10 year-old Ryan climbed into his harness, asking the entire time what would happen if he fell. You see, Ryan was about to climb the 40-foot rock wall aptly named Goliath. This feat was definitely not for the faint of heart, but even more intimidating for Ryan as he was challenged with high anxiety. Once Ryan had his harness securely tightened and he was hooked into his belay, he gingerly made his way to face of the wall, looking back to see if I had any last words of comfort. I then told him “the only way to overcome your fears is to face them.” Ryan didn’t seem to take much consolation in this fact, but he began to climb…
The type of therapy that Ryan is experiencing is called Adventure Therapy or Adventure-Based Counseling. In this type of therapy, a child or teenager has the opportunity to learn from doing rather than learning from conversation, as he or she would with traditional therapy. They will usually be outdoors with a group of peers engaged in activities that incorporate real or perceived risks, such as Goliath mentioned above. Through these types of activities the child can bridge what he or she learns outside to aspects in his or her real life such as increased self-esteem, overcoming fear, appropriate risk-taking, trust and trustworthiness, effective communication, problem solving, teamwork, and various social skills.
Children and adolescents with various types of disorders such as Anxiety, like Ryan, ADD and ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Bipolar Disorder , Conduct Disorder, Substance Abuse, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Asbergers, and other developmental disorders. Many students who participate in Adventure Therapy leave with invaluable life lessons. Cari, a 12 year-old girl said that she learned that she could trust people again. Robert, a 14 year-old boy said that he learned how to deflect jokes made at his expense. Jose, an 11 year-old boy said that he learned that some of risks that he was taking was getting him into trouble and that he should take healthier risks. Mariah, a nine year-old girl said that she learned to look a people when she talks with them or they talk with her.
Ryan climbed and climbed, stopping at times nervous he would slip, scared he couldn’t make it to the top. But with much encouragement from his peers on the ground, Ryan diligently made it to the zenith of the wall. Ryan’s hard work and perseverance raised his self-esteem, strengthened his ability to focus, and gave his peers the opportunity to affirm someone.
If you would like more information on the Adventure Therapy with Total Life Counseling, please call us at 407-248-0030 or check out our website at TotalLifeCounseling
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Author: Alan Davidson, MA, IMH