An Individualized Treatment Approach
WinGate an owner-operated wilderness adventure therapy program designed to assist troubled teens, ages 13 to 17. We specialize in working with adolescents with dual diagnosis and believe strongly in a systemic approach. WinGate is licensed by the State of Utah as an Outdoor Therapeutic Program, and we are a member of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP).
“We serve struggling youth and their families by providing an individualized treatment approach...”
It’s normal and healthy for adolescents to seek new levels of independence and even to question those in authority. But teens struggling with behavioral or emotional problems can be particularly reactive to external direction and may pursue independence in unhealthy ways. Give a depressed or highly anxious teen a directive and they're likely to withdraw, retreat, or otherwise passively resist. Tell an angry or oppositional teen what to do and they're likely to explode. Troubled adolescents can be nearly impossible to control.
That's why we don't force their behavior.
Instead, we provide adolescents with a profound—and unfamiliar— sense of time, space, and safety in our magnificent wilderness setting. In this healing milieu, our clinical team uses a relationship-based treatment approach to patiently invite, instead of force engagement. Adolescents are experts at hooking adults into a power-struggle dynamic, but our clinical and field professionals are experts at turning that dynamic upside down!
Relational therapy requires a well-coordinated, extensively trained, talented team of therapists and field staff. This approach to treatment is not easy, but it works. Nature-based adventure therapy supports community cohesion, resulting in powerful, therapeutic rapport between our adolescent clients and our therapeutic staff. Clinical research confirms what we know from years of success in working with troubled teens: strong therapeutic rapport is the single most reliable predictor of treatment success.
We roll with resistance instead of creating resistance
Resistance ruins the therapeutic opportunity. Nature-based adventure therapy is unique in the fact that it automatically creates a responsive, rather than a resistant, environment, which enhances the therapeutic intervention.
Rather than seek to modify a troubled teen's behavior, we are able to connect with our students through responsiveness, allowing our students to gain insight into how their behaviors manifest. This is how we are able to teach our students; we can aid in the development of skills for new, more effective choices and behaviors.
“The goal of WinGate is to walk alongside a young person as they venture into change...”
Why Wilderness Therapy?
Nature-based adventure therapy offers a stark difference from traditional settings. The opportunities for consistent observation and intervention are uninterrupted by the day to day distractions of traditional settings.
With no media, cell phones or trips into town, wilderness has a greater impact and a better chance for long-term change. A wilderness setting provides the epitome of experiential treatment, happening 24 hours per day, blended with traditional individual and group therapy sessions.
Participants in adventure therapy have a greater capacity for 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 by overcoming the natural challenges encountered in the wilderness and the self-efficacy and esteem achieved in the process.
“He let me just watch him carve the flute and I just copied what he did. We didn’t say a word but before long I had my own flute. Yeah, he was my therapist, but while we sat there carving he was just a person and I was just a person. That changed things. For once, I was the one to break the silence.” Read Margot’s Story...”
The WinGate Philosophy for the Treatment of Troubled Teens
At WinGate, our philosophy in the effective treatment of troubled teens is to create an environment of responsiveness while reducing the resistance the troubled teen has toward change, authority, and himself or herself.
At WinGate, we believe in cooperation rather than confrontation. We have positive regard for every student and work hard to gain insights into each individual. Although certain rules must be followed in order to maintain safety and overall program effectiveness, we also honor and respect each student’s own path.
Our nurturing yet challenging environment allows students to grow, gain perspective, and attain a new level of maturity as we address their specific behavioral issues and problems. We hope to create a heart of peace which replaces the heart of war.View
The WinGate Model: Strengths-Based - Natural Consequence Model
Through the Intermediate Health Care program, WinGate has developed a Strengths-Based/Natural Consequence Model which empowers teenagers in constructive ways. It helps them look beyond their negative behaviors and struggles to see who they really are.
Our students learn to get along with others and cooperate while working toward common goals. Positive natural consequences serve as rewards for positive actions; hence, teenagers become internally motivated to act in constructive ways.
Other programs often establish a set of strict rules, demand adherence to those rules, and then impose negative consequences when the demands aren't met. Basically, it's like boot camp.
“WinGate Wilderness Therapy is designed to provide experiences which helps students motivate themselves rather than trying to force compliance and adherence to a set of rules...”
We believe when students experience direct and natural consequences for their choices—positive as well as negative—they begin to act accordingly. By empowering teenagers with choice, they gain a sense of accomplishment, self-confidence, and self-esteem. They exercise their independence and act autonomously while complying to rules and guidelines at the same time.
This type of change (sense of accomplishment) can't be given to the kids; it must be experienced and earned. In the wilderness, we teach struggling kids to accomplish something they never dreamed they could. This type of experience resonates strongly, enhancing their self-worth and self-confidence; which is not something that can be accomplished in a traditional therapeutic residential setting. When kids in the wilderness conquer a hike, climb a long hill, or cook their own meal by starting their own bow drill fire... now that is a real accomplishment leading to long-lasting internal change.
Building Skills and Relationships
The WinGate staff build the foundation for strong therapeutic relationships by teaching students skills that are enjoyable as well as useful, such as whittling, beading, crafting and stitching leather, starting a fire, cooking, wilderness hiking, and setting up a proper camp in order to stay safe and dry.
“After a few weeks of living in the wilderness together, students and staff experience a full range of emotions while building a strong sense of camaraderie within the group...”
Working side by side in a joint effort to reach common goals helps teens learn healthy patterns of communication that they can apply throughout the rest of their lives.
While a teen's idea of communication may have previously been restricted to halting acronyms and cryptic messages sent via modern technology. In other words, using Twitter to tweet a hundred of their closest friends.
At WinGate Wilderness Therapy, there are no cell phones, or computers, or video games. The environment is naturally conducive to personal, human-to-human communication. Teens actually talk with other teens openly and honestly while hiking, setting up camp, "busting" a fire, preparing meals and developing skills.
Our students are encouraged to open up even more during group therapy led by the same professional therapist they've been learning to trust during individual therapy. It is also the same therapist that has been talking with their parents every week as part of the process that helps reunite families in healthy and positive ways.
Why Wilderness Therapy for Troubled Teens?
At WinGate, nature-based adventure therapy combines the support of structured, regulated therapy treatment plans with the proven benefits of nature immersion. In fact, there are certain aspects of wilderness that act as treatment effect multipliers.
Treatment effect multipliers are certain factors, identified from psychology and counseling research, which magnify the effectiveness of conventional therapy. This means that treatment conducted in a natural setting can be more potent than treatment in indoor settings.
Adventure therapy often works for clients who haven't had success with other treatments, works for issues that traditional therapies don't typically help and creates change more rapidly than conventional treatment.View
“With no media, cell phones or trips into town, wilderness has a greater impact and a greater chance for long-term change...”
It helps the most resistant teens become open to treatment, helps those struggling with denial about their substance use become aware of their addiction and willing to change, and helps those struggling with depression and anxiety to find lasting contentment and serenity.
Call WinGate today.
Increased Attention through Wilderness Therapy
Studies have shown that more natural environments result in a higher capacity for paying attention. This means that nature and wilderness reduce symptoms of ADHD and improves attention for those not struggling with ADHD. This increased attention provides an opportunity for therapy to be more effective.
Any type of therapy relies on clients to be able to pay attention to the therapist, and many involve techniques to practice outside of the one-on-one session. In a natural environment, troubled teens are less distracted and more able to focus on therapy. This has direct results and improves the effectiveness of treatment.
Guided by the Arbinger principles of The Choice, our staff join with the teen to help them identify and change those parts of their lives that aren't working for them. Without the distraction of a levels system and with a focus on building positive relationships with our clients, WinGate does a better job of utilizing the attention-building aspects of nature than most other programs.
“Several research studies have shown the benefit of wilderness therapy for a variety of issues, including substance abuse/addictions, depression, anxiety, AD(H)D, personality disorders, and motivation issues...”
Stronger Relationships through Adventure Therapy
When troubled teens leave their home and their social circle and go out in the wilderness, they have an innate desire to form friendships and seek mentors in the people they find. Relationships within the group form strongly and quickly as group members share the tasks of daily living in the wilderness. Because of this shared living experience, there is a unique opportunity for staff to form a closer helping relationship with clients.
Therapists also end up forming stronger relationships with clients in the wilderness at a faster pace than in conventional inpatient settings. With a stronger therapeutic relationship as a foundation, the treatment process moves faster, and the therapist is better able to build trust.
These stronger relationships help decrease resistance to the therapeutic process. WinGate focuses on having staff develop a mentorship relationship with adolescents by helping them learn primitive skills. The absence of defined punishment/reward systems, levels, or aggressive confrontation as parts of our program set us apart in our ability to form positive relationships with our clients. This capitalizes on the potential for stronger relationships and helps win over even the most resistant troubled teen.
Call WinGate today.
Self-Efficacy through Outdoor Therapy
Nature-based adventure therapy also builds self-efficacy. Through individual and group task accomplishment, troubled teens learn that they are not victims of life but active participants in the choices and future they create. From finally learning how to make a fire to finishing a hike they never thought they could, the young teen client grows in the belief that they can change, learn, and grow.
This translates to therapy, as once our clients have realized what they need to change, their increased self-efficacy as a result of the wilderness experience allows them to truly step up and put those changes into action. Many therapists also assign some kind of "homework" between sessions. An increased sense of self-efficacy makes it that much more likely that the teen will take, practice and complete that therapy assignment.
WinGate enhances the building of self-efficacy by truly helping our clients learn life skills. Every meal at WinGate is prepared by the student themselves, and in learning to feed themselves they are building self-efficacy in a real and tangible way that no rock-wall climbing could ever match.
“Self-efficacy is key to creating a self-reinforcing upward spiral of change and growth, and the increased self-efficacy as a result of the wilderness process ensures that this process will happen in a relatively short period of time...”
Call WinGate today.
Therapeutic Program teaches New Philosophy/Way of Living
Every therapeutic treatment program tries to teach clients a new philosophy or way of living. For inpatient programs, they create a structure that encourages the clients to live a certain way. In short, a new philosophy or way of living is not a unique component of wilderness therapy. However, wilderness programs can teach one of several different ways of life.
If they have a levels system, they are attempting to teach students that if they behave in the right way, they will have much better consequences than if they behave in a wrong way. This sort of "behavior modification" may sound functional in principle, but like most punishment/reward systems, the desired behavior fades away without consistent reinforcement.
Other programs, like WinGate, attempt to create a "heart change," or a desire within the young person to change themselves. Instead of tying the way of life in WinGate to just behaving correctly, we try to encourage individuals to discover and act within their true values.
The core of the WinGate program is the Arbinger "Choice" philosophy, with which we teach our clients how to always see people (parents, teachers, siblings, etc.) as people, and not as objects. Instead of tacitly teaching troubled teens how to manipulate a system and act good, we try to help them shift away from viewing others as vehicles or obstacles to getting what they want. We also introduce our addicted clients to the 12 steps of AA which are themselves a new way of living.
WinGate is not unique in trying to teach a new way of living, but we do it well, we do it intentionally, and we do it in a way that creates less resistance. When clients adopt a new philosophy and way of living, it can magnify the effectiveness of any other therapeutic interventions and change their lives.
Taken together, these six treatment effect multipliers offer an explanation for how wilderness therapy can enhance normal therapy. Therapy in wilderness settings can be more productive in a shorter period of time as a result of these factors. While certainly, they are not comprehensive, these each and in combination can create a strong, life-changing experience in our teenage clients by magnifying the effectiveness of traditional therapy. Nature-based adventure therapy is a way and a place to do traditional therapy that produces dramatic results.
Troubled Boys and Troubled Girls
Troubled youth still living at home seek independence even though they don't always know how to achieve it in constructive and healthy ways. Enforcing boundaries can become next to impossible for parents of troubled teens.
Some parents try, relentlessly, to regain some sense of control over their teenager who is becoming ever-increasingly out of control. Lecturing—"do as I say, not as I do"—fails miserably. Anger creates anger in response. Pleading, cajoling or bribing only seem to make matters worse. The overall and inevitable outcomes of such confrontations are hostility, tension, and more defiance.
The typical WinGate student is a good kid from a good home, and unfortunately, they are off track and heading in the wrong direction. Furthermore, there are some clear behaviors that have led you, the parent, to seek professional help. This behaviors and issues are listed below.View
The Typical WinGate Student Profile
- Anxiety/Social Anxiety
- Bipolar Disorder
- Failure to Launch
- Family problems
- Grief and loss
- Identity issues
- Learning Differences
- Mild Eating Disorders
- Oppositional Defiance
- Personality Disorders
- Process Addictions
- Relationship issues
- School Problems
- Self –Esteem
- Sexuality issues
- Social Skills
- Substance Abuse/Addiction
The Outcome - The New Person
At WinGate Wilderness Therapy, students gain the ability to achieve desired outcomes in healthy ways, learn from their mistakes, and understand the natural consequences of their behavior—both positive and negative.
In a surprisingly short amount of time, they begin to understand how their past behaviors and attitudes have held them back. This, in turn, provides the motivation needed to get them moving forward in their own personal process and continue in the right direction long after they've graduated from our program.