Through the adventure therapy program at ChildSafe, Bexar County's only child advocacy center with a focus on children who've been abused and neglected, the healing process is paired with fun, laughter, and activities.
"I think what we're trying to do is empower them so that they know they're stronger than that stuff that happened to them, so they're seeing themselves as capable, as strong, and not as limited by these things that have happened to them in the past," said Fred Borroel, who has been the leader of the adventure program since 2009.
One day the river is his office. The next, it's where he leads a geocaching expedition or takes families rock climbing.
ChildSafe's program will now be the subject of a study by a Texas State University researcher and assistant professor in the school of social work. Dr. Christine Norton will conduct the study to find out how adventure therapy contributes to a victim's life.
As a mom, she thinks the bond created between family members helps create a better outcome.
"We know as practitioners of adventure therapy that this setting really engages people," Norton said. "It engages them emotionally, physically, there's a lot of laughter, you get wet."
Norton will evaluate people who receive counseling and care from ChildSafe and stack her findings against participants of adventure therapy.
"We also want to look and see if it helps the kid do better," Norton said. "When a kid has experienced trauma, a lot of times they have trouble expressing their emotions. They either shut down or act out."
Norton works with the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Cooperative, and is always looking for opportunities to study the effects of adventure therapy. The ChildSafe program just happened to be in her own backyard and she said it couldn't have been a better fit.
Borroel admits the pressure is on for his program, but he's ready to put his money where his mouth is because he knows the study is about increasing care for people.
The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health is providing nearly $20,000 to fund the study, which is expected to last about a year.