Patients Benefit From Recreational Therapy Provided By Highlands Behavioral Health System | by Jeannette Moninger | photo by Farrah Jobling

Highlands Behavioral Health System, Littleton, Experiential Therapy Program

Posted on Wed, May 27, 2020

There is a lot of evidence of the therapeutic effect of play, and that is especially true for people with behavioral and mental health concerns.  Highlands Behavior Health System (HBHS) has established an Experiential Therapy Department that uses play in all forms as a creative, evidence-based practice to help people heal. 

Nick Lagani, Colorado, Highlands Ranch

Nick Lagoni, CTRS                  (lead image above) Lagoni demonstrates slack lining, a calming activity that promotes focus and can help promote behavioral wellness.

Recreation Therapist and department manager, Nick Lagoni knows firsthand the important role that recreational therapy plays in improving mental health. As a child, Lagoni was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “I couldn’t sit still for counseling, so my therapist took me outside. We’d talk while I climbed a tree or we hiked,” recalls Lagoni, who found both help, and his passion, in recreational therapy. 

For more than a decade, Lagoni has worked at HBHS as a certified therapeutic recreation specialist (CTRS) putting his experience and education into practice for adolescent and adult patients. As manager of the center’s Experiential Therapy Program, Lagoni directs four experiential therapist who provide therapies that focus on music, art, dance movement, recreation, yoga, even pet therapy. “HBHS offers a variety of experiential therapies to complement the psychiatric and behavioral health services provided at HBHS,” says Lagoni. “People respond differently to therapy based on their individuality and trauma.  We have developed all the tools to help them find the modality that best suits their healing process.”

For his own practice, Lagoni leads recreational therapy groups for HBHS’s adolescent and adult inpatient and outpatient programs. The sessions use action-based activities and games to promote problem solving, resilience, and coping skills. One activity that’s popular among all age groups is slacklining. “The activity itself is meditative. You have to focus and stay in the moment in order to walk a slackline,” says Lagoni. The activity is also challenging and a bit scary. “Participants learn the importance of asking for help and how to ask for the help they need,” says Lagoni. “They also learn that it’s okay to show fear, uncertainty or vulnerability.” 

HBHS offers a number of behavioral health services for adolescents and adults. Programs include intensive outpatient programs (IOP), partial hospitalization programs (PHP), full hospitalization, and a mind-body program for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Constellation Program supports members of the LGBTQ community. Free mental health assessments take place at the center 24/7.   


Highlands Ranch Behavioral Health Experiential Program

Call 24/7: 720-348-2800



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