Adventure Therapy: How The Ohana Is Helping Addiction Patients Achieve Greater Self-Confidence

When most people think of treatments for substance abuse disorders, they envision medications, long hospital stays, and support groups. While they can still be part of an addict’s recovery, a new option has emerged – adventure therapy. Incorporated into addiction treatment plans at The Ohana Addiction Treatment Center, adventure therapy helps patients accomplish what meds cannot do on their own: break their isolation, increase their resilience, and grow their self-esteem. The result is a firmer foundation for the patient’s lifelong commitment to active sobriety.

The Ohana is a luxury rehab and Hawaii’s only dual diagnosis and evidence-based holistic program. The 6,000-ft.2 facility is located in Kailua-Kona on the slopes of Hualalai. Its three acres of land are full of trees, flower and vegetable gardens, wildlife, walking trails, and views of the Kona Coast and Pacific Ocean. Inside the immaculate buildings, licensed staff guide patients in The Ohana’s evidence-based, personalized addiction treatment programs, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, ecopsychology, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Additionally, the facility offers a family therapy program as well as WiFi so that patients can work or study remotely.

Founder Elliott Smith explains that to provide holistic, personalized addiction treatment for each patient, The Ohana also incorporates adventure therapy. “You can think of it as a combination of nature, community, and exercise,” he says. “People with drug or alcohol addiction very often avoid dealing with their fears or stress. They struggle to trust themselves and other people. All of those issues can be obstacles to recovery. The Ohana’s Adventure Therapy Program encourages patients to overcome these hurdles and have more self-confidence.”

While many of The Ohana’s services, including traditional treatment, detoxification, inpatient, therapy, counseling, and aftercare support, are based on-site, the Adventure Therapy Program takes patients around the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii. Outings include kayaking off Hapuna Beach, hiking through the Pololu Valley, riding horses at Waimea, ziplining at Hamakua, exploring active volcanoes, and snorkeling near Kona.

Exciting and fun as these activities are, they are more than just simple sightseeing excursions. Instead, they challenge each patient to step outside of their isolation, connect with others, and believe in their own potential to accomplish more than they realized.

“At the heart of each outing is ‘Ohana,’ which means ‘family,’ as well as the Hawaiian concepts of balance, love, and fellowship,” says Elliott. “Whether we are looking at sea turtles or admiring the sunset, we are doing it together. Addiction thrives in isolation, so we concentrate on helping patients to connect with each other during our adventures.”

He reveals that one of the most beneficial results of Adventure Therapy is a heightened ability to handle stress. While each activity is safe, patients may be uncertain about their ability to hike up a trail or zip line across treetops. Staff are there to encourage them to push themselves past their perceived limits and see what they can truly do.

“When a patient goes beyond their fears, we celebrate that achievement,” Elliott states. “We are thrilled for them when they are able to deepen their resilience and mindfulness, two qualities that are vital to success in addiction recovery.”

As beneficial as adventure therapy and other options are, however, he believes that lasting recovery and sobriety ultimately come down to one factor: a true commitment from the addict to stay the course.

“While recovery is not easy and never will be, the good news is that when you make the decision to seek help, The Ohana will be there for you,” says Elliott. “We have a peaceful environment where you can focus on yourself, WiFi so that you can stay connected, a caring staff, and innovative treatments. Our door is open to you as soon as you are ready to walk through it.”

About the Ohana

The Ohana Addiction Treatment Center is Hawaii’s world-class alcohol and drug treatment facility on the Big Island of Hawaii. Its licensed, accredited program offers  privacy, including medical detox and residential in-patient care. The Ohana helps individuals attain long-term recovery through adventure-filled, trauma-informed, culturally connected, and evidence-based practices. For more information, please visit

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