When an individual obtains professional treatment for a substance abuse problem, a mental health condition, or a combination of both, they will spend a significant amount of time partaking in services such as detox and individual counseling until they are stabilized. Once stable, the real work can begin to be completed and, for many, that work includes developing a strong connection with nature.
A connection between one’s recovery and nature can be established in many different ways. For some, this connection does not come easily and is something that must be included into their overall treatment. For others, however, utilizing nature as a method of treatment for their substance abuse and/or mental health conditions can be the most important aspect of their care.
How Nature Fosters Spirituality in Recovery
The 12-Steps, a popular method of recovery, is frequently utilized within programs across the country. These steps are designed to help inspire an inner awakening of one’s being in ways that allow him or her to mindfully and emotionally overcome their challenges with substance abuse problems (and even mental health conditions). Out of the 12-Steps, steps one through three are applicable to the connection between nature and one’s recovery:
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
When an individual connects to nature, whether it is through programming that provides therapy within an outdoor setting or through one’s own drive to engage oneself in nature on his or her own, the benefits to his or her recovery can be phenomenal. Spending time connecting to nature can help those recovering begin to understand the first three steps of the 12-Step program, which are often viewed as the most critical steps, as ignoring them will make it impossible to achieve success with the rest. Through nature, individuals can develop a deeper understanding of powerlessness, as well as acceptance. Many individuals also utilize nature to help them establish a sense of a higher power. A higher power is not intended to necessarily be religious, but rather spiritual, and can serve as a guide for an individual not only through his or her recovery, but also his or her life.
How are Connections in Nature Built during Recovery?
Aside from the utilization of the 12-Steps, many individuals will obtain other therapeutic interventions that focus on including nature into their plans of care. These interventions, offered at professional treatment centers, can include nature therapy, adventure therapy, and experiential therapy.
Adventure therapy is a form of therapy that puts recovering individuals right in the middle of nature, encouraging them to survive on the land around them. Those who partake in therapy such as this will engage in activities such as cooking, keeping warm, setting up shelter, developing communication with others, and so on. Adventure therapy can be a highly beneficial experience for those in recovery, helping patients develop self-esteem and self-confidence that can carry them through into long-term healing.
Similar to adventure therapy, the goal of nature therapy is to get patients outdoors and connect with the nature that is around them. Studies show that being outdoors can help reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, to name a few. The benefits of doing things such as gardening or hiking can include an improvement in mood, drive, and self-esteem.
A departure from the traditional talk therapy, experiential therapy is also method of care that can help individuals connect to nature during their recovery. One common example of experiential therapy is equine therapy, which gets patients outdoors and working with horses to tackle the issues that have stemmed from or caused their substance abuse problem and/or mental health conditions. Those who engage in this type of experiential therapy can benefit from being able to sort through their issues in an outdoor setting as well as work to build self-esteem.
At Four Circles Recovery Center, we focus solely on helping young adults overcome their obstacles with substance abuse and co-occurring mental health conditions like depression and mood disorders. Our center is unique in that we have adopted a program that offers a nurturing residential community, intensive substance abuse services, and experiential wilderness therapy. Our experiential wilderness therapy includes adventure therapy and equine therapy, as well as recreational therapy that includes participation in whitewater rafting, fishing, canoeing, mountain biking, rock climbing, and more. We utilize nature in all of its capacity to serve as the center of our patients’ treatment, helping them understand the connection that nature has to their own personal recovery.