søndag den 17. juni 2018

Alli, Melanie and Kathy about SUWS (The School of Urban and Wilderness Survival)

This testimony was found on Yelp. All rights go to the author Alli

I was sent here 8 years ago for what my parents were told would only be 28 days - this was the first scam, I was not told when I would go home and my parents had no idea when i would come home either, it ended up being a total of 66 days (3 months) before I was released and everyone has varying lengths of stay, 3 moths is about average.

The second biggest scam was after SUWS my parents and almost 90% of the other students "graduating" from the program were convinced we needed further help and needed to go to a therapeutic boarding school (TBS) somewhere else for long-term help. Most of the students stay in these TBS until they are 18, these programs will mess up your kid more than help them, I became agoraphobic after leaving my program because the owners threatened my parents and told them I would have to be put through more ongoing brutal psychological punishment for trying to leave their program early.

If you are thinking of sending your kid away please dont listen to the academic advisors they are being paid by these programs, i am open and honest to talk to you please email me at alliloweart@gmail.com

søndag den 20. maj 2018

Allie at Second Nature Wilderness program

This testimony was found on Yelp. All rights go to the original author Allie

I had a horrible experience in this program. The reason I decided to go is that I had gone through a traumatic experience and I started seeing a therapist who recommended it.

I was expecting to feel supported and get to know the staff and other people in the program. Instead I was treated like a criminal even though I've never done drugs or broken the law.

The staff you interact with on a daily basis are not trained therapists. They were often emotionally abusive. I was told that if I left the program early my parents wouldn't want me back. I have a very close relationship with my family and knew that was bull****. At the time I was on disability at my first job out of college and had moved back home.

We were often bullied and treated with disrespect. We hiked in over 100 degree weather most days . I was on a lot of anti anxieties bc I would get panic attacks which made me extremely tired. Sometimes when I needed a break from hiking (which btw i love hiking and used to do that most weekends before I was mentally I'll) I was told I was lazy and that I could not take a break.

During most of the program I was not allowed to talk to my parents. The therapist kept telling them I needed to stay longer. Btw they charge something like $5,000 per week which isn't cheap so they have a strong incentive to make you stay longer.

Finally in order to leave the program I would just flat out lie to the staff and say everything they wanted to hear. When I finally was allowed to go home my parents were very upset and I was very depressed for months. When I was finally able to communicate with my parents during the program I was terrified to tell them about what the program was like. The therapist was on the phone line and told me what I needed to tell my parents if I wanted to leave any time soon.

I'm happy to say that now I'm doing very well . I'm a full time grad student and work 20 hours a week at a university. If anyone wants to talk to me about my experience I welcome it and am more than happy to answer questions.

Of course this is only my experience and I know there are ppl who benefit from it. If your kid has serious behavioral problems or addicted to drugs they might benefit. If your kid is feeling depressed or anxious I wouldn't recommend it. It could make their problems worse.

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søndag den 15. april 2018

Rebecca at SUWS

This testimony was found on Yelp. All rights go to the original author Rebecca

It's been over ten years since I was at SUWS and it still a sore spot between me and my family. I can honestly say I will never forgive my parents for sending me here and will always hold it against them. My parents regret listening to so called experts, who may have been profiting from recommending us.

The experience was horrible and arbitrary. We were made to hike long past our limits and ostracized by our group for being unable to continue. The staff put us in situations made to break us down and were unsympathetic to our suffering. I was misdiagnosed and abruptly taken off necessary medication leading to a break down. I was forced to drink excess amounts of water until I felt like gagging.

The other members in my group did not fare well either. Few viewed the program favorably. The one I stayed in touch with turned more into drugs after the program than before.

As a formed student I urge parents to think about how much their child will suffer if they attend.


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søndag den 18. marts 2018

Conner at Second Nature Wilderness program

This testimony was found on Yelp. All rights go to the original author Conner

Don't buy into the positive reviews, this place is terrible. You are a monster if you go through with sending a child there. What this place does to people is comparable to rape or molestation in the shame and how it outcasts you permanently from ever really feeling back at home again. When you are out there, the staff have no problem letting you know this is a business and that they are using the willingness and trust of confused and frustrated parents with money, and feeding you into an expensive system where therapists and professionals convince the parents that their child needs expensive boarding school, or other "after-care" programs.

I was there summer of 2010 Group4 and I wish this never happened to me. Never have your child kidnapped people. That's what mine did. That's what this program may have you do, many in my group did. They had two huge Richmond gangster African American men burst into my room at 4am and drag me out of my room, threatening to handcuff me if I resisted at all. Others in my group had been beaten bloody by their "escort service" for resisting. Do not listen to the positive reviews. Maybe for a few this might work, but this has made my life hell in unimaginable ways. I'll never forgive my parents for what they put me through with this, and I wish I could organize a joint lawsuit and get together with former "clients" and sue the hell out of this place for the damage they have caused us. You are a monster if you send your kid here.

Don't buy into the recommendations of professionals. This is not how you should treat any sort of problem. You are sending your child to a marching internment camp where they could be eaten by a bear because someone else brought food in their pack to bed. Which there aren't tents here people. Just a boat tarp you string up with paracord, so rats run over you in the night, mosquitos swarm you in the hundreds, so loud their buzzing is what wakes you in the morning. Where if you don't make a fire with sticks successfully, you can't sit by the group fire or eat group food, forced to eat cold tuna envelopes while everyone else eats. Where they make you walk miles without water on "dehydration hikes". Where staff members taunt you that you aren't going home and that the therapist will convince your parents to send you to a boarding school.

I was just a kid with depression who smoked some weed. A psychologist and his recommended "educational consultant" convinced my parents to have me kidnapped the day after I finished my school year and spend my 16th birthday and the next 3 months in the custodial care of this abomination of a program. Please. I beg of you. For your child's sake don't go down this road if you care anything about having anywhat of a normal relationship with your child. I can answer more questions if you'd like.

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søndag den 4. marts 2018

Trails Carolina experience

This testimony was found on Google. Today Trails Carolina is mostly known in the public due to a tragic deaths of one of their students in 2014. The wilderness area is very much dense forrest making it difficult to determine where you are.

Oh let me start from the top with this place. In all honesty, I cannot begin to fathom where I should begin. Let me start with my experience going thru the program. To protect my privacy, I will not name specifics in regards to timing of my dates.

I was one of the lucky ones in terms of having knowledge beforehand that I was going. When your parent or legal guardian enrolls you, the admissions counselor tells them to not inform your child of when or where they are going. They have these little deceptive services they use and the rest of the students called them "goons" They came to your house in the middle of the night and literally forced you to pack your things and to get in the car with them to go to Trails Carolina. I was lucky enough not to go thru this, but everyone else in my squad did. I could tell that Trails did not like that I knew ahead of time because they called my parents and told them that I had contacted them for more information. I have documentation supporting that in case it is disputed for any reason in a response.

What was supposed to be a therapeutic experience has left me with nothing but sheer PTSD for the past years following my graduation from the program. Nightmares ensued and still ensue now even years after. The minute I walked into my first day and I was dropped off, I was sent to a room where they made me strip out of my clothes while someone watched, and change into some kind of uniform. A green t shirt and a red hoodie and these quick dry pants and some hiking shoes. I was there for a little over two months during the winter season. In the North Carolina mountains it can get below 0 degrees with the wind chill at night. This place is anything but therapeutic. Let me tell you the menu of food we had to eat. By the way, they told us when we could eat. Yes. There were times when we were not allowed to eat. Mondays breakfast was oats which we made using a pot filled with water from the creek which was boiled. Mondays lunch? Oh the same with every lunch. One tortilla with honey. Thats it. Everyday for almost 80 days. Dinner on Monday was rice and beans. They portioned the meals into a green cup that everyone had. You had to eat at least half a cup and a maximum of 2.5 cups which you told the person making it before. We carried the food around everywhere with us. Tuesdays dinner was called mush. What is mush? It's literally everything that you didnt use from the week put into one pot and served .This included sometimes noodles, peanut butter, garlic, and whatever else wasnt used because Wednesday was resupply and we were not allowed to keep any food. Each week each person got a bag of food that was called a "p-bag" inside was a ziploc bag of raisins, mixed nuts, 1 jar of peanut butter, 6 oranges, and apricots. If we didnt eat it all we couldnt keep it. Heres the funny thing my first day, I came in on a Monday, so the next day was the last day, I got my p-bag and I had a full jar of peanut butter and all the rest of the kids were mad. So after I turned in my food bag for the night, the staff opened my jar of peanut butter and scooped out half of it to make it "fair"

So Trails has 5 different stages of the program. The first is called Trailhead, then Waypoint, then Legend, then Barron which is the red book then navigator then guide. I never made it to navigator thank god. Honestly, and I'm not going to lie, I learned nothing during those 70 days, I learned after I left that my parents almost had to hire a lawyer to get me home because the therapist assigned to me, Todd Green would not let me leave. He said that I wasn't ready. I was there for a minor reason compared the rest were there for drug trafficking offenses, and he had the audacity to suggest to my parents that I not return home but instead be sent across the country to a therapeutic boarding school. This place is a mess do not send your child here. I promise you it will be a nightmare.

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søndag den 18. februar 2018

Danielle at SUWS (The School of Urban and Wilderness Survival)

This testimony was found on Yelp. All rights belong to the original author

Do NOT send your children here. Every single positive review that you read (as you may notice) is NOT from somebody who attended here.

I was sent here when I was 15 years old. I was not a "bad kid", didn't do drugs or party; was simply going through a rebellious teenage phase where I back talked my parents a lot and they were concerned for my future. This place is legal torture. You are not allowed to talk to your peers. At several points, counselors would place bags over our heads to punish us for talking to other girls in our group.

In the 59+ days I spent living in the woods, we were provided 2 baths. 2. For some who are not comprehending this, that is one shower per month. Living in the woods. We were subjected to below freezing temperatures with NO winter clothing. We were forced to lug around bloody pads for a week at a time if you were female. A majority of the group I was in left with multiple physical issues (worms, staph infections, infected wounds, gangrene). Not only this, but all of our parents were lied to about the therapy we were receiving.

I am still in contact with several of the girls in my group, and every single one of us has developed a severe anxiety/PTSD type issue that has affected our lives. I came out way worse from this program than I ever was before. This is not a "camping trip" that the website and camp reps portray. Please understand that parents. Do ANYTHING besides send your child here. Myself and several other are actually filing a class action lawsuit against this place. There are so many other ways to help your child. Please, don't believe that this is one of them.....

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søndag den 14. januar 2018

Open Sky Wilderness testimony

I attended Open Sky Wilderness Therapy for about 2 and a half months (or 10 and a half weeks) earlier this year. It has been a few months since I “graduated”. I did not go to an aftercare (or follow up program) and I am home now.

Before going, I had depression problems, drugs, being suicidal, all that good stuff. I was given the choice by my (new-ish) therapist after a serious drug incident to be hospitalized or to go to Open Sky. Going to a hospital did not seem great and I knew that he and my parents would get me over to Open Sky anyways. I reluctantly agreed to go with a sliver of faith that the program would help.

I arrived in the Durango airport, CO, and my father handed me to the program’s transporters (3 people in their mid-late 20s at most). I was driven to urgent care for a checkup, blood drawn, and a drug test. We went to a mexican place for lunch which was kinda nice. Then we went to “the ranch”: a dumpy shack they used for storage. There I handed over all my belongings and was handed my new set of belongings. It was standard stuff like rope, tarp, footwear, clothes, my weekly ration of unappetizing hippie food (the block of cheese was nice though), etc. We drove a long way over to the Utah desert in the middle of almost nowhere.

When I first arrived at the campsite and saw my group, I immediately knew I had made a mistake. Six boys, three guides, everyone covered in dust. Everything was dirty. The guides were young like the transporters, whereas I was hoping they’d be older and more experienced. I was on “gateway”, as all new patients are, where I sit separate from everyone with a guide and get a student mentor. I was placed on “high safety watch” because of being suicidal, which meant a guide was within arm’s reach at all times, and a bunch of other annoying safety precautions. At night, I had to sleep in the guides tent with a tarp over me and a guide at each side.

The next day we did a 6 mile day hike (no pack, just a small satchel of stuff) through the desert valley. The day went pretty standard, which I’ll outline in a bit. What was important about the second day was that I fully understood the program that day. One of the largest themes of the program was copious consequences and trivial rewards. Consequences were things like 20 minutes of silence for cursing, having the entire group walk to someone's shelter if they forgot something, or “drills” where if you didn’t do something in a slotted amount of time you’d have to do it over again until you made the time. Drills applied to things like washing cups, making shelters, putting on backpack, packing up, and other things. There wasn’t much reward other than you get to make a quesadilla (called cheesy torts. There was a weird vocabulary here) if you bow drill a fire (bust a fire), or bs like “sense of accomplishment” for things. This system is designed to basically shrink your world. I pledged myself that I would not become a dog to the consequence-reward system that day. It actually worked out that fire busting and hard skills came natural to me and I basically never got in trouble. That basically made it so I was immune to this part of the program.

There are essentially four steps to the program: the four “directions”. South>West>North>East. The South is learning hard skills like pointless knots and building construction packs (c-packs, a backpack from tarp and string). In the south you get your impact letter, usually a week or so into the program. That letter is your parents listing all the reasons for being sent to the program. You must read it out loud, in full, to the entire group. You then respond to the letter by mostly repeating it to your parents so they feel heard. The south lasted 5 weeks for me, which was within normal range.

The West you get a backpack. In the west you’re supposed to do deep self discovery. This is where most of your work gets done and it generally takes a similar or longer time than the south. One of the important things you do in the west is a letter of responsibility, or the impact letter response with more “i'm a screw up and I regret the past”. I spent the remainder up till the last few days in the west.

The north you get a headlamp, and it's all about leadership. Leadership, leadership, leadership. The east basically you are a master at the program and you are perfect woohoo. There's a book “the student pathway” where guides sign off various things like makes a fire or weekly things like was a positive influence. You’re supposed to get everything signed off to move. In practice, your guides or therapist just move you whenever and most people graduate in the north. I had about half the things signed before I moved to each direction. You graduate whenever your therapist and parents decide. 10-12 weeks is normal (weighted towards long stays).

The program actually moved to Colorado on my 3rd day, so I’m speaking from that point of view (setting only changes a few things anyways). The week looked as such: Wednesday is guide changes and food (and other needed items) distribution as well as “group meditation” (everyone comes together to do yoga and meditation and see the graduates leaving), thursday you leave for expedition, you get back to base camp monday, tuesday is chores, shower (pouring water from a watersack over you with pisspoor shampoo and conditioner), and meet with therapist. Tuesday you also send a letter in response to the letter you received from your parents the week before, and then you get a new letter from them. Therapist reads all letters (but not censors) by the way. About the food. Weekly personal food was 2 bags of peanuts with raisins (“gorp”), one bag of oats and raisins (“muesli”), one bag of straight oats for oatmeal (no sugar ever), a 1 lb block of cheese, and four pieces of any mix of oranges and apples. You get 1 hot meal per day, which is dinner. Dinner often came out to be a crappy tasting quinoa mush with vegetables or whatever. Students cooked the meals and sometimes the ingredients were good to make something like cheesy steak fries. My group had some good cooks but if you don’t have real creative people you’re out of luck for a not disgusting meal.

One week, I snuck a meal plan past a new guide which meant we had a meal of just mashed potatoes and other cooked tomatoes. On expedition you hike to a different random campsite each day. Usually there's a “layover day” where you stay at a campsite for 2 consecutive days which is actually really helpful. You hike carrying all your stuff you need for the expedition and some group items. The shortest day of hiking I’ve had was around an hour, and the longest was eight. It’s pretty variable, and also the longer hikes were used as a tool to draw out difficult emotions. It was nothing excessive, but there was one time during an 8 hour day where the last hour and a half a guy had run out of water, and since Open Sky has a strict no sharing of consumables policy for “health reasons” (you wear the same clothes a week straight so I’m calling bs), he just had to go on until we reached camp (I give this example not because I think of it as abusive, but to highlight another one of the stupid program rules).

The one of the main goals of the program is dealing with hard emotions and being vulnerable. You’re expected to be willing to share basically everything with everyone. They treat it like everyone in the group (and program, parents, therapist) has the right to know everything about you. Because you’re not willing to share past trauma or deep things you are ingenuine. For me personally, I am selective of who I share things with. It does not mean I can’t open up; I just choose not to. I also do not wear my emotions on my sleeve.

At Open Sky, god forbid you’re an introvert. They try to funnel you into this narrow definition of a good, functioning person: extroverted, super vulnerable, positive, and open. There’s this thing called “busting and ‘I feel’” where you call the entire group to stop everything and listen to you say “I feel ____ when __. I believe I feel this way because _. My request [goal] for myself is _. My request for the group is __.” You can do this for any emotion, and you can imagine the really trivial ones that are called sometimes. I hated doing it. Didn’t do anything for me and I hate being the center of attention. Basically my therapist’s entire treatment plan for me was around “busting I feels”. It held me back a great deal the fact that I hated doing it. I’d tell my therapist that it was pointless and not helping (because I actually did give it some effort). To this she’d only have my weekly goals to do more of them.

Another main goal of the program was relationship building with parents. It was evident a few weeks in that you’re not there for you; you’re there for your parents. Your parentals decide how long you stay. They decide where you go next. This power dynamic of non-adult patients basically having their legal rights in the hands of their parents ends up being the child conforms to the parents’ demands. Now to talk about the guides as a whole. I actually really liked the guides. They can be characterized generally as young, not wealthy hippies, who truly believe that they are making a positive change in the world through working for this program. They were of really strong character, which also meant they enforced the stupidly strict rules of the program. Their only qualifications really are that they are good people and can hike.

By each kid’s end of Open Sky journey, they generally appear to be very much improved and have high hopes going out, which affirms the guides work. The guides generally don’t contact people after they leave. I don’t hold anything against the guides, because I built some decent relationships with them and they are just trying to make ends meet and do meaningful work. Bonus: they mostly live out of their cars.

My therapist is another story however. As outlined earlier, she was mostly ineffective in helping me. In regards to the aforementioned safety watch, she moved me to medium safety watch (guide gotta be within 10 feet, but no other restrictions really) after a week and a half and kept me there for another 2 weeks. She used it less as a safety precaution and more of leverage to get people to be vulnerable. The only thing she knew of how each week went was what the guides told her. I’d get 1 hour long session with her a week. That's it. So essentially I only got one hour of actual professional therapy per week. In session we’d talk about how my week was, I’d say some emotions I felt about things that might aswell be drawn from hat, and I’d get my weekly goals (the sharing I feels goals).

After I left the program, my parents told me that she had been pressing my parents to keep me in longer and to send me to “aftercare”. The therapists relentlessly pressure parents to do this to milk as much money as possible. I never got to like her throughout the program, just hate her slightly less. My therapist was probably like other therapists: second rate therapists who went to low tier colleges for their degrees (one I knew of didn’t even have one). I also got 2 phone calls during my time there, one in the middle and one at the end. The one at the end was just about going home logistics so it hardly counted. You sit with your therapist during those calls, which is how they keep you from asking to be taken home.

Few people ever get to go home after the program. I actually went home (after a trip to China hehe) because I was a) turning 18 a week after I left and I sure as hell not going to aftercare and b) because my parents wanted me home and I had very little history with any sort of therapy. I only knew 2 other people who went home, and that was because their families simply did not have the money. Towards the end of the stay you meet an educational consultant, and they tell your parents where to send you based on probably an hour long meeting. Everyone thinks they’re going home right up until it’s decided where they’re going. Everyone thinks they’re special and their parents are not like the other ones who send their kids away. I was the only one for whom that belief was true.

A few months later, I find myself worse off than before. I have to maintain a fake relationship with mother. My therapist (who sent me to open sky) is a proxy therapist just to keep school happy. I have no support, no friends, nothing. If you’re a parent thinking of sending your child there, don’t. You’ll end up paying $50k to make your kid fit your ideals. It won’t make them better. If you’re someone who’s parents want to send you to somewhere like Open Sky or even any therapeutic institution, your parents can have you snatched from your room whenever they want. I can’t give any other advice than to do everything you can in order to stay out of this system. I was really lucky to only spend 2 and a half months in the troubled teen industry. I can almost guarantee you won’t be as lucky as me.

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