Foundation of Our Approach

Gateway is a threshold. A young man's healthy life lies ahead. The key to the journey is in making new connections, both in the external world of relationships, and internally, by forming new positive mental maps within the brain.


What distinguishes Gateway from other residential treatment centers is our emphasis on brain-based learning and healing within the context of relationships. 

Put simply, we believe that by understanding what’s happening in an adolescent’s brain at this formative stage of development – and by individualizing his treatment through therapy rooted in relationships — we can help him learn, grow and heal.  


Recent research about the brain has found that our brains are not hard-wired like a computer, but rather, change in response to experience. This is called neuroplasticity. The latest studies in neuroplasticity reveal that wherever we focus the brain’s attention is where it is actively re-wiring, making and reinforcing neural pathways. And our brains constantly form new pathways that help us make sense of the world, self regulate, and connect with others.

Dr. Daniel Siegal, a clinical professor of Psychiatry at UCLA’s school of medicine, has spent more than twenty years studying interpersonal neurobiology, a study he calls  “the neurobiology of ‘we.’” His conclusion: the “we” connection is a powerful one. Just as relationships in the past have shaped our neural circuitry, new healthy relationships in the present constantly rewire us for connection and security.

“Research absolutely demonstrates that if you take the time to make sense of what happened to you, then you can free yourself up to develop your own sense of security.” 

—Dr. Daniel Siegal The Power of Mindsight by Daniel Goleman Posted by Greater Good Magazine on March 3, 2008


In relationship-based treatment, Gateway clinicians draw on four principles as they work with youth in a therapy setting.  Specifically, we:

  • Make a connection to each student as soon as they enter Gateway.  His personality, his interests, hobbies, strengths and beliefs – these help us get to know each student as an individual and over time, help us earn his trust.
  • Maintain the connection by revisiting his interests and beliefs frequently, showing him that healthy relationships are fostered through connected care and understanding.
  • Teach students by modeling and motivating.  We listen to students carefully, give them questions to think about, and gently guide them towards finding answers for themselves.  Honest feedback is given, of course, but it is only given in a respectful manner with an underlying intention of caring.  
  • Help him apply his new relationship skills and desire for connection outside the therapy setting.  As a student develops greater self-awareness, we provide opportunities for him to practice being in relationship with peers, families and the community.      


Gateway’s "Sparks" brain-based approach is based on neuroscientific research by Dr. John Ratey, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Ratey found that movement and exercise “supercharges” our mental circuits, enabling us to grasp information more easily and retain it longer.

Studies in school districts throughout the country are promising. Time and again, neuroscientists and educators have found that exercise stimulates the brain, priming it to learn. In addition, aerobic activity helps regulate systems that might be out of balance, making it a great therapeutic tool as well.

Emerging research shows that physical activity sparks biological changes that encourage brain cells to bind to one another. For the brain to learn, these connections must be made; they reflect the brain’s fundamental ability to adapt to challenges., founded by Dr. John J. Ratey, M.D.


Here’s how Gateway “Sparks” our students’ efforts throughout the day:

  • Targeted Morning Fitness 
    The day gets off to a blood-pumping start with a dynamic fitness class originally designed by a former US Olympic Ski Team trainer to optimize the brain for learning.  Students chart their time on target each day and receive P.E. credit in school based on their level of participation.
  • Brain Breaks
    Throughout our three academic periods, we review and reinforce new concepts with a learning activity that involves movement.
  • Movement in Therapy 
    Students are encouraged to physically “shift” negative thoughts and to express challenges and breakthroughs through movement.  Movement and experiential intervention help open the boys up to expressing and resolving feelings, facilitating the healing process.
  • Yoga and “Time In” 
    An emerging trend in education incorporates mindfulness and meditation into the school day in order to help students manage anxiety and stress.  At Gateway, we have seen great gains from our daily yoga program as boys learn to breathe, pay attention to inner feelings, and let go of frustration.  

As central as the brain is in a person’s intellectual and emotional life, we are more than neural circuitry. Each boy has a spirit and a heart. And at Gateway we are dedicated to providing the caring, supportive atmosphere that can touch his heart. And change his life.  

Outdoor Experiential Learning and Practice

Gateway’s outdoor experiential education program provides boys with therapeutic adventures that challenge them within safe, non-threatening limits.  Weekend activities and extended trips include rock climbing, canyoneering, backpacking, skiing, snowboarding and river running expeditions. Each adventure is carefully designed, offering a mix of personal therapeutic opportunities and activities that build connection and cooperation. 

The framework of our outdoor experiential education and adventure approach comes from the theory and practices of Experiential Education and Learning Theory. Experiential learning theory recognizes that every individual takes in information and learns in a unique way. Based on this theory, Gateway's outdoor team creates outdoor therapeutic experiences that accomodate different learning styles, assists students to reflect upon and understand through processing and then facilitate transfer of learning to other areas of life.

Gateway's outdoor experts are skilled not only in outdoor sports, but in creating experiences that intentionally foster insight, growth and application. Outdoors, our students become aware of what they’re capable of. They discover new depths of resilience and confidence and take their potential to new heights.