How Nature Walks Are Providing Therapeutic Benefits to Recovering Addicts
The entire process of recovering from substance abuse and addiction can be long and difficult. Many addicts who finally come to terms with the fact that they have a problem and they need help often want some sort of “instant” solution, and can find it rather difficult to work through all of the difficult emotions they were seeking to suppress through drug use. Taking responsibility for one’s past actions and the damages they created, as well as taking responsibility for one’s future, can seem overwhelming and perhaps even impossible to some individuals. It is therefore highly valuable during recovery for the individual to participate in any sort of activity that helps them to relax and build courage and confidence. Nature walks provide many of the therapeutic benefits needed and wanted during this difficult time.
How Nature Walks Help Promote Recovery
Simply being outside in nature can provide an individual with many therapeutic benefits, as many have found for themselves. Whether one takes a hike or simply sits and enjoys the natural world around them, the serenity of the natural world can help one to relax and cope with the stresses and challenges of life. For someone who is trying to overcome the complex problems of substance abuse and addiction, this can be incredibly valuable.
In many cases, an individual who is struggling with substance abuse and addiction has much of their attention and focus directed inwardly on himself. They may be thinking endlessly about past problems and decisions, and actually unable to really recognize and experience the present world around them. By walking out into nature, an individual can come to focus on the world around them, and draw their attention out from himself. It is likely for this reason that nature walks can be so therapeutic and beneficial to recovering addicts, because it allows them to recognize their present world and act within it, rather than continuing to struggle with demons of the past.
Recently, the CEO and cofounder of Prescott’s Chapter 5 12-Step Treatment Programs Bob Morse took a Naturalist Walk with Tom Benson of the Highlands Center for Natural History and realized it could be of great benefit to recovering addicts. With Benson’s approval, Morse brought approximately fourteen of his recovery clients for the Naturalist Walk and observed the great benefits that this walk provided to each and every one of them. The Highlands Center’s Schoolyard Habitat Coordinator Kristina Garcia actually holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Experiential Education and has in the past observed the great therapeutic benefits of wilderness therapy. Having worked with 2nd Nature Wilderness Therapy in Utah, she has seen the transformations and improvements in behavior for teens suffering from substance abuse and behavioral issues when they are exposed to and connect with nature.
Morse, Benson and Garcia, along with Clinical Services Director for Chapter 5, Peter Thomas, have now worked together to create a recovery program for Chapter 5 clients that includes nature walks and other activities that are designed to aid individuals in working through the emotional challenges of addiction recovery. The program includes a two-hour nature walk that focuses on goals, challenges, mindfulness, inter-connectedness and leadership.
The Empowerment of Nature
Many times, an individual’s inability to successfully and permanently recover from the problems of substance abuse and addiction are related to their feelings of hopelessness about being able to change or improve their condition in life. The intention of using nature walks for recovery is to draw the individual out of himself enough that they can be empowered to overcome their own difficulties in resolving the problems of substance abuse and addiction, and so that they build the self-confidence necessary to a healthier, happier and drug-free future.