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Wilderness Drug And Alcohol Rehab Centers

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

January 17, 2019

One common cause for relapse is the fact that an individual often lives in an environment that fosters drug or alcohol abuse. Whether it’s the people or places in their lives, these individuals often experience pressure on a daily basis. Thus, for some, it is wise to choose a wilderness rehab center that is located away from urban areas, and closer to nature.

Why You Should Choose A Wilderness Rehab Center

Wilderness rehab centers allow the person suffering from addiction the chance to leave their detrimental environment behind and escape into a fresh start. The peaceful setting (often in the mountains or other secluded areas) allows for a recovery free from the daily stresses of family, work, bills, and friends, and the ability to focus solely on improving life.

Such rehabs also allow people to experience new places and activities that perhaps they’ve never had the chance to experience before, and these can be positive outlets. Engaging in activities which are exhilarating, show people struggling with addiction that life can be fulfilling and meaningful without drugs or alcohol.

Of course, it’s not all about camping and exploration at a wilderness rehab center. These programs also offer state of the art detoxification programs, cognitive behavioral therapy, individual and group therapy, and other necessary modalities of addiction treatment. The only difference is that patients can undergo the typical treatments while experiencing the beautiful views and tranquility that only the wilderness can provide. During their stay, individuals will learn about responsibility, connection, trust, teamwork, and self-esteem, all while participating in group trips and events.

There are various treatment approaches available in these centers. Though therapies offered differs among rehab centers, some methods may involve outdoor, or adventure therapy, and holistic therapy. Additionally, programs geared specifically for men, or women, focus on the unique treatment needs of each gender and allow each to heal in a safe, supportive environment.

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What Is Adventure Therapy?

With so many forms of adventure therapy available, it is helpful to have an idea of what exactly defines it. To start, it may be defined in various ways, so here is a comprehensive list of the things it may be, or which it may include:

  • It does not allow for specific interventions or optional practices.
  • It includes a flexible environment—such as outpatient, inpatient, or wilderness.
  • It incorporates a flexible sharing context—individual, family, or group.
  • At its core, it embodies the unique aspects of adventure therapy as well as general therapy—therapy is administered by a licensed, certified mental health professional
  • It is in tune with patient-specific needs for treatment.

Adventure Therapy: How It Works

Have you ever been outside and felt fulfilled just by being there? That is the foundational concept of outdoor, or adventure, therapy. As stated by the American Psychological Association, “Nature is a catalyst.” Therefore, learning to survive in the wild gives one a sense of power. Further, “the outdoors nurtures physical health, which in turn nurtures mental health.” Experiencing therapy and healing in an outdoor setting eliminates the ability for a person to escape. There is nowhere for the person to go, and this prompts them to face their therapy and to focus only on the task at hand: healing.

The best part about this therapy is that it doesn’t feel like therapy at all. Though activities offered to depend on the treatment center, some common ones include:

  • Building primitive skills
  • Ziplining
  • Ropes courses
  • Backpacking
  • Camping
  • Canoeing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Equine therapy
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain climbing
  • Paddleboarding
  • Snowshoeing
  • Fishing
  • Yoga

Partaking in these activities has two essential outcomes. First, when people engage in them, they are able to experience a multitude of challenges, have fun, and reflect on themselves while discovering new things. Secondly, the person’s reactions to these activities allow the group leader(s) to review their reactions, and to identify issues which will need further consideration or treatment. However, these reactions are not assessed in the traditional way—the person is enjoying themselves and therefore is able to accomplish therapy goals with time.

This method has been pioneered for some time by Outward Bound, an organization which offers expeditions and programs for a variety of recovering people of all ages. Coupling classroom courses with outdoor experiences, it fosters healing and helps participants build new, good habits which will last a lifetime. As explained on Outward Bound’s website, “through shared challenges, adversity, failure and success, students discover and develop new skills, confidence and passion.” Many outdoor therapy rehab centers are immensely successful at accomplishing this same feat.

Healing The Whole Body: Holistic Therapy

Alongside adventure therapy, wilderness treatment centers may incorporate holistic healing approaches. In short, this method focus on a whole-body healing approach. The American Holistic Health Association states that holistic healing, as a practice, focuses not just on the illness, but on the commonalities between patients who are affected by it. Facets of holistic treatment are enthusiasm, love, hope, and humor. It also encourages people to release greed, hostility, and shame, while overcoming negative emotions such as anger, fear, and grief.

A key principle of holistic health is the fact that, “Optimal health is much more than the absence of sickness. It is the conscious pursuit of the highest qualities of the physical, environmental, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social aspects of the human experience.” In other words, treatments which employ a holistic focus do not just get rid of the addiction but teach the person in treatment how to make life changes which will foster a fulfilling life, free from addiction.

Programs For Men And For Women

Because men and women each have unique needs for treatment—needs specific to certain gender aspects—some rehab centers offer programs which accommodate these differences. Men, for example, tend to have a hard time opening up in therapy. Sharing personal experiences can be difficult for men due to societal pressure and expectations. Men may bury their feelings, and avoid facing their substance abuse.

Wilderness therapy paired with men-only programs allows men the environment they need to flourish in treatment. With single-gender therapy, men can focus on issues that may be plaguing them in recovery, and learn to address their emotional issues. Group therapy in men-only programs facilitates growth, as men can connect with others facing the same issues.

Similarly, women-only programs center on not only the sensitive issues women affected by substance abuse may face, but also on trauma they may have experienced, depression, and learning better avenues of self-care. Women tend to experience a host of emotions associated with their substance abuse recovery, and this can, at times, interfere with treatment. A women-only therapy group helps women to gain the support they need to confront their emotional problems and to grow in healing together.

Wilderness Rehab: What To Consider

A wilderness rehab center may sound more like a vacation than a trip to rehab, which in many ways is how it is supposed to feel. However, this luxury always comes with a price tag. Due to the fact that such rehabs are often resorts tucked away in picturesque environments, with entire hosts of amenities and activities, the cost increases. Thus, if you are considering a wilderness rehab center for treatment, you must first carefully weigh your financial situation.

Luckily, many health insurances will cover some, or all, of rehab costs. Additionally, today various scholarships and grants exist to help make a person’s treatment needs a reality. Make sure you take the time to research the types of programs, and the amount of overall cost your personal insurance or finances will cover.

People may also find it difficult to face recovery by themselves, and prefer to have the support of family and friends surrounding them. Many wilderness rehabs pride themselves on their privacy and seclusion, not allowing people or things from the outside world to influence their patients. However, some rehabs allow for a weekend visit, or two, from close family, while some even integrate family therapy and support into their overall treatment program. Make sure to research the wilderness rehab you are considering, and see if their policy matches up with your desired level of family involvement.

Get Help at RehabCenter.Net

If you are considering a wilderness rehab center for your drug addiction, contact us today. Our caring counselors are standing by to help you make the best decision for your situation. Get started on the path to clean living today.

Outward Bound - Our Mission

American Holistic Health Association - Principles of Holistic Medicine

American Psychological Association - Therapy Gone Wild

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