What Makes Wingate Unique Compared to Other Wilderness Therapy Programs
Written by Franko Mandato, in Section Wilderness Living
Imagine entering a place that is unfamiliar and daunting. As you approach, you are almost immediately inundated with aggressive confrontation by well-meaning therapeutic staff that intend to “whip” you into shape. As your nerves grow on edge, you realize this is not home and these people are not your family. Sounds unnerving? This is the reality thousands of troubled teens face as they are sent to military-like therapy programs. This “in your face” type of treatment approach is meant to help wayward teens and young adults get their lives back on track with tough discipline and punishment/reward systems. Unfortunately, studies have shown many of these programs do nothing more than brainwash teens and when they have left the restrictive environment, they descend right back into their previous behaviors.
Restricting Behaviors in a Dogmatic Approach Rarely Produces Lasting Results
While these programs operate under the title of outdoor therapy, they are in reality more of a boot camp experience. The teens are treated like they would be in military boot camp and are “forced” into changing their behaviors. Although these programs are run by well-meaning people, their approach is skewed.
Though the teens in these programs do make positive changes, they are often short lived. This is why Wingate wilderness therapy takes a completely different route to helping our teens and young adults overcome their addictions and behavioral issues. We do not use level systems and rewards and punishments which is why many people have withdrawn their troubled teens and young adults from these ineffective programs and enrolled them in Wingate.
The best wilderness therapy programs almost always have some notes of similarity. Nature has a profound way of bringing healing and enlightenment to troubled souls. Out in the wilderness, there are no cell phones, televisions, computers, or video games to cause distractions. This provides the perfect foundation for Wingate’s alliance-based treatment. Instead of focusing on reward/punishment systems, like are found in many behavior modification programs, we strive to encourage change by helping our teens to want to change their lives instead of feeling forced to. This separates their recovery from the program and makes it a personal objective so that the positive changes are lasting ones.
The Wingate wilderness therapy program was built on the strong foundation of the Arbinger Institute’s “Choice” ideology. The vast majority of troubled teens view their family members, peers, and any other people in their lives as things that can be used rather than human beings. Through our wilderness adventure therapy, teens learn to stop viewing people as conduits to getting what they want. This can only be achieved through the development of real and trusting relationships between the teen and their counselors.
The Premise of Our Program Is Developing a Strong Therapeutic Relationship
This is where many adventure therapy programs fail. Teens do not look towards their counselors and therapy staff as mentors but instead, they become “drill sergeants” that teens and young adults cannot relate to, much less trust. If one cannot trust their counselors, how are they ever to make lasting changes and receive the therapy they need? Imagine you are a teen who is trying to open up to someone you do not trust. If a teen sees their therapy staff as the “enemy”, no matter what treatment approach is pursued, it simply will not be successful.
At Wingate wilderness therapy, we do not seek to become best friends with our teens and young adults. Instead, we model our behavior so that our teens and young adults naturally want to follow suit. In the wilderness, trust is a huge deal. One must be able to form strong bonds of trust with their therapeutic staff and their fellow peers. This is the crux of the program and is crucial for successfully carrying out daily tasks and meeting personal and group goals. Respect is both earned and given which leads to major life changes.
Because of the unique partnership that naturally develops, one participates in each day, hour, and minute with their eyes wide open and their hearts willing to truly listen and seek change. The non-distractive environment the wilderness provides is perfectly conducive to alliance-based therapy. Not only does the wilderness allow a young person to finally “see” where their life is headed if they do not change, it also allows them to learn the basics of life so they are prepared to graduate from the program as self-sufficient emerging young adults.
When asked about our unique approach to wilderness therapy Utah, many people ask why other programs are not using the same method since it is clinically proven to work and has changed so many lives. While the answer is not exactly cut and dry, many programs do not incorporate alliance-based therapy into their adventure therapy programs simply because it is not an easy approach. Since we live in a society that is premised on rewards and punishments, even the best of therapists can fall short and instinctively seek control over their client, fully expecting compliance. Though it takes a concerted effort by our team, we have found no other form of therapy can offer the true and lasting results that alliance-based therapy brings to the table. Through extensive and endless training, our staff has mastered this approach which is how Wingate so consistently achieves lasting results.
We are here to Help Parents and Their Teen and Young Adult Children
At Wingate Wilderness Therapy, we pride ourselves in being different. Our approach is clinically proven and has been proven to ourselves on a daily basis as we watch young people’s lives being profoundly changed. Those who want to learn more about our wilderness therapy program are welcome to contact us. We have counselors standing by to help answer questions and offer guidance and understanding to those who need us. We are here to help make sense of the madness and help guide people towards choosing the right treatment.