Rediscovering Life: Wilderness Therapy Programs for Adults

Learn about wilderness therapy programs for adults and how they can help individuals recover from mental health or addiction challenges here.

What Are Wilderness Therapy Programs for Adults?

Wilderness therapy programs for adults are specialized treatment programs. They utilize the healing power of nature to promote personal growth, emotional well-being, and mental health.1

These programs offer a unique approach to therapy. They immerse participants in outdoor wilderness settings. Some settings may include forests, mountains, and other remote natural environments.

In these wilderness therapy programs for adults, they embark on journeys of self-discovery and healing. Here, participants engage in therapeutic interventions and experiences to foster personal growth.2

Wilderness Therapy Programs for Adults 2

Core Philosophy of Wilderness Therapy Programs for Adults

The core philosophy of wilderness therapy programs for adults is rooted in the belief that nature impacts our well-being. In nature, we can step away from the routines and distractions of everyday life. Through this, we can gain a fresh perspective on life.

We reconnect with ourselves and find new sources of strength and resilience. Participants in wilderness therapy programs for adults often take part in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and canoeing. These activities offer physical challenges and serve as metaphors for the challenges individuals face.

Learning From the Wilderness

Wilderness therapy programs involve participants engaging in activities such as:

The wilderness becomes both a therapeutic setting and a classroom. It provides opportunities for individuals to develop coping skills, problem-solving abilities, and a sense of self-efficacy.

Moreover, these wilderness therapy programs for adults incorporate group therapy sessions facilitated by trained mental health professionals. Group therapy allows participants to share their experiences and develop meaningful connections.

Overall, the wilderness setting creates a safe and supportive environment that encourages vulnerability, personal reflection, and emotional exploration.

How Do Adult Wilderness Therapy Programs Differ From Those Aimed at Younger Participants?

Wilderness therapy programs for adults differ from those aimed at younger participants in several ways.

Notable Differences

Here are some notable differences:

  • Age Group: The primary distinction is the age group these programs serve. Wilderness therapy programs for adults are designed for individuals 18 years and above. Meanwhile, programs aimed at younger participants typically cater to adolescents or young adults.
  • Developmental Stage: Adults and younger participants are in different stages of development, so they face distinct challenges. Wilderness therapy programs for adults often focus on issues related to adulthood.3
  • Treatment Approach: The therapeutic approach in which wilderness therapy programs for adults utilizes differs from young programs. Adult programs often emphasize life skills development, vocational training, and addressing complex life issues. Younger participant programs focus more on personal growth and building a foundation for future development.
  • Group Dynamics: Group dynamics vary between adult and younger participant programs. Wilderness therapy programs for adults may encourage more peer collaboration. Participants bring their life experiences and perspectives to group discussions and activities.
  • Duration and Intensity: Adult wilderness therapy programs often have longer durations, ranging from several weeks to several months. This allows for more in-depth exploration and personal growth. Programs for younger participants may have shorter durations and require more frequent check-ins.
  • Focus on Autonomy: Wilderness therapy programs for adults often aim to foster autonomy and self-reliance. They acknowledge the participants’ transition into independent adulthood. Younger participant programs may focus more on building foundational skills. They push dependence on a supportive network of caregivers or family.

Unique Benefits Adult Wilderness Therapy Programs Offer

Wilderness therapy programs for adults offer tremendous benefits to participants. They harness the power of nature to promote personal growth and overall well-being. Here are some of the distinct advantages that these programs provide:

Nature as a Healing Environment

The natural world offers a serene and calming environment. This can have a profound impact on mental and emotional well-being.

Adult wilderness therapy programs allow participants to escape the stresses and distractions of everyday life. It provides a natural respite where they can find solace, rejuvenation, and a sense of peace.4

Adventure and Challenge

Engaging in outdoor activities in the wilderness pushes participants out of their comfort zones. These experiences provide opportunities for personal growth and self-discovery.

Confronting physical and mental obstacles in the wilderness can help individuals develop problem-solving skills, confidence, and a greater sense of self-efficacy.

Immersive and Therapeutic Experience

Wilderness therapy programs for adults offer an immersive experience. These programs go beyond traditional therapy settings. Being surrounded by the beauty and vastness of nature creates a unique therapeutic context.

It can enhance emotional exploration, self-reflection, and personal transformation. The wilderness becomes a symbolic space for individuals to navigate their inner landscapes.

Community and Connection

These programs foster community and connection among participants. Sharing the wilderness journey with others with similar challenges creates a supportive environment.

The shared experiences promote bonding, interpersonal growth, and the development of communication and relationship skills.

Additional Benefits Wilderness Therapy Programs for Adults Offer

Mind-Body Connection

Engaging in physical activities in the wilderness encourages a strong mind-body connection. The combination of exercise and natural surroundings can have positive effects on mood.

It causes stress reduction and improves well-being. The holistic approach also recognizes the interconnectedness of mental and physical health.

Time for Self-Reflection

The solitude and serenity of the wilderness provide valuable time for self-reflection. Participants can examine their thoughts from the noise and distractions of daily life.

They can assess their emotions and life circumstances more deeply. This reflective space allows for greater self-awareness, insight, and personal growth.

Integration of Learning Into Daily Life

Wilderness therapy programs for adults emphasize applying newfound skills to daily life. Participants learn practical tools for coping with challenges, managing stress, and maintaining emotional well-being.

The experiential nature of the program allows for integrating these skills in real-world situations. It fosters sustainable growth and long-term positive changes.

Wilderness Therapy Programs for Adults Are Unique for Everyone

The benefits of adult wilderness therapy programs may vary for each individual. Only some programs will be a perfect fit for everyone.

It is crucial to consult with mental health professionals, program administrators, and treatment providers. They determine if such a program aligns with an individual’s needs and goals. 

It combines the healing power of nature and therapeutic interventions to support participants in their journey toward positive life changes.

Challenges Specific to Adult Participants in Wilderness Therapy

There are challenges in every therapy. However, adult participants in wilderness therapy may face specific challenges. This differs from issues experienced by younger participants.

Common Challenges

Here are some common challenges:

  • Life Transitions: Adults often encounter significant life transitions, including career changes or relationship issues. These transitions can bring uncertainty and emotional upheaval. In wilderness therapy, participants can explore and process these challenges.5
  • Responsibilities and Commitments: Unlike younger participants, adults may have various responsibilities, such as work, family, or financial obligations. Adult wilderness programs often offer flexible scheduling options to address these challenges.
  • Self-Identity and Self-Worth: Adults may grapple with issues related to self-identity and self-worth. They may question their purpose or struggle with self-esteem. Wilderness therapy offers a supportive and non-judgmental space for individuals to explore and redefine their identities.
  • Emotional Resilience: Adults may have accumulated years of life experiences and emotional baggage. Wilderness therapy programs help participants develop emotional resilience, providing a safe and supportive environment.
  • Long-Term Support: Adult participants may require ongoing support after completing a wilderness therapy program. The programs may offer aftercare services to help, including follow-up therapy sessions and referrals to local resources.6
  • Career and Vocational Considerations: Adult participants may have specific career or vocational concerns. Wilderness therapy programs for adults may incorporate vocational exploration, involving discussions on career transitions and strategies for pursuing meaningful work.

Addressing the challenges specific to adult participants requires a tailored and individualized approach. The plan acknowledges their unique circumstances and supports their specific needs and goals.7

Does Wilderness Therapy Complement Traditional Treatment Modalities?

Wilderness therapy is often best used to complement traditional treatment opportunities for addiction or mental health recovery (such as talk therapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or group therapy), due to its holistic approach and unique benefits.

While traditional therapies like talk therapy provide essential tools and interventions, wilderness therapy offers an experiential and immersive environment that can enhance the efficacy of talk therapy.

Enabling Individuals to Transfer Skills Learned in Traditional Therapy

In the wilderness, individuals engage in outdoor activities, experience nature’s healing effects, and face challenges that mirror real-life situations.

This experiential component provides a powerful platform for self-discovery, self-reflection, and personal growth, reinforcing the insights gained in talk therapy sessions.

The immersive and supportive wilderness setting fosters a deep sense of connection with oneself, others, and the natural world, which can enhance the therapeutic process.

Fosters Healthy Development

By integrating wilderness therapy with talk therapy, individuals have the opportunity to transfer the insights and skills acquired in the wilderness to their everyday lives, making their recovery journey more comprehensive and effective.

Additionally, the communal nature of wilderness therapy programs promotes peer support and the development of healthy relationships, which further reinforces the benefits of talk therapy by providing ongoing support and encouragement.

Ultimately, the combination of wilderness therapy and talk therapy offers a synergistic approach that addresses the multidimensional aspects of addiction and mental health recovery, leading to more holistic and successful outcomes.

Wilderness Therapy Programs for Adults

Getting The Best Wilderness Therapy Programs for Adults at Choice House

Choice House is a full continuum, long-term, young adult men’s recovery program located in the scenic Boulder, Colorado. We view addiction through a trauma and attachment lens. We help individuals manage alcohol use and break free from alcohol use disorder (AUD).

We also treat substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health conditions through mainly experiential therapy modalities and 12-step facilitation. Our outdoor component is world-class, and we treat the whole family system.

Types of Services at Choice House

We are also JCAHO certified with a 1:1 staff-to-client ratio. We offer different services, including the following:

  • Weekly and monthly events
  • Daily availability for alumni involvement
  • Community with current clients through friendship, mentorship, and 12-step sponsorship
  • Weekly alumni outdoor barbecue in the summer
  • Quarterly trips to destinations (e.g., our most recent trip was renting a huge house in
  • Steamboat Springs, seeing 30 alumni join for skiing and fellowship)

Levels of Care

We emphasize trauma therapy and dual-diagnosis disorder treatment while focusing on experiential/outdoor therapies and family involvement. We offer various levels of care to cater to every patient.

These include the following:

  • Inpatient Drug Rehab
  • Partial Hospitalization Program
  • Intensive Outpatient Program
  • Outpatient Drug Program
  • Sober Living
  • Drug Rehab Aftercare

Reach Out and Begin Healing

For more information on wilderness therapy programs for adults and young adults, call us today. We can’t wait to meet you and help you lead the happy, healthy, and fulfilling life you deserve.

ready to choose a life worth living?

Don’t let addiction or co-occurring mental health conditions keep you from leading the happy, healthy, and empowered life you deserve. Contact Choice House today and embrace recovery.

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