5 Myths About Wilderness Therapy Programs

Wilderness therapy is an incredibly powerful tool for developing a healthier mindset and overcoming challenges like substance abuse, but these programs are often misunderstood. Too many people think wilderness and outdoor therapies take place in the middle of nowhere with limited access to running water, technology and other modern comforts.

At Choice House, we want to set the record straight and dispel some of the myths surrounding wilderness therapy. No, you won’t have to hunt your own food or scavenge for supplies, but you will spend time in nature to heal from past traumas and build a healthier lifestyle. Here’s what else you can expect from outdoor and wilderness therapies.

myth: wilderness therapy is only for ‘outdoorsy’ people

At Choice House, we think that everyone going into treatment should consider outdoor therapy. Spending time in nature has been shown to be beneficial to the recovery process by helping alleviate the symptoms of mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. The great outdoors can also expose you to new interests or hobbies and form strong bonds with others that will continue to serve you well after your treatment has ended.

If you’re adamant that wilderness therapy just isn’t for you, then maybe we’re not the right fit. However, we often find that many people who are willing to incorporate outdoor and physical activities into their treatment plan get more out of the experience than they expected. After all, the endorphins alone from trying something new can support a healthier mindset.

We also believe that a big part of recovery is the ability to adapt to challenging situations and learn how to trust yourself. Even if you don’t fall in love with something like rock climbing, the fact that you did it can feel rewarding and help restore some of your confidence.

myth: in wilderness therapy, all you do is hike

Wilderness and outdoor therapies are effective treatment options for people of all ages who experience behavioral, emotional and mental health concerns, including addiction. But to a layperson not familiar with the ins and outs of these types of programs, they might assume wilderness therapy just consists of hiking, camping and talking about your feelings.

Fortunately, most outdoor and wilderness therapies are a lot more dynamic than that and tailored to the interests, needs and goals of those who participate in them. For one, they often utilize evidence-based techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy, experiential therapies, family therapy, relapse prevention and holistic healing models to help individuals explore the root of their issues with drugs or alcohol and achieve lasting recovery.

Choice House combines all of this and more with a wide array of outdoor activities. Yes, that includes hiking, but we also go rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, fishing, mountain biking and more. We also play friendly games of frisbee, disc golf or bags to kick back and relax. No matter what you’re interested in, we can find something that suits your needs and preferences, even if you’re someone that “doesn’t get” nature.

myth: wilderness therapy is about ‘tough love’

You might think that wilderness therapy is supposed to be like a boot camp that uses “tough love” to teach you about responsibility, independence and personal growth. Maybe you’re expecting strict rules, rationed food and limited communication with friends or family, but you won’t find anything of that sort at Choice House. Instead, we rely on evidence-based techniques, the healing power of nature and the strong bonds of friendship that form here to help men build a healthier lifestyle free from drugs or alcohol.

myth: wilderness & outdoor therapies are dangerous

The myth about wilderness therapy being dangerous comes from reports of abuse, neglect or lawsuits in youth-based adventure and outdoor programs for troubled teens, most of whom are enrolled and placed in treatment against their will. However, there has since been an overhaul in the industry to provide more oversight and prevent accidents from occurring.

Choice House’s wilderness therapy program is not part of the troubled teen industry and is designed for men with substance abuse and mental health concerns. It is completely voluntary and staffed by highly trained clinicians, therapists and behavioral health professionals who utilize a variety of methods to help our clients heal from addiction. Together, our team has decades of experience in the recovery field and goes the extra mile to lay the foundation for a life of sobriety at each stage of the treatment process.

Our Director of Outdoor Programming, Rouke Weaver, also has extensive experience with leading groups in wilderness and adventure-based excursions. As an outdoor enthusiast himself, he encourages individuals to participate in a variety of activities such as snowboarding, rock climbing and hiking, but never pushes anyone to do something they’re not comfortable with. Ultimately, the safety of our clients is our number one concern.

myth: wilderness therapy means you live outdoors

Okay — there are still some wilderness programs that’ll have you living in a tent and schlepping your camping gear around for months at a time, but outdoor and adventure-based therapies vary greatly depending on the treatment center. These days, most programs utilize wilderness excursions and day trips to enhance a more traditional therapeutic experience.

At Choice House, you’ll live comfortably indoors in the Boulder, Colorado, area while enrolled in our program. With the Rocky Mountains right in our backyard, we incorporate a variety of outdoor, adventure and wilderness activities into your treatment to give you a dynamic experience that combines the healing power of nature with the best clinical practices.

Choice House is a substance abuse treatment center for men in Boulder, Colorado. With the Rocky Mountains in our backyard, we take advantage of everything the area has to offer to give men the best chance at healing from addiction and mental illness. This includes a wide variety of outdoor and wilderness-based therapies and activities. To learn more about our recovery programs, click here to call 303-578-4765 to speak with our admissions team. You can also email us at hello@choicehouse.com.

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