FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Adventure therapy is a powerful tool for helping teens recover from mental health struggles, trauma, and drug and alcohol addiction. That's why Newport Academy, an adolescent treatment program, embraces this evidence-based modality that uses time in nature and physical challenges to elicit psychological change.
"Adventure therapy helps kids learn to be in the moment, be in their own skin, and trust themselves, as well as their peers,” says Tim Walsh, a mental health professional, outdoor educator, and recovery expert, with more than 20 years of experience leading programs for adolescents and families. Tim is also the Director of Experiential Learning for Newport Academy.
“Through real-time activities in a group setting, the kids build self-esteem by embracing new skills, learn self-compassion and respect for each other as they work together, and get to breathe in fresh air and find their own natural rhythm,” said Walsh. Studies show that time in nature has a powerful impact on mental health and wellness and these days, with kids spending up to six hours a day (or more) in front of screens—playing video games and navigating social media—it is even more important to get time outside.
Adventure therapy incorporates team-building activities and goal setting exercises that support teens’ personal development—giving them multiple opportunities to expand their decision-making, problem-solving and collaboration skills. “Adventure therapy offers kids an individualized journey that helps them discover who they want to become, and begin to move toward that vision of themselves,” Walsh said.
Through activities such as rock climbing, paddle boarding, surfing, hiking, rope courses and kayaking, all done in a safe environment, monitored by trained professionals—teens are encouraged to push their limits and work through adversity, developing their confidence while having fun.
“We have so many amazing opportunities in this area, to be outdoors and explore the wonder of nature beyond the day-to-day grind of traditional school and organized sports. As opposed to competing against one another, as is often the case with team sports, kids learn to challenge themselves, attain new goals, and grow. This is truly empowering work,” says Walsh.
Newport Academy has several locations throughout the country, including residential programs, recovery day schools, and outpatient programs offering comprehensive treatment for mental health and substance use. For more information or to find a campus near you, visit their website.