The Climbing Wall is one element of Sierra Tucson’s Therapeutic and Recreational Activities Program. Self-discovery often crystallizes during an experience that requires physical and mental exertion in the face of a potentially fearful activity. With its height and verticality, the Climbing Wall serves as an important therapeutic metaphor. As residents confront the physical demands of the wall and the challenge to scale it, they discover personal emotional truths concerning fear, trust, honesty, and dependency.
Benefits of the Climbing Wall
The following are among the benefits that residents can gain from completing activities such as the climbing wall:
- Increased awareness of the relationship between behaviors and consequences
- Improved self-image and self-esteem
- Confidence boost
- Increased ability to trust (both self and others)
- Appreciation for the power of focus and being in the moment
- Faith in one’s ability solve problems and overcome challenges
- Discovery of personal qualities such as inner strength and perseverance
- Lessons From the Climbing Wall
Though outwardly a primarily physical activity, completing the climbing wall can help residents look at life from a new perspective and re-evaluate their previously held convictions and assumptions about themselves and their role within their family, workplace, school, and/or community.
Of course, the ultimate objective for any therapeutic activity is to take the skills and insights developed during the activity and transfer them to real life situations. The climbing wall facilitates the following types of skill transfers:
Specific transfer: In the process of completing the climbing wall, residents may develop new physical skills, such as spotting, belaying, and climbing. Since one aspect of addiction treatment is finding new and healthy ways of occupying time that was previously spent using drugs, gaining new recreational capabilities can be a significant development.
Non-specific transfer: In addition to demonstrating the physical skills required to actually make it to the top of the climbing wall, succeeding in this therapeutic activity also involves “intangibles” such as trusting in oneself and others, persevering in the face of adversity, and effectively communicating. These inner capabilities have myriad real-world applications, even for those whose real-world responsibilities don’t include climbing walls.
Metaphoric transfer: Metaphor can be a powerful element in residential treatment for addiction and related conditions — and adventure therapy (such as climbing walls, ropes courses, and wilderness excursions) offer many opportunities to employ metaphor as a means of looking at one’s life from a different perspective. Climbing walls and overcoming similar physical obstacles are excellent metaphors for addressing and overcoming challenges at home, in school, and at the workplace.