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The Power of Nature: 4 Benefits of Outdoor Therapy for Teens

outdoor therapy for teens
Outdoor therapy offers a self-exploration and self-growth process which equips teens with all the skills and abilities they need to live a happy, fulfilling life. 

Over the last decades, outdoor therapy for teens received massive attention from both the scientific community and parents looking to help their children grow into healthy and functional members of society.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this approach, outdoor therapy (or wilderness therapy) is designed to help children, adolescents, and young adults overcome specific age-related problems, build self-esteem, and develop skills that will help them cope with the challenges of adulthood. In a way, outdoor therapy for teens acts as both a therapeutic approach and a self-development program. Here are four reasons why you should consider outdoor therapy.

#1 Outdoor Therapy for Teens Builds Self-Reliance

One crucial benefit of outdoor therapy is self-reliance. Gaining that inner sense power gives teens the courage to live life on their terms and fulfill their own desires.  

A study exploring the effects of wilderness therapy revealed that late adolescents and young adults who benefit from such therapeutic programs report “less resentment and anger towards mothers” and an increased sense of independence from their parents. In other words, outdoor therapy helps your adolescent “cut the cord” and take responsibility for his/her own life.

It’s incredible to see how a couple of weeks spent in nature, surrounded by other teenagers, and under the guidance of a professional counselor can produce such positive changes. With enough self-confidence, your teenager can grow up to be whatever he/she wishes to be. 

#2 Getting that Much-Needed Digital Break

We’re living in a world where technology dictates almost every aspect of our life. We go to work and spend hours in front of a computer, we do our shopping online, and we blow off some steam by playing video games or scrolling through social media. Even from an early age, kids become experts in using tablets, smartphones, laptops, and other devices that the digital revolution has made so cheap and accessible.  

But while this dramatic shift has changed our personal and professional lives for the better, remember that too much screen time can negatively impact on our adolescents’ physical and mental health. Fortunately, outdoor therapy for teens can be an excellent opportunity to give your teenager that much-needed digital break.

By spending some quality time in nature and getting involved in group activities, adolescents focus on discovering the beauty of the ‘real’ world and acquiring crucial skills that help them in the long run.

#3 Physical Activity for a Healthy Mind and Body

We know for a fact that staying physically active is one of the keys to robust mental and physical health, especially for a growing adolescent. And since many of today’s teenagers are either too busy with school projects or too caught up with video games, wilderness therapy is the perfect opportunity for them to get physically active. From building a fire and setting up the tent to taking a pleasant nature walk or scouting for berries, outdoor therapy for teens is an approach that offers a wide variety of physical activities.

Who knows, maybe your teenager will pick up a new hobby that will keep him/her physically active.   

“Study nature, love nature, stay in nature. It will never fail you.” –Frank Lloyd Wright

#4 Learning Valuable Social Skills

Social skills are some of the most important skills one can acquire. The ability to interact with your peers healthily and functionally acts as a primary foundation of personal and professional growth. Unfortunately, the hyper-competitive economic environment and the abundance of digital technology can quickly turn us into selfish, individualistic persons who no longer seek the company of others and refuse any form of outside help when life throws us a curveball.

But humans are social animals which means the lack of social skills can lead to a lonely life which, in turn, contributes to severe problems such as depression or anxiety. Having excellent skills in this area can help teenagers meet interesting people, get the job they want, advance in their career, and enjoy lasting relationships.

A 2018 study published by the Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning adolescents who participate in wilderness therapy programs experience improvements in social skills, self-efficacy, and anger management. Spending time away from technology and in the company of others gives teenagers plenty of opportunities to practice their social skills and cultivate lasting friendships.