Month: August 2014

Animal-Assisted Therapy: Treatment for Behavioral Issues in Teens

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

How Our Pets Can Teach Us A Thing or Two

Most pet owners can tell you of the positive impact their animal makes on their life. Animals enhance our physical, emotional and social well being. This understanding that prompted therapists and mental health professionals to integrate animals into the treatment process for teens and young adults who face a number of behavioral, emotional, and social problems. Animal-assisted therapy has shown itself to be an effective treatment for behavioral issues in teens.

What is animal-assisted therapy?

The Delta Society, an international organization that certifies and registers pets for therapy, defines animal-assisted therapy (AAT) as, “goal-directed intervention in which an animal that meets specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process.” Animals used in AAT are not service animals but rather have been specially trained for therapy, as have the therapists who handle them in using animals as a tool for treatment. The main focus of AAT is improving the student’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive functioning.

AAT is a form of therapy that can be integrated into a variety of theories, which is one of the reasons why it has proven so successful. The most common animals used in therapy are dogs and horses, but other animals such as llamas, cats, and dolphins have been incorporated as well.

Animal-assisted therapy improves mood, behavior and social functioning.

Animal assisted therapy can reduce anxiety, elevate mood, and improve behavior. After just twenty minutes with a therapy animal, research has shown a significant decrease in the hormones related to stress—cortisol, adrenaline, and aldosterone—and an increase in endorphins and the “feel good” hormones—dopamine and oxytocin.

In a therapeutic setting, interacting with animals can:

Change behavior for the better. Working with animals improves self-esteem and creates a sense of responsibility. Engaging in the acts of petting and grooming works to develop a bond between the person and animal. By providing care for the animal, an individual in turn gets affection and acceptance, which they then shift their behavior towards receiving.

Improve participation in treatment. AAT breaks down the barriers between patient and therapist because AAT doesn’t seem like traditional therapy. Participants develop feelings of achievement in relation to their identified goals and objectives. Because they value their relationship and time spent with the animal, they also begin to take a more active role in their treatment, take punishments seriously, and work harder to make progress.

Promote communication. Individuals in AAT feel more open to talking about feelings and thoughts in the presence of an animal, especially teens and young adults who have a reluctance to open up. The therapeutic process of AAT is less threatening and participants feel more comfortable disclosing information. Individuals also learn to communicate better in a non-verbal way. Taking their signals from the animal, they exhibit body language and behaviors that a therapist can then use in the treatment process.

Develop social skills. The behavioral cues an individual learns in AAT can be translated into his or her everyday life. It can help to develop trust, get along with peers, and gain information about how to form and maintain healthy relationships.

Animal-assisted therapy provides a non-judgemental opportunity for individuals to work out their issues. For teens and young adults who are generally resistant to therapy, AAT can provide an opportunity to engage individuals in a way that does not feel imposing. The positive results of animal-assisted therapy have been well documented, and as the growing body of research continues to shed light on its positive effects, more therapists and treatment centers will begin to incorporate AAT as a way of improving treatment effectiveness.

To learn more about effective treatment for behavioral issues in teens including animal-assisted therapy, contact Rites of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980.

Camping as Natural Sleep Deprivation Solution

Wilderness Therapy for Depression in Seattle

Trouble Sleeping? Try Camping as a Natural Sleep Deprivation Solution!

Adopting a natural sleep cycle is crucial for those battling behavioral, psychological, and substance-abuse issues. Naturally the sun regulates our normal sleep cycle, but in our modern lives this sleep pattern is disrupted by overexposure to artificial light and electronics. New research suggests that sleeping outdoors can improve the quality of sleep by resetting the internal clock, thus helping to alleviate many of the issues that stem from improper sleep and thus an effective and natural sleep deprivation solution.

Overexposure to artificial light disrupts natural sleep patterns.

Electric light has transformed the way we live, allowing us both to work indoors and far into the night. Overexposure to artificial light, like the kind that comes from TVs, computer screens, or video game devices, disrupts the natural sleep cycle by altering the body’s release of melatonin.

Melatonin—the “night hormone”—regulates the sleep cycle. Naturally, melatonin levels increase when the sun begins to set, preparing our bodies for sleep. In the early morning when the sun begins to rise, these levels taper off, allowing the body to wake up refreshed.

Our current lifestyles have altered this natural cycle. When these levels remain high in the early morning, as they do when a person does not adhere to these natural patterns, it makes it difficult to wake up energized and negatively contributes to many behavioral and psychological problems.

Negative sleep patterns can contribute to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • ADHD
  • Weight management issues
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Substance abuse

Research has shown that camping can reset the natural internal clock.

A recent study published in Clinical Biology highlights that sleeping outdoors can improve the quality of sleep by resetting the natural internal clock.

Professor Kenneth Wright Jr., a sleep researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Boulder in Colorado, found that after just a short time camping, the internal clock naturally resets—drastically improving the quality of sleep.

Participants of the study had their melatonin levels monitored for one week of normal daily life, and for one week of camping. Wright found that after just one week of sleeping outdoors, melatonin levels began to rise and fall in sync with the natural light-dark cycle.

Using sunlight and campfires as the only sources of light, participants were exposed to more than 400 percent of the normal daily intake. What this research revealed was that the internal clocks of the participants had been re-calibrated to take the natural cues from the sun. After a week of camping, the body naturally shifts the release of melatonin to earlier in the day, closer to sundown. Participants did not get more sleep, but rather a better quality sleep based on the timing of when melatonin levels peak and fall.

According to Wright, “light provides a time cue that syncs our internal clock to the external environment,” allowing for a better coordination of our daily behavior, such as when we eat, sleep and perform at our best.

Wilderness Therapy syncs the internal clock with the external reality.

When teens and young adults participate in a Wilderness Therapy program, through camping their natural circadian rhythms reset after just a short time. In this approach to treatment, they see an added health benefit that is not present in a strictly traditional treatment model.

Healthy sleep patterns facilitate the ability to treat and manage the issues that these teens and young adults face. In this natural setting, participants use the sunrise and sunset to signify when it is time to get up and wind-down for the night. Hormone levels become regulated, allowing for treatment to address the underlying issues associated with behavioral, psychological or substance-abuse problems.

This increased exposure to sunlight while camping can reduce the physiological, cognitive and health consequences associated with the disruption of our natural internal clock. Wilderness therapy provides the setting for those battling certain problems to reset their internal clocks, helping them to take the steps toward improving their health and learning to self-manage their issues.

For more information about camping as a natural sleep deprivation solution and Wilderness Therapy, call Rites of Passage Wilderness Therapy at (800)794-0980.

“Staying Grounded” with Wilderness Therapy

Camp for Overweight Teenagers in the Northwest

How Sleeping and Walking on the Ground can Improve Your Health

The Earth has the ability to naturally heal the body. “Grounding,” a relatively new concept, is the practice of using the Earth’s natural electrical energy to re-balance the body simply by coming in direct contact with it through exercises and treatments such as Wilderness Therapy.

What is Grounding?

Grounding, also known as Earthing, is the practice of balancing the electrical frequency of the human body with that of the Earth. It works by absorbing the negatively charged electrons from the Earth to neutralize the over abundance of free radicals within the body.

By coming in direct contact with the Earth through a conductive material, such as sand, dirt, or grass, the body is able to soak up the free electrons within the Earth’s surface and use them to balance the positive electrons within the body.

Earthing can be achieved a number of ways, with new products — such as a grounding mat --- constantly being developed to aid in this. The easiest way to practice grounding, however, is simply to walk, sit, stand or lie directly on the earth. After just a few minutes, the body will begin to realign itself to this frequency, resulting in a variety of health benefits.

Coming in contact with the Earth’s electrical energy promotes health and well-being.

This practice has had a long-standing reputation for healing, but only recently has had the science to back it up. In the book, Earthing: the most important health discovery ever?, written by Dr. Stephen Sinatra, Clinton Ober and Martin Zucker, there is compelling evidence to support the practice.

The benefits of grounding include:

  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Detoxify the body of free radicals such as heavy metals and pollution
  • Decreased pain
  • Rebalanced natural circadian rhythms
  • Increase in energy
  • Reduced chronic inflammation

Wilderness Therapy offers the opportunity to get grounded.

In Wilderness Therapy, teens and young adults are constantly practising grounding by hiking, walking, and sleeping outdoors. For those suffering from behavioral, psychological or substance-abuse issues, grounding can aid in overcoming them.

When the natural benefits of grounding are realized, the underlying issues that accompany an individual’s problem can begin to be addressed. By re-balancing the electrical energy within the body, teens and young adults in Wilderness Therapy experience drastic improvements in behaviors and attitudes. For those whose bodies are full of destructive free radicals, simply living in the wilderness setting allows for the kick-start needed to begin the path to achieving health and well-being.