Last week I wrote a short blog about Dr Bruce Perry and the Three R’s: Regulate, Relate & Reason. Dr Perry’s neurological focus has clarified how the brain operates during times of stress, anxiety and really any emotionally heightened time. Due to so much interest from our followers, I thought it would be good to open further dialogue into what the Three R’s really mean and how to implement them.
In a nutshell, the brain cuts off our ability to significantly relate and reason through our problems. This often causes more challenges. Especially for children and teenagers.
As neuroscience gives us more and more research about the brain, there is further justification for adventure therapy programs and how they may help our troubled teenagers. This post will talk briefly about the first R – Regulate.
Helping our participants become centred and feel safe is our first priority during our expeditions. Some may feel anxious about attending the program, meeting new people and being away from home. In the first few days, our goal is 100% about regulating emotions and building a sound relationship for us to work from.
There are many things in therapy that work for some but not all. What works for me may not be the thing that works for you. But the truth is there are some things that help all of us stay regulated. In the adventure therapy setting, they tend to be quite obvious.
Sleep: After our first or second hike into the Southern Flinders Ranges our group starts to adapt to a sleep cycle that often consists of heading to sleep between 8:30-9 and waking up at first light. Sufficient sleep is crucial for the treatment of depression, anxiety, stress and other mood disorders.
Exercise: Hiking each day provides our adolescents with a plentiful amount of exercise and movement. Earlier this week we posted an article on our Facebook page about Music and Rhythm being so important for a healthy brain. By hiking and exercising daily, our groups start that process of settling our emotional systems and begin feeling great.
A Predictable Environment: The consistency of the adventure therapy setting is absolutely fundamental to its success. Almost all adolescents engaged with our program leave feeling as though they could be themselves and didn’t need substances or superficial modifiers to help them socially. The reason for this is that adolescents thrive in environments that have predictable boundaries. That is, everything is ok as long as we are inside these walls. It makes them feel safe.
Nurturing & Caring Adults: Being an adventure therapy program, we are often thrown in with boot camps and other youth programs. True North Expeditions is a relationship-focused program. We are here to understand not prescribe, to learn not preach, and to provide an environment that allows children to thrive.
My favourite example of this nurturing environment comes from the metaphor of a plant. If I have a plant in my garden that is struggling, gasping for life, it is not going to be my job to yell, lecture or punish this plant. Instead, I need to think clearly about the environment this plant is living in and how I can set it up for the best chance of success.
Next week we will be continuing to discuss Dr Perry’s Three R’s and how relationship can help more than anything to bring about new success and change.
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.