How Wilderness Adventure Therapy Can Help Teens with Executive Function Deficits

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One of the most effective ways to help teens improve their social skills is through experiential therapy in a wilderness adventure setting. Through utilizing “in the moment” experiential therapy students can see, feel, and touch what they are doing. One of the main purposes of experiential therapy is to teach an individual that he or she can do things that he or she thought he or she could never do. This stands in contrast to traditional “talk therapy” where an individual talks through issues in a therapist’s office. For individuals with executive learning deficits, talk therapy is not going to be a very effective approach because that is not how these individuals process information.

On the other hand, wilderness adventure therapy allows an individual to feel and experience success in all different types of environments. Many teens with executive function deficits haven’t had a real friend nor have they spent much time doing physical activities. Helping these teens work through new experiences gives them a tremendous sense of success. From rock climbing to repelling, these teens will do things they thought they could never do. In turn, an individual will be more apt to take risks in other areas of his or her life and learn that sometimes failure does happen and that it’s OK. Throughout this process, the key is for a counselor to process the experience with them in vivo, or in the moment. This allows individuals to have the opportunity to experience successes, identify obstacles, and take responsibility for their actions. For teens with executive function deficits, this can help generalize their social skills and reduce their anxiety in the social world.

In the right wilderness adventure therapy program, the social world for these individuals is remarkably simplified, creating the right environment to work on basic interaction skills such as how to have a conversation, how to integrate into a group, and how to build social connections.

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About Vantage Point by Aspiro

Vantage Point is a specialized offshoot of Aspiro Adventure, the program that pioneered wilderness adventure therapy. Vantage Point focuses on helping students with executive function disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Nonverbal Learning Disorders, among others.

The Vantage Point programs are designed to build self-efficacy in our students through overwhelming mastery experiences – our students accomplish goals they never believed possible, which creates a belief that they are capable of changing their own lives for the better. We focus specifically on social dynamics and social skills to help our students connect with others and feel like they can be a part of the world. Experiential Learning is a tenet of our philosophy and our program. Paired with ongoing individual therapy and targeting specific areas for growth, our wilderness therapy programs are proven successful by outcome studies and are overseen by experienced Field Guides and clinical professionals