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Wilderness Therapy

Jareena Silva

What is Wilderness Therapy?

Wilderness therapy is a form of therapy that uses the outdoors as its primary setting. It involves activities such as hiking, camping, rafting, and other outdoor activities as part of the therapeutic process. Participants are typically guided by trained professionals and can be individuals or groups. The purpose of wilderness therapy is to provide participants with an opportunity to reconnect with nature and to themselves in order to gain a new perspective on life and better deal with the struggles they may be facing.

How Wilderness Therapy Works

Wilderness therapy is an experiential form of therapy that takes place in the natural environment in order to help individuals work through a variety of personal issues. This type of therapy utilizes the wilderness as a therapeutic tool to build life and coping skills, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

It combines traditional therapeutic techniques with outdoor activities such as rock climbing, backpacking, and white water rafting in order to provide an immersive experience.

Difference between Wilderness Therapy and Adventure Therapy

Wilderness therapy is becoming a popular choice for individuals who are looking for an alternative to traditional therapeutic interventions. It is a great way to gain perspective and develop the skills needed to lead a more fulfilling life. There are two forms of therapy that are practiced in outdoor settings: Wilderness therapy and Adventure therapy.

Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness therapy focuses on outdoor activities and encourages perseverance and flexibility. Wilderness therapy programs provide challenges that are primarily mental rather than physically taxing. This type of therapy concentrates on developing physical and emotional autonomy.

Compared to Adventure Therapy, Wilderness Therapy programs may be slightly longer. However, compared to traditional talk therapy, Wilderness Therapy is shorter term. Activities include learning survival skills, hiking, farming or gardening, and animal-assisted interventions.

Adventure Therapy

Adventure therapy involves adventure activities, pushing oneself to take both physical and emotional risks. Adventure therapy is designed to help individuals and groups overcome fears, provide encouragement to others, and build trust. Compared to traditional therapy, it typically involves shorter-term care. Most activities are done as a group, but you may do some activities alone.

Adventure Therapy activities may include rope courses, rock climbing, ziplining, white water rafting and long-distance hikes. All activities are designed to help participants work as a team and develop trust.

Benefits of Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness therapy is an increasingly popular form of treatment that helps people reconnect with themselves and their surroundings. It provides an opportunity to learn and apply self-care strategies, as well as teaching problem-solving and coping skills. These practices enhance communication skills, improve self-confidence, and increase self-awareness.

Wilderness Therapy is helpful for a variety of conditions such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Addiction or Substance Abuse
  • Communication Issues
  • Depression
  • Food-Related Stress or Eating Disorders
  • Relationship Conflict
  • Self-Esteem and Confidence Building
  • Trauma

By taking part in wilderness therapy, individuals have the chance to reflect on their lives and make positive changes. This form of therapy supports both mental and physical health, providing a safe and supportive environment in which to practice personal growth and development. It offers an alternative to traditional therapy, using the natural environment to help individuals heal.

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Wilderness Therapy


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About the Author

Jareena is MyWellbeing's Community Manager and is dedicated to supporting MyWellbeing's providers in order for them to offer the best possible care for you. Jareena is a mental health advocate and aims to identify ways to destigmatize discussions around mental health and how to make care more accessible.