By Megan Yarnall, MA, MFTC, LPCC
At Colorado Teen Therapy, we believe in nature therapy, outdoor therapy and adventure therapy because we’ve experienced it ourselves and we know how transformational it can be. As I prepare to work with group of teens during our summer camp, I wanted to share a little about my own experience with outdoor/adventure therapy…
A few weeks ago, I got a taste (as a therapist) of what adventure therapy feels like for a participant. As my group practiced various activities and gave each other feedback as facilitators, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I learned about myself and this practice in three hours. Participating in these activities gave me an even better idea of what my clients experience and why adventure therapy is beneficial for everyone.
This is what I noticed was beneficial during and after my experience:
(1) A sense of camaraderie: Rather than feeling like I was navigating murky waters myself and trying to understand my emotions and thoughts alone, I knew that there were other women who had experienced, or were experiencing, the same questions that I was.
(2) A hands-on experience of my own traits, with easy-to-take feedback: During a climbing exercise, my facilitator observed that I “attacked” the problem head on (but also with little planning until later on). While this is a part of myself I had experienced before, it had not frequently been verbalized. By having it verbalized in reference to an activity, rather than stated, the feedback came to me in a way that I could take and reflect, rather than feel defensive or dismissive. My facilitator also inquired about other areas of my life in which this feedback was relevant – and the answer was many.
(3) Unexpected support, even after our session was over: Weeks after our session, I hear the other women’s voices in my head, prompting feedback and connection to our world. It makes me look forward to the next group.
(4) A sense of emotional connection to the world around me: When I held a rock and let it embody an emotion I was feeling or a thought I was having, the thought become more distant and I could look at it more objectively. But, I also noticed that I felt more in tune to what was around me, and felt more connected to people and nature. I felt less alone in the world and less anxious.
By learning through an experience or activity, we can take lessons and apply them to other areas of our life, work on difficulties or challenges without having to feel like we are divulging ultra-personal information, and apply our lessons across various aspects of our lives. Our gathering was in the woods, but adventure therapy can be done in or out of office. It means that therapy happens through hands-on experience, which takes our learning and development outside of four walls and into our everyday lives.
If you feel that a hands-on, experiential group would be helpful for your teen to slow down and create a connection to the world around them, as well as address anxiety, connection, confidence, decision-making and more, please visit our Teen Summer Camp page for more information and to sign up for our summer programs!