulties in life. This is vital in showing young adults how to deal with depression, low motivation, and other major hurdles in life, as research has shown that self efficacy is one of the most influential predictors of behavioral change. (Wells, Widmer, & McCoy 2004)
By building on each individual’s strengths, wilderness adventure therapy allows young adults to learn new, healthy coping strategies, behavioral and emotional regulation skills, leadership skills, and life skills. Field staff and therapists help young adults develop a higher level of self-efficacy by using their strengths to build a strong foundation for the future.
To find out more about helping young adults living at home achieve their independence, download our free, twelve page white paper, The Road to Independence Can Be Rough: It’s Okay to Ask for Help
Wilderness family therapy: An innovative treatment approach for problem youth. (Bandoroff and Scherer 1994)
Wells, Mary Sarah., Widmer, M., McCoy J.K. (2004) Grubs and Grasshoppers: Challenge-Based Recreation and the Collective Efficacy of Families with At-Risk Youth. Family Relations, Vol 3, 326 – 333