Why Wilderness Adventure Therapy Works?

A student mountain bikes while attending Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy program

Over the past few decades, wilderness therapy programs have become more prevalent, as the demand for effective alternatives in therapy has increased. The popularity of wilderness therapy is due to its ability to aid individuals in overcoming academic, social, behavioral, or emotional problems. The research-based model, dedicated staff, and the added component of adventure are what makes Aspiro’s wilderness adventure therapy program so unique and effective.

Aspiro’s Research-Based Model

Our research-based wilderness adventure therapy program is based on the work of Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association, and others. Seligman is the father of positive psychology– a field of mental health that studies what makes people happy and healthy, as opposed to what makes people anxious or depressed.

At Aspiro, our research-based model includes what Seligman refers to as PERMA:

  • Positive emotion
  • Engagement
  • positive Relationships
  • Meaning in life
  • Accomplishment/Achievement.

These characteristics are essential to a fulfilling, healthy life.

Meaningful Relationships with Our Dedicated Staff and Therapists

Our relational staff and therapists are key in helping wilderness adventure therapy participants develop these characteristics in their lives. Regardless of the therapeutic setting, one of the most significant factors in promoting change is the therapeutic relationship between counselors and participants.

This is why, at Aspiro, we focus on hiring therapists and field staff who possess the characteristics and strengths necessary to be highly effective. We intentionally hire and train staff who model effective behavior and build strong relationships with our students. In an effort to improve family relationships, our therapists and staff teach healthy communication, while modeling honesty and transparency in relationships.

Wilderness Adventure Therapy

In addition to the clinical aspects of our programs, we recognize and capitalize on the benefits associated with engaging in time outdoors. Being in the wilderness is a big change from the everyday environment many adolescents and young adults are used to. The opportunity to engage in challenging outdoor activities presents the opportunity for individuals to try new things and overcome obstacles.

Positive outcomes associated with engaging in time outdoors include:

  • Better executive functioning
  • Enhanced problem solving
  • Critical thinking and decision making
  • Reduction in the symptoms of ADD/ADHD
  • Improved clarity

By combining traditional therapy services with wilderness adventure therapy, the adolescents and young adults who participate in therapy are more actively engaged. This deep insight and change leads to a strong sense of accomplishment. In addition to reaping the benefits of being outdoors, the participants in our program also reap the benefits of adventure in wilderness therapy, which include:

  • Increased opportunity to adapt and thrive in a variety of activities and settings. This, in turn, increases the ability to generalize concepts learned in the wilderness to everyday, real-life situations
  • Increased buy-in to participate in therapy because of the variety of appealing activities
  • Learning healthy activities that he or she can continue to participate in for a lifetime increased confidence and belief in one’s own abilities is amplified as wilderness adventure therapy participants experience living in the outdoors and learning every aspect of each adventure activity
  • The opportunity to learn problem-solving and how to function supportively in a group. For example: during rock climbing, participants are not only learning climbing skills; they are learning how to help set up equipment and evaluate risks
  • For those who struggle with fine motor coordination, improvement is often seen due to the increased, purposeful practice during the adventure activities
  • Increased confrontation with challenges and opportunities to overcome those challenges through one’s own style of coping. At Aspiro, during the moment of confrontation, therapists and staff are there to support participants. Our therapists and staff aid our wilderness adventure therapy participants in developing healthier, more effective coping strategies
  • The ability to adapt and thrive in outdoor living situations shows the children, adolescents, and young adults that they can do new things, overcome hardships, and face challenges they never thought possible. This, in turn, develops a strong form of self-confidence.

The Aspiro Model of Change is a unique model that capitalizes on the many benefits of exposure to the outdoors while fostering strong relationships with adult role models and peers. While the journey of healing and change is a long one, the confidence that wilderness adventure therapy participants gain can last a lifetime.

Download our Aspiro Model of Change whitepaper to learn more about our research-based wilderness adventure therapy program.

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