Uncover Hidden Strength: Develop New Skills Through Adventure Therapy

“I was a different person on that mountain” Elena recounts. “I was so tired, so out of shape, and the heat was merciless. I’m not an outdoorsy person, I told myself. But my therapist and the other members in my group kept pushing me, kept cheering me on, so I didn’t stop. When I finally made it to the top I thought my legs would collapse and my heart would beat out of my chest, but it was incredible. I felt proud, something I hadn’t felt in a very, very long time.”

Elena is one of the many addicts nationwide who have found strength through adventure therapy. Whether it be hiking, kayaking, or horseback riding, the activities involved in adventure therapy are meant to be physically and emotionally demanding. Adventure therapy adheres to the notion that “nothing worth having comes easy.”

What is adventure therapy?


Adventure therapy isn’t one singular thing. This treatment encompasses varying techniques, environments, and activities intended to elicit change. It includes team-building activities, problem-solving initiatives, and adrenaline-pumping expeditions to provide growth experiences that can help addicts make fundamental changes in their lives. Adventure therapy often takes place in nature where the beautiful scenery and physically demanding activities unearth hidden strength and new passions. One of the extraordinary things about Alta Mira is its close proximity to lush redwood forests and the San Francisco Bay, which allow residents unprecedented opportunities to indulge in a number of outdoor activities, like hiking, sailing, horseback riding, kayaking, and ziplining. These therapist-guided activities pull you outside your comfort zone and require your full effort and attention. After seeing your response to high-pressure situations, you and your therapist can work to make positive behavioral changes.

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Build new skills


One of the best parts of adventure therapy is that it removes you from the clinical setting you spend so much time in during recovery. Your group will be accompanied by a therapist, but many of the activities demand complete concentration, leaving you no room to ruminate over your addiction. When you engage in adventure therapy you learn functional skills, such as knot-tying and rock climbing, as well as life skills like trust, cooperation, and leadership. The physically and emotionally difficult activities lay the groundwork for you to tackle difficult situations in the future, since you can draw upon these experiences for self-confidence and strength.

In some ways, the functional skills are just as valuable as the life skills. Addiction takes over your brain and eclipses the things you once loved and cared about. Kindling a new hobby or passion helps you step out of the “one-track mind” of addiction. You may discover during therapy that you have a natural way with horses, or an undiscovered sailing talent.

New coping strategies


Most activities in adventure therapy involve an element of risk—which can draw a wide range of emotions to the surface, like fear, anxiety, and mistrust. In the past, these emotions may have triggered your addiction. Therapists can address these feelings as they arise in adventure therapy and help you craft new ways to cope. You start to become more cognizant of your behaviors, thoughts, and the consequences of your actions, which empowers you to change your responses. As you climb over rocks and face negative mindsets and lapses in communication, you realize that you’re capable of more than you think. Many addicts leave adventure therapy excursions with an improved attitude and outlook on life.

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Mind, body, spirit


The new physical demands, emotional challenges, and functional skills that come with adventure therapy help you to build your identity so you can move forward with your recovery. Exhausting outdoor activities provoke you to reconnect with your body, acknowledge your spirit, and spark a new sense of adventure. It’s great to exercise in a gym, but there’s nothing like physically pushing yourself outdoors in an unfamiliar environment. You will experience true change and growth as you start to establish a deeper connection with the outside world. Rekindling your spirituality will empower you to forge a more fulfilling and meaningful future.

The work I was doing around spirituality really broadened as a result of these trips and being able to get outside myself amid the redwoods or on the bay kayaking. These adventures had a huge impact on the overall process.

-Ben Z, Alta Mira Alumnus

Start embracing the outdoors


Muir Woods and Mt. Tamalpais are a far cry from the dark hole of addiction. Yes, adventure therapy is meant to pull you from your comfort zone, but it’s not about temporary escapism. The outdoor activities are more than just a fun outing—they help to establish new skills and coping techniques that will aid you in all aspects of your recovery. Adventure therapy is just one piece of the puzzle in treatment. A comprehensive, personalized treatment program, which includes adventure therapy, will help bring about a sustained transformation. Alta Mira offers a variety of conventional and experiential therapies to help you reclaim your best health through lasting recovery.

Alta Mira offers adventure therapy excursions as part of our comprehensive treatment program. Contact us for more information about how we can help you or your loved one on the road to recovery.