Adventure Therapy

Adventure therapy is backed by over 50 years of research as a treatment modality that provides lasting behavioral changes and sobriety.

Understanding Adventure Therapy

Why Does Adventure Therapy Work?

In the wilderness, you will discover a number of very specific and mandatory truths. Without plumbing, kitchens, beds, heaters, grocery stores, or television, you must learn to hydrate, feed, warm, provide comforts, and think for yourself – all the while organizing your daily routine to serve not only yourself, but the needs of your group. This will become your ritual, as the wilderness has its own.

As you experience the rhythm of survival on nature’s terms, you will begin to understand the nature of powerlessness and the need for manageability. This is the first of the 12 Steps. Through the beauty, peacefulness, and serenity of nature, the loneliness and solitude, and the removal of societal distractions, you will embrace the teachings behind the 12-Step philosophy.

While living in the wilderness, you will experience many trials and challenges. Each night, you will be given the opportunity to process with your group the way in which you lived those experiences, thus raising your awareness of self and the world around you. As part of your spiritual journey, we offer meditation groups and time for reflection, and will help you find what we call a “medicine spot,” a beautiful and powerful spot of your very own in the wilderness where you can reflect on your thoughts and write in a journal. These times of introspection give you the opportunity to explore Step Three.

In order to work through Step Four, you will be given the opportunity to explore your past behaviors and thoughts, with the support of your group and staff, thus taking a fearless moral inventory of yourself. If you choose, you may share your personal inventory with your group, therapist, or other staff members. This is the Fifth Step.

Working through the first four steps of the 12-Step model brings about awareness, humility, and acceptance. Sharing ourselves truly with our community and a higher power brings about trust and support. The next step is to begin ridding ourselves of the “baggage,” or defects of character, that we carry.

One way to determine these defects of character is to assess your wilderness skills. What negative emotions or patterns do you see when you approach your skills? Do you avoid them? Do you get frustrated or angry with the process? Do you look for the “easy way out?” Are you naturally so proficient with your wilderness skills that you struggle to find meaning in them? Are you looking? Just as the wilderness is a mirror for our own powerlessness and unmanageability, primitive wilderness skills are a mirror for our emotional state of being.

The wilderness experience is replete with opportunities to meditate on and revisit who we were and who we harmed in our past. If you are willing and able, you may have the opportunity to explore the eighth and ninth steps with your therapist during individual sessions.

As for exploring who you are today, you will have the opportunity each evening to discuss with your group how your day went and if you achieved your personal and group goals. By living in a community of peers, we become aware of the importance of personal accountability for the benefit of the community. The tenth step consists of continuing to take a personal inventory, and when wrong, promptly admitting it.

Length of Stay

How Long Should I Stay in Treatment?

Every client’s length of stay at Four Circles will depend on his or her particular issues, needs, and circumstances. Our clinical team will create a personalized treatment plan that adapts to the client’s pace and ensures that every individual receives no more and no less treatment than necessary.

Our staff of clinical professionals also works with clients, their families, and referral sources on aftercare and discharge planning to minimize the risk of relapse and reinforce the client’s long-term recovery. This planning may include the development of a sober support system, an introduction to 12-step fellowships, and assistance locating continuing care programs or support groups.

Recommended Length of Stay

The Longer You Stay in Adventure Therapy, The Better

In the past, 28-30 days was the standard length of treatment for addiction at most drug rehab centers. But in recent years, research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and other organizations has shown that clients in addiction treatment programs lasting 90 days or longer have significantly reduced relapse rates.

During the first 30 days of treatment, clients are focused on detox, withdrawal, and establishing therapeutic relationships, according to Bennett Fletcher, a senior research psychologist at NIDA. In many cases, the issues underlying the substance abuse problem are just beginning to surface after the initial 30-day treatment period. The real learning and progress occur within the next few weeks and months, with ongoing supervision and insight from addiction specialists.

As a result of these findings, some of the most renowned substance abuse treatment centers have begun to offer 45- and 90-day programs. A research-based wilderness therapy program, Four Circles was one of first young adult programs to understand the importance of long-term addiction treatment and aftercare. With a minimum length of stay of 42 days and treatment plans that extend up to 90 days, Four Circles has been on the cutting edge of addiction treatment since its inception.

Addiction is a chronic, progressive illness that can be fatal if left untreated. Like other serious medical illnesses, such as diabetes or heart disease, treatment must occur over months and even years in order to achieve a full recovery. With appropriate long-term treatment, young people can learn how to identify and cope with triggers for drug or alcohol use, build a social support network, and cement the skills that are essential for lasting.

Adventure Therapy At Four Circles

The Adventure Therapy Curriculum at Four Circles

By its nature, wilderness therapy is full of adventure – but at Four Circles we take adventure to a whole new level.

Adventure activities like rock climbing, fly fishing, and canoeing are a regular part of the curriculum at Four Circles. As part of our clinical programming, adventure trips to nearby mountains and rivers remind our clients that being clean and  sober can be rewarding and fun. Through adrenaline-pumping activities, clients discover new pastimes and interests that make them feel excited and energized without using drugs or alcohol.

As with all components of the substance abuse treatment program at Four Circles, our staff takes the highest safety precautions during adventure trips. In line with our philosophy of “challenge by choice,” clients are never forced to participate in any of the activities, but are encouraged to observe and learn along with the group.

Much more than a fun recreational outlet, the adventure trips also serve an important therapeutic purpose. Every new activity challenges clients to push their limits, and also brings out emotions and behavior patterns quickly so therapists can assist in processing those emotions and channeling them in more constructive ways. This type of “peak experience” has proven to aid greatly in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse.

Adventure activities also help young adults in recovery stay mindful of the present moment while building their skills and confidence. The rock climbing, canoeing, and fly fishing outings are rich with metaphor, giving staff and therapists at Four Circles new opportunities to explore the issues underlying each client’s limiting beliefs about themselves and how they view the world.

Taking advantage of the beautiful landscapes surrounding our campus, as well as the multiple climbing areas and dozens of streams and ponds nearby, adventure activities are a natural complement to the wilderness expeditions, individual and group therapy, and 12-step curriculum offered at Four Circles. The adventure curriculum, while invigorating and fun, also presents one more opportunity for clients to connect with the natural world and focus on the work of recovery.

Just as it may at first seem impossible to scale the mountainside, young people begin to realize that a life without drugs or alcohol is not only possible, but deeply fulfilling. When you push your limits and step outside your comfort zone, a whole world of possibilities opens up.

We are affiliated with the following organizations, which provide accreditation, education, and training to ensure quality behavioral health and addiction treatment.
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP)
  • National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP)
  • Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council
  • The Jason Foundation