How the use of outdoor activities makes Calvert Reconnections unique
Speaking at Calvert Reconnections’ recent Zoominar for case managers and solicitors, Activity Lead Rob White made a compelling case for rehabilitation in the great outdoors.
“The use of outdoor activities makes our rehabilitation service unique,” said Rob.
“Working with leading clinicians and academics, our service combines traditional multi-disciplinary clinical therapies with physical activity in the outdoors to support individuals in their recovery from brain injury.”
Rob brings over twenty years’ worth of outdoor coaching experience to the Calvert Reconnections team. He has always been a strong advocate for using outdoor activities to facilitate personal development and this underpins his practice.
In 2018, he qualified with an MSc in Psychology. He researched the influence of rock climbing on people’s mental wellbeing and this highlighted the transformative potential of the outdoors. He uses his knowledge when designing and delivering programmes, focusing on maximising wellbeing by using adventurous activities and the outdoor environment.
“At Reconnections, participants are involved in every aspect of the activities they undertake,” he continued.
“They complete meaningful tasks, from concept to completion, in a real-world setting.
“If, for example, the activity is canoeing, we’ll look at the weather forecast, the number of boats required, where to journey and whether to take a packed lunch. Participants will be involved in the planning and decision-making process throughout the day.”
Rob went on to outline how physical activity promotes neuroplasticity and fitness while outdoor environments and exercise have a positive impact on mental wellbeing.
Extensive research also suggests that outdoor activities can help individuals in their recovery from brain injury.
One paper found that physical exercise has the potential not only to improve physical health but also to have a positive effect on mental alertness and mood in the general population. Exercise can result in an increase in self-esteem and self-worth in all age groups from children to older adults (Baumeister RF., Campbell JD., Krueger JI., and Vohs KD., Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles? Psychological Science in the Public Interest 2003; 4: 1-44).
Studies on the benefits of outdoor activity in addressing problems associated with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) also point to improvements in self-esteem, self-confidence, increased control, memory and planning.
A one-year outcome study of a three-day Outward-Bound Experience (Lemmon J., LaTourrette D., and Hauver S., One Year Outcome Study of Outward-Bound Experience on the Psychosocial Functioning of Women with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury) recorded a range of positive outcomes.
At the one-year evaluation, 83% of the participants ranked themselves above their pre-course rating in an understanding of their strengths and limitations. Other positive changes over the same time span included: ability to rely on others (50%), higher self-esteem (58%) and improvement in problem solving (50%). It was commented that the outdoor challenge course allowed therapists to help the participants recognise and acknowledge their thoughts, feelings and behaviours during the course and that one year later the participants were calling on this understanding to improve their daily functioning.
Another UK pilot programme (Walker A., Onus M., Doyle M., et al., Cognitive rehabilitation after severe traumatic brain injury: A pilot programme of goal planning and outdoor adventure course participation), incorporated a context-sensitive approach to cognitive rehabilitation with a focus on goal planning with goal attainment as an outcome measure. The results revealed a high level of achievement (over 80%) on selected, identified, specific and mainly practical goals. In discussing the results, the authors considered the strength of the project appeared to lie in partly in the motivation provided by the outdoor activity course, which appeared to later encourage participants to work towards broader goals.
“Participants, clinical staff and our specialist team of coaches will work together to plan, undertake and maximise the benefits of challenging activities in the unique environment of the Lake District. The focus will be on achieving personal goals and enhancing cognitive and executive skills.”
Calvert Reconnections opens on 21 June 2021.
Please go to www.calvertreconnections.org.uk for further details.