Adventure Therapy—Therapies For Addiction

Positive Reinforcement

Adventure therapy is has been used for many other issues besides addiction. Chronic psychiatric patients, abused men women and children, incest victims, troubled adolescents and even family counseling are all areas that have benefited from adventure therapy. “The personal and group resources needed to succeed in stress-related activities are the same resources underutilized by individuals who are becoming increasingly reliant on psychoactive substances to excite or soothe them” (Bennet, Cardone & Jarczyk, p. 469-470). The premise is somewhat similar to the other therapeutic interventions in that the goals are to promote positive self-esteem and self-awareness, reducing shame and learning how to fill the hole left by quitting the addiction with positive reinforcers. In adventure therapy, the use of metaphors weighs big in connecting the lessons learned while partaking in the various adventure activities with the lessons learned about being clean, sober and in recovery. Community meetings usually held around a campfire provide a metaphor for peer support with regard to addiction. Journaling daily during the adventure therapy promotes self-introspect and if willing to share the journal with other members of the therapeutic community, one promotes vulnerability. Groups creating “dream catchers” provide numerous topics of conversation ranging from comparing the creation to daily life events in addiction and recovery, providing hope for a positive future through therapy while making the dream catcher, and identifying negative thoughts that arise while making the dream catcher.

Rowing is a great activity at Watson Lake in Prescott, AZ
Rowing at Watson Lake

Evidence Based Studies

The study of the effects of adventure therapy in addiction recovery “suggests that an integrated program of therapeutic recreation/adventure therapy and traditional recovery activities might produce better results than the traditional program alone. Finally, we found a clinically significant improvement in recovery rates for the experimental group (those that participated in adventure therapy) over the comparison group.” (Bennet, Cardone & Jarczyk, p. 472). Experimental and Comparison groups were both exposed to some form of 12-step program, with the experimental group also being exposed to adventure therapy. Data was compiled that focused on stress, autonomic arousal, problem-solving, the frequency of negative thoughts and alcohol craving. Across the board, the experimental group experienced improvement in all areas. For example, the tendency for the experimental group to experience cravings before adventure therapy was 17.8% and after, it was 12.7%. The comparison group that did not participate in the adventure therapy showed a difference of 15.9% pre 12-step only program to 16.3% post 12-step only program, (Bennet, p. 472). Like the other therapeutic modalities, the studies indicate that this specific modality works best in conjunction with others, such as hypnosis, group therapy, and 12-step based programs.

Adventure Therapy—Therapies For Addiction

Outdoor Adventures

  • Hiking/Rock Climbing
  • Fishing at Local Lakes
  • Kayaking/Canoeing
  • Overnight Treks/Camping

A photo of Prescott House Primary Therapist, Chris Sobel.

by Chris Sobel – Primary Therapist BHT

Chris has been part of the Prescott House team since 2005 and an active member in the recovery community in Prescott since 2002. In his work with each client, he brings forthrightness, inspiring life experience, and a commitment to helping men recover from addiction. Chris has many passions including golf and NY Mets baseball, and most importantly, spending time with his wife and two daughters.
Chris is also an amazing cook! Try some of his recipes: Easy Posole | Watermelon Salad

*Bennett, L. W., Cardone, S., & Jarczyk, J. (1998). Effects of a therapeutic camping program on addiction recovery: The Algonquin Haymarket relapse prevention program. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 15(5), 469-474.

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