Adventure Therapy Takes to the Water in Palm Beach

Adventure Therapy Takes to the Water in Palm Beach

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Rally Point Palm Beach is more than a rehab—it’s a family. This intimate recovery program serves just six men at a time in the balmy beachside community. But this isn’t just any “Florida-style” treatment program. Sure, the phased protocol begins with a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) and structured sober living, followed by an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and outpatient care. But, Rally Point does much more than just help men get sober.

Rally Point uses a peer-driven, holistic approach to teach clients about healthy living. This includes evidence-based group and individual therapy, 12-step meetings, yoga, nutrition and a heavy emphasis on experiential therapies like art, music and outdoor adventures. The team vibe at Rally Point helps clients form a tight, supportive community. There is literally “no man left behind” as the residents support, encourage and hold each other accountable in the early stages of sobriety.

Monthly three-hour sessions of outdoor therapy add an element of adventure to this unique program. But this isn’t just run of the mill surfing lessons or beach outings—these are structured outdoor therapeutic adventures led by licensed Master’s-level therapist and seasoned adventurer, Jonathan Rios. For example, clients have the opportunity to experience swimming with manatees and sea turtles or kayaking to remote islands where they are encouraged to spend time meditating on the beach. They also learn to work as a team to navigate mangrove mazes and sandy obstacle courses.

Rios is no stranger to addiction. He has worked in the field of mental health and recovery for more than 12 years. In addition to being a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of Florida, he has a BA in Psychology and Philosophy as well as a Master’s in Psychology and Counseling. His day job is as a staff Psychotherapist at a different treatment center, but his true passion is the outdoors. Rios spends as much time as possible on the water—diving, spearfishing, paddle boarding and kayaking.

This love of adventure and drive to help people led Rios and his wife, Kayla, to start their adventure therapy company, Thriiv, in June of 2016. Being a therapist, an avid outdoorsman and uniquely positioned in the year-round sunshine-filled rehab wonderland of South Florida, an outdoor therapy consulting company is a natural fit for Thriiv—pun intended.

Rios explains, “So many treatment centers in South Florida “sell” the beach, but they don’t use the beach. Our goal with Thriiv is to get clients outside and teach them to really engage with nature.”

The partnership between Rally Point and Rios is also a good match. As a seasoned therapist, Rios has spent plenty of time in the rehab world. This has made him selective about what type of clients he works with through Thriiv. He started working with Rally Point more than a year ago and enjoys having them as a client. He appreciates the “trust factor” he shares with the team at Rally Point, not just on a business level, but because he knows they genuinely care about helping their guys stay sober and become better people.

“Rally Point is nice because it’s a small organization and the guys really benefit from the staff-to-client ratio—I can see that when I meet with them. It’s very professional without feeling too clinical.”

And Rios’ protocol is anything but clinical. In fact, he never even sets foot inside Rally Point. He meets the guys on location for structured, scripted adventures. Each session starts with a check-in. Rios asks the guys how their minds and bodies are feeling and what issues they’re facing. This is important because Rios knows that recovering addicts are often working with bodies that have been misused, malnourished and not properly exercised. They sometimes begin with stretching and deep breathing to help loosen up and connect to their physical space.

Many of the clients come to Rally Point with no experience with water or marine life. Being outside in nature forces them drop the masks and the lingo that they learn to put on in traditional therapeutic settings and allow their authentic selves to show. Rios describes adventure therapy as often “messy” with clients feeling apprehensive, facing fears and anxiety and sometimes failing multiple times before they get the hang of an activity. As the men face these struggles, fall in the water, fight against the waves and ultimately manage to accomplish their goals, they build confidence that translates to life on land. They also get to experience a deeper sense of camaraderie as they pull together to encourage their peers.

Another valuable component of Rios’ brand of water-based adventure therapy is the escape it offers from everyday problems. Staying sober in early recovery is often an hour-by-hour—or minute-by-minute—proposition. When clients are out on the water, trying to balance on a paddleboard or navigate a current in their kayak, they stop counting time for a bit. Disconnecting from the avalanche of details that accompany rebuilding life after addiction and simply focusing on wind, waves and breath is the perfect therapeutic experience.

At the end of each adventure, the clients come back together on dry land to debrief. Checking in about how their bodies and minds are feeling allows them to recognize their own growth and to share their process with one another. Rios often notices a shift in the clients as they open up in an unrehearsed setting and considers these conversations outside the comfort zone of rehab an excellent ground for gaining insight and self-awareness.

Rally Point is a stand-out in the South Florida recovery world. Not because it offers flash or luxury, although the accommodations are comfortable. What makes this facility different is the intimate setting and commitment to its guys. This includes  having licensed, experienced therapists facilitate every aspect of the recovery process—even when it happens outdoors.

Get more information on Rally Point on their website, by calling 1-888-797-2559 or find them on Facebook. Check out Thriiv on Instagram

Photo courtesy of Thriiv, used with permission. 

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