The power and purpose of experiential and adventure-based interventions for teens in treatment is undeniable. While more research is needed to expand our understanding of the clinical impacts of adventure therapy, previous research indicates improvements in depression, self-esteem, anxiety, and other mental/emotional health issues after engaging in adventure therapy programs.
At Kaizen Academy, young men dealing with Problematic Sexual Behaviors (PSB) are firmly on the path of healing due to the multi-layered, clinically advanced model of treatment. In addition to consistent individual and family therapy, parent involvement, educational and process-oriented group therapy, and a level-free milieu based on getting our teens what they NEED, rather than what they earn, students at Kaizen engage in a healthy dose of purposeful, outdoor adventures.
Looking back on last year’s summer sessions of our Adventure Therapy program, it’s awesome to reflect on how active we were! Hiking, backpacking, kayaking, river rafting, mountain biking, camping, fishing – it’s gratifying to think about how many hours our guys have spent in healthy activities, how many skills they’ve learned, and how many new experiences they’ve had. But even more gratifying is the therapeutic growth and openness these experiences have helped to create. And it’s continued through the winter sessions. We’re fortunate to be close to the mountain where we can ski, snowboard, snowshoe, and stay active all year long.
For our therapists, it’s one thing to process insights and experiences in a traditional therapy session. But when they get to have shared experiences with their clients on the trail, on the river, or on the side of a mountain, new perspectives arise. Having in-the-moment opportunities to guide a student through challenges, seemingly unrelated to their presenting problems, creates a powerful therapeutic alliance. And, as students refine their skills and increase their confidence, the whole team is able to celebrate the victories along the way. It’s important for all of us – especially students working through issues in residential care – to fill the emotional tank, and focus on the positive.
On the surface, implementing an adventure program may seem like nothing more than a glorified “summer camp.” However, at Kaizen the key to our successful Adventure Therapy program is that it is purposeful. It IS true that one of the purposes of our outdoor adventures is, in fact, to have FUN. In the midst of this challenging work, we believe it’s important for our guys to have some time to simply “be a kid.”
But a tremendously powerful element of adventure is the opportunity it provides for connection. On some level, our students typically struggle to connect with others in healthy ways. The interactive elements of outdoor adventure activities provide meaningful moments for healthy connection, especially with trusted adults.
Other intentional elements of outdoor adventure include the opportunities to increase self-awareness, resilience, and confidence, and to build (and enjoy) transferable skills and healthy outlets. Sounds like something we can all benefit from!
As we transition back into the spring and summer sessions, we begin to look forward to another season of new adventures in the outdoors, where students, staff, and even parents and consultants will enjoy the beauty that surrounds us.
And you should too! Come get to know our team, and join us in the great outdoors!