Actual Wilderness Experience™ (A sense of AWE™)
Near the Roots
We believe in the efficacy of an Actual Wilderness Experience™ (AWE™). We therefore, have crafted one in which the stillness and silence of remote places lends for insightful self-reflection and awakenings, the austerity of living modestly lends for deep gratitude and perspective, and the rigors of walking in simplicity in the wilderness lends for true resiliency, quite strength, and genuine personal power. This kind of wilderness experience has deep historical and cultural roots and is the bases upon which the concept of wilderness therapy was both originally conceived and shown to be deeply transformational. It is deftly described by the likes of Walt Whitman, Anne Frank, John Muir, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. We believe in the efficacy of the experience they explain.
Positive Civilization Experiences
We believe that lacking a deep understanding of the effectiveness of an Actual Wilderness Experience™, other “wilderness” therapy programs have created an experience filled with contrivances equaling the effectiveness of accomplishing positive things in civilization, or on several weekend outdoor trips. Although these can be positive civilization experiences and can produce positive results, they are not the same thing as a profound AWE, and do not produce the same profound results.
Even though our students enjoy themselves, this enjoyment comes more from an internal place of authentic joy than an external place of doing distractingly fun things or recreational activities. The adventure our students are going through has more to do with discovering nuances of their own qualities than participating in adventurous events. Even though among the founders of WinGate there is a veteran professional rappelling instructor, two professional high ropes course designers and constructors, a master’s degree in recreation management, and a co-founder of a nationally recognized equine therapy certification program, we don’t rappel, we don't do ropes courses, we don't do adventure or recreation, and we don't do anything with horses. And even though it would be easier to “compete” in the marketplace by making our program easier to sell by including these “innovations,” we never will. In the context of wilderness therapy, we see them as distractions. None of these things create the AWE we so thoroughly know to be the most important thing we can provide.
We don't have a basecamp. We don't frequent facilities. We don't live part-time in buildings. We don't get in vehicles to do service projects in town, or to travel across the state to the cool recreation spots. We don't camp in camp grounds right next to other camp ground campers. Our office isn’t down the road from where our students camp, so they can be seen by our therapists several days a week (Our students don't even see the lights of town.) And even though it would be easier to “compete” in the marketplace by making our program easier to sell by including these “concessions,” we never will. We see them as interruptions. Interruptions to the wilderness experience do not add quality to the wilderness experience, they detract from it.
Like leaving out additives to otherwise healthy simple food, we are proud of what’s in our program… and we are proud of what’s not. In WinGate’s leadership team we have 131 years of experience in the world of wilderness therapy. Our collective experience and “wilderness therapy wisdom” informs us that we don't want to include innovations if said innovations are going to be either distracting or interruptive. We are interested in the results only an Actual Wilderness Experience can bring, and we are very good at bringing it.