Mount Prospect Academy's recently constructed climbing tower has provided students with new opportunities to push their comfort zones, participate in therapy, and get exercise.
The tower was built in fall 2017, and it is managed by MPA's Adventure Based program. Climbing can help students learn to trust themselves and others, while providing healthy exercise, according to Mike Adamkowski, executive director of MPA's Adventure Based Trauma Informed Treatment program.
"Climbing gives us an opportunity to talk with students about comfort zones," Adamkowski said: "It can be easy to only engage in activities when we're reasonably certain about the outcomes. But there’s this whole other world of things – whether it’s school, relationships, or physical challenges where we're uncertain about the outcome – and that’s where personal growth can happen."
Climbing allows students an opportunity to push their comfort zones in a safe, sustainable way, Adamkowski added.
The Adventure-Based program focuses on offering Adventure Therapy, which is an action-centered treatment. Adventure activities include participating in a challenge course, rock climbing, backpacking, biking, and paddling.
Adventure Therapy seeks to create a physical challenge or perceived risk in a controlled, safe environment. The unfamiliar nature of these activities, combined with the sense of community developed during participation, creates a climate where students can challenge their current perceptions and behaviors, affording them an opportunity to modify maladaptive behaviors.
The sense of overcoming a challenge or perceived risk through teamwork and perseverance can be significant in eliciting desired behavioral changes. Debriefings after an activity can help reinforce the importance of positive behavioral changes, which are synonymous with psychological healing.
There are therapeutic benefits to using climbing – where students can start at the ground and choose to challenge themselves as much as they choose, Adamkowski added.
"We have some kids just go up three or four feet and then climb horizontally where they’re more comfortable,” Adamkowski said. "Students can choose to go up beside a friend so they can feel more comfortable, or they can make the climb more challenging by only using certain, difficult climbing holds."
Adamkowski added that his program trains students to take an active role in ensuring their peers' safety. Under staff supervision, students can double-check safety precautions and belay their peers who are climbing up the wall.
Students often struggle with the question of whether it's harder to be responsible for someone else's safety, or more difficult to trust someone else with their own safety.
”We really work both sides of trusting people," Adamkowski said. "You can take that and relate that to other places in students' lives, whether its school, family, or friends.”