Outdoor mental health programs can be a highly effective treatment model for adolescents and young adults who are struggling with depression and anxiety.

Our Wilderness Adventure Program For Adolescents

Pure-Life fav icon - Wilderness Adventure Therapy in Costa Rica

Adolescence is a very exciting time in life. Everything’s new, and there’s a lot of growth and development and fun energy towards finding the answer to the question, “who am I going to be?” During this transition, adolescents can get lost along the way, which can sometimes result in depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues that can be concerning.

Outdoor treatment can be very effective in treating depression and anxiety for these young people. Adventure therapy aims to provide a safe place in nature to help students foster self-reflection, independence, confidence, bravery, community awareness, and more.  At Pure Life Adventure, we create meaningful experiences through therapeutic adventures, community building, and personal reflection to foster each teen’s natural skills and goodness.

Adolescence Can Be Difficult For Young People

As many as one in five teens struggle with at least one mental health disorder. That number is daunting; even the most attentive and supportive families can have adolescents struggling with mental health. Most often, the students we work with who struggle with depression and anxiety may have experienced bullying or trauma. 

While many families know their teen is struggling because of more well-known symptoms of poor mental health, like changes in sleep patterns or panic attacks, there are other lesser-known symptoms your teen may be exhibiting. They may overuse technology through video games, social media, watching shows, or YouTube content. They may be using substances to cope with the struggles that they’re having at school or home. It’s not uncommon to see these young people acting out, but it’s even more common to see them acting in isolation or avoiding family and friends.

One of the most concerning components of teen mental health is that sometimes young people look fine on the outside. They might still have good grades or be high achievers in extracurricular activities. But they’re masking their inner world and emotions, sometimes because they don’t want to cause a problem or because they aren’t ready to deal with the issues. That’s where informed, thoughtful parenting becomes even more critical. Notice changes in your child’s behaviors like changes in appetite, sleep patterns, social activities, or grades. Those can be signs that the challenging time of adolescence might be wearing on your child’s mental health.

Outdoor Adventure Therapy: A Highly Effective Method

Costa Rica is an ideal place for outdoor adventure therapy (sometimes mistakenly called wilderness adventure therapy) because it provides an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and right into your growth zone where you can embrace lasting change.

Adventure therapy is a highly effective method that combines the grounding aspects of nature, the comradery of group and community experiences, individual therapy, and intentionally structured physical activities to help teens gain confidence and direction in their lives. Our activities range from surfing, sea kayaking, white water rafting, cultural immersion experiences, and service projects. All of our activities are intentionally structured and facilitated in a way that works in concert with our therapeutic approach. As students go out in the field and engage in these activities, they build on what they learn in therapy.

DISCOVER: Our Adolescent Program

A common challenge most of our students face is a lack of confidence or fear of failure. By engaging the students in adventurous, therapeutic opportunities, our guides and therapists connect these experiences to their individual treatment goals and the work our students are doing with their families.

When students get to try a new activity and face their fears and then succeed, even in a small way, they gain confidence and self-assurance they can’t learn in other circumstances. So whether they are standing up on a surfboard for the first time, going down the river on a raft, or addressing their fear of heights on a rappel–all of these are opportunities for our students to overcome a challenge and gain some insight into themselves through those experiences. You can’t replicate these experiences in everyday life, but by providing the combination of therapy, community, and adventure, we create opportunities for growth for teens that can influence and guide their lives for years to come.

The Key Is A Novel Environment

A vital component to outdoor adventure therapy (not to be confused with wilderness therapy) is introducing adolescents to a novel environment. This helps them to get out of their comfort zone by challenging them and giving them a sense of accomplishment and an ability to try new things.

We know that new and natural environments decrease arousal levels, increase attention capacity, and facilitate even faster emotional processing. Before they ever get on a raft or put on a helmet, their bodies and minds are primed for faster emotional processing and decreased arousal because of the natural, novel environment, which means they are ready for the growing experiences ahead. 

Teens in a novel environment where they are gently challenged to do new things–without their old coping skills like video games, drugs, and acting out–find that they not only are more capable than they thought they were but find that those old numbing and coping skills aren’t giving them the results they want. They can do new things in a new environment, and when they feel that sense of accomplishment, they realize they don’t need old, harmful coping skills to survive life.

These experiences offer students the chance to do more than survive, they challenge the teen to find the will and direction to thrive. By introducing them to new experiences and environments, we hand them the tools they need to feel better about themselves and their abilities and thus make better life choices.

A Unique Outdoor Experience For Lasting Change

We’ve seen the power of nature, adventure, and therapy. They are a potent combination that comes together to support students to change in a deep, meaningful, lasting way. Seeing a student light up after overcoming a challenge, watching that light turn into confidence that allows them to speak up for themselves, watching them get to know themselves through therapy, and finding that they like themselves are all the results of adventure therapy.

We see the lasting change our programs make in the lives of students who were once depressed, sullen, defiant, too vibrant, or driven. The outdoor adventure program—an alternative to wilderness therapy—creates happy kids because they learn independence and self-worth. Costa Rica is often voted one of the happiest countries in the world, making it a great place to teach kids about the simple things that can help them be happy. We love our work, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to provide this unique experience in such a beautiful part of the world for our clients and their families in a way that can provide them with lasting change.

Outdoor Adventure With Pure Life: The Life Experience Your Teen Needs

Adolescence is an exciting time of life, but there are many pitfalls that come with this time of growth, transition, and individuation. We know that today, more than ever, teens aren’t equipped with the normal community and social resources they need to thrive. Parents who want to provide their kids with the community and adventure that leads to vibrant, happy adults need to actively seek out those opportunities rather than casually hope those experiences will happen on their own. Proactivity with your child’s mental health is the key to helping them create happy, full lives. If you are ready to provide the life-changing adventure therapy your teenager needs, contact us today and point your teen in the right direction, then sit back and watch them flourish into brave, happy, independent adults.

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