Adventure Therapy: A New Way to Treat Mental Health | Across Indiana

There are many different forms of therapy.

Some benefit from outpatient counseling, typically face-to-face with a therapist in an office on a weekly or monthly basis, or in a group therapy session.

Higher level therapy may be more intense, meeting three to five times a week. Even more intense would mean inpatient or inpatient treatment, and according to Rob Kern, a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) at The Cabin Counseling and Resource Center Inc. in Boone County, adventure therapy was born.

“Often teenagers or young adults participate in this comprehensive treatment 24/7 and do things like horseback riding, kayaking and rock climbing, and it serves as a hook for teenagers to break the ice and get into the treatment,” Kern said.

As Kern graduated and was exposed to the various treatment areas, his dream and vision began to form.

Why not offer experiential therapy in the first stage of treatment? The everyday?

In what is still considered a growth area in the industry, Kern worked with The Cabin employees, their legal team and others to develop a new type of therapeutic treatment, draft documents and implement best practices.

Leaving the office means an additional risk. General security risk, but also confidentiality. There is a chance that client and therapist will meet someone they know. The decision to try adventure therapy rests solely with the patient, but the benefits can far outweigh the risks.

“There’s a growing body of research that says interacting with nature is radically beneficial,” Kern said. “My suspicion would be that if you surveyed counselors across the country, you would find a large number of people doing what I think is right, adventure therapy — they just don’t call it that.”

Adventure therapy can involve something as simple as a walk in the park, but it could also involve fly fishing or mountain biking.

“There’s a different recovery when you engage with nature,” Kern said. “We don’t always have to do talk therapy. If you want to talk, great, but if you don’t want to, that’s fine too. It’s not for everyone, but many find it empowering.”

At The Cabin, Kern and other employees currently offer park walks, hiking, kayaking, fly fishing, mountain biking, and virtual reality gaming.

The customer can decide on a whim if they want to try any of these options.

Moving Water Outfitters and Kern Bros. Shoes both donated gear, making it easy for the consultant and customer to grab their fishing gear or kayak and go.

Kern expects more options and wants to stay up to date with outpatient services. He even starts a monthly program for men who are cancer survivors or are currently living with cancer.

“There are a few programs … Reel Recovery works with men with cancer and Casting for Recovery works with women with cancer,” he said. “Since 2021 I have been involved in your organization and I am now your moderator. Leveraging my experience, I will be starting an ongoing support group for men with cancer in October. It will be an open group and men are welcome at any stage of cancer, even if they have been in remission for 20 years.”

Kern schedules a three-hour meeting every second Friday of the month—one hour to talk and two hours to fly-fish. The location will likely alternate between Lebanon and Zionsville. More information will be posted on The Cabin’s Facebook page and website once the program launches.

For more information about The Cabin Counseling and Resource Center Inc. or Rob Kern and Adventure Therapy, visit their website at https://www.thecabin.org.

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