What Is Hiking Therapy?

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Hiking therapy is frequently underestimated as a viable treatment option for addiction. However, incorporating hiking into mental health strategies can prove to be a beneficial element of comprehensive treatment for individuals dealing with substance use disorder (the clinical term for addiction).

What Is Hiking Therapy For?

Hiking therapy serves as a useful intervention for various mental health challenges, and its applications extend to addressing specific issues and fostering overall well-being. Here’s a closer look at the purposes and objectives of hiking therapy.

Mental health improvement

The primary goal of hiking therapy is to enhance mental health. Engaging in outdoor activities like hiking has been linked to reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved mood, and enhanced cognitive function. It provides a natural setting conducive to mental well-being.

Stress reduction

Hiking therapy aims to alleviate stress and promote relaxation. The combination of physical activity, exposure to nature, and mindfulness during a hike contributes to stress reduction, helping individuals cope with the demands of daily life.

Addiction recovery

Hiking therapy can be a valuable component of addiction treatment. The outdoor setting offers a unique environment for individuals in recovery to reflect, set goals, and build resilience. It complements traditional therapeutic approaches and provides a holistic avenue for recovery.

Self-exploration and reflection

The outdoor environment encourages self-exploration and reflection. Hiking therapy provides individuals with the opportunity to connect with themselves on a deeper level, enabling personal insight and aiding in the exploration of emotions and life goals.

Enhanced cognitive function

Physical activity has been associated with improved cognitive function. Hiking therapy aims to harness these cognitive benefits, enhancing concentration, memory, and overall cognitive performance.

Building resilience

Overcoming challenges during a hike, whether physical or mental, contributes to building resilience. Hiking therapy groups encourage individuals to face difficulties, engendering a sense of accomplishment and increased resilience in the face of life’s obstacles.

Promotion of physical health

Hiking and physical therapy can deliver more than mental health benefits. Regular physical activity improves cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles, and contributes to an overall healthier lifestyle.

Community building

Group therapy hiking activities promote a sense of community and support. Sharing the outdoor experience with others creates a supportive environment, reducing feelings of isolation and encouraging social connections.

Environmental awareness

Hiking therapy aims to instill environmental awareness and appreciation. Connecting with nature can instill a sense of responsibility for the environment, encouraging sustainable practices and a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of all living things.

Two women hiking as a form of hiking therapy group for addiction recovery

Benefits of Hiking Therapy

Here are some of the key benefits of engaging with hiking therapy:

  • Emotional well-being and stress reduction: Use hiking as a natural stress reliever, disconnecting from the wired world and finding peace in natural environments. This can give you a mental and emotional boost. Hiking can improve mood, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and promote emotional well-being.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation: Hiking provides an opportunity to practice mindfulness by focusing on the moment while allowing thoughts and sensations to pass without judgment. Engaging all your senses while navigating scenic trails helps you to relax, improve mental clarity, and minimize wandering thoughts.
  • Boosted confidence and self-esteem: Hiking involves many challenges that can boost both confidence and self-esteem. Accomplishing goals as you hike delivers a sense of empowerment and achievement and empowerment that has compounding benefits in other aspects of life.
  • Physical activity and its benefits: Hiking is a form of physical exercise that leads to an increased release of endorphins, mood-boosting chemicals produced naturally by the body. Regular sessions of hiking therapy can help mitigate depressive symptoms, improve mood, and increase energy levels.
  • Social connection: Hiking as a group activity aids interaction and connection with others. Join hiking clubs, participate in guided hikes, or explore nature your loved ones to experience a sense of belonging, camaraderie, and support that can be highly beneficial for mental health.
  • Improved cognitive function: Regularly hiking is associated with improved cognitive function – this may include enhanced memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. Combining physical exercise with fresh air and exposure to nature stimulates brain activity, promoting focus and enhanced mental clarity.

Remember, hiking is not just a physical activity, but it’s also a holistic approach to well-being, promoting improved connections with self, others, and the natural world.

Hiking Therapy for Addiction & Mental Health Treatment

Hiking therapy can be a dynamic and integrative tool in the realm of addiction and mental health treatment. Beyond its recreational benefits, hiking therapy offers a unique approach that aligns with holistic healing principles. 

Hiking therapy seamlessly complements traditional therapeutic approaches in addiction recovery. The outdoor setting provides a serene backdrop for reflection, goal-setting, and fostering resilience, essential components of the recovery process.

For individuals navigating addiction recovery, hiking therapy becomes a powerful avenue for empowerment. Overcoming physical and mental challenges during a hike translates into a heightened sense of accomplishment, contributing to a positive mindset crucial for sustained recovery.

Group hiking activities facilitate a sense of community and support among individuals undergoing addiction treatment. The shared experience of outdoor activities fosters camaraderie, reducing feelings of isolation and creating a supportive environment.

Integrating mindfulness practices during hiking therapy sessions adds an extra dimension to addiction and mental health treatment. The present-moment focus inherent in hiking encourages individuals to cultivate mindfulness, aiding in stress reduction and emotional regulation.

Hiking therapy instills environmental awareness, aligning with a broader sense of responsibility for the natural world. This connection to the environment can enhance the overall treatment experience, promoting a holistic approach to well-being.

In mental health treatment, hiking therapy is utilized to enhance cognitive function. The combination of physical exercise, exposure to nature, and the challenges presented by hiking stimulates brain activity, contributing to mental clarity and focus.

Hiking therapy serves as a multifaceted tool in addiction and mental health treatment. Its integration into therapeutic practices acknowledges the interconnectedness of physical, mental, and emotional well-being, offering individuals a holistic and nature-based avenue for healing and self-discovery.

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Get Treatment for Addiction & Mental Health at Ohio Recovery Centers

We offer a variety of treatment programs for all types of addictions and mental health conditions at Ohio Recovery Centers. 

We offer outpatient programs at different levels of intensity at our Cincinnati, Ohio, treatment center, enabling you to connect with care at an appropriate level of intensity. You can remain anchored to your daily commitments while engaging with evidence-based treatment, hiking and therapy that may include family therapy, group therapy, holistic therapy, psychotherapy, and MAT (medication-assisted treatment). All programs also feature a comprehensive aftercare component to maximize your chances of sustained sobriety.

Call 877-679-2132 today and kickstart your recovery from addiction in Ohio tomorrow.

Table of Contents

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn