"Change does not happen when one is comfortable; if one is comfortable, there is no reason to change." Devon Nanton.
Although it seems counter-intuitive, most addicts are comfortable in chaos and wreckage because it provides highly distractive and engaging stimulation. They operate on the belief that their life is manageable, even if all evidence is contrary. It is incredibly difficult for addicts to do something different - or unknown.
The decision to change how one goes through life is not an easy one to make. For the addict, getting clean means they must step away from the known and trust they will survive. The wilderness is the epitome of the unknown and a place of profound healing. Most addicts have no frame of reference for surviving in this new landscape; a primitive place without light pollution, ambient noise or the trappings of normal survival (lighters, spoons, running water, toilets, etc.).
When addicts learn to take care of themselves on the most primitive level, they are ready to deal with higher thinking. Thinking that is not focused on getting the next high. Thinking that allows them to relearn and reset their priorities to “normal” levels. This shift in thinking takes a long time. Once they start learning to keep themselves warm, safe, dry, and fed, and learn how to create tools they need from the environment, they can look at a higher power and the idea of spirituality. We operate on thousands of square miles of public land in the high deserts and mountains of south-central Utah. Students eat nutritious food, breathe clean air, and are engaged in healthy physical activity. Being separated from what is comfortable and familiar is a key element to initiate the process of growth and change. This separation can also provide a much needed reprieve for the family. It is physically demanding to live outdoors for extended periods. We are careful to strike the right balance between providing a true wilderness experience while also creating an environment that is conducive to meaningful therapy and the development of personal relationships.
We use adventure to effectively engage clients in their own treatment experience. Our own passion and experience coupled with the area in which we operate naturally leads to an adventure-based approach to wilderness activities. We climb mountains, explore slot canyons, navigate through pristine forests, trek the high deserts, and discover ourselves in the process. The wilderness routinely presents seemingly insurmountable challenges. The power of the lessons learned in overcoming these challenges is a fundamental component of our approach to treatment. We deliberately steer our clients toward these tests, support and empower them in the achievement of success, then carefully process the experience in order to maximize the growth experience. The result of successive cycles of facing, overcoming, and moving beyond significant obstacles is nothing short of life changing in terms of a person’s self-image and identity.
Equine therapy at Juniper Canyon allows the horse to be a part of the process rather than just a tool. Clients learn communication, relationship, and leadership techniques are taught through developing a partnership with the horse. By interacting with the horse and learning both how to understand the horse’s communication (horse language), and learning to clearly communicate with the horse, our clients develop tools that support their personal growth. Working with horses often prompts clients to open channels of communication, open up to the therapists and guides, and become more engaged with their treatment experience.