Recovery Adventure Day (RAD) is an interactive, experiential therapy program that I designed specifically to support individuals who are recovering from drug and alcohol addictions and compulsive behaviors.  In my work as both a therapist and teacher at Loyola University Chicago, I have found using physical games and challenges to be an effective and enjoyable way of engaging people in a range of tasks, including recovery from addiction.  The physical nature of the activities employed during Recovery Adventure Day (RAD) allows participants to kinesthetically practice many of the principles that are central to recovery; chief among these is being able to ask for and receive help.

The clients at New Hope Recovery Center who have participated in Recovery Adventure Day (RAD) have been in the early stages of their recoveries.  We have been emphasizing accepting help as a highly transferable and useful behavior.  One example of an activity that fosters this behavior is Blind Walk, during which partners take turns being blindfolded, and accepting guidance and support from each other.  While this activity obviously requires giving and accepting help, virtually all of the challenges presented during Recovery Adventure Day (RAD) are geared to encourage reliance upon the group and mutual trust between group members.  The concept at play here is that being able to rely on and accept help from a group is highly transferable to both mutual aid groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as well as to professionally led therapy groups, both of which constitute the mainstay of many people’s successful journeys to long-term recovery from addiction.

In addition to offering an opportunity to practice accepting help, RAD offers its participants an opportunity to kinesthetically experience the first three of The Twelve Steps, as follows:

(Step 1) An experience of powerlessness is often evoked through one of several Tag games such as Amoeba Tag.  Players of these games find that sooner or later, they must succumb to the inevitable.

(Step 2) Coming to believe that a power greater than oneself can restore one to sanity is realized through several activities that are impossible to do alone; they can only be accomplished by accepting the strength of the group (a power greater than oneself).  Successful completion of such an activity can represent a return to sanity.

(Step 3) Making a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this power, is discovered through a series of trust activities such as Willow in the Wind in which group members allow themselves to be physically supported by each other.

Time is taken following each activity, and also at the end of the half-day program, to explore how the experience can be integrated into each group member’s recovery and personal development.  Participants in RAD have shared some noteworthy realizations about themselves.  For example, it was a revelation to one person that he was capable of having fun while being sober.  Another participant found herself seizing control of the group throughout the day.  She realized that she does the same thing with her family members, often resulting in increased interpersonal strife at home.   Another person who had previously been estranged from the treatment group found that the physical nature of RAD allowed him to connect more easily with his peers.  All three of these individuals had indeed discovered “New Hope” during Recovery Adventure Day (RAD).

New Hope Recovery Center’s primary therapists have been co-facilitating Recovery Adventure Day with me, with great success.  Their knowledge of clients’ primary issues has allowed them to assist the clients in gaining maximum therapeutic value from their experience in Recovery Adventure Day (RAD).  I am pleased to be collaborating with New Hope Recovery Center’s staff each month to bring a fun and novel element to what can sometimes be a painstaking process of committing to a new way of living.  I feel that is it important that our clients find a way to enjoy the process of recovery; that way they may be more likely to stay the course.

I am always curious to hear from those who have participated in Recovery Adventure Day, or from others who may have questions or thoughts about experiential therapy.  Please feel free to contact me at barneystraus@gmail.com or visit my website at http://www.barneystraus.com/.