What Types Of Adventure Therapy Activities Are Used In Therapeutic Programs?

If you are looking to build confidence, develop leadership, confront your fears, and discover skills and abilities you never knew you were capable of, adventure therapy may be right for you.

This post is going to introduce you to examples of adventure therapy activities. But first, we will go over the basic concept of adventure therapy in case it is new to you.

Then we will talk about whether adventure therapy might be right for you. Finally, we will explain where you can find adventure therapy activities.


What is Adventure Therapy?

Adventure therapy is an approach to personal healing and growth that involves taking part in adventurous activities.

These activities are generally outdoors and involve exposure to situations, environments, and challenges that help the participant to push themselves in unprecedented ways.

In the process of doing so, they can develop new skills, build greater self-confidence, learn how to work hard to achieve goals, and experience the state of mind called “flow.”

young man contemplating life on a mountain top

Adventure Therapy Examples

Here are some examples of activities that qualify as adventure therapy:

  • Hiking and backpacking
  • Whitewater rafting
  • Canoeing and kayaking
  • Rock climbing
  • Mountain biking
  • Canyoneering
  • Snowshoeing
  • Primitive skills

Hypothetically, any outdoor activity that entails risk or the perception of risk could be used for adventure therapy, so this is not a comprehensive list.

Here are a couple of simple examples of how these activities could work to bolster self-esteem and help youths to develop important life skills.

woman scaling a mountain
  • A young person who struggles with self-confidence could participate in rock climbing adventure therapy. In the beginning, they might be completely unfamiliar with rock climbing techniques. By the end, they will have had a chance to put the skills they learn to use in a challenging but inspiring environment. This will show them they are capable of so much more than they imagined.
  • A youth who suffers from depression might go on a snowshoeing adventure. Just getting some time away from the hectic pace of everyday life may help, such as an immersion in a beautiful wilderness setting. Snowshoeing offers a chance to experience flow, a mindset where one loses track of time and even one’s sense of self while focusing deeply on an activity. This state of mind can offer therapeutic benefits.
  • A person with behavioral challenges might go on a whitewater rafting adventure as part of an exercise to build skills in teamwork and leadership. By the activity’s end, some of their behavioral issues might decrease as they learn to work more effectively with others to achieve shared goals.

Those examples give you a feel for just how versatile adventure therapy can be both in terms of activities and applications.

Where to Experience Adventure Therapy

group snowboarding
Women focused on clasping ski shoes

Now you know more about what wilderness adventure therapy is and how it can change a young person’s or adult’s life. But where can you go for adventure therapy activities?

Basically, you just need to run a search in your area to find a program. Most are directed at youths, but you can sometimes also find outdoor therapy activities for adults.

Actually, it is important to clarify that “young adult programs” frequently target an age group between 18 and 25 or so. They are not interchangeable with “teen” programs.

Here are some examples of adventure therapy providers in various states:

  • Aspiro Group, Inc. in Sandy, Utah. This provider works with youths and offers adventure therapy activities such as mountain biking, canyoneering, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, snowshoeing, alpine skiing, primitive skills, and leadership initiatives.
  • blueFire PulsaR in Boise, ID. While based in Idaho, this company works with young people in various states across the US. Some of the activities they offer include snowboarding, skiing, rock climbing, bouldering, canoeing, whitewater rafting, backpacking, and hiking.
  • Deschutes Wilderness Therapy in Bend, OR. Bend has become an outdoor activity hotspot in the Pacific Northwest, so it is not a surprise that there is wilderness therapy there. This provider helps teens, young adults, and families. Examples of activities available through this provider include rafting, rock climbing, and lava tube exploration.
  • Trails Carolina in Toxaway, NC. If you are looking for help for a young person in North Carolina or the surrounding states, you might consider this adventure therapy provider.

Adventure Therapy vs. Wilderness Therapy

group getting ready to go on an adventure hike

“Adventure therapy” and “wilderness therapy” are two closely related concepts. Sometimes people use the terms interchangeably. But they are not exactly identical.

Here are some basic distinctions between the two:

  • Adventure therapy programs put a major focus on facing risk and overcoming challenges. These programs are usually not lengthy.
  • Wilderness therapy programs generally are less focused on risk and obstacles, run longer, and involve a focus on outdoor survival skills.  

You may notice there is a strong overlap between the two. Indeed, some activities may qualify as both adventure therapy and wilderness therapy.

To learn more about the differences between the two programs, check our article that compares adventure with wilderness therapy, so you can determine which is best for you.

Who is Adventure Therapy For?

Hypothetically, anyone could benefit from adventure therapy. But most of these programs are aimed at young adults and teens, particularly those who have issues with self-esteem, addiction, anger management, depression or anxiety, failure to launch, and so forth.

Many—though not all—of these young people might be described as “troubled” and traditionally funneled into counterproductive and potentially traumatizing programs such as “boot camps.” Adventure therapy is a kinder, more effective alternative.

So, if you are a young adult, you can look into one of these programs for yourself. Or if you are a parent or guardian, you can choose a program in which to enroll your child. You can also find family programs you can do together.

Explore How Adventure Therapy Can Help

You are now familiar with some of the different adventure therapy activities that are available, and how they can help a struggling teen or young adult to thrive.

Unlike boot camps, adventure therapy providers focus on offering a positive, inspirational, uplifting experience that facilitates the development of important life skills.

Click on any of the links in this post to explore adventure therapy programs now.

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