Month: July 2014

Risk Factors vs. Protective Factors: Treat Substance Abuse Problems Successfully

Why a Person's Past Doesn't Always Determine Their Future

While there are traditional risk and protective factors that play a role in determining a person’s susceptibility to certain behavioral, mental health, and substance abuse problems, these factors are not strictly determinate. Some individuals who have a large number of protective factors can still face these problems, just as an individual who has a large number of risk factors can be highly successful in life.

There are standard guidelines health professionals use to diagnose a variety of mental and behavioral disorders, and to treat substance abuse problems. Risk and protective factors range over a variety of domains, such as family, community, school, peer and individual.

What are risk factors?

A risk factor is an element in a person’s life that would influence them in rebelling or developing problems. Risk factors differ depending on the problem at hand, but the general list looks familiar.

Risk factors include:

  • Divorced parents
  • Predisposition to alcoholism or substance abuse
  • Sexual or physical abuse in family history
  • Family moved around a lot
  • Poor socio-economic status
  • Constant instability within the home
  • Unemployed parents
  • Lack of community programs

What are protective factors?

A protective factor is something that would generally “protect” or shield someone against behavioral, mental or substance abuse problems.

Protective factors include:

  • Family dynamic is supportive
  • Parents are still together
  • Engaged in community
  • Immediate people are socially and mentally healthy
  • Participate in school activities

These two kinds of factors are beneficial in the process of diagnosis because treatment can then involve addressing the conditions under which a certain factor applies, and work to remedy that condition. For instance, a person is at risk of exhibiting behavior associated with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) if they are not subject to rules or consequences within the home. Treatment for ODD, would then work on altering the environment by introducing strict ground rules and reasonable consequences. Individualized treatment includes understanding which risk and protective factors apply to a particular person. The goals of treatment vary according to the combination of factors.

Risk and protective factors are not always a reliable indication of a person’s susceptibility to behavioral or substance abuse problems.

Everyone struggles, anyone can have depression, and anyone can become an addict. There needs to be awareness that risk and protective factors are not the sole indicator of a person’s future. Anyone can have an issue, and parents can be blinded by “protection.” Generally, if a person has less protective factors and many risk factors they may be more likely to use drugs, skip school, and engage in destructive behaviors, but risk factors don’t always determine the troubled kids. Someone who has every risk factor against them can succeed despite the odds, and a person who is well protected is still susceptible to mental health and behavioral issues. A child can be involved in the church, play on the basketball team, get good grades, be “better off,” and still suffer from depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.

Identifying individual risk and protective factors can be useful in a wilderness therapy program.

Recognizing the individual risk and protective factors that apply to a person is helpful in determining the appropriate course of treatment. If a person has developed an issue primarily because of risk factors, a course of treatment would work to address ways to remedy and manage those factors. If a person has come to wilderness therapy despite having a large number of protective factors, then treatment would focus on addressing the other reasons why a person is suffering from a particular issue.

Wilderness therapy programs work to address both the external factors that contribute to a person’s issue, and the internal factors that cannot be addressed by a change in home environment. Individualized treatment is one of the reasons that wilderness therapy is so successful in assisting with behavioral, mental health, and to help and treat substance abuse problems.

Wilderness Therapy an effective Natural ADHD Treatment

Wilderness Adventure Therapy in the USA

Wilderness therapy is highly successful method of Natural ADHD Treatment for teens and young adults. The combination of the natural setting, holistic diet and focus on simple tasks can result in alleviating the symptoms underlying the disorder. Wilderness therapy also provides an individual with the tools needed to manage their aftercare.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. ADHD manifests in many negative ways involving school performance, friendships, social interactions and behavior at home.

There are three types of ADHD:

  • Inattentive ADHD (formerly known as ADD)
  • Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD
  • Combined ADHD

Sufferers of ADHD have difficulty paying attention and staying focused. They can act out impulsively, without regard for consequences. They are often hyperactive, loud and exhibit extrovert behavior. Indicators vary with individual and environmental demands, but if symptoms remain persistent for an extended period of time it is possible that a person may suffer from ADHD.

Wilderness therapy is an effective tool in treating and managing ADHD.

Wilderness therapy provides a calming setting in which to teach teen and young adults behaviors, strategies and good habits that can make ADHD more manageable and less harmful. Holistic nutrition, meditation, physical activity and therapy are all components to an adventure based treatment program and have all been shown to have a positive impact on managing ADHD. In some cases, participants can show such marked improvement that they no longer exhibit the symptoms associated with the disorder.

Components to wilderness therapy that aid in treating and managing ADHD:

  • Physical activity. The physical challenges that participants face in wilderness therapy are often exhausting. Exercising outdoors is extremely beneficial to sufferers of ADHD. Sunshine, air, and exercise relieves stress, boosts mood, calms the mind and reduces feelings of aggression.
  • Simplified tasks. The wilderness therapy setting is without the distractions of daily life and the everyday tasks are simplified. Basic tasks are calming and by breaking down duties into simple, manageable parts, individuals can focus all of their attention on accomplishing the challenge at hand. Feeling accomplished, even in the completion of simple tasks, is a powerful component to a person’s ability to manage their symptoms.
  • Holistic diet. Nutrition and diet are significantly correlated to mental health and wellness. Eating the right foods—whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts—fuel the brain and body and eliminate many of the symptoms that underlie ADHD. The elimination of sugar from a diet is one of the single most important things to consider when managing hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention.
  • Meditation and self-reflection. Activities such as silent hiking, in which the participant focuses on self-reflection, cultivate the skills to concentrate and be quiet. These skills are highly useful in managing ADHD and increase successes made post-treatment.

Medication and ADHD

Medication can help to lessen the symptoms associated with ADHD, but it is not always the right choice for everyone. While medication can improve a person’s concentration, impulse control and ability follow through with tasks, it still only treats the symptoms. A change in lifestyle and being educated about alternative solutions and ways to self-manage ADHD may be a better route. ADHD may be treated with medication, but the long-term mental and physical implications are not yet fully known. Some known side effects can include: psychiatric problems, heart related conditions and interference in brain development.

Decisions about medication and ADHD treatment are individualized and depend on a persons’ unique situation. These decisions need to be made by trusted medical and healthcare professionals. Wilderness therapy can offer an alternative to a treatment that relies solely on medication. In wilderness therapy, participants are not taken off medication prescribed by their doctors, but are presented with additional alternative ways in which to manage and is considered a more healthy and natural ADHD treatment.

Rites of Passage Wilderness