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Therapeutic uses of nature continue to expand

Lana Bandoim's picture

The therapeutic benefits of reconnecting with nature are well-documented, and the wilderness can serve as the perfect backdrop for addressing serious psychological and behavioral issues. In recent years, some therapists have decided to take a gentler approach to intervention, and troubled youth is often the target.


Nature is being used in more than one way to help people who are struggling with a variety of issues. Wilderness therapy for troubled teens takes an outdoor nonaggressive approach to dealing with problems ranging from addiction to anxiety. Family members and friends are involved, so teens can benefit from a program long-term. ANASAZI’s gentler approach is favored by many therapists who want teenagers to move past their behavioral issues while preserving and building their self-esteem.

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A study from researchers in the U.S. revealed that wilderness therapy, which is also known as adventure therapy, can have a positive influence on teenagers. The teenagers received daily therapy and showed an improvement in both self-esteem and self-control. The separation from their typical lives forced them to examine their behavior and problems in a unique setting while guidance from experienced therapists led them to see how to change.

A wilderness program has to address multiple factors at the same time, and successful ones are able to do this seamlessly. First, the physical aspects are tackled to improve health and fight addictions. Then, the psychological aspects are discussed and emotional issues are addressed. Additionally, spiritual and social factors play a part in a complete program.

Over the years, therapists have noticed that troubled teenagers often respond better to an outdoor setting than a typical office. Studies have examined factors ranging from the harsh lighting of an office to expectations drawn from medical surroundings. However, nature offers the perfect location to discuss problems in a different type of session. Teenagers are able to reconnect with nature while working on problems such as depression or anxiety.