The question that I have asked was “how effective is adventure therapy at addressing mental health?”. Mental health can cause various symptoms within a person; I will be focusing more on how it causes depression and suicidal thoughts. I will be talking about how adventure therapy is growing new treatment for those with mental illness, that it seems to be doing a fairly good job at addressing depression and suicidal thoughts even though the direct cause for change may is not entirely clear, and what it needs to do to grow even more so.
One effective form of adventure therapy for mental illness has been wilderness therapy where clients are taken out on expeditions into the backcountry. In doing so, it would be “removing the clients from their destructive environments… giving them minimal but healthy foods, intense physical exercise, and basic survival and self-care” (Russell and Hendee, 2000). With depression many times people fail to simply take care of themselves.
The wilderness therapy programs give them the tools on how to do so and that because they are in a wilderness setting their life could very depend on them doing these skills and because they are taken out of their previous environment it gives a different perspective on why it is important to do so. In addition to this Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare counsel OBHC also seemed to show positive signs for participants with mental illnesses. Over a series of studies and random interviews, it was shown that over one year “83 percent of the clients were doing better, and of that 83 percent, over half of the clients stated that they were doing well or very well” (Burns, 2017).
Although that still does leave 17 percent that is still struggling it is still a fairly small number but of course, in the future, OBHC wants to raise the number of clients that are doing better and lower the number of clients that are still struggling in the future by learning from these studies and adjusting their programs to be more efficient and effective. How they will do so is not yet known but with the current research, the future looks bright.
So far all the research seems to be pointing in the same direction, adventure therapy, and wilderness therapy work. Why they work is still unknown. Similar to how we discussed the black box, the cause for changes in people is not entirely known and that makes it hard for adventure therapy programs to get a strong foothold in the therapy field. “Adventure therapy has yet to establish itself as a viable treatment option within the continuum of care for adolescents in need of mental health treatment in most places” (Berman and Davis-Berman, 2013). Adventure therapy many times works for addressing mental illness issues and sometimes it does not. There are so many factors that go into the therapy that narrowing it down to one direct cause is nearly impossible and varies from person to person. There are a few key points that are consistent across various outdoor programs that contribute to their success, especially with the adolescent population of clients. “Therapeutic approaches for teenagers should be developed with an understanding of adolescent developmental needs to address mental health problems in a way that decreases stigma and promotes growth in fundamental domains of competency and performance, responsibility, judgment, social orientation, motivation, and identity” (Crisp, 2014). To make adventure therapy viable as a treatment even though it is growing in popularity it needs to first demonstrate efficacy across programs and populations, as well as develop a clearer understanding of how this approach to treatment stimulates change (Magle-Haberek, Tucker, and Gass, 2012). Having results is one of the most important things when it comes to any type of treatment or research. If adventure therapy is shown to be effective then more and more will become interested in it as a treatment plan for mental illness.