Adventure Therapy | AAMC Pathways

– I’ve had folks that, they’re more afraid to come here into the
woods because they think it’s dangerous because
what’s normal for them are drive-by shootings,
dope deals going down on just about every corner. This is strange to them. This is dangerous to them. I see people that are more
afraid of bugs but you know, shooting heroin or drinking
massive amounts of alcohol, that’s second nature. (relaxing music) I’m Mark Sakraida. I’m the Adventure
Coordinator here at Pathways. My job is to take you
out of your comfort zone. And I think I do a
pretty good job of that. But at the same time, it’s teaching them that they can do more than what they allow
themselves to do up here. Adventure therapy is a
nice little special term used to describe what’s basically known as experiential education. It’s a way of getting our patients out of a normal group room, classroom, closed environment setting and giving them something totally different to learn by. And adventure therapy is exactly that. It’s involving our
patients here at Pathways in hands-on activities and challenges that teach them how
here’s where you start, here’s where you want to get to. Just pushing people just enough to get them to step through that fear, that lack of confidence. But it’s a matter of
taking them to a place that they never thought that
they would be able to go to. But when they come back
down and after they’ve done something that they never
thought that they could do, they’re like thank you for not letting me do what I wanted to do. Everything’s about how it correlates to the real life situation
of how do I stay sober? How do I deal with challenges? How do I deal with problems? If things that I’m
doing don’t work for me, what is it that I need
to do to change this? How do I change my attitudes, my behaviors, my way
of dealing with things. There are a lot of folks that have come through here that when they leave here, I may never know what impact
adventure therapy had on them. Most folks, they’re either
just going to tell me thank you Mark, you’re never
gonna see me here again. And I hope that I don’t. At the moment that
everything is happening, I’m more concerned that
they get something out of that experience of what they’re going through at that time. Those impacts may come weeks,
months, or even years later. And when they do come in and say thank you that they got a lot out of it, then I can be appreciative of
what we do out here every day and that when somebody’s life gets better. Because what they got out
of what they did here, you can’t buy that. (relaxing music)


  1. Mark was instrumental in me getting a handle on my destructive behavior and the opportunties available to live a sober life. He is a great teacher and an inspiration to all.

  2. Wow– as a relatively new employee, I did not know that Pathways was providing such innovative and creative therapies. Amazing!

  3. Adventure therapy at Pathways provides so many real life lessons – The one that I hear most is 'how the teamwork gives them the confidence to do things that they never thought they could.'   Way to GO Mark – You provide a priceless element to each clients treatment and journey into recovery.

  4. Absolutely LOVE this promo video! Well done. Outdoor adventure therapy activities and especially those experiences in a natural wilderness environment can be refreshing, relaxing, soothing, exhilarating and even awe-inspiring for our participants. However, for some participants, they can also be extremely challenging, frightening, scary, exhausting (emotionally) and for some 'at-risk' participants – it can be extremely frustrating.

    Whatever their reactions to such experiences, the memories stay in their minds for many years to come. For many of us, a greater feeling of well-being and are more aware of ourselves as a result of such experiences in the natural outdoor environment.

    Now imagine merging such challenges and experiences in nature within a supportive therapeutic environment, led by a trained and experienced therapist and you have what we call ‘therapeutic adventure’.

    There are many therapeutic models suitable for working outdoors using therapy. Therapists might ask the question, “What is the added benefit of doing therapy in nature over working with clients in the comfort of the therapy room?”

    Two Internationally renowned ‘legends’ in the field of wilderness interventions and adventure therapy – Michael Gass and Lee Gillis, answer that question here. They believe that, when done correctly, information from therapeutic adventure can provide a rich assessment of client behaviour.

    They write: “Some of the advantages of adventure experiences include: (a) the combination of ambiguity and stress that coexist in adventure experiences; (b) the increased level of validity in client responses to assessment procedures (eg. clients must ‘walk their talk’); and (c) the ability of therapists to receive appropriate information as well as simultaneously analyse psychological processes and behavioural content.” (Gass & Gillis, 1995, page 36).

    My own personal and professional experience is that therapeutic adventure (particularly in a wilderness environment) can result in dramatic and long-lasting emotional changes that may happen much quicker than within the therapy room alone. But, of course, the therapist needs to think in a very different way when starting to use therapeutic adventure. There are numerous issues of confidentiality and safety to consider, and it is important to assess clients’ needs and make adjustments in the program in order to meet those needs.

    Another important factor of conducting adventure therapy programs I want to see covered WELL in W-AT training programs is "Safety" – both physical safety and also psychological safety – both of which are vital factors to ‘prepare’ for in advance. Just sayin' 🙂

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