Outdoor Programs

How Do Wilderness Programs Fit into Drug Treatment?

By October 19, 2015 January 19th, 2017 2 Comments
walking in the woods


What is Wilderness Therapy?

In its simplest terms, a wilderness therapy programs for drug addiction is a therapeutic intervention that utilizes the backdrop of Mother Nature as a means for adventure and exploration with the ultimate goal of promoting emotional and spiritual growth as well as self-discovery. When you research wilderness therapy, you will no doubt see there are many forms of this therapy that can be used in a variety of situations. Depending on the situation, wilderness addiction therapy programs can range from learning survival-based techniques to a more formal and organized camping-based program.  In the framework of substance abuse treatment, wilderness programs focus on bringing out who the addict truly is outside of their addiction.

In wilderness treatment programs, clients will learn and master a specific set of skills–whether it is learning to read a map, making fire and gathering food or learning how to construct shelter. Through the acquisition of these skills, clients will learn effective communication skills and will be able to create from within a strong sense of  self-sufficiency as well as independence. Additionally, clients in wilderness programs are able to build their self-esteem and assertiveness as well as learn the importance of teamwork and cooperation. As they are building these skills, clients become more connected with nature and also learn they are a part of something that is bigger than themselves. A great benefit of wilderness programs for substance abuse is the fact that it serves two purposes: as a behavioral diversion program as well as an educational program.

How Is Wilderness Therapy Utilized In Drug Treatment?

group of friends in wilderness therapy

As stated earlier, wilderness treatment programs are seen as a complementary therapies and should be used in conjunction with a traditional treatment program. Initially, clients that enter drug treatment and wish to take part in wilderness therapy are first ushered through the medical detoxification process. During detox, clients will be gradually weaned off of substances until the toxins that have accumulated have left the body and they are stable. Once they leave detox, clients may undergo preliminary counseling and treatment before they transition into a wilderness program. The length of these programs can range anywhere from several days to several weeks depending on the client’s needs and desires. Wilderness programs are guided by treatment professionals who have experience in substance abuse counseling as well as in wilderness survival.

What are the Benefits of Wilderness Therapy Programs for Substance Abuse?

friends in the wilderness

With wilderness therapy, those who struggle with addiction will experience several benefits that will increase their chances of achieving long-term recovery. First, those who take part in wilderness programs are much more in control of their surrounding and can actively interact and explore the natural environment. For those who have been addicted to drugs and alcohol for many years, the isolation and loneliness they experience removes them from their environment and as a result they lose touch with their surroundings. When those new in recovery are able to reconnect with nature, they are able to connect with the world at large and they become reconnected with that larger world.

Wilderness therapy is also beneficial in the fact that it removes the sterility of an inpatient drug treatment setting. Additionally, those who take part in wilderness therapy can be free of distractions such as cell phones, computers and television. With these distractions removed, those in treatment can focus on individual and group sessions that will help them address the roots of their addictive behavior. Additionally, those who participate in wilderness therapy have plenty of time for reflecting on how their past behaviors and circumstances led to the development of their addiction.

As stated earlier, wilderness therapy programs are seen as complementary and should not replace the essential programs and services found in traditional drug treatment programs. Instead, wilderness therapy can further help address many of the individual effects of addiction and also offers participants a chance to learn survival skills and strengthen communication and cooperation skills. Most importantly, wilderness therapy will allow those who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction to develop a more positive self-image which will allow them to approach their recovery with confidence.

Are You Looking to Take Your Recovery To New Levels?

If you are looking for more options in a drug treatment program, or if you have tried drug treatment and the past and are looking to take your recovery game up a notch, the wilderness treatment program at First Steps Recovery can be your solution. Wilderness therapy is a valuable addition to our list of therapies offered at First Steps. Used in conjunction with individual therapy, group counseling, art therapy, music therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and more, we are able to provide our clients with a treatment program that helps heal and transform.

Our program can help you overcome your addiction and reclaim your life. Call 1-844-BIG-STEP.


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