Recreational Therapy for Teens and Young Adults

At Paradigm Treatment, all teens have the opportunity to participate in recreational therapy, which includes a number of different physical activities and adventures.  As part of our effort to help nourish and strengthen all aspects of the teens’ lives, we try to teach teens how to live physically healthy lives, which is one reason we incorporate things like nutritional education and planning as well as recreational therapy into our treatment plans.  In one simple sense, the goal of Teen Recreational Therapy is for adolescents to strengthen their bodies while participating in fun, sober, physical activities.  The range of these activities is wide, including any number of options, such as traditional gym sessions, hiking to Escondido Falls, Sober Surfing Lessons, or a bike ride on the beach.  With this being said, Paradigm certainly recognizes that all adolescents come to us with different interests, physical abilities, and limitations.  These differences are always treated with respect, and given full consideration. Our goal is not to create a team of athletes or to push adolescents beyond their physical limits, but rather, to help young people find pleasure, and purpose, in constructive physical activities for the enhancement of physical and emotional health, as we believe that promoting physical health is a palpable and necessary way to promote mental and overall well-being.

In recent years, Teen Recreational Therapy has become a widely recognized and implemented treatment approach with a number of extensive benefits.  The most prominent goal of Recreational Therapy is to restore, remediate or rehabilitate the physical body in order to improve overall well-being and quality of life in multiple other aspects of the teens’ lives.  In short, the mind’s health and well-being is dependent upon the body’s health, and therefore, both must be addressed.  As for the benefits of the approach, Recreational Therapy has been shown to improve functioning, increase confidence, improve social interaction and reasoning abilities, reduce anxiety and stress, and promote independence as well as reduce stress and/or eliminate the effects specifically related to an illness.


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As part of all of our adolescent treatment plans, we try to educate teens to view themselves as whole beings, whose minds, bodies, and spirits are connected.  Many times, at the adolescent age, life can be very compartmentalized and it can be difficult for teens to make connections between the different parts of themselves as well as their lives.  Therefore, in the case of treatment, this division can discourage teens from making important connections between, for instance, their physical well-being and their mental well-being.  When teens are facing specific difficult challenges related to particular illnesses or disorders, they might become singularly focused with this one aspect of themselves, making it overwhelming, intimidating, and difficult to address.  However, by helping teens to make connections as to their own health and therefore focus their efforts in multiple different areas of their lives, we find that they gain more relief, build more confidence, and feel more equipped to deal with stressors that they face in the future.

Along these lines, teen Recreational Therapy is an excellent way for teens to get to experience some distance from the more traditional therapeutic settings they’re in as part of their treatment plan, and fully engage in a specific activity.  The activities often provide some relief and enjoyment, which in turn, help the teens to engage more deeply and actively in the struggles of their treatment.  It’s noteworthy that this sort of connection, of the physical activity powerfully lending itself to the therapeutic work, is implemented by the therapist, based on his/her knowledge of the cognitive, social, and physical needs of the group or individual as related to the support an activity offers to these needs.  Therefore, Recreational Therapy sessions might include any number of different activities, based on what the teens need and what the therapist is trying to accomplish.

Overall, the activities of teen recreational therapy can have powerfully positive effects to deepen and further teens’ treatment for Mental Health or Substance Abuse Disorder treatment.  The positive effects of engaging in such physical activities span the physical, mental, and spiritual realms, allowing the teens a unique opportunity to gain relief, gain strength, and build confidence.  Within all of our different treatment programs at Paradigm, we try to provide teens with opportunities to not only recover and heal from their current struggles, but furthermore, to become empowered and equipped to grow as people.  Our Recreational Therapy program is wonderful in its ability to do just this, helping teens to recover while in treatment, and to thrive, afterward.

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