In 2022, we completed the first Adventure Therapy Trek at Indiahikes.
We had dreamt of this day for a long time. We had seen how impactful the outdoors were on people. We wanted to see if we could harness the goodness of the outdoors to help those struggling with personal issues.
"The results of the Adventure Therapy trek turned out to be much more than I expected," shares Izzat Yaganagi, head of Experiential Learning at Indiahikes, who designed and facilitated the Adventure Therapy programme. Izzat is also a Psychological Counsellor with a practice of over 13 years.
During the 4 day trek at Dayara Bugyal, while the trek did its own magic, Izzat facilitated several experiences. Talking therapy and experiential learning were key features in the adventure therapy experiences. Aditya Bodke, a Senior Trek Leader at Indiahikes, assisted her in facilitating these experiences, ensuring a safe and supportive environment.
They saw first-hand the impact that the Adventure Therapy trek had on the participants. They shared several learnings with us, many of them unexpected.
We thought we'd share them with you today.
1. Adventure therapy isn't meant only for those with serious issues
One of our biggest learnings has been that adventure therapy isn’t meant only for those with serious issues.
“In our daily lives, a vast majority of us go through minor psychological issues, which can be resolved through small interventions. It could be relationship issues, family issues, work issues, lack of confidence or just a sense of feeling low. Adventure therapy on a trek is a golden opportunity for such cases,” says Izzat.
A participant, Sahana Harish, who was struggling with confidence issues before the Adventure Therapy trek, says, “I would really recommend this programme to anyone feeling under confident or having self doubt. The trek had an immense impact on me, which I can sense even two months down the line. In fact, after the trek, I came back and had a big success.
“I have been a defence aspirant for a long time. For almost a year I had been feeling very under confident to give my exams and physicals. But after the Adventure Therapy trek, I’ve changed. It gave me a huge boost. After coming back, I confidently went and cracked the physicals. My entire outlook of myself has changed,” she says.
We’re hoping that Adventure Therapy opens up a wonderful new avenue for those going through daily struggles. It’s a simple and effective way to get past the struggle and restart life after just 6 days of an adventure therapy trek.
2. Trekking catalyses the therapeutic process.
In a regular therapy set-up, a lot of effort goes into creating an environment where the participant can arrive at their problems. Mr Murli Sundrani, who was a participant in the Adventure Therapy Trek and holds a Masters in Counselling Psychology says, “In regular therapy, initially, participants are tentative, sceptical, not ready to open up immediately,” he shares.
“On the trek, however, two things were at play that heightened emotions and brought about vulnerability on the very first day. First, the trek itself. Camping in tents in the wilderness, the cold weather, using unfamiliar toilets... The sheer physical demands of the trek added to the vulnerability. We were continuously out of our comfort zones,” he shares.
“Secondly, on the very first day, our therapist, Izzat, facilitated an outdoor experience that changed the entire group dynamics. She asked each of us to bring a piece of fallen wood that we could identify with our stories. It was a simple enough task. But over the next few hours, it brought out everyone’s deepest issues and created a strong sense of trust and cohesion in the group,” he adds.
“Indeed, the first day was pretty intense. It kind of melted everyone and moulded them into a trusting group,” recollects Izzat.
“On the other hand, the trek itself was a big boost to all of us. We climbed a summit, we went bouldering, we crossed streams. Most of us did not imagine we could do these things. When we accomplished the trek, that in itself was a huge burst of positivity,” says Mr Murli.
As we have seen at Indiahikes, even regular treks have an impact on the mind, body and spirit of people. But with the addition of a therapist who can blend nature therapy, talking therapy and experiential learning, a trek can work wonders to help those in distress.
3. The trek, the therapist, the design of the programme and the group have almost equal roles to play
Though this was not a complete surprise to us, for most it could be unexpected. Because most believe that the trek and the therapist matter the most. But as we spoke to more and more participants, it reaffirmed our belief that the program design and the group have an almost equal role to play in its success.
“The overall structure of the program and the trek had a very big role to play in making the Adventure Therapy trek effective — the group activities, the individual activities, the one on one conversations. These are what brought people together and brought a change in perspective as well,” says Nagendra Prasad, who was among the participants.
“For me one of the most crucial aspects of this program design was the one on one sessions with the therapist. We sat at the campsite and chatted, or we spoke on the trail. Those conversations helped us get a lot of clarity on our issues. Additionally what helped was the pre-trek conversation we had with her to share our troubles,” says Mr Murli.
Nagendra agrees, saying, “Even now, after so many days of the trek, I go back to those conversations to regain clarity on my own thoughts.”
For all of them though, the team that was trekking with them also had a very big role to play. “When you see people sharing raw emotions, openly expressing what they are going through, you are kind of encouraged to do the same,” says Nagendra.
Sahana adds, “After listening to the others, I felt like my problems were so petty, and that I could get over them easily. Hearing everyone out and having their support throughout the trek, and even after, really made a difference to the trek.”
All said and done, the entire group is still in touch with each other, meeting regularly, helping and encouraging each other to remain in a good mental space.
Read Lonely Planet's story on How India is Embracing Adventure Therapy Treks
4. The taboo surrounding therapy is slowly disappearing.
“This was one of the happiest surprises for me,” admits Izzat, who says she was not expecting too many people to apply for such a programme.
“When we opened the Adventure Therapy trek, I was wondering if many would sign up, given that it meant they would have to bare their hearts out and be vulnerable in a group with strangers,” she says.
“Add to it the fact that most people don’t admit they need or want therapy,” she says.
“But when I saw that within three days, over 178 people applied to participate, I was truly surprised,” she says. “Even though we could select a maximum of 18 participants, it was heartening to see that the taboo surrounding therapy is slowly going away,” she adds.
With all the learnings that we have had from the first Adventure Therapy trek, we are going to make small changes to the program.
But one thing is for sure — such a program is extremely beneficial for those undergoing it. There is a dire need for such programs in our country.
“For normal daily issues in life, regular treks will do the trick. But if you’re really stuck in life, tried finding a solution and haven’t been successful, then just one Adventure Therapy trek can be an extremely powerful tool to help you,” shares Izzat.
“It's an eye opener not just for us, but for the entire adventure therapy community," she adds.
Our next Adventure Therapy Trek
Our next Adventure Therapy Trek will be held between February 21-26.
This trek is going to be held at the beautiful Dayara Bugyal. The program will be facilitated again by Ms Izzat Yaganagi, head of our experiential learning program. The base camp, the campsites, the meadows, mountain views, they all lend themselves to a great setting for therapy.
The adventure therapy trek fee is Rs: 12,845 + 5% GST (base camp to base camp).
You’ll find more details about the Dayara Bugyal trek on this page.
If you’d like to be a part of our Adventure Therapy trek, follow this link to fill the form below:
We will be keeping the group small, with around 15 members. The slots will be confirmed only after an interview with Ms Izzat Yaganagi, on a first-come-first-served basis.
I’d like to clarify this here. This trek is not meant for those who are undergoing therapy for serious psychological issues.
(It is also not meant for those who do not find a place in our regular groups.)
If you are wondering whether you qualify for it, follow this link to register. We will consider your situation and let you know.