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Outdoor Therapy for Teens with Substance Use Issues

outdoor therapy and substance use

Outdoor Therapy for Teens with Substance Use Issues

One of the most common reasons teens experiment with substances is that they view substance use as a fun social activity that has the power to change their mood, which is particularly appealing to teens who struggle with low mood and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. Teens are more likely to look at rewards than to consider long-term consequences. For some teens, half of the excitement of sneaking around and chasing an unpredictable high, rather than how they feel when they use substances. Outdoor therapy for teens struggling with substance use introduces teens to healthier social activities and helps them gain a new perspective on the role substances have played in their life.

Why Choose Outdoor Therapy for Substance Use Issues?

There are a number of treatment options for teens struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse issues, but many programs are designed to treat one or the other, rather than the intersection of these issues. According to a recent study, teens who completed an Outdoor Behavioral Therapy program were 25% more likely to maintain lasting changes than teens in other programs. Wilderness therapy looks at teens’ issues holistically and empowers them to be more confident in multiple areas of their lives, rather than just addressing behavioral issues. In an outdoor setting, teens are removed from the familiarity of their routines and find it easier to break the cycle of craving substances, as they are distanced from other triggers associated with substance use.

Positive Elements of Outdoor Behavioral Therapy:

  • Extended wilderness experiences allow time for comprehensive assessments and establishing treatment goals
  • Active use of participation and responsibility in the therapeutic process
  • Group therapy fosters teamwork and social interactions
  • Healing natural environments allow for distance from stressors and responsibilities at home
  • Adventure activities help teens adapt to positive-stress situations

Increased Willingness to Change

One of the strengths of wilderness programs is that they work with teens at different stages of change, including those who are in denial that they need to change. Many teens who use substances struggle to recognize how their substance use has interfered with their academic performance, relationships, and self-esteem. They are more likely to blame external circumstances for their behavior, struggle to take ownership of their problems, and lack the motivation to change. 
The goal of wilderness therapy is to empower teens to recognize that they have more control over how they respond to situations. These programs guide teens in gaining self-awareness, taking responsibility, and exploring healthy activities that help them deal with stress. Teens develop meaningful relationships with their peers based on emotional support, shared values, and healthy social activities that protect them from falling back into social circles that revolve around substance use when they transition home.

Trails Carolina Can Help

Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program that helps teens ages 10-17 who are struggling with depression, anxiety, and substance use. This program uses adventure-based therapy to help students gain a new sense of self-awareness, confidence, and independence. The skills they learn throughout the wilderness program offer long-term benefits towards their ability to successfully self-navigate in the real world. By removing teens from their fast-paced environment into a safe, nurturing, and peaceful environment, they are able to focus on improving and reflecting upon their behavior. Trails Carolina gives students the tools they need to lead happy and healthy lives. We can help your family today!

Contact us at 800-975-7303.