It’s one of the mantras that often get chanted in wilderness therapy: “Embrace the Suck!” This military expression means that sometimes doing the seemingly unpleasant things we don’t want to do is the best way to move forward. Whether it’s going for a run when a person doesn’t want to get out of bed, attending to a social event when a person feels anxious or tired, or even participating in a group therapy sharing session—let’s face it: sometimes we have to do things that just seem to “suck”. But in the end, we’re better for it. For teens and young adults trying to fight depression, “Embracing the Suck” can be half the battle!
The Behavioral Side Of Depression
There are two aspects to depression: the clinical diagnosis, and the behaviors that contribute to and reinforce depression (such as isolation). In treating depression, it is important to address both aspects simultaneously. A treatment plan that seeks to medicate without also concentrating on negative behavior patterns and attitudes is unlikely to be successful in the long-term.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), a treatment model utilized in wilderness therapy, operates from the premise that in taking positive actions, thought patterns will begin to follow. Rather than waiting for depression medication to make a person feel better, CBT stresses that a person act their way to feeling better. Forcing oneself to do the unwanted activities reinforces positive behavior patterns for the future.
Out Of The Comfort Zone For Newfound Confidence
Most often, we are adverse to things because either they present a challenge or they make us afraid. But, when a person works through these challenges by doing the activity, they dispel those fears and can actually become better for it. In wilderness therapy, some of the greatest strides come from being forced to overcome difficult obstacles: the pouring rain, rising tides, bad weather. Embracing life’s challenges and working through them shows teens what they’re really capable of doing. And this opens the door to confident, self-sufficient adulthood.
Another aspect to wilderness therapy teens are initially averse to is sharing in group therapy. But, in forcing themselves to engage in activities that are beyond their comfort zone, teens are able to get the full benefit of the experience. You can think of this as an “attitude adjustment.” The knowledge that doing these disliked tasks will help them accomplish their goals, combined with the act of doing them, teens actually begin to crave these activities, even look forward to them. After a few group therapy sessions it’s quite remarkable to see the eagerness to share.
Take It One Step At A Time
Often the activities our teens resist most are the best things for them. Teens and young adults suffering from depression need motivation to tackle the overwhelming challenges they face one step – or disliked activity – at a time. Most importantly, parents need to understand the behavioral habits of depression that reinforce the cycle of negativity and help their children “embrace the suck” for an overall healthier, more positive life.