What IS WILDERNESS THERAPY?
The wilderness provides us with a mirror into ourselves. Wilderness therapy is a therapeutic approach that utilizes outdoor and wilderness environments as a backdrop for therapeutic interventions and personal growth. It is an experiential form of therapy that combines adventure-based activities, group dynamics, and individual counseling to address various mental health, behavioral, and emotional issues.
The wilderness provides the perfect backdrop to meet adventurers where they are promoting self-reflection, personal responsibility, teamwork, and the development of coping skills. Nature is a great teacher that creates opportunities to practice stepping out of our comfort zones, face challenges, and learn from experiences in the natural environment.
The wilderness setting provides you with a unique therapeutic context that enhances the therapeutic process. It offers a break from the distractions and stressors of daily life, allowing individuals to reconnect with nature and themselves. The wilderness environment is often seen as metaphorical to the participants' internal struggles and growth process, facilitating deeper self-awareness and personal transformation.
The focus is on helping individuals:
Develop healthy coping mechanisms, and
Enhance interpersonal skills.
Wilderness therapy has been used to address a range of mental health concerns, including substance abuse, depression, anxiety, behavioral issues, trauma, and low self-esteem.
I have personally benefitted from being a Wilderness Therapy guide to overcome depression and master communication skills related to expressing my emotions and life experiences into easily relatable metaphors for those I work with.
the science of getting outside
WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS
Improved Mental Health: Numerous studies have shown that spending time in nature is associated with improved mental well-being. Nature exposure has been linked to reduced stress, anxiety, and depression levels. Being in natural environments can promote relaxation, restoration, and a sense of calmness.
Enhanced Cognitive Functioning: Nature experiences have been found to improve cognitive function and attention. Spending time in green spaces or engaging in outdoor activities can enhance focus, creativity, problem-solving skills, and overall cognitive performance.
Physical Health Benefits: Being in nature is associated with improved physical health outcomes. Studies have found that exposure to nature can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and boost the immune system. Green spaces also encourage physical activity, leading to better fitness and overall well-being.
Stress Reduction and Restoration: Nature has a restorative effect on the mind and body. Spending time in natural environments helps reduce stress levels and promotes recovery from mental fatigue. Nature settings with trees, water, and natural sounds have been found to be particularly effective in restoring attention and reducing stress.
Improved Mood and Happiness: Nature exposure is linked to positive emotions and increased happiness. Being in natural surroundings can evoke feelings of awe, beauty, and joy, leading to improved mood and overall life satisfaction.
Attention Restoration Theory: Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that exposure to natural environments can replenish depleted attentional resources. Natural settings provide a soothing and engaging environment that helps recover attention and mental fatigue.
It's important to note that while these studies provide strong evidence for the benefits of nature exposure, individual experiences may vary. The specific duration and type of nature engagement can also influence the outcomes. Nevertheless, incorporating nature into daily or weekly routines and outdoor activities can have significant positive impacts on mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
If you'd like to dive into the research, please find some of the studies listed below, as well as another fantastic website to explore.