Building Holistic Recovery Communities - Trail Therapy goes from strength to strength
Trail Therapy is an innovative intervention programme that seeks to use mountain biking in combination with more traditional therapy techniques to support those with a diagnosed mental health illness. The aim of the Trail Therapy programme was and is ambitious but we are continuing to progress the programme, rolling out to further areas across Scotland
Funding from NatureScot was instrumental in enabling us to get this programme off the ground. Without this initial financial support, we would not be where we are today and while the programme is not yet financially secure, times are exciting for us as we take this programme to a whole new level.
To date the programme has reached over 80 folk experiencing mental ill health with over 90 sessions being delivered across Dundee, Lanarkshire, Fife, Scottish Borders, Stirlingshire and West Highlands. Most participants attend at least one block of 6 sessions, some return for a second and now we are seeing folk coming back for a third block. One key reason for folk returning is the desire to continue to experience the social side of Trail Therapy, and for many of the folk we work with, this is so very important. Many are socially isolated either through anxiety related mental ill health conditions or because of the stigma still associated with mental ill health.
The next stage of the programme has seen the number of delivery partners increase as communities want to get involved and work together to support each other in our well being and embrace the trail therapy ethos.
Recently Comrie Croft and Progression Bikes have joined the trail therapy recovery community as delivery partners and after training from ourselves, are now delivering sessions.
Emily Greaves - Trail Therapy Leader at Comrie Croft
Since reading about the Tweed Valley pilot and seeing the film nearly four years ago, I have known it is something I want to be involved with. Mountain biking plays a huge part in my life. I want to share the same benefit it gives me with other people. To show them how they can use mountain biking as a tool to help them through difficult times.
When a rider says to you that "this has done more for me than any intense therapy or medication", what more affirmation do you need that this is a really important project to keep making happen.
Adam Flint - Trail Therapy leader - Progression Bikes, Dunkeld
Progression Bikes has been keen on supporting this project from the outset, and with Electric Mountain Bikes we can address the issues of mobility and physical fitness of participants. This will be a ‘first’ for the Trail Therapy programme and will be a giant leap forward in terms of the evolution of mountain bike trail therapy.
With ebikes we can dramatically increase exploration of a wide geographical area encompassing the communities within rural Tayside. Increasing awareness of mountain biking, tourism, and other business within Tayside by producing a new MTB Trail Therapy film focussing on a holistic supportive recovery community using MTB as the catalyst.
We are also keen to signpost Trail Therapy participants onto other aspects of mountain biking including the Tayside Trail Association, using it as an example of individuals outside the geographical 'communities' coming together to form its own community, and how whether it is Perth, Coupar Angus, Dunkeld, the current or potential groups have something in common.
With interest in Trail Therapy exceeding our expectations (and capacity) we are now having to look to expand in ways we never really imagined. Interest and support is worldwide! As a snapshot:
- In North Wales we have a counselling organisation, supported by an experienced mountain bike Tutor looking to replicate what we have achieved in Scotland.
- Here in Scotland we have a funding bid in place that if successful could ensure Trail Therapy delivers across Scotland for 3 years. The target audience is a very specific and one we have significant support to develop; young people at risk of or already engaging in criminal or antisocial behaviour. This will be a hard fought pot of money and we are not too sure of our chance of success but in investigating and contacting folk involved in supporting these individuals, we feel that even if we are not successful this time round, the opportunity through other funding pots could become available.
- In Switzerland, a small cohort of psychologists and teachers working with disenfranchised young folk are looking to us to train them so they can deliver Trail Therapy in their home country.
- A version of Trail Therapy is now being delivered in Brighton and Hove by trained councillors and mountain bike leaders.
- Evaluation has been a challenge but is now taking place with focus groups and individual interviews happening as we speak! This is very exciting although it has been a long time in coming.
- We have been approached by a researcher at Caltech University (California) who is soon to move to the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to be part of their research into the neurophysiological changes that happen in folk experiencing this form of alternative therapy. We won’t know for around 5 months whether this can take place but it is very exciting as it could provide strong evidence for this programme, supporting the behavioural change evidence being investigated by Edinburgh Napier University.
As Trail Therapy becomes more popular, and as donations continue to come in through the Scottish MTB Health Fund, we are at an amazing crux point. We will continue to explore the future potential and direction of this programme. Exciting times, and we couldn’t have done it without your support.
Thank you and please consider donating to the Scottish MTB Health Fund to support our work in this area, if you can.