Teaching Life Skills through Outdoor Therapy

Group therapy is an important component of helping kids diagnosed with RAD.

In our attempt to effect life change in a boy, there are four foundational skills that we build into the lives of a group. These four “cornerstones” are routines, plans, evaluation, and problem solving. If a boy makes these things a part of his life, his chances for success are dramatically increased. These skills are an essential part of Outdoor Therapy.

Teaching Life Skills through Outdoor Therapy – Creating Structure

young man sweeping a trail, learning personal responsibility

One of our first objectives in helping a boy is to bring order to his life. We do this through the simple things of learning to take care of ourselves. Clean clothes, making a bed, sweeping a tent, raking a trail, setting a good cooking fire, etc. As boys learn to bring order to the chaos of their outer lives, they are given confidence to begin looking at the chaos in their inner life. Outdoor Therapy helps them address the emotional and spiritual issues that keep them from being at peace with themselves and others.

Teaching Life Skills through Outdoor Therapy – Planning for Success

Fair Play Camp provides a safe environment where kids diagnosed with RAD can work on their issues.

Planning… with Purpose

Another big problem for almost all of the boys who come to Camp is impulsiveness. Decisions tend to be made with only the next five minutes in mind, regardless of the consequences of the next five years. We want to help a boy learn to think clearly about how decisions impact his life and the life of the group for good or ill. Once a week, the group sits down and plans out in detail what they will do the next week. With Outdoor Therapy, they have opportunity to plan fun and adventure, but also need to think about and plan for work and activities that need to be accomplished for their own welfare.

Teaching Life Skills through Outdoor Therapy – Solving Problems

boys circling up at camp to resolve problems

Constructive Problem Solving

One of the most important skills each and every one of us needs for the rest of our lives is problem solving. A group learns that living together requires the skill of problem solving in order to function. Anything that promotes a bad attitude or produces conflict is identified as a problem. When a problem comes up in a group, the whole group stops what they are doing, circles up, and talks about the situation until there is resolution, and everyone is in a good attitude. In this way, a boy learns to solve real life situations in the context of when it happened and with whom it happened. With Outdoor Therapy, problems are worked through in a constructive way like this, it actually builds relationship, rather than continuing the destructive cycles from unsolved problems.

Teaching Life Skills through Outdoor Therapy – Evaluation

Meaningful Evaluation

Evaluation is a big part in the process of helping a boy learn to put a word on what he is feeling. To be able to do this in a positive way, without “blowing up,” acting it out, or even just internalizing it, is so important to developing healthy relationship skills so the boy can function in life. Many times a day, a group will stop what they are doing and talk about what they have accomplished. “What was good?” “What can we do better?” These questions help give perspective to a group. At the end of every day, the group has a “pow-wow,” which is an opportunity for every boy to give expression to the activities of the day and the impact on his life personally and the group as a whole.