‘Adventure therapy’ is a new form of therapy helping recovering addicts in Utah

Apr 15, 2020, 12:59 PM

recovering addicts...

Burke Priest (president of Adventures Anonymous) stands with two dirt bikes in southern Utah. (PHOTO:


SALT LAKE CITY — A new program is innovating the way recovering addicts can stay sober with the use of ‘adrenaline adventure therapy’.

Adventures Anonymous is a three-day program. In it, participants will test drive various pieces of equipment, hike to a hot spring and a natural stone arch. They’ll also participate in rock climbing and rappelling in southern Utah.

Burke Priest is the president of Adventures Anonymous. He believes this style of adrenaline therapy can greatly help recovering addicts stay on track.

As a former alcohol addict himself, Burke understands just how impactful this type of therapy can be.

“When you are pulling the throttle on a jet ski, on a snowmobile, on a motorcycle …  You can’t think about your past. You can’t think about what you did wrong,” Burke says. “When those things are happening and rebuilding new neural pathways your old ones are closing. Your guilt, shame, bad past is disintegrating,” Priest said.

Rebuilding neural pathways to help recovering addicts

Research on neuron morphology shows that with help from the continuous practice of new behavior, the brain can create new neural pathways. Studies show that the brain can also lose pathways that are no longer used.

Dr. Matt Woolley, a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Utah, describes neuron morphology as “cutting a new path in the forest.”

“Strong emotions, strong experiences, adrenaline, intoxication, these sorts of things can really quickly build [neural] pathways that are negative and take us to negative places,” Dr. Woolley said. “Being fully focused in the moment is a wonderful way to start rebuilding neural pathways.”

The success behind Adventures Anonymous

The program has been operating for less than a year. But it has already been successful.

“We’ve been in business less than a year now and I have successfully put fourteen people through the program,” Burke said. “Quite a few of the people who have gone through it had previously relapsed and tried several different recovery techniques and to this day … they’re all sober.”

The company currently has a 100% success rate with its participants. But, Burke understands that he’s not going to be able to completely fix someone’s addictive behaviors in three days.

“My goal is, I want to reset your compass,” Burke says. “If you’re in an airplane and you change your compass even one degree before you know it you will be going a totally different direction.

I’m not going to change everything about you in three days. I’m going to reset your compass.”

To learn more about the program and the work that Burke is doing, you can visit the Adventures Anonymous website here.

Listen to the podcast

For more information on addiction or if you or someone you know is struggling, you can find more information on Facebook, KSL TV, or from Use Only as Directed. To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get major podcasts.

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‘Adventure therapy’ is a new form of therapy helping recovering addicts in Utah