Founded in 2008, WinGate Wilderness Therapy is a leader in wilderness-based treatment, offering adolescents and young adults a unique and immersive therapeutic experience to combat alcohol and substance abuse issues, as well as behavioral issues. The Utah-based office is located three hours out of Las Vegas in the town of Kanab. However, the program’s center is found well outside of these walls, in the surrounds of the spectacular Utah landscape. The only wilderness program authorized to operate in the western region of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, WinGate offers clients jaw-dropping, remote environments in which to experience its professional, alliance-based treatment program.
Accommodations and Food
While it is not residential treatment in the traditional sense, WinGate clients do take up residence in Utah’s breathtaking expanse. The rooms are makeshift tents under the stars and the kitchen is a camp stove. There is a simplicity here that can give way to clarity, and each client’s accountability for their own campsite and meal is part of communicating the importance of trust and responsibility.
There is no five-star dining here, but that doesn’t mean close attention isn’t paid to the menu. Meals are limited by the ever-changing setting, but are also integrated into a carefully designed diet plan, planned by a nutritionist, that focuses on healthy eating. Fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as staples such as rice and beans, go hand-in-hand with a variety of easy-to-carry proteins, conducive to trailblazing.
Treatment and Staff
The program offers its clients an immersive eight to 12-week experience. During this time, Wingate’s qualified therapists and wilderness first respondents guide groups of adolescents (ages 13-17) or young adults (ages 18-26) through an established route that demonstrates the beauty, diversity and tranquility of the landscape.
Far from the more typical 12-step or CBT-based treatment programs, WinGate’s therapeutic approach follows a unique, comprehensive and active daily schedule based on introspection, as well as interaction with the environment and group members. After waking up, each client takes part in personal circles, a time to allow for contemplation, meditation or prayer in their morning routine. Clients establish daily goals then have recovery meetings before a well-earned breakfast and the day’s scheduled hike—weather permitting.
Groups travel a manageable three to five miles per day, five days a week, with two days set aside for rest and the rotation of staff. Each evening, clients set up a personal campsite and prepare their dinner, as well as engage in personal mentoring time. This time allows clients to complete therapy assignments and read, and is also when counselors check-in with each client individually. Clients also engage in—and even sometimes conduct—group therapy discussions that focus on building self-awareness.
WinGate does not offer a detox program or issue prescriptions, however it does specialize in dual diagnosis support for those with co-occurring disorders, and provides psychiatric medication management. While some wilderness-based treatment programs may rely on behavior modification techniques such as level systems or group punishments, WinGate strives to create an alliance between their clients and the team through training, care and respect that yields long-term change. With one staff member to every three clients, this alliance can be easily forged, and at the end of each client’s stay, a transition ceremony marks the occasion.
WinGate also recognizes the importance of family involvement, offering family workshops, mid-stay visits, phone-call-based therapy sessions and weekly letters between the family and client. These help provide some peace of mind as well as an up-to-date understanding of what the client is experiencing.
The team at WinGate does offer an academic arm to their wilderness therapy that allows clients the opportunity to receive six half-credits towards high school requirements, from Outdoor Education to Language Arts. This service is provided for an additional fee of $250.
WinGate Wilderness Therapy is a premier provider of wilderness-based treatment. For young people and their families who are faced with serious issues concerning alcohol or substance abuse, this program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Though the time commitment may be on the steeper side for some, the services offered not only match the investment, but also seem to go above and beyond.
WinGate Wilderness Therapy
PO Box 347
Kanab UT 84741
WinGate Wilderness Therapy: Cost: $15,750 (30 days) or $525 per day and a $2,700 enrollment fee with the first 56 days required to be paid up front. Reach WinGate Wilderness Therapy by phone at (800) 560-1599 or by email at [email protected]. Find WinGate Wilderness Therapy on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+
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Photo courtesy of Bureau of Land Management [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)