Families who find themselves in the middle of a behavioral health crisis are desperately searching for guidance. When emotions are running high, you might not know where to turn, or maybe it is difficult to see any real path forward. You need a guide–someone you can trust who is knowledgeable and has walked the mental behavioral path before.

Your Guide To Adventure Therapy

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

Parenting is such a wonderful, yet demanding pursuit. It can stretch you and your family in ways that you never imagined; however, there is nothing sweeter than watching your young adult dig in and become the person they were born to be. But not every child floats through life, happy and carefree. We know you want what’s best for your child, and we know how heartbreaking it can be when your young adult is struggling to be happy and healthy. It’s so important to keep pace with them in their journey and support them in healthy ways. So if you’re considering Adventure Therapy as an option for your adolescent or young adult, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what we have to offer.

While the term, Adventure Therapy, might not be immediately familiar to you, this is indeed a type of therapy that you can use to help your child develop in ways that traditional therapies might not be able to. This unique form of therapy can help your young adult or adolescent build self-confidence, learn new skills, and grow as a person–all things that will aid your young adult as they grow into a healthy adult. In this guide, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to support your young adult or adolescent as they start on their own Adventure Therapy journey.

Adventure Therapy is a hands-on approach that utilizes wellness, community service, and exciting outdoor adventures like rappelling and white water rafting to create lasting and meaningful change.

What Is Adventure Therapy

Adventure Therapy is a hands-on approach that utilizes wellness, community service, and exciting outdoor adventures like rappelling and white water rafting to create lasting and meaningful change. By combining individual and group therapy with the great outdoors, participants learn new coping strategies, behavior and emotional regulation, and leadership and life skills that lead to future success. 

A unique aspect to our adventure therapy model at Pure Life is cultural immersion. We believe that exposure to a novel environment in conjunction with a new culture can be extremely helpful  because many young adults and adolescents go about their lives without taking the time to consider perspectives outside of their own. When a young person’s life is interrupted and they are placed in a new environment with new circumstances, they can start to build new ways of looking at and responding to the world around them.

The foundational goal of our program is to plant a higher level of self-efficacy and grit deep into the identity and heart of your adolescent or young adult–in other words, you child will walk away from Pure Live with a heightened faith in their ability to complete tasks–hard tasks–and the resiliency to face life’s 21st century challenges with courage, determination, and from a place of inner peace. 

But your child will not do it alone. Backed by a team of caring professionals, participants enrolled at Pure Life receive personalized care from our program’s clinically sophisticated and research driven model. Our therapists, along with highly skilled field staff, work together to develop methods, goals, and objectives that create healthy, effective, and lasting change. Apart from our team of professionals that administer a robust and sound therapeutic adventure model, your child has you. We value the parent-child relationship and work closely with parents to build strong family support systems and communication.

We value the parent-child relationship and work closely with parents to build strong family support systems and communication

Who Is Adventure Therapy For?

Our young adult and adolescent communities, now more than ever, suffer from a myriad of challenging developmental, emotional, and behavioral needs. Adventure Therapy can be effective for a large swath of challenges, such as:

  • ADHD
  • Addiction
  • Anger Issues
  • Lack of Motivation
  • Academic Failure
  • Mood Disorders
  • Self Esteem Issues
  • Eating Disorders
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Harmful, Risky, or Troubled Behavior
  • Autism
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Although not an exhaustive list, Pure Life’s Outdoor Adventure Therapy Model will build confidence in your youth as they re-engage in the world around them and face their challenges head on. We have high safety standards, and our program is not only fun and engaging, but also highly structured with rules that keep everyone physically and emotionally safe.

Is Adventure Therapy, Wilderness Therapy? 

No. Adventure Therapy is typically not a crisis intervention experience. It takes place in front country environments (where students are regularly near civilization, services, and local culture) which requires a higher level of stabilization in order to participate. At Pure Life we implement “informed consent” which means that students willingly attend the program in order to work on their issues. 

Wilderness Therapy has historically been used to remove a young person from their environment completely in order to spend time immersed in the wilderness.  This has often been used to  interrupt aggressive or defiant behavior. 

As far as Adventure Therapy goes, apart from both types of therapy taking place outside, this is where the comparison between Wilderness and Adventure Therapy ends. At Pure Life, we altered our program to suit a wider range of mental health issues that do not focus on severe behavioral needs. We believe in taking our students out of toxic environments and into nature, which is incredibly healing. We share the healing concepts of being outdoors and teach self-sufficiency.

Here’s what you can expect from our program:

  • Front Country Experience—students are not isolated from the outside world, they are interacting with the public and community in Costa Rica at different times during their stay.  Therefore, they need a certain level of stability to attend Pure Life Adventure. 
  • Adventure Elements To Build Confidence—activities like rock climbing, mountain biking, surfing, and rafting are created to challenge and build up students.
  • Accommodations—our students are on campus and sleeping in beds three nights a week. Other nights involve excursions and camping experiences.
  • Healthy Foods—our program includes resetting student habits with healthy food and includes student participation in preparing fresh meals, often harvesting vegetables from our on-site gardens. 
  • Good Hygiene Practices—students spend the majority of their time outside, but still have regular access to showers and running water. 
  • Collaborative Admissions Process—our Program Director speaks with every student before they commit to joining us in Costa Rica. We use trauma-informed practices in our admissions process and the student has to agree to come without coercion. 

One main difference between our program and traditional Wilderness Therapy is that our program requires a higher level of trust from our students. Our students will be working with local Costa Rican families and interacting with the community and the public. Because of this, they must have the ability to behave appropriately and be emotionally stable. Community service and cultural immersion are two important differences between our Adventure Therapy program and traditional Wilderness Therapy.

Adventure Therapy is an important part of treatment for young adults because of its long lasting impact. Youth experience transformative change that will be the foundation for future success.

Here’s what you will not find in our program:

  • Young adults that are isolated from society
  • Limited availability to good hygiene practices
  • Limited access to healthy food
  • Weak support staff and structure

How Can Adventure Therapy Help Young Adults

Always remember there is hope. Your child can develop healthy coping skills and embrace life with all of its challenges. Adventure Therapy is an important part of treatment for young adults because of its long lasting impact. Youth experience transformative change that will be the foundation for future success. 

Curious about what other Adventure Therapy benefits and skills your child will gain by participating in our program? There are many, but here are a few of our favorites:

Teaches Grit

We like to say that grit is more than just strength of character. In the face of adversity, our participants learn that they can do hard things. Adventure Therapy is one of the best ways to help a young adult realize that their ability to succeed in life comes from within and not from outside circumstances. Confucius once said, “The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t–both are right.” That’s called self determination, and a good portion of grit will get you 90 percent of the way to any goal, and then work will get you that final 10 percent to cross the finish line.

Builds Self-Efficacy

A child with a well-formed sense of self-efficacy will have a high belief in their ability to complete tasks and reach goals. Self-efficacy is important because it impacts the way your child will respond to challenges and how they let success or failure influence how they feel about themselves. It can also influence mental health, academic performance, and social skills. For youth with high self-efficacy, failure is just one step on the path towards success.

Develops Sense of Responsibility

Research shows that responsible youth have stronger personal relationships and higher academic success. The cultural immersion and community service aspects of our Adventure Therapy program encourage youth to be thoughtful about their actions and take responsibility for mistakes.

The cultural immersion and community service aspects of our Adventure Therapy program encourage youth to be thoughtful about their actions and take responsibility for mistakes

Sense of Identity

It is typical for a child to enter our program with a confused sense of self and their long-term goals. Before engaging in Adventure Therapy, your child may have sought identity through unhealthy behaviors and social environments, often leading to self-medication or depression. 

Identity is a very important stage of child development. Having an identity that is rooted in a positive self-image and resilient attitudes can impact personal relationships and educational success. If you find yourself living with a young adult with depression, you know firsthand how difficult it can be for both parent and child. Depression is a serious mental health condition that can affect anyone at any age. But for young adults, depression can be especially debilitating and can negatively impact their development, motivation, and future prospects. 

Adventure Therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression in young adults. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, consider enrolling in an Adventure Therapy program. You may just find that it can be the catalyst for change that you are seeking. 

Why Is Adventure Therapy So Effective?

Imagine if you could take your young adult or child out of their comfort zone and into the outdoors for an adventure that would challenge and change them. According to new research, Adventure Therapy is one of the most effective forms of therapy for young adults and adolescents. Why is Adventure Therapy so effective? And how can it really help your child? We actually really enjoy answering these types of questions because the benefits of Adventure Therapy are so tangible.

Takes Youth Out Of Toxic Environments

Whether it is the influence of a negative peer group or the difficulties that come from our fast-paced 21st century world, young adults and adolescents often turn to self-medication to deal with the stressors and influences of a toxic environment. By separating themselves from a toxic environment, former self-medicating young adults can focus on finding themselves and living a healthy lifestyle, free from detrimental self-medicating substances.

Whether it is the influence of a negative peer group or the difficulties that come from our fast-paced 21st century world, young adults and adolescents often turn to self-medication to deal with the stressors and influences of a toxic environment.

We Get Youth “Buy In”

By incorporating a large variety of appealing adventure activities, beautiful scenery, and cultural immersion into the therapy model, we get a high amount of youth “by in.” By request, we’ve also added an Adventure Therapy for Adolescents program–a program that will support teens, not just young adults. Our stellar support staff (Masters level), provides both groups with a strong foundation and a sense of belonging. Having a child that wants to participate in therapy instead of actively fighting against it will make all the difference in how a child can progress and grow. 

Learn A New Hobby

Because Adventure Therapy allows young adults to adapt and thrive in a variety of settings, activites, and adventures, it heightens a child’s ability to develop a strong identity and self-efficacy. Dr. Mark Widmer, a leading researcher in the field of Adventure Therapy, asserts that adventure activities “provides opportunities for exploration, commitment, interrelatedness, and feedback; all of which serve essential identity development functions” (Duerden, Widmer, Taniguchi, McCoy). Not only will they develop strong character attributes, but with each new activity (surfing, rappelling, rafting, etc.) they will also develop a love for nature and a lifelong hobby they can use to explore nature and enjoy the outdoors. Healthy, physical activities lead to healthier, more active lifestyles in the long run. Rather than self medication, the adventure activities provide a “natural high”. 

Nature Is A Powerful Healer

Recent studies have linked nature to improved mental and physical health. In fact, we now have a large body of research that clinically proves that spending time in nature has many measurable benefits. In an early study, Yoshifumi Miyazaki, a researcher at Chiba University in Japan, found that people who spend an average of 40 minutes walking in a forest show a higher state of physiological relaxation. Other studies have suggested that exposure to the outdoors can have powerful positive psychological and emotional benefits, like improved clarity and focus, critical thinking skills and problem solving abilities, and better executive functioning.

What To Look For In A Credible Adventure Therapy Program

If you’re like most parents, you want what’s best for your kids. You want them to be happy and healthy both mentally and physically. So when your child is struggling, it’s natural to seek out help. If you’re a parent considering sending your child to an Adventure Therapy program, it’s important to do your research to find a credible and reputable program. There are many programs out there, but not all of them are created equal. So what should you look for? Here are some key factors to consider.

Highly Trained Clinical Support Staff

Our support staff is licensed at the Masters level, and when considering different Adventure Therapy programs, don’t go with anything less than Masters level licensure. Students will participate in weekly therapy sessions to learn new coping strategies for better emotional and behavioral regulation. Look for programs that include both individual and group therapy. Individual therapy is essential for a young adult to verbalize and work through their own struggles, while group therapy provides valuable ways to connect and empathize with others.

Wilderness Environments

Because nature has such a restorative effect on behavior and emotions, getting out into nature should be a key component of any credible Adventure Therapy program. Many young adults feel emotionally stuck, and getting them into a different environment opens up new realms of possibilities to rebuild their confidence and sense of self through the healing powers of nature.

Another key element of a credible Adventure Therapy program is exposure to new and challenging experiences in the forms of activities like surfing, rafting, backpacking, kayaking, rappelling, and more

Sequenced Adventure Activities

Another key element of a credible Adventure Therapy program is exposure to new and challenging experiences in the forms of activities like surfing, rafting, backpacking, kayaking, rappelling, and more. These activities require intense focus, awareness, and teamwork. Throughout their adventuring, students face fears and difficult situations that leave them feeling like they can do hard things. They gain a whole new perspective on what they are capable of, and instead of souvenirs, self-determination and grit is what they bring home. They are now ready and able to take on the next big challenge that life will throw at them. 

Cultural Immersion

This one is a bit trickier to find among Adventure Therapy offerings, but it’s one that we feel has a deep impact and is unique to Pure Life. When youth immerse themselves in a culture with different values, it can be refreshing and rejuvenating. They suddenly realize that things like fresh water and plenty of food are huge blessings. Experiencing a different culture helps them truly appreciate what they already have–a supportive family and wonderful home life.

Hear What Our Families Say About Us

Up to this point, we’ve done all the talking. But it’s important to get first hand reviews from the youth and parents who have completed the program. In their own words, they can share how much this program has impacted and changed their lives for the better.

What Our Students Say About Adventure Therapy

“Most of my stumbles have been self-inflicted. But, for all my stumbles, there’s something new: I can recover. I’m catching myself. And I have touchstones to hold onto, and memories of things that work. All of that comes from my time in Costa Rica.”

– Male, 24 years old

“When I arrived at Pure Life in April of 2014, I had low self esteem and no confidence. I’m glad I came because now I have a whole new life. I’m happy, I’m healthy and I’m being a productive member of society. The time I spent in Costa Rica at Pure Life has been the most impactful, life changing experience of my life. Best decision I ever made.”

–Female, 19 years old

“Before Pure Life, I was a young adult with no voice, no direction, and no passion. While at Pure Life, through one on one therapy, group therapy, and difficult, yet rewarding, physical challenges, I found the motivation to be the self I never thought I could be. Because of Pure Life I am now confident, happy, and passionate about my life and what the future holds in store for me. I could not thank the Pure Life team enough for everything they have done for me.”

–Female, 21 years old

What Our Parents Say About Adventure Therapy

“As a parent of a struggling young adult, it became apparent I was unable to reach my child in a way that was going to help him prepare for adulthood. The struggles were much greater than my husband and I, as parents, could handle. The knowledge, experience, compassion and family philosophy of Pure Life helped him to finally face many of his issues and provide him new ways of dealing with them. While we know that his journey into adulthood will take more time, Pure Life was able to get him to recognize his self-defeating attitudes and behaviors and to create healthier ways of responding. We were extremely pleased with Pure Life and the progress that our son made while there. 


“Pure Life was a lifesaver for our daughter and our family. They have the right balance between therapy and outdoor adventures. Our daughter came back a new person with greater confidence and ways to handle her anxieties/depression. I can’t recommend Pure Life enough to a family who needs help dealing with addiction, depression and repairing the family unit!”


“My wife and I are truly grateful that our son was able to go to Pure Life and work hard to start the process of finding himself. Going to Costa Rica was not on our radar when we first explored programs. Thanks to all of the people involved in his life there, he is a better person, and for this we thank you all. An email can be so impersonal, but short of flying to see you, it is the best option. We will keep you posted as to his progress. Again, from the bottom of our hearts we thank you. You guys are awesome.”


Free Resources From Pure Life To Help

We love helping people, and not just young adults or adolescents. If you’re looking for some free resources to help you with parenting a child that suffers from things like low motivation, anxiety, or depression, Pure Life could be exactly what you are looking for. We have a wide variety of helpful resources available, all of which are completely free to download and print. Take a look at our selection and choose the ones that will work best for you and your family. 

Millennial Identity

Millennial Identity is a unique white paper that was written BY a millennial FOR other millennials and for anyone else who is interested in our generation’s triumphs and struggles.

Lasting Change

In this white paper about Lasting Change, we provide an overview of some of the issues today’s young adults face and how adventure therapy helps to address these issues. It’s written for young adults, parents, or anyone else considering wilderness treatment to help themselves create lasting change for a loved one.

Self Medication

This white paper, Self Medication, provides an overview of what self-medication in young adults looks like, including the dangers of self-medication, the reasons young adults self-medicate, safe and effective treatment options, and ways parents can help their children. This white paper is written for young adults, parents, or anyone else needing advice on helping themselves or a loved one who is self-medicating.


This white paper titled, Depression, discusses what depression in young adults looks like including the causes, signs, challenges, and treatment options associated with depression in young adults.


Independence will provide you with an overview of the difficulties that can arise during the transition into adulthood and what options are available if you or a loved one needs help with this transition.


Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in adults today. Seven out of ten say they experience daily stress and anxiety. This white paper is written for young adults struggling with anxiety, parents trying to help their young adult manage anxiety, or for anyone else needing advice on the topic.

If your young adult is struggling with mental health issues such as depression, low self-esteem, low motivation, and anxiety or struggling to progress into adulthood, please reach out to Pure Life Adventure today. We would love to speak with you about your child, their needs, and how we can help.

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