By his own admission, Andy Hamilton is not particularly skilled at the art of self-promotion, but as a psychologist for the Recre8 bush adventure program, he does have some insightful advice for kids and parents alike.
Conducting his practice counselling young people with drug and alcohol issues in northern NSW, Andy began to recognise the need for a different approach to tackling the problems faced by these emerging adults:
“We wanted to offer something for young people who seemed to fall through the gaps, who needed a level of support that just doesn’t come from having conventional counselling once a fortnight. The idea of adventure therapy offered the chance to do my job in a way that was much more effective and appealing to them.”
Teaming up with experienced outdoor adventure guide Graham Pringle from Outward Bound, and the Buttery drug and alcohol rehabilitation service meant that this unique concept of treatment could become a reality, and the Recre8 bush adventure therapy program was formed.
When asked who this program is targeted towards he replies , ‘There’s no good term really, disadvantaged youth, traumatised youth, at-risk youth. We initially aimed at the pointy end of this problem- those that are most at risk. But we have since moved back from this area as we found that the kids who were able to get the most out of the program were those who were struggling, but were also really looking to make positive changes in their lives, and just needed this kind of opportunity and some really good support”
So how does an arduous journey through the Australian wilderness assist youth with their troubles?
Andy is adamant that “it gives the young people the chance to understand how trauma may have impacted them and their behaviours and arms them with the ability to heal and find new ways to live. It supports them to develop a new confidence and can help in overcoming depression and anxiety.”
Of course, it mustn’t be forgotten that parents and caregivers play a vital role in shaping the behaviour and character of those in their charge and Andy has some helpful, philosophical advice in guiding kids to adulthood.
“Find a way within yourself and within your relationship with them to relate to them. As Parents/caregivers we stand upon our personal mountain trying to haul our offspring to the top. But what we must understand is that children are actually upon their own mountain with its own unique struggles. From your mountain you’re in a unique position to offer insight and advice about their journey. But they are not below you following in your footsteps.”
Away from his involvement with the program, Andy also seeks the therapeutic qualities of the outdoors, by kayaking and snorkelling as well as camping with friends and family.
While they are immensely proud of his efforts with Recre8, Andy tells us that they do have one criticism: “Friends say I’m not particularly good at blowing my own trumpet!”
This one is one of the reasons Andy and Recre8 have teamed up with One Health Organisation. Excessively busy with implementing the program itself, OHO can reduce his workload by telling Recre8’s story.
“OHO gives us an organisational home and is able to share our passion for the project and help us bring it into the world.”