Rather than having every student go through the same “growth packet” with it’s accompanying level system, we provide a personal track within the program adapted to each student. Truly individualized treatment is fostered and created in this way, in fact, it can’t really be created in any other way. We don’t punish or reward by utilizing a level system and the externalized motivations such a system is designed to promote. At WinGate the structure of each student’s treatment reveals itself throughout the process, not at the outset before we even know the student.
Students tormented by depression won’t even try to jump through hoops, defiant students love to defy hoops once identified, trauma suffering students often are potentially re-traumatized by being ‘made’ to jump through hoops, maladaptively pleasing students will acquiesce to jump through hoops hoping for approval, and manipulative students love to jump through hoops to show that they are ‘getting through the process.’ For thirty years working with thousands of children in the wilderness, we have not used hoops, and never plan to. We simply don't need them.
Given the fundamental differences between a level system and a treatment plan, there is a distinct disconnect amid the behaviors demanded in a generalized level system (and the consequencing that comes with it) and the individual clinical treatment needs of each student. When a level system is utilized, it’s like there are two ‘tracks’ going on at the same time, that are not connected by design. This is a recognized problem in the behavioral treatment space, but few programs have tackled it. At WinGate we avoid this disconnect altogether. Core issues are addressed by utilizing what a TRUE wilderness experience NATURALLY provides, there is no need to ADD a level system, that's why we don't. WinGate’s Executive Director has presented at regional and national conferences many times on the virtues of not having level systems. Several programs are catching on, many have significantly modified their level systems, or have jettisoned them altogether. We at WinGate are pioneers with regard to this concept.