Adventure Therapy Helps Recovering Addicts Boost Self-Esteem

By Victoria Kim 10/20/15

Graduates from the program come away with a sense of empowerment.

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Treehouse Zipline
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There’s more to ziplining than the simple thrill of flying through the air, suspended high above the ground, dangling from a single cable and pulley system.

At the Treehouse Rehab, situated on 40 acres in the town of Scurry, Texas, ziplining is a key component of its “adventure therapy” program. A recent graduate of Treehouse, Scott Pruitt, spoke to WFAA 8 about his rehab experience: “Hope—I really don’t know what that means. I’ve never understood hope. That’s why I’m here.”

Pruitt came to Scurry to kick methamphetamine after previous failed stints at other rehabs. After 30 days of treatment coupled with adventure therapy, he graduated from the Treehouse.

The adventure therapy program is part of an alternative, more holistic model of treatment. “My vision was to make the Treehouse about rebuilding the mind, body, and spirit as opposed to one way of treating substance abuse,” Vinnie Strumolo, the CEO of the Treehouse, told The Fix. “These programs help to ground clients to a healthier way to deal with cravings.”

Residents also have the option to participate in a wilderness survival program, which teaches basic survival skills like fishing, starting a fire, and building a shelter. Learning these skills has a positive impact on self-esteem and psychological well-being, said Strumolo, who is also a licensed marriage and family therapist of 25 years.

“Building self-esteem comes out of accomplishing goals,” he said. “It’s difficult to teach someone to feel better about themselves in a classroom. They build self-esteem and awareness from accomplishing goals, even something as simple as learning how to fish.”

Ziplining in particular helps recovering addicts overcome anxiety, a fear of heights, and helps them work as a team. After completing the course, residents regroup in an actual treehouse to process their ziplining experience, to talk about whether anyone had difficulties and how they felt about it.

“When clients are back home and become stressed, many times they resort back to substances to escape and get them by, whether it’s due to personal trauma, anxiety or depression,” said Strumolo. “What we’re trying to do is find something healthier to replace these addictions. Let’s say they can’t go to a meeting. What can they do to ground themselves?”

The self-esteem boost that recovering addicts experience from adventure therapy and learning wilderness survival skills can build a lasting foundation for recovery. “We give them healthier grounds to help deal with personal trauma or cravings,” said Strumolo.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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