Mental illness is an umbrella term that encompasses distinct diagnosable mental health ailments, disorders, diseases, and conditions, that involve changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). The Mayo Clinic explains that mental health disorders in adolescents are “generally defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviors, social skills or regulation of emotions. These problems are distressing to children and disrupt their ability to function well at home, in school or in other social situations.” Teenage mental illness is remarkably common. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) asserts that in the United States “at least one in five youth aged 9-17 years currently has a diagnosable mental health disorder that causes some degree of impairment; one in ten has a disorder that causes significant impairment.” There are a variety of treatment options for teenagers struggling with mental illness.
What Is Adventure Therapy?
Adventure therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to “improve an individual’s physical, social, spiritual, and psychological well-being through the healing power of the wilderness with evidence-based, experiential therapy, recreational activities, and wilderness expeditions.” It is derived from the principals of Outward Bound, which was founded in the 1940s by Kurt Hahn, as an experiential learning program. Adventure therapy provides teens with the opportunity to depart from their daily routines and venture outside of their comfort zones. To meet each teenager at his or her level, the adventure therapy model is designed to be widely versatile. Adventure therapy typically takes place outdoors and involves participating in different physical group activities (e.g., kayaking, ropes course, mountain climbing, hiking, camping, swimming, rafting, skiing, etc.). The outdoor format of adventure therapy allows teens to experience the therapeutic properties of nature.
The purpose of adventure therapy is to inspire self-discipline and self-confidence through facing mentally and physically challenging experiences in a wilderness setting. Research reveals that environments and nature can reduce or raise stress levels and impact specific body systems’ functions. As explained in the Encyclopedia of Counseling, First Edition, “the fundamental proposition of adventure therapy involves exposing a group of individuals to a novel setting in which they strive to negotiate a variety of challenging tasks that involve real or perceived risk and where the outcome of their efforts is directly affected by the choices that they make, both individually and in concert with other group members.” This can yield exceptional benefits for teens. Examples of such benefits may include, but are not limited to, any combination of the following, provided by Verywell Mind:
- Improved executive functioning.
- Decreased symptoms of anxiety and/ or depression.
- Improved interpersonal skills.
- Increased self-efficacy.
- Trauma resilience.
- Enhanced self-advocacy skills.
- Healthy identity development.
When participating in adventure therapy, each teenager brings his or her worldview, life experiences, and challenges, which greatly inform the dynamic of the group. Mastering new challenges in a collaborative environment can boost self-esteem, improve social skills, and encourage a young person to adopt a growth mindset, all of which can inform treatment outcome.
For Information and Support
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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