Why Wilderness Therapy for Young Adults?
At WinGate, we believe that wilderness therapy is an effective form of treatment for young adults because it combines established therapeutic practices with a wilderness environment that is itself healing.
In fact, there are certain aspects of wilderness that act as treatment effect multipliers. Treatment effect multipliers are certain factors, identified from psychology and counseling research, that magnify the effectiveness of conventional therapy of young adults.
This means that treatment conducted in a wilderness setting can be more powerful than treatment in indoor settings. Several research studies have shown the benefit of wilderness therapy for a variety of issues, including substance abuse/addictions, depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, personality disorders, and motivation issues.
Wilderness therapy often works for clients who haven’t had success with other treatments, works for issues that traditional therapies don’t typically help, and creates change more rapidly than conventional treatment.
It helps the most resistant young adults become open to treatment, helps those struggling with denial about their substance use become aware of their addiction and willing to change, and helps those struggling with depression and anxiety to find lasting contentment and serenity.
Wilderness Therapy Works
So how does wilderness work? There are a thousand plausible reasons for why therapy in nature works. It is impossible to capture on paper the experience of being out in the desert, lying in a warm sleeping bag while staring at the starry sky after a long and satisfying hike, listening to the wind through the juniper trees.
We can’t bottle or capture the different thoughts and feelings of every young adult in the group while they watch the fading gold and pink glow of a sunset on the sandstone cliffs and canyons as they successfully finish making a bow-drill fire.
There will always be a portion of wilderness that has to be experienced and can never be fully explained, some series of moments, thoughts, and interactions that give each and every young adult exactly what they need in their life on that day.
"...Of course, wilderness therapy is more than just the wilderness experience. True wilderness therapy programs utilize the most widely accepted therapy practices. Credentialed therapists meet with the young adult weekly and make a treatment plan. They structure a series of interventions based on empirically supported techniques to intentionally create positive change..."
Many young adults and their families choose wilderness therapy because they believe it will work better than traditional therapy. Therapy in wilderness is more effective in a shorter period of time than therapy in an office or even in a residential treatment center. There are several factors that make this possible:
- Fewer distractions and more ability to pay attention in wilderness that allows for greater focus on working on therapeutic issues.
- Stronger therapeutic relationships as a result of the small-group shared wilderness experience
- 24/7 treatment that gives more opportunity to change to occur
- Gains in real-life self-efficacy that build the ability to practice new living skills
- Decreased stress that reduces anxiety and substance cravings and, along with the remote setting, decreases the chance of treatment dropout.
- A new way of living through the Arbinger principles and/or the Twelve Steps.