As traditional therapy goes, a client comes to our office, sits and talks about some of the areas in life that they would like to improve. For children and teenagers specifically, this could be conflict in the family, school difficulties or feelings of depression and anxiety. For the one-hour session, the client may learn new strategies for handling their difficulties or spend time finding out why certain patterns have emerged. A plan would then be created for how the client can best manage their life for the next seven days until they return for next week’s session. The important message here is that the most important changes occur outside of the therapist’s office!
One of the reasons we use Adventure Therapy or Experiential Therapy techniques with our clients is to make our office as important of a time for their growth as necessary. The difference is that instead of talking about what changes we will make and doing the changes.
Research has suggested that the repetition of desired outcomes is important for long-term change. Giving adolescents the chance to act out their desired change may be a key to success. It may also be an effective alternative for those that have been to see traditional therapists without much gain.
During our expeditions we see many students struggling with family life at home. Their behaviours have gotten worse and the atmosphere at home is restless. While in the bush, our groups need to function like a team to practice survival and accomplish group tasks. For the adolescent that struggles in this area at home, he or she is given a time where they can operate as a team with the support of helping professionals. Instead of talking about teamwork, empathy or responsibilities, we are doing all these things and helping the participant to reflect and review on how they went during each initiative.
Because of the nurturing environment and genuine relationships built during our program, our students feel comfortable reflecting on how they have done with each experience and build more insights that could help them to become successful. Upon returning home, we continue supporting the adolescent and keep this feedback going. Each time the adolescent is successful, out of the office, the better chance we have for them to be successful again. In this light, we actually learn more from our successes than our failures.
True North Expeditions, Inc. provides adventure therapy programs and services for children and teenagers in Australia. Based in Adelaide, the TNE team writes about child and adolescent psychology, family dynamics and how adventure therapy programs can connect with struggling adolescents.