When most people hear the phrase “I’m in counseling,” the last thing they likely picture is the person dressed like a lineman, outfitted with helmet and harness, and about to climb a high ropes challenge course. Or dressed in layers of clothing, donning a headlamp and preparing to descend a 12-foot ladder into a talus cave. Or perhaps they’re about to go on a “forest bathing” experience, taking in all the sights, smells, textures, and even tastes of the natural world; becoming “one” with the energy of nature. Wait, this is counseling? Absolutely! This is Adventure-Based counseling and just a sampling of it.
What Is Adventure-Based Counseling?
Adventure-based counseling is just what it sounds like – taking the therapeutic process out of the office and into the outdoors. It is usually done in a group setting and involves a variety of “adventures” from rock climbing to camping to kayaking to caving. And what makes this type of rehabilitation treatment so effective is that the adventures all have an element of perceived risk. And for most folks, many activities which can be included in adventure counseling are just a bit outside of their comfort zone.
How does it work?
Experiential facilitators lead clients through a series of unique activities that are designed to invite each participant to “lean into” their perceived limitations. Always “challenge by choice.” The goal of adventure counseling is for the participant to feel the fear, yet push just beyond it. Each time this happens, the client comes away with a feeling of increased confidence and strength. This helps “build a muscle” to feelings of fear, anxiety, and discomfort. Moving forward in recovery, when the client experiences similar feelings in everyday life, they will likely feel more equipped to handle them proactively.
Low Ropes Course
This course is constructed of cable, rope, and wood, and ranges from several inches to several feet in the air. It is utilized to build trust, strengthen communication and social skills, and cultivate teamwork.
High Ropes Course
This custom-built “Voyager” course ranges from 25 feet to 50 feet in the air. It helps clients move beyond their “perceived limitations” and lean into fear as an opportunity for growth. Participation in high ropes also encourages positive risk-taking, promotes interpersonal growth, and gives clients an experience of “sober fun”.
This can take place at either an indoor or outdoor rock climbing wall. It helps develop focus, determination, and body awareness while helping clients gain a sense of accomplishment.
Hikes and Walks
Guided hikes and walks through the natural world of the forest help to soothe anxiety, improve mood, reduce depression, and increase self-esteem, and create a sense of connection to something larger than oneself through nature.
Who Should Try Adventure-Based Counseling?
Everyone! Especially those looking to immerse themselves deeper into their addiction treatment. While the benefits vary depending on the activity, adventure-based counseling can be a great addition to traditional treatment. Recovering from addiction is not easy. It requires commitment, determination, and a strong network of support ─ adventure-based counseling can help clients build a solid foundation for it all.
It also allows them to spend time outdoors, which has been proven to improve both physical and mental health. Not only will they feel happier and healthier, but adventure-based counseling activities are fun – reminding clients that fun without substances is possible.