WinGate Articles of Interest
Resistance creates Resistance approach to Wilderness Therapy:
Troubled teens are often resistant to just about everything, including authority, rules, advice, structure and therapy, just to name a few. Stand toe to toe with any teenager and you will almost always end up in a battle of wills.
Because teens by nature have oppositional tendencies and are traditionally defiant, treatment programs like boot camps that feed resistance right back to them are frequently ineffective. A better approach is the one taken by WinGate, an innovative wilderness therapy program for troubled teens ages 13-17, whose core philosophy emphasizes giving adolescents the power of choice and the ability to experience the natural consequences of their decisions.
According to Shayne Gallagher, WinGate’s Executive Director the data gathered shows that facing rebellious teens head on is a losing battle. “Students who are defiant or resistant to treatment enjoy the fight. They are looking to throw a ball at a brick wall and have it bounce back (achieved outcome); we surprise them with ‘pillow walls’ (path of least resistance) that offer no authoritative confrontations, which forces the student to do the work of picking up the ball and throwing it again (oppositional defiant failure). Soon, they begin to realize they’re resisting to their own detriment. Their negative behaviors are only preventing them from getting where they want to be and living the life they want for themselves.
Therapists and field staff at WinGate reach struggling teens with a no-resistance approach to wilderness therapy. WinGate prides itself on taking a warm, humanistic approach to wilderness therapy. We will challenge students in such non-traditional ways that they don’t even understand they’re being challenged. As teens actively work at building walls (resistance), our Non-traditional Wilderness Therapy allows our Therapist’s to circumvent those walls, gaining valuable clinical information while authentically expediting the personal growth process.
Teenagers crave independence and autonomy even though they do not understand how to effectively and productively obtain and maintain them. WinGate has created a Natural Consequence based model that allows teens to experience outcomes for choices. Because, the ability to place and impose boundaries on teenagers is significantly different then when they were children and almost impossible to enforce now, the theory of “lecture based”, “do as I say, not as I do” demands for compliance fail miserably, the inevitable outcomes are hostility, tension and additional defiance.
To learn by, Experience Based Methods allows teenagers the authentic ability to understand outcomes, learn from mistakes, and accept accountability and progress forward in the growth process with greater ease and appreciation. By empowering teenagers with “choice” they will then gain a sense of accomplishment, build confidence and self esteem improves. “We intentionally remove ourselves from the equation,” Which in turn keeps students engaged in the learning process, thus placing student/staff on an equal operating field. “Rules don’t define a student’s experience at WinGate,” The laws are already there- they’re the laws of nature. The experience is confined to natural consequences but is still safe and extremely effective. We’re not asking for compliance, we’re asking for better thought process.
Past experiences teach valuable lessons in the present. A particular student who repeatedly cursed at staff and one day refused to hike to the next campsite. The group continued to tear down and clean camp in preparation for the day’s journey. The group hiked anyway leaving a field staff behind with the rebellious student. As this student began to realize that the desired effect of her actions were not coming to fruition she made the decision to hike faster longer and harder in order to catch the group to apologize for her actions.
Had the field instructors forced the issue, she would have achieved the desired negative attention, maintained a victimized, self betrayal and sabotaging role and successfully carry a negative influence within the group culture. Instead, the instructor looked at the student and said, “It’s ok, you don’t hurt my feelings with your behaviors. However; this is one of the reasons you’re getting in trouble at home. It’s likely that you’re going to have a tough life if you don’t learn to get motivated without being hurtful to others.” Because our staff choose not put themselves in the way, students are far more receptive to feedback and to understanding the big-picture lessons.
WinGate’s wilderness program is particularly effective because its staff members adopt the program’s philosophy in their own lives and serve as role models to students. Rather than demanding change or punishing students with writing assignments or physical tasks, our staff and therapists invite students to see the need for change in their lives and illustrate how the process of change has positively impacted their own lives.
Even compared to other wilderness therapy programs, WinGate has a unique philosophy and a diverse group of professionals with a range of talents who are all constantly trying to improve themselves in the same way they’re asking their students to improve. “Combined, these pieces create an environment in which there’s nothing to resist against. There are only people willing to push with you.”
WinGate field instructors build the foundation for strong therapeutic relationships by teaching the students skills that are fun and useful to them, such as building flutes, moccasins, possible bags, creating fire for hot meals, and properly setting up camp to stay safe and dry. After a few weeks in the field, the students and staff have experienced a full range of emotions together, building a sense of camaraderie within the group.
Nurturing relationships is a process made easier by the fact that field instructors are not trying to push their own agenda on the students and don’t become personally offended when a teen acts out. “The program is all about the student.” Because they understand that we come from a place of caring and compassion, they are more willing to accept us as mentors and guides. When the time comes to challenge them, the strong relationships we’ve built give us firm ground to stand on.
Parents are an essential component of the change that occurs through wilderness therapy. At WinGate we provide parents with information, resources, and weekly therapy sessions so that parents are learning and growing at the same time as their child. Parents are also invited to attend an early-stay visit to WinGate’s offices in Kanab, Utah to learn about program philosophy, reflect on their relationship with their child, and take an honest look at their child’s progress and the challenges that lie ahead. By meeting in the beginning of their child’s program, both the parents and students still have time to effect lasting changes and make critical decisions about the next steps in their family’s healing process.
The family is an incredibly powerful ally in the wilderness. When parents and child are stuck, they’re often stuck together. The work the parents do, and their conviction that WinGate is an opportunity rather than a punishment, is often the key to letting the student release their resistance to change and commit to the program.
Though it may feel like the ultimate affront, resistance from teenagers is often a call for help. If your child is acting out, your family has lost its way; wilderness therapy may be the ideal environment for lasting, healthy, and positive change. Through the commitments of the family our students will develop trust, appreciation, and a healthy respect for boundaries. When your child is the one who chooses change, the entire family benefits from a breakthrough that can last a lifetime.
WinGate’s Wilderness Program blends the best of the “ancient cultural systems” while utilizing the healing elements of the earth to unite the hearts of families. We teach through love and understanding, empower change, and ignite a renewed commitment to life. Your troubled teen will experience the highest standards of safety and therapy in the context of one of the most powerful settings for real change.
Please Check The Following Article Directories To Get More Information:
Article Resource - Substance Abuse Articles
Article Resource - Troubled Young Adult Psychology Articles
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