Second Nature Wilderness Family Therapy is an outdoor therapy program providing treatment to families for over 20 years. Second Nature Utah works with families and adolescents struggling with a variety of mental health diagnoses, behavioral problems, developmental issues, learning disabilities, substance abuse/dependence, school problems, and relational difficulties.
In the following article, Second Nature reviews their clinical outdoor therapy program and how it helps students and families.
Increasingly urbanized, technology-centric lifestyles have prompted the rise in clinical outdoor therapy practices. Despite the long-acknowledged prowess of nature-based interventions, they’ve grown in both type and number recently. Outcomes data by Second Nature Utah supports these approaches for improving the well-being and lives of individuals who experience struggles with their mental health.
Outdoor therapies are intentional therapeutic practices that rely on surroundings, actively engage the body, and note the nature-to-human relationship. The various approaches to wilderness therapy have shown improvements across several metrics, including socially, emotionally, physiologically, physically, and psychologically.
Letting Nature Do the Treating
Programs like Second Nature Wilderness Family Therapy, the industry leader, integrate clinical methods into adventure therapy curriculums for a comprehensive practical approach to improving mental health and overall well-being.
With clinical wilderness therapy at Second Nature Utah, all aspects of the treatment process are interconnected rather than compartmentalized and disjointed. The result? A true outdoor therapy experience rather than outpatient counseling plus adventure camp.
Essentially, clinical outdoor therapy at Second Nature Utah combines the best of both worlds for the most influential family and adolescent treatment plans.
Methods and Approaches to Clinical Outdoor Therapy
Stunning natural settings provide the basis of daily life for individuals participating in these programs. However, the clinically validated approaches allow for considerable positive changes.
The Clinical Outdoor Therapists
Upon arrival to Second Nature Wilderness Family Therapy, students are matched with a highly qualified, experienced therapist who specializes in treating the person’s unique therapeutic sensitivities. Those certified to practice in the clinical outdoor therapy sphere are often trained in supported models like:
- Family Systems
Then, the therapist devises a bespoke treatment plan, ensuring every student receives effective, individualized care.
The mental health professionals at Second Nature Wilderness meet weekly to discuss cases with the rest of the staff, utilizing the team’s collective expertise to make sure all students’ needs are being met.
Combining Formal Therapy with Wilderness Adventures
Upon entering wilderness therapy, adolescents begin to realize that the multiple distractions present in their daily life are not present. The remoteness of the backcountry provides adolescents little to hide behind and focuses their energies in such a way that intervention is effectively focused on those areas that are present. Although many adolescents are savvy and can demonstrate high functioning, the rawness of the environment tends to evoke patterns and dynamics parallel to the behaviors that led to their enrollment at Second Nature. Additionally, the group experience facilitates that the adolescent responds to peers and adults without using their familiar escape routes of shutting down, running away, or other oft used responses to confrontation and accountability.
Second Nature’s therapeutic philosophy rests on the notion that the most effective treatment for adolescents requires clinical integration. This means that all aspects of the treatment process are seamlessly interwoven rather than fragmented or compartmentalized.
So often in therapeutic wilderness programs and traditional at home therapy, there is a disconnect between the therapy sessions (conducted by the therapist) and the daily milieu. At Second Nature, they believe the integration of these two components is critical. This is what transforms a student’s experience from what would otherwise be outpatient therapy + adventure camp into a truly therapeutic experience and makes Second Nature the best wilderness therapy program for your child.
The Milan Method
One of the most prevalent methods within clinical outdoor therapy is Milan, a type of group therapy derived from a family therapy model in Italy known for its intervention techniques.
The original method involved clients listening from a one-way mirror as therapists discussed their cases.
By encouraging a complete exchange of feedback, information, and assessment, students are encouraged to look at their progress objectively at Second Nature Utah.
The Milan method appears to work wonders for participants, especially when combined with other clinical outdoor therapy practices, such as:
- Walk and talk therapy — This approach takes traditional talking therapy into the natural world. Instead of being seated inside a clinic, students and therapists stroll side-by-side throughout natural settings for a less formal, more beneficial result.
- Expedition-based wilderness therapy — Such sessions promote organic outdoor activities. In other words, all activities are performed to progress along the route, like crossing rivers or climbing mountains.
- Garden-assisted therapies — These methods use plants to improve health and well-being. It aims to refocus the mind on purposeful yet calming tasks to internalize positive thoughts and feelings gradually.
- Animal-assisted therapies — Otherwise known as AAT, it uses animal interactions to aid recovery. Typically, horses and dogs are used in these approaches. Some types include grooming, feeding, and general care, while other methods simply request individuals spend time around the animals.
The Benefits and Outcomes of Clinical Outdoor Therapy
The clinically sophisticated approach to outdoor therapy goes beyond basic behavioral stabilization and temporary self-esteem increases.
Instead, students at Second Nature Utah are given education and guidance on how to develop meaningful insights into the root cause of unhealthy coping mechanisms and patterns.
While developing recognition skills, they form healthier relationships with their peers, families, and themselves.
During their weeks of treatment, their previous patterns of helplessness and abject avoidance transform into resilience, adaptability, and, ultimately, success.
After all, there isn’t a message more powerful than the natural realization of internalized respect, confidence, and efficacy.
Self-Efficacy, Self-Respect, and Self-Esteem
From individuals to families, it appears the outside really does soothe the inside.