One of the best things about group therapy is that sessions are conducted amongst and in mutual support of one’s peers.

Whether in a recovery or overcoming an addiction, the VA Southern Nevada Residential Recovery & Renewal Center uses unique methods of team building. Recently, a group of Veterans participated in such an activity – they strapped on harnesses and climbing shoes at the Red Rock Climbing Center to face obstacles and reach new heights.

It’s about teamwork and team building.

“This event was meant to introduce Veterans to gym climbing and rock climbing,” said Craig DeMartino, climbing manager with Adaptive Adventures who helped facilitate the event.

“It’s a great way to acclimate them to basic climbing movements.”

Helps with recovery

While climbing might seem unusual for Veterans struggling with addiction, DeMartino emphasized its interoperability with recovery.

“There are a lot of transferable characteristics,” said the 30-year climbing expert who has been teaching climbing techniques for 15 years. “It’s team building and teamwork. Climbing is an incredibly supportive community.”

While the challenge of climbing can be intimidating, Veterans and mentors both scaled the walls with composure. The “rocks” ranged in both size and difficulty, but all participants met the challenge head on.

“I think today went really well,” said Chris Hayes, recreation therapist and one of the on-scene mentors at the Red Rock event. “Each Veteran gave it their all and did great. There is an entire community of people from around the world who have a passion for rock climbing. By introducing Veterans to rock climbing, not only are we giving them a recreational activity they can continue upon discharge, we are also giving them a community to become a part of.”

“Challenged me mentally and physically.”

“I think that rock climbing is great,” said patient Galen. “You get out and are able to test yourself mentally as well as physically. Personally, it was a great experience. I have found a sport I like I can do all by myself as well as work on my inner self and thoughts while I am conquering the climbs.”

“It challenged me mentally and physically,” said Wade, another patient. “It actually made me think I found a new hobby and maybe something I could get my son into.”

Red Rock Canyon continues to attract Veterans with recreational opportunities. They can join the climbing community as part of the reintegration process.

“We have it set up so our Veterans can have free entry to the climbing gym and free gear use, even upon discharge, so they can climb whenever they have the desire to do so,” Hayes concluded.


Greg Frazho is a public affairs specialist with the Las Vegas VA Medical Center.

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