Wingate Wilderness Therapy, located in Kanub, Utah, leverages the tranquil and vast landscape to offer a unique and immersive experience for both adolescents and young adults facing a range of substance abuse and behavioral issues. The wilderness provides an opportunity for respite from the day to day interruptions that can ordinarily interfere with therapeutic treatment.
Participant needs generally fall into the following categories, among others:
- Academic underachievement
- Lack of motivation or direction
- Substance abuse-addiction or addictive behaviors
- Eating disorders and body image distortion
- Depression and anger management
- Family conflicts or general resistance to authority
The nature of the wilderness program is intended to foster stronger bonds between participants, staff and peers.
Treatment Programs at Wingate
Unlike many other rehabilitation programs, Wingate does not strictly subscribe to either the 12-step or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment approaches. Programs at Wingate offer an immersive experience for 8 to 12 weeks. Therapists, wilderness responders and participants move along an established, tranquil route to interact with both the environment and fellow group members. Wingate provides two separate therapy tracks – one for adolescents ages 13 through 18 and another for young adults ages 18 through 26 – to accommodate the different therapeutic needs for these populations. The program does not use a system of rewards or punishments for resistant participants.
For participants struggling with substance abuse and addiction issues, Wingate offers several services, including:
- Clinical assessment and testing for substance abuse and dependence
- One-on-one therapy sessions with substance abuse counselors to focus on recovery
- Daily recovery meetings led by clients
- Psychoeducational approaches to treating addiction as a disease
A Typical Day in the Wilderness with Wingate
Most every day begins with an opportunity for clients to self-reflect through contemplation, meditation or prayer. There is also time for staff to check in with each client personally to help them set their daily goals for what they’ll achieve and topics on which they’ll either listen to or participate in to help them become more mentally and emotionally self-aware. Hiking days also involve personal responsibility exercises like doing chores such as packing up camp and building up the new site. Hikes can be of varying lengths and primarily depend on the weather and season. The typical day is organized based on the following schedule:
- Personal circles
- Day track
- Recovery meeting
- Camp cleanup
- Set up personal sites
- Personal mentoring time and skills building
- Group therapy, also referred to as “Windspeak”
Beyond hiking, clients make wilderness survival items such as spoons, fire, leather goods and sometimes bows and arrows. The group does not hike on Monday or Tuesdays in order to provide an opportunity for rest and rejuvenation. Clients have individual and group therapy sessions on these days, and they are encouraged to take those days to write letters to parents, set weekly goals and work on individual therapeutic assignments.
Extra Offerings at Wingate
Wingate provides aftercare services for young adults who want to take advantage of the recovery elements associated with Wingate’s wilderness offerings rather than initial treatment services. Aftercare program are aimed to help young adults acquire the life and coping skills they’ll need in order to navigate their recovery journey.
Wingate also provides programs for teenagers with aspergers and autism to help them develop the social skills they need to make their social interactions more positive. Certified therapists and field staff bring campers together to work as a team to move through the wilderness while fine-tuning problem-solving, communication and leadership skills.
Wingate Wilderness Therapy: Cheers and Complaints
Based on online reviews, Wingate Wilderness Therapy is a trusted program for struggling adolescents and young adults. One reviewer on Google touted the program’s innovative approach to change. “It’s not about behavior modification which has failed over & over again but changing their heart which changes them for life.”
As far as negative reviews are concerned, one reviewer on Facebook claims Wingate prioritizes “money over [the] child’s well being,” while another echoes the cost concerns but also claims the program underpays its staff and hire therapists “whose idea of therapy is manual labor.” This same reviewer also claims the program serves only as a “temporary fix.”