April 23, 2015 Diane Ryan

Wilderness: A Powerful Intervention in the Treatment of Complex Trauma

photo of Mirasol clients backpacking by a stream in a canyonWilderness therapy is proving to be a powerful intervention in the treatment of complex trauma. Several of the unique features of adventure therapy address the dis-regulation that occurs in the individual's neurological process from varying degrees of attachment rupture. Wilderness can directly impact resiliency by providing clients with the opportunity to access a sense of safety in a novel way.

Adventure therapy often inspires a high degree of perceived risk or threat, similar to the heightened awareness that accompanies complex trauma. Moving through the experience with peers, solving problems, receiving feedback and practicing neural self-regulation allow participants to develop confidence and a set of skills that translate directly into real-world recovery.

In this setting, the opportunity to connect appropriately, challenge old beliefs, receive support and relate to others allows clients to move forward and deepen their commitment to their own process. Clients are both responsible for their own process and for the experiences of their peers.

Kinesthetically, the physical engagement of the activities encourages clients to develop a new appreciation for, and connection to, their bodies. The immediate need to fuel and care for the needs of the body creates new opportunities for clients who have been emotionally divorced from their physical selves. Nature provides a continuous backdrop of beauty, challenging and nurturing clients to a deep sense of belonging.

Adventure therapy has been shown to increase the effectiveness of other therapeutic interventions, and to improve receptivity to treatment in general. Mirasol is excited to continue the exploration and research of wilderness therapy as a potent intervention in the treatment of trauma and eating disorders.

Watch the video of Mirasol's first backpacking trip with clients