Wilderness therapy can be an effective tool for healing, particularly for teens and young adults. However, wilderness therapy can vary significantly in how it’s implemented. Wingate Wilderness provides what’s known as an “actual wilderness experience,” immersing youth in nature without the distractions and convoluted planning of artificial ‘adventure’ activities.
Wilderness Therapy Roots
Wilderness therapy takes us back to our roots. It temporarily transports you to a time before cities and modern technology. It takes us back to humanity’s earliest era, where our roots lie. Humanity’s connection with nature is inherent and profound, bringing a grounded sense of calm and empowerment to individuals who spend time outdoors.
It also removes teens from the modern world’s pressures, stresses, and temptations. There are no cell phones. No TVs. No stores or malls.
When teens are brought into a world so unlike the one they are accustomed to, it allows them to rediscover themselves in the new environment.
Part-Time Vs. Full-Time Wilderness
Doing something for a few hours, or even a few days, is very different from doing it for weeks or months.
Many wilderness therapy programs include short wilderness or camping outings, with a significant amount of time spent at a residential facility, often called a base camp.
WinGate Wilderness takes a different approach. The staff and teens reside in the wilderness full-time. They don’t make trips into town.
Participants hike and camp in the stunning landscape of Southern Utah. They are truly in the wilderness. The stars shine brightly, no longer hidden by pollution of city light. They can enjoy the sounds of nature without hearing car engines.
This is one aspect of an “actual wilderness therapy” program. Rather than short outings to the wild, teens will make their homes in the wilderness.
Recreation or Distraction?
Recreational therapy sounds like a great idea, and perhaps it is in some cases. However, it can distract from the true work of therapy. Activities like mountain biking, rappelling, or canoeing are commonly touted as a part of therapy– with little therapeutic benefit.
Activity coordination detracts from the actual wilderness therapy experience, often upsetting progress. Without planned or scheduled recreational activities, teens have the time and space to connect with nature meaningfully. Rather than adrenaline-filled activities, the atmosphere is relaxed and reflective.
The goal of the Wingate Wilderness program is to create AWE. Of course, AWE stands for Actual Wilderness Therapy. However, there’s another meaning to the word.
When you are in nature with no distractions, you will experience awe. This helps teens connect with their environment and themselves in a meaningful way.
Wingate views creating this sense of awe as a key part of their treatment program.
Wingate Wilderness has been providing Actual Wilderness Therapy since 2008. They treat adolescents 13-17 and young adults from 18-26. They provide healing from various issues, including depression, substance abuse, and other emotional or behavioral problems.