Therapeutic treatment for young adults in the wilderness offers a major difference from traditional settings. The opportunities for consistent observation and intervention are uninterrupted by the day to day distractions of traditional settings.
With no tv, music, cell phones, or trips into town, the wilderness therapy program has a greater impact on long-term change. A wilderness therapy setting provides experiential treatment, because its happening 24 hours per day.
Blending the wilderness experience with the traditional, individual and group therapy sessions, its a powerful one-two punch.
Young adults in wilderness treatment have a greater capacity to devote attention to the process, develop closer and stronger relationships with staff and peers, and therefore more quickly gain insight into previous unhealthy behavior and begin to make appropriate changes. This is further supported through overcoming the natural challenges encountered in the wilderness and the self-efficacy and esteem achieved in the process.
Some wilderness programs struggle while working with adults in wilderness. Many programs know some of the best practices for working with teens, but they struggle in adapting their brand of wilderness therapy to adults.
Adults in the wilderness are different- they have real choice to leave- and some methods that programs can get away with for teens don't work for adults. In particular, so-called "behavior modification" tools- which include levels systems, punishment/rewards, and "consequences"- are not readily applied to adults in need of primary care in the wilderness. Adults are more likely to be successful at wilderness therapy programs that don't seek to impose arbitrary consequences.
WinGate Wilderness Therapy is rooted in an approach to wilderness therapy that focuses on getting our clients to want to change rather than creating artificial systems of behavior modification. We seek to win our clients over and help them to see where and how they can change, rather than punishing or rewarding that change. We think this approach is better, because while an external system of incentives can and will change an individual's behavior for a time, a heart change is forever.
The core of this heart change is rooted in the principles of the Arbinger philosophy of "The Choice" that we practice and teach. This is an approach that is simple but not easy- treating people like people, and not like objects. We believe that if we work to see our clients as unique individuals and not as "just another client," and take the time to help things go right instead of focusing on what's going wrong, we can invite clients to change in a meaningful and lasting way.
This strengths-based approach is the foundation of our program, and offers a fundamentally different philosophy than many other wilderness programs. In addition to this core difference in approach, Wingate has four factors that set it apart from other wilderness therapy programs.
1- We don't have a levels system, so in the absence of a system to adapt to and manipulate, our clients do real therapy work and change.
2- We treat our young adults like adults, and as individuals, so they want to change for the better instead of feeling like "just another client".
3- We have a unique mid-stay family visit that allows our families to be an in-the-flesh part of the treatment process.
4- We have a real model for why and how wilderness works with our research-validated six treatment effect multipliers
More than anything, what sets us apart is that we try to make sure that all the things we do have a reason and a principle behind them. Because of this, we don't have policies that keep our clients from knowing things about the future and we don't make up arbitrary consequences and call them "natural." We know that nature is doing most of the work on the basic brain level and that if we focus on building relationships and not creating resistance, we can help a client make the changes in their life that will lead to happy, healthy lives.
To learn more about the differences between WinGate and other wilderness programs, see some of our articles that articulate our vision for wilderness therapy, as well as our model for why wilderness works.
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