Let’s just put it out there that I am the CEO of a company that specializes in delivering Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) training via a tangible, self-led curriculum. As they say, “You stand where you sit.” Such is the case for me as a strong proponent of experiential learning in the mental healthcare space.
But where did my conscious bias come from? Well, that story just happens to be the origins of Chimney Trail’s Waypoint Kit.
When we founded Chimney Trail, like most young, scalable companies, our first stop was “talking to customers and experts.” We interviewed any potential customer that would listen. We asked them:
- What do you do in your life that doesn’t take a lot of effort?
- What are the things you look forward to each day even if it DOES require effort?
- What are the things about your childhood that you remember the most?
- Were they good or bad memories?
- How do you like to learn?
Immediately after talking to customers, we asked every mental healthcare professional we could track down the following:
- What works best in treating destructive anxiety and depression?
- How can we help our kids and even ourselves break free from harmful social media use?
- Will it ever be possible to create enough providers to meet the demand signal for clinical mental healthcare intervention?
If you were following along and answering in your mind, you probably came up with something that looks like a clinically-vetted product that is delivered to your door without effort. This product would show up at some regular interval and would involve you rather than preaching to you. It would also free you from digital distraction and incorporate elements of outdoor fun into whatever you happen to be doing.
So there you have it. A nuts and bolts description of a Chimney Trail Waypoint Kit.
The problem is, also like young, scalable companies, our second stop was talking to venture capital investors.
You see, contrary to popular belief, venture capitalists are people too. They have investors of their own. Generally, those investors like to make money, so, venture capital firms have very specific criteria for what types of companies receive their funding.
The methods they use, look at a company’s earnings to date, make some assessment as to whether their potential investment will rapidly improve the Lifetime Customer Value to Customer Acquisition Cost ratio, and then pour money on the model in the hopes of seeing a hockey stick-shaped growth curve. Unless you're selling revolutionary tech, they're mostly on the hunt for known "money printing machines."
The problem is, companies that make something like a clinically-vetted product that is delivered to your door without effort at some regular interval, involving you rather than preaching to you, and incorporating elements of outdoor fun into whatever you happen to be doing; are not the easiest businesses to model in the venture capital way.
It is FAR easier to project venture capital-friendly looking growth with an app or a trinket. Consequently, you have a mental healthcare marketplace full of shiny new apps and “one size fits all” trinkets.
You might be thinking, “But Matt, apps are super accessible.” You are right about that! But, for every accessibility advantage you can dream up, I can point to things like their tendency to drive us to platforms contributing to our mental illnesses. I can point to their soft bigotry, completely ignoring society's rural citizens with something less than broadband internet. I can point to the bookshelves of research showing us that “tracking” something isn’t the same as “doing the work.” Just ask my treadmill/coat rack ;)
In today's rapidly changing world, we need a system of learning that helps us to separate our feelings from the sometimes illogical thoughts that cause them. We need to present these lessons in as tangible a way as is practical. As CEO of Chimney Trail -a mental healthcare company that specializes in activity-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) curricula- I have witnessed the transformative impact of engaging in self-led, physical activities to promote learning and mental well-being. Stick with me over the next few bullet points. I’d like to share why a curriculum that combines CBT with activity-based learning surpasses online-only mental healthcare in terms of effectiveness, engagement, and holistic long-term healing.
Number 1: Fostering Engagement and Active Learning - One of the primary advantages of an activity-based CBT curriculum is its ability to foster engagement and active learning. This is a MASSIVE advantage because the best scientific research proves that INVOLVING participants in their mental healthcare training minimizes the chances of relapse into destructive anxiety and depression. Traditional online therapy often relies on the passive consumption of information, where we might find ourselves feeling disconnected and disengaged. Activity-based curriculum encourages us to actively participate in the therapeutic process. It more-or-less ensures an immersive and impactful learning experience.
Number 2: Contextualization and Real-World Application - Learning and applying CBT principles in real-life situations is crucial for lasting behavioral change. We have to do the work. We have to PRACTICE! By integrating CBT concepts into outdoor activities, our curriculum offers a unique opportunity for participants to practice both “problem-solving therapy” AND CBT simultaneously. We instantly apply new skills in realistic contexts. Whether it's engaging in team-building exercises or exploring nature, you can directly apply CBT techniques to overcome challenges and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
Number 3. Enhancing Emotional Connection - Online engagement for mental healthcare can sometimes lack the personal touch and emotional connection that is crucial for effective mental healthcare. By incorporating activity-based learning, we can encourage participants to connect with their emotions, the thoughts that cause them, and physical sensations holistically. Engaging with the outdoors and participating in activities stimulates all the senses, amplifying emotional experiences and strengthening the therapeutic bond between us and our mental healthcare journey. It is THE reason most of our childhood memories are “outside.”
Number 4. Combating Isolation and Building Support Systems - Isolation and loneliness can exacerbate mental health issues. The US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy has said we are living through a “Pandemic of Loneliness.” I think we all know online-only mental healthcare can inadvertently contribute to these challenges. At Chimney Trail, our activity-based curriculum offers an invaluable opportunity for all of us to connect with others who share similar struggles and more importantly, geographic location. Whether it's through group activities or facilitated discussions, we can build a supportive community, fostering a sense of belonging and reducing feelings of isolation.
Number 5. Promoting Physical Health and Wellness - Finally, the mind and body are deeply interconnected, and incorporating physical activity into mental healthcare can yield tremendous benefits. An activity-based CBT curriculum allows us to engage in outdoor pursuits that not only support mental well-being but also promote physical health. Research has shown that exercise can improve mood, reduce anxiety and depression, and enhance overall cognitive function. You don’t need a CrossFit membership to reap these rewards. You just need to stand up, put on some outside shoes, grab a Chimney Trail Waypoint Kit, and head outside for a while.
Number 6. Tailored Learning and Individualized Progress - Lastly, an activity-based CBT curriculum is flexible and adaptable to individual needs. It's self-led. Such a curriculum can be personalized to cater to specific therapeutic goals and preferences. We can progress at our own pace, with activities and exercises tailored to our unique circumstances. This personalized approach enhances the effectiveness of CBT training, as it allows us to focus on our specific challenges and work towards meaningful, sustainable change.
While online tools have undoubtedly revolutionized mental healthcare by increasing accessibility, an activity-based CBT curriculum offers a more engaging, immersive, and holistic approach to well-being. By incorporating self-led physical activities, our curriculum fosters active learning, real-world application, emotional connection, community building, physical health promotion, and personalized progress tracking.
As you know, this newsletter will be about introducing you to new and emerging tools in the development and preservation of our collective mental health. While we’re on this journey, it’s worth paying attention to the specific tools we’re sharing. There are A LOT of apps and trinkets out there. You might find that, more than “clinical viability” or “longitudinal success”, what they REALLY have in common is a software business plan that’s easy to model for a venture capital-friendly pro forma.
Before you throw tomatoes at me...NO, we are not suggesting that online tools are not SUPER valuable. We say make even more of them. Like our friend Kylo Ren once said, "MORE!!!" There are so many benefits. Any half-hearted Google search will spell out every last one of them. We are also NOT suggesting we move back to 1970 and throw out our electronic devices. In fact, one of the references used for this very article discusses the benefits of interactivity in video games addressing CBT delivery.
What we ARE suggesting is that it's just as important for us to deliberately break the cycle of “think-then-reach-for-our-phones.” Let’s embrace the power of action, movement, and experiential learning. Unlock the full potential of mental well-being. There is another way. Send me a DM to learn more. Let's put this to work.
- Gompers, P. A., & Lerner, J. (2004). The venture capital cycle (2nd ed.). MIT Press.
- Coyle, D., McGlade, N., Doherty, G., & O'Reilly, G. (2013). Exploratory evaluations of a computer game supporting cognitive behavioural therapy for adolescents. Computers in Human Behavior.
- Waltman SH, Hall BC, McFarr LM, Creed TA. Clinical Case Consultation and Experiential Learning in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Implementation: Brief Qualitative Investigation. J Cogn Psychotherapy. 2018 Jun.
- Burns, D. D. (1980). Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.