When it comes to addiction, there are many ways for an individual to develop a substance abuse problem. There’s a tendency to think of addiction as being the result of the conscious abuse of alcohol and drugs, but many individuals become addicted unintentionally and incidentally. For instance, those who are prescribed addictive substances for legitimate medical conditions are at high risk of becoming physiologically dependent on their medications. As well, individuals with friends who abuse mind-altering substances become much more likely to abuse those substances, too. And while there are many ways to develop an addiction, there are likewise many ways to overcome addiction and many types of treatment to address addiction, including Nature Therapy.
At our short-term rehab in Utah, we offer a number of treatments and utilize several important therapeutic modalities that give individuals the best possible opportunity to achieve long-lasting sobriety. As there are so many recovery resources that can play a vital role in the rehabilitation process, it’s important to be informed about these different forms of treatment. With nature therapy, in particular, there are numerous misconceptions and misunderstandings about how it works and why it’s beneficial for substance abuse disorder, which is why we’ve compiled some key information about the Nature Therapy we offer at our short-term rehab in Utah.
What exactly is Nature Therapy?
There’s a tendency for many people for associate addiction treatment with psychotherapy and one-on-one counseling. In some cases, group therapy might also be associated with addiction treatment. Of course, psychotherapy and group therapy can each play a pivotal role in a person’s recovery journey and are often the foundation upon which addiction recovery is built. However, these aren’t the only forms of therapy that are commonly utilized as part of an addiction treatment program. At Pinnacle Recovery Center, our short-term rehab in Utah offers a number of innovative and complementary treatments that enhance our curriculum. One such complementary treatment we use is Nature Therapy.
Among the key differences between Nature Therapy and traditional one-on-one counseling, Nature Therapy is a more experiential form of therapy compared to the more clinical types of therapy that form the foundation of recovery. By definition, experiential therapies are forms of therapy that focus on personal responsibility, interactions between behavior or cognition and the individual’s environment, social contexts and relationships, and the individual’s experiences in the moment. Besides Nature Therapy, other common examples of experiential therapies include Art Therapy, Equine Therapy, Music Therapy, and Wilderness Therapy.
The underlying philosophies of Nature Therapy are based on some of the well-known effects that the natural environment can have on a person. Have you ever noticed that going for a walk on a nice, sunny day tends to elevate your mood and make you feel more relaxed? These effects aren’t a coincidence or placebo effect; scientists have long known that exposure to sunlight can alleviate psychological distress such as the symptoms of depression. Therefore, Nature Therapy is being utilized in many different circumstances as a holistic therapeutic tool.
How does Nature Therapy work?
If you’re familiar with holism, you’ll know that holistic medicine refers to the treatment of the body, mind, and soul so as to help patients achieve comprehensive wellness. As such, many of the treatment techniques that are considered holistic are able to address different types of symptoms, whether they be physical and emotional or emotional and spiritual or some other combination. Of course, the specific machinations by which holistic therapies work will vary from one therapy to the next, but with Nature Therapy, the benefits of this treatment are fairly straightforward.
Let’s return to the benefits of sunlight for a moment. According to scientific research, exposure to sunlight triggers the release of certain hormones and chemicals in the brain. One of the chemicals that’s thought to be released with exposure to sunlight is serotonin, which is a feel-good chemical associated with feelings of happiness and pleasure. So part of the reason why a natural environment is beneficial is merely due to the physiological response the human body has to sunlight; however, there are other reasons why nature is beneficial, too.
As much as 50 percent of all people live in urban settings, meaning that these individuals don’t typically have access to what most would consider “nature”: trees, grass, fresh air, a nice breeze, chirping birds. When people have access to nature, they exhibit lower rates of depression, anxiety, anger, stress, and even physical benefits like lower blood pressure. While the sunlight helps to boost mood, the belief is that experiencing nature evokes a sense of peace and fulfillment that’s more akin to spiritual treatment than physical or medicinal treatment. Even as little as five minutes in nature — whether the five minutes is spent sitting on a bench observing the natural environment, gardening, hiking, camping, or otherwise — has been correlated with noticeable benefits.
Nature Therapy for addiction
It’s not easy to live in active addiction. People with substance abuse problems experience daily stress resulting from their chemical dependencies, especially as many of these individuals will be continuously concerned about where and when they’ll get their next fix. The substances they use to alleviate psychological distress are actually causing them to become more distressed and disturbed. Once an individual with a substance abuse problem begins the recovery process, simply ceasing alcohol or drug use isn’t always enough to mitigate the lingering psychological effects of active addiction, which is when experiential therapies like Nature Therapy come into play.
There are numerous benefits to using Nature Therapy as a treatment for a substance abuse disorder. For one thing, being in and among nature helps individuals to reconnect with the natural environment, which is particularly important after an extended period of active addiction tends to cause individuals to become disconnected with nature, other people, and themselves. When outdoor activities are involved, Nature Therapy helps individuals regain a sense of self-sufficiency and independence; these sensations are quite important and potentially crucial to success in recovery.
Oftentimes Nature Therapy will be offered in a group setting with coordinated group activities through which the participants can enjoy the natural environment. Thus, Nature Therapy can help patients to re-establish social skills, facilitating the development of relationships with peers as they learn to communicate effectively and work together. As well, the experience of being among nature can have symbolic significance in the recovery process; much as a sunrise signals the start of a new day, individuals who are participating in Nature Therapy can see their experiences in nature as signifying a fresh start and a new life.