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Where wild things grow: Friluftsterapi as a preventative, health promoting, and sustainable method for children with neurodivergence in school, health care, family and leisure settings in Southern Norway

Jorn Vetter

Mountain Medicine, Sweeden

Jorn Vetter is Adventure Therapy Practitioner, originally from the Netherlands, based on the Swedish West Coast. Jorn specialises in addiction treatment, attachment psychology, and the application of adventure therapy practices in working with youth at risk. With his organisation 'Mountain Medicine' he focuses on building a collaborative network for nature-based therapy & training work, bringing together practitioners with therapeutic, educational and alternative backgrounds, in transdisciplinary outdoor learning experiences. Also, he's active as a mental health counselor at Fossum Kollektivet in Norway, supporting young men recovering from substance abuse. Finally, Jorn has recently started a research project in collaboration with SLU's Environmental Psychology department, that focuses on attachment-oriented addiction treatment, and the potential contributions of adventure therapy practice in this work. 

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Addiction, Attachment & Adventure - An Integrative Approach to Recovery from Substance Use Disorder

Addiction is a ‘‘complex and multidimensional phenomenon’’ (Larkin et al. 2006, p. 210). All addiction pathologies share one underlying similarity: they are misguided attempts to self-regulate or self-repair through external means, due to inadequate cognitive and affective development in patients (Kohut, 1977). Due to the isolating, self-destructive and counter-dependent nature of addiction, individuals suffering from substance use disorder are often excluded from mainstream society (Wahlbeck et al. 2011), and even after committing to treatment, often struggle to reposition themselves in the social fabric of community due to their inability to successfully negotiate the demands of a healthy relational existence (Flores, 2006).

Attachment - Theory

In recent psychological research, this lack of psycho-social resilience in SUD patients, has increasingly been treated as a type of ‘attachment disorder’, where experiences with insufficient attachment figures early in life, generate extreme emotional disturbance and disbalance, that contributes to the formation of inadequate psychic

structure and deficient internal working models (IWM) related to the self (Flores, 2006). Until such IWM’s have formed, those living in the grip of addiction, will have continuous difficulties establishing intimate relationships, and be inclined to substitute interpersonal connections with substances (Schindler, 2019; Flores 2006; Rübig et. al,



Addiction - Treatment

With a greater insight into these developmental aspects of SUD, it becomes easier to understand the dramatic drop in success rates of ‘traditional’ clinical treatment approaches; which tend to focus on providing physiological and pharmacological support to secure physical sobriety, but fail to address more complex emotional, mental and existential dimensions of the condition (Du Plessis, 2010). As a result, SUD patients often manage to secure short-term sobriety, but fail to sustain their recovery efforts in the long term (Du Plessis, 2010). An important reason for this, is that these insecurely attached individuals are unable to reconnect with healthy societal roles, and create a connected, purpose-driven lifestyle for themselves in life after treatment, leading to high relapse rates, suicides and persistent psychopathologies in the recovery community (Flores, 2006).


Adventure - Therapy.

One approach that may successfully bridge this therapeutic gap, is adventure therapy, which has a growing international following in the SUD treatment context (Atkins, 2016). AT shows promise as an attachment-sensitive, addiction treatment modality (Gass, et. al, 2020) by creating an environment conducive to the disruption

of insecure or unsafe attachment and offering a nature-based, community-based therapeutic context for ‘attachment repair’ (Bettman et. al 2007). In addition, AT programs foster the introduction of new life experiences within an emotionally safe, yet physically and mentally challenging environment, that provide evidence

contradictory to existing internal representations, and opportunities for the client to develop new psychosocial skills on the road to recovery (Russell, 2001; Gass 2020).


This Session:

Further elaborates on the link between addiction treatment, attachment theory and adventure therapy, introducing and discussing an integrative treatment model that combines adventure therapy practice, 12 steps work, person-centered recovery counseling and attachment-repair processes. Seminar participants will have the

opportunity to learn about the model, and practice some of its central elements in a participatory workshop.

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