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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, The Netherlands

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 - Exploring the potential of residential adventure/wilderness therapy programs in the context of addiction treatment

Addiction is a ‘‘complex and multidimensional phenomenon’’ (Larkin et al. 2006, p. 210). Individuals with substance disorders seek out and use drugs with impaired control, at the expense of other aspects of their lives, and negative consequences arise from this behavior (Durrant et al. 2009).Kohut (1977) postulated that all addictions pathologies share one underlying similarity: they are misguided attempts to self-regulate or self-repair through external means, due to the absence of sufficient, adequate psychic structures and/or internal working models (IWM) related to self and others. 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 and compulsive behavior (Flores, 2004; 2006). In response to this specific relational aspect of substance abuse disorder (SUD) and treatment, attachment theory has received an increased interest (Flores, 2004; 2006). This paper takes a closer look at the relationship between addiction issues and attachment patterns, and investigates the implications of attachment theory for SUD treatment. In particular, this contribution explores one particular treatment modality that offers attachment-specific interventions, relevant to the case of substance use disorders; residential adventure/wilderness therapy. The aim of this paper is not to offer an in-depth analysis of the entire field or therapeutic effectiveness per se, but instead demonstrate the potential for future application of adventure/wilderness therapy modalities in the context of addiction pathology. One particular element highlighted in this paper, is how residential wilderness therapy program may offer attachment-specific solutions to participants, both on the level of interpersonal attachment by providing avenues for personal growth in a safe place with community context supported by secure attachment figures in the form of mentors and therapists (Bettman, et. al, 2007; Gass et. al, 2020); as well as on the level of place attachment through the establishment of a relationship with the natural environment, which in itself holds benefits for self-regulation, recovery and restoration (Scannell & Gifford, 2013; Bragg & Atkins, 2016). 

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