Sven De Wilde, the first climbing therapist in Belgium, says his approach can help people who suffer from depression and anxiety disorders. "Because by putting your safety in the hands of your supervisor, you learn to trust others," he says.
De Wilde’s ‘climbing against fear’ approach to therapy has come about from years studying the practice. After following his own research, the professional sports teacher from Laarne ended up in Austria where he undertook training in the practice.
"With classical therapies, there is a lot of talk about your fears," he says. "But when climbing, you are physically confronted with it, because many people have never done it. I then ask how they deal with that fear, and they can extend that to situations in daily life where they experience other fears. Because if you can deal with it in the climbing gym, you might also be able to do that in daily life."
People with depression, burnout or those who get paralysed by their own fears can go to De Wilde for climbing therapy. The results are very good, he says. "Universities in America and England have done several studies, and there the effect of climbing therapy has been proven."
Not only for children
De Wilde works at a school for children with autism and the encouraging progress from those students that took to the climbing wall convinced him of the benefits of climbing therapy. "I noticed that those children in the climbing gym were blooming again,” he says. “They felt confident and successful again by being able to climb such a wall. That gave them the confidence to go for it again at school."
Now De Wilde wants to not only help the children of his school, but also anyone who wants to experience the freeing nature of climbing therapy.