In Experientia we use adventure therapy as a methodological base, encompassed within experiential therapies. Gass, Gillis and Russell (2012) define adventure therapy as “the prescriptive use of adventure experiences provided by mental health professionals, often performed in natural environments that involve kinesthetically the participants at cognitive, affective and behavioral levels”.
Relevant authors establish seven key areas of therapy through adventure:
1) Action-centered therapy.
2) Non-family environment.
3) Climate of change.
4) Evaluation capacity.
5) Development of a small group and a community of care.
6) Focused on successful behaviors (strengths) rather than dysfunctional behaviors (deficits).
7) Role of the therapist: greater link than in traditional therapy.
“Tell me something and I will forget it, teach me something and I will remember it, let me participate in something and I will learn it”
In Experientia, we use an experiential methodology, which requires an active role by the participants, who make their own decisions. Together with the creation of a safe and close environment, this methodology encourages reflection and dialogue, enabling significant change.
From the experiences, a process of reflection is facilitated that causes the formation of experiences. From them, conclusions can be drawn that are transferred to the person’s daily life through metaphors related to the activity performed. In this way, the therapist facilitates that the experiences lived through the adventure activities propitiate changes and reinforce therapeutic processes such as self-improvement, the promotion of self-confidence and responsibility.
Coping with challenges through adventure activities, characteristic of this therapy modality, generates challenges and situations of perceived risk. This sense of risk appears under controlled safety conditions and despite not being real, it has great therapeutic potential: The challenges are faced with their consequent benefits for the person who experiences them.
Although adventure therapy in Spain is an unexplored field, the Anglo-Saxon world (USA, Canada, Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand) has more than 30 years of experience and research, as well as numerous programs based on this methodology. For 15 years it is becoming increasingly relevant in Europe, mainly in Belgium, Germany and Scandinavian countries.
Within the adventure therapy, a specific modality called Nature Therapy (Wilderness Therapy) is included, where it is used as the main agent for promoting change. For Davis-Berman and Berman (2008) this approach is defined as “the use of traditional therapeutic techniques, especially group therapies, in outdoor settings, using outdoor adventure activities and other activities to increase personal growth. Therapy in nature is a methodological and planned approach to work with young people with problems. ”
Based on numerous studies that demonstrate the benefits of nature in both physical and mental health, we use experiential learning in the natural environment. Therapy programs in nature are developed in a remote place, far from civilization, to provide participants with a distance from day-to-day distractions, which will favor introspection and reflection of experiences in this environment, helping them focus on the here and now. Through a simple and nomadic rhythm of life, living on the road and camping in a different place every night, the self-sufficiency and autonomy of the participants is encouraged, having to prepare their own food and shelter and carrying on their shoulders all the material that they need to live the duration of the program. In this way, we encourage the participants to leave their comfort zone, thus favoring personal growth.