Weeks to Months
The change that people experience in a wilderness program is rapid. What a person would learn and change about themselves in a wilderness setting is measured in weeks to months. One week in the wilderness is the same or close to the same as one month in a residential program. This has been shown through the studies done and measured by the difference in a person’s GAF score. This is due to the “hardship” and perceived risk factors that are inherent in an outdoor setting.
Let's break these two components down:
Hardship - If you think about what you look back on things in your life that you have a sense of accomplishment for or proud of... Was it easy? Did you wake up one morning and just have it or did you put thought into it or effort or had to change who you were. It isn't that wilderness has to be made artificially hard it just is hard. You have to work for everything. Water - you have to walk to get it. Hot water - you have to gather sticks, build a fire, gather the water, and then wait for it to warm. If you want shelter, you must learn knots that have to be tied to keep it taut. You have to know what the weather is or might be and the best shelter for that specific weather type. And if in the middle of the night if the weather changes you have to get up and redo the shelter. Then you might be cold or wet.. Now what.. Thinking is a big part of wilderness. You have to think about your actions, your words, your looks... the people in your group aren’t going away there is no door to slam or car to drive off in. you have to experience your emotions and the emotions of others if essence becomes “alive to them”. It is hard to say sorry or go through the vision of a hurt wash over someone’s face. We live in a disconnected world. Wilderness puts them into a space where connection is the only thing that softens the hardship.
Perceived risk - When you lock your doors at night you think you are safe. Perceived Safety... but are you really safe? We all forget that windows are glass, they break really easily. So are we really safe? When we go to the woods we don't feel safe. If we are in a tent then we feel better why because we bring along the perception that enclosed in something is better than out on the ground. If you were under a rain fly or a tarp you feel exposed. If you slam the door at your house and you are in your room you feel safe. Wilderness takes away the walls literally and figuratively. Your body and soul are exposed. You have to rethink safety and again connection this life and the joy and pain of it come from connection. Most of us have retreated to isolation in some aspect of our lives so we know how it feels to be in a situation where we are new or exposed to connections that we fear.
There are many metaphors and reasons why to be outside for healing. Connection to the earth. Fresh air, different or healthier foods, rejuvenation away from stress caused by connection. Hardship and perceived risk are just two of them that open us up to new possibilities or remembering who we are.
The effectiveness of wilderness has been established and researched by professionals around the nation. See the data...
WinGate Wilderness Therapy was founded by a team of Industry leaders who were dissatisfied with the wilderness therapy options available to teens and young adults. Read more...
They were unified in their conviction all people must feel respected, valued, safe, and in control of the changes they make for those changes to last. They must transform from the inside out, not the outside in.
For these reasons we use a relational approach to everything we do. We work with the students to entice them to join up... to chose us as mentors rather than telling them they need to listen to us. We work with them to see where they are in several areas. We sit with them to hear and learn their stories. We meet them where they are. We then start doing things with them in the primitive setting to learn the environment or learn the skill to ease their journey in the woods. Nothing a parent wouldn’t do in a suburban setting with a young child. As we learn about and walk with the students we start gaining a relationship of trust and see what principles they might not understand or don’t trust to follow. With this trust and understanding we then as a team begin to craft with the student where they truly want to go in life and want they think they need to learn which is woven into what we will begin to teach.
At first, there may be struggles for the ones who have to learn to be safe you must fight, the ones who have learned to be safe you must not be seen, the ones who dance in the shadows waiting for the moment of flight. You, yourself might be one of these. But as they learn to trust they settle. Their smiles come back...
Moana... “they have stolen the heart that is inside you... I know your name”. We must as Instructors know their names, see them and walk with them in their pain and fears if we are to reach through the layers to lift them up and bring them back into knowing who they are.
This is the Power of WinGate Wilderness Therapy
Reasons for wilderness intervention: •Emotional resilience •Healing their hearts •Identity realization •Rapid recovery •Remembering your heart •Sense of reality •Social aptitude •Finding one’s voice •Healing environment •No distraction •Overcoming insurmountable challenges •Noise squelch •Finding your soul •Silence