Over the past few centuries, we’ve moved away from nature and fully embraced new technology, urban life and an increasingly digital world. While there’s nothing wrong with these things, researchers have started to notice that people are becoming unhappier and more isolated despite an increased ability to connect with others from around the globe. Addiction and mental illness are also more prevalent in the modern age, in part due to heightened feelings of social or emotional loneliness. We saw this correlation play out during the height of COVID-19, where stress and quarantine caused a surge of relapses.
At Choice House, one way we’re helping to combat the effects of isolation is by helping men reconnect with themselves and others through outdoor wilderness therapy. With a mountainside setting in Boulder, Colorado, our facility provides the perfect opportunity for clients to explore the area and discover the healing power of nature while hiking, camping, biking or kayaking with others in the program. Our team has years of experience leading outdoor activities designed to deliver a host of benefits for men from all walks of life. Here are the top 5 ways we’ve seen wilderness therapy aid in the recovery process.
1. create lasting friendships
Recovery rarely happens alone, but it’s hard for some men to open up and connect with others. Those who fail to do so are missing out on new insights, perspectives and friendships that can help them stay sober in the long run. Wilderness therapy helps break down those walls and foster strong bonds by getting clients outdoors, where they can expand their horizons, stay active and have new experiences together. Regular exercise and spending time in nature have been proven to decrease stress and depression, while the types of activities that we organize encourage trust, teamwork and healthy communication to accomplish a shared goal. The result is positive peer relationships rooted in recovery.
2. get out of your own head
Another challenge of overcoming addiction is letting go of intrusive thoughts or memories that can pull you back toward your old habits. This is especially true for those with a history of trauma because of the complicated emotions involved. Wilderness therapy helps individuals get out of their own heads and stop dwelling in the past by focusing on what’s happening in the here and now: acknowledging the warmth of the sun, the smell of a bonfire, or the rush of water in the river. It’s a great engine for mindfulness, a therapeutic technique for living in the present and taking away the power of harmful thoughts or feelings.
3. discover fun interests and hobbies
Recovery is hard, but it can also sometimes be boring. And boredom is dangerous for recovering addicts. Without anything to engage the mind, it’s easy to think more about what used to be fun and exciting — in this case, drugs or alcohol.
Wilderness therapy provides a healthy outlet for boredom and helps individuals discover new ways to experience pleasure, freedom and joy in life. We offer a breadth of all-season activities that cater to different interests and skill levels, so you don’t have to be an avid outdoorsman to participate in wilderness therapy. Even if you don’t “get” nature, the goal is to challenge yourself to try new things, adapt to new situations and explore new hobbies, something that will serve you well long into your recovery.
4. learn healthier coping skills
Whether it’s hiking, kayaking, skiing or disc golf, the activities included in outdoor wilderness therapy are designed to be challenging. In many ways, they become a metaphor for the recovery journey itself and provide a real-world exercise in dealing with stress, frustration and adversity. These experiences will be common no matter how many years of sobriety you have under your belt, so it’s important to learn how to deal with them in a healthy way.
Some of the skills we focus on in wilderness therapy are communication, endurance, problem-solving, resilience and adaptability. Developing these will prepare you for whatever the future holds and help you face challenging situations without fear or relapse.
5. challenge yourself
Mental illness, trauma and addiction can have a profound impact on your confidence and self-esteem. You might have forgotten what you’re capable of and feel like giving up when the going gets rough, but wilderness therapy can help remind you of your potential. You’ll engage in challenging activities and complete formidable tasks to help develop a sense of accomplishment that lets you trust yourself a little more each day. You’ll also feel more able to tackle the hard work involved in the recovery process despite any setbacks you might encounter and take on new responsibilities as your commitment to sobriety deepens.
wilderness therapy at choice house
At Choice House, outdoor adventure and wilderness therapy are a core part of our treatment programs. Located in Boulder, Colorado, with the Rocky Mountains in our backyard, we’ve always taken advantage of everything the area has to offer to provide a powerful and transformative experience for men in recovery. Opportunities for outdoor and adventure therapy are available throughout treatment, while more intensive 4-day wilderness therapy excursions take place once every six weeks. We also incorporate other experiential therapies into our recovery programs, such as psychodrama, somatic therapy, art therapy, and more to ensure deeper healing from the effects of addiction and trauma.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, we can help. Choice House offers a variety of unique therapies designed to build a strong foundation for lasting sobriety. Our services include a 90-day residential program, outpatient care and a sober living community in Boulder county. We also recognize the role of the family in recovery, utilize a long-term treatment model and incorporate a unique blend of outdoor adventure and wilderness therapies you won’t find elsewhere. Various activities are available throughout the year to complement your recovery and help you reconnect with yourself and others. To learn more about our programs or enroll today, click here or call our admissions team at (303) 578-4978.