The Access Climbing Therapy (ACT) project, is similar to Therapeutic Animal Assisted Activities (TAAA) in that it is again based on the Trauma Recovery Model and again marrying the promotion of emotional wellbeing with physical activities via PACE, MI and Thrive techniques, however, instead of working with companion animals the participants would be taught a new skill in climbing/bouldering.
The basis of the project is the same, building relationships via consistency predictability and reliability (CPR) with a trauma specialist, however, instead of activities with a companion animal, ACT teaches young people to climb. The physical activity side of things is clear but rather than the benefits of the one-to-one work with TAAA, ACT promotes teamwork, collaboration, confidence building, and problem solving in a challenging yet enjoyable manner. ACT wants to build stronger relationships not only with the instructor but also with their peers, friends and colleagues. It also strives to assisted with depression, anxiety and stress relief as well as building resilience to assist with any trauma recovery.
Physical activity has long been used as therapy to treat trauma, but the use of climbing as such is just starting to gain ground. Several organisations across the globe are using climbing in their work with refugees and at-risk youth, among other populations. Climbing requires a high level of concentration and coordination—engaging both body and mind to move in a cohesive, fluid way. This is an effective prescription for trauma.: As Barbara Rubin Wainrib writes in Healing Crisis and Trauma with Mind, Body, and Spirit,
“The harmony of body and mind has been found to be therapeutic after natural catastrophe and can give you inner peace.”
Exercise, climbing included, boosts mood-related chemicals in our brain like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, helping to lift our spirits.
Climbing also promotes feelings of self-efficacy, another therapeutic benefit. Deciphering beta and learning new moves, skills, and techniques provide incentive to keep trying. When we succeed, the brain releases a flood of dopamine, creating neural pathways in our reward-related basal ganglia. Put in layman’s terms, each time we try and succeed in any small or large way, we create positive pathways in our brain’s reward system.
With this in mind, it makes sense to use rock climbing in the treatment of depression and related conditions like anxiety and PTSD.