Back2Basics Takes Hybrid Approach to Longterm Success

By The Fix staff 05/17/17

The six-month program combines outdoor adventure, therapy and life skills education to prepare clients for a lifetime of sobriety.

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A group of men in front of Bright Angel Trailhead sign, in the snow.
Bright Angel Trailhead

Choosing the right type of rehabilitation program can be intimidating with so many options on the table. However, Back2Basics Outdoor Adventure Therapy combines the best aspects of many different rehab approaches, including wilderness therapy, residential programs and life skills education, in order to best prepare their clients for long-term success.

“Back2Basics is essentially hybrid outdoor wilderness therapy and residential model,” says Roy DuPrez, the founder of Back2Basics, which is based in Flagstaff, Arizona. “We’re a combination of primary care and wilderness therapy, and take the best aspects of those programs.”

DuPrez, who has been in recovery for close to 20 years and has worked with at-risk youth in the non-profit sector, founded Back2Basics to combine wilderness therapy with a more traditional residential approach to rehabilitation. The program is open to young men, mostly ages 18 through 30, who stay for six months. From Sunday through Tuesday, program attendees participate in an outdoor adventure therapy trip, visiting natural wonders that surround Back2Basics’ campus. Trips include The Grand Canyon, Sedona, Joshua Tree National Park and many more locations.

The wilderness excursions allow clients to get in touch with a higher power and facilitate humility that is essential to the recovery process.

“We’re exposing them to a platform of surrendering, seeing who they are and what their contributions could be,” DuPrez says. “Many participants have never been exposed to to being on the trail: the open sky and the bigness of the outdoors. It demonstrates humility that comes from within. Nothing is out to get them or haunt them. They’re just here, in the wild.”

At the same time, the treks provide an important lesson in responsibility and preparation.

“You’ve got to pack your own gear, measure the amount of calories you need, stay warm and cool, navigate food, body temperatures and appropriate shoes,” DuPrez says. “It’s a micro example of how you’re going to have to navigate yourself in the world, handling things like gas and rent.”

Although the staff support participants in preparing for treks, ultimately the weight of being ready for the wilderness trek falls on the participant. Often, this provides an important life lesson.

“If you’re showing up unprepared there are going to be consequences and you’re going to be super uncomfortable,” DuPrez says.

From Tuesday afternoon through Saturday, clients follow a more traditional rehabilitation schedule, which includes individual and group therapies, 12-step meetings, and life-skills workshops like culinary classes.

“All the things you might find in traditional primary program we do within a couple of days,” DuPrez says. Eventually recovery programs end, and Back2Basics aims to prepare clients for life after rehab, equipping them for success in the long term.

“These young guys barely know how to make a PB&J when they get to me, so how are they supposed to step into being responsible citizens? That’s when you see a lot of failure of recovery programs,” DuPrez says.

By focusing on life skills and education in addition to 12-step meetings and therapy, Back2Basics prepares clients for the mundane tasks of everyday life that many of them have never handled on their own, and that can be overwhelming for people in early recovery.

“We’re trying to develop a platform for them to gain life skills in a realistic environment,” he says. “For thirty days you can stay numb and hold your breath. We’re tearing off the bandaid and putting them in real life scenarios with a peer community that is setting its own example of what they want.”

That approach of blending adventure, life skills and therapy isn’t common in recovery communities, but it is what DuPrez believes gives the best likelihood of success for young men who are working to get sober.

“With young adult men and addiction, I feel like what we’ve been throwing at them traditionally is more what insurance will pay,” he says. “The 30-day approach is not result of a better therapeutic model, but came about because providers have to work under the model of what insurance will pay.”

The Back2Basics program allows clients to become comfortable in their recovery before they are returned home. The program integrates into the local Flagstaff recovery community in order to demonstrate healthy relationships outside a therapeutic setting. In fact, DuPrez says that many alumni stay in Flagstaff after Back2Basics, and the local alumni have formed a thriving recovery support community.

“That’s the organic piece of the transition out of Back2Basics,” he says. “There’s a community that they’re engaged with. They graduate and gravitate toward one another. And the Flagstaff community isn’t big enough that you get lost in it.”

Get more information on Back2Basics Outdoor Adventure Therapy at www.back2basics-soberliving.com, and visit them on Facebook.

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