mandag den 21. september 2020

A wilderness program experience

This testimony was found Reddit. All rights go to the original author known as tobyhztheg

Not to long ago I was sent to one of the many wilderness programs out in Utah. While there was some good therapy and help I received there there’s lots of silenced negatives that come with it and the industry as a whole.

I was there for about 14 weeks. If your wondering I was gooned or “transported” as the like to say. First of I’ll start with the fact that them calling this morally questionable service a “transport service” is pretty dehumanizing on top of the whole experience. It’s like we are simply a object being brought somewhere when we are human beings as well. My experience with being gooned was nothing out of the ordinary or too interesting. Just the normal 2 bouncer sized men coming in my room at 3am and taking me away. Although I’ve heard other rough experiences with this practice from my peers while I was at the program. One told me about how when he walked towards his mom too try to tell her goodbye he was tackled to the ground and handcuffed. During this restraint he had his lat re-Injured from a injury he was recovering from and in PT for months for. He was given next to no medical attention while he was at the program. He hiked 4 days a week with a 40+ pound backpack and was told to stretch and sometimes was given ibuprofen. Another story I heard was from my student mentor at the program. He explained how in the car ride his goons recalled and laughed about a time they beat a kid up, kicked his head, and dragged his bloody self into the car. This shows there are some legitimately sick people in this job and it makes me question the morals of these companies even more. Another student told me about when he was spending a night in a hotel with his goons. His goons asked him to spit out his gum, he told them no and they beat the living shit out of him, tackling him, punching him, and even repeatedly stomping on his head. There’s many more stories I have but I’ll keep it to that.

My experience and wilderness therapy was often agonizing, depressing and mad me feel like a inferior prisoner sometimes. I had to either count or call my name every time I shat in a hole or pissed in the woods. I couldn’t have a single conversation without a thing called “ears”. This is a non negotiable rule that a staff must be present to listen in on a conversation between 2 students or more at all times. They would completely shut the conversation down if it wasn’t deemed “therapeutic”. If you ever argued it would get you nothing. This felt like one of the many invasions of any privacy. Having monitored and censored discussions for more than 3 months got old really quick. Whenever we would speak up about any of the ridiculous rules and vented about or hard times at the program to each other we were constantly reminded by staff that it is our fault for being here and these are the consequences of our actions. This essentially made the rules untouchable and not up for debate. Staff also reminded us often about our “privileged” lives specifically our white privilege which basically made us feel like we had no right to have any sort of pity of ourselves or our peers. All of our lives at the program were constantly rendered back to it being our faults. Me and almost everyone came to the conclusion early on that we essentially had to robots to the therapists, staff and the program. Do what your told, bite your tounge and don’t complain. I found the most success in basically being a complete yes man the whole time. The outspoken ones never succeeded there. I also want to talk a bit about abuse of power. There was this one day where a kid was refusing to wear his face mask (covid reasons ofc) because he saw staff the other night being very close to each other and not wearing them. After refusing for about a minute to staff came over to him and tackled him to the ground. One of them shoved his face in the dirt while he yanked the kids arm and shoulder back while he was screaming in pain. For almost all of it they were being physical while he wasn’t even resisting. What really suprised me about this situation was that earlier on in my stay when a kid litterally physically attacked me all staff did was grab his arm and walk him away so clearly the amount of force in the mask situation was beyond excessive.

Often at the program we did much more physical labor and hiking than actually therapy while staff would bullshit us and say “hiking is therapy”. Litterally we had 1 therapy session a week for about 30 minutes when the therapists came once a week.

I also want to describe some of the lack of medical attention I received there. Throughout my stay I consistently had violent diarrhea. Looking back it’s not surprising because of the often rotten vegetables, and cleaning all of our cups out with dirt. (This next part could be disturbing) There was one week in which it was the worst. The whole week I was having such violent diarrhea that it god to a point where I was shitting so violently that I cut open the inside of my anus. All the shitty “med team” would do is give me a bad diarrhea medicine and sometimes tums when it was bad enough. It was litterally hell. A staff accused me of faking my diarrhea to get out of chores, hiking etc.

Sorry for the long post I might make a Pt 2 later. If you actually read through this thank you for hearing a little bit about my experience

Source:
My experience and my peers experience at Wilderness Therapy (Reddit)

søndag den 14. juni 2020

Second Nature (Evoke) testimony

This testimony was found on Reddit.

Hey, did anyone else have a really negative experience at Second Nature Entrada in Utah? Now called evoke I think. I went there in 2013 and still think about it all the time, but the lists of the bad places never include it. Some of the stuff that happened to me there:
  • put us on 48 hour isolation in solitary confinement on the whim of the staff members. Not even as punishment.
  • i was forced to drink a gallon of water in 5 minutes on two separate occasions as punishment for forgetting to get my water bottles logged (they can’t be held liable). They told me if I finished it the group would get quesadillas, so everyone cheered me on. Both times I drank until I threw up water, and both times I was forced to scoop up my own vomit even though it was just water, dig a hole for it, and was told I was dramatizing
  • staff calling the girls names, encouraging us to call each other names, encouraging verbal abuse -group meetings that existed purely to humiliate and shame.
  • girls being forced to hike and participate while withdrawing from serious drugs such as meth, crack and heroin
  • i was put on meds that made me drowsy, accused me of faking when I kept passing out under the weight of my backpack as a result, only stopped the meds when my parents noted they couldn’t read my handwriting bc I was so weak.
  • inadequate protection against the desert cold, girls would cry themselves to sleep.
  • was made to write a list of things I would never tell my parents, rhwn forced to read it. When I turned around they were there for their visit which I hadn’t been told abour ahead of time.
  • I never got the hang of making a fire, and they thought I just wasn’t trying, so they put me on isolation for a week where I couldn’t talk to anyone and the only thing I was allowed to do was to try making a fire all day. For a week.
  • sadistic games played by the counselers just to teach us lessons, promising prizes it was impossible to win.
  • clearly Morman therapist who told me I needed to find a higher power to get better, even though he knew I was Jewish and that that is a higher power.
  • kept me an extra month against my parents will because they wanted to take me home instead of transfer me to a RTC in Utah.
  • was not allowed to draw read or write.

I could go on. Did anyone else have similar experiences there??? I always see it listed as one of the “good ones” and I’m just confused

Sources:

søndag den 19. april 2020

A mothers testimony about her sons stay at the True Norh Wilderness program in Vermont

The True North wilderness program located near Waitsfield is mostly known in the public for a case where a detainee in the program ran away in 2019 for some time. Here is a testimony from a mother about what she saw when she placed her son in the program.


Our son graduated from TN 15 months ago. Before and during his stay, we disclosed that he had body dysmorphia, extreme anxiety, insomnia and OCD and that he had stopped functioning. During his 94 days at TN, he lost over 33 pounds. No matter how you look at it, that means he simply did not have enough calories to sustain his weight under the extreme conditions. No one at TN ever expressed concern to us about his diet or his weight. In fact, we were constantly reassured that the "kiddos" had plenty to eat. During the second week there, he ran away and made it all the way from the wilderness camp in the woods to the Roxbury library before they found him a few hours later and before anyone called us. We made him finish the program anyway.

When he graduated from TN, he still had body dysmorphia, extreme anxiety, insomnia and OCD. At TN, he was hungry all the time and he learned to tolerate hunger. He has since lost an additional 25 pounds and been diagnosed with an eating disorder as well as with PTSD from the assisted intervention we used to transport him to the program and from other physical and emotional feelings of cold, isolation, fear and abandonment that he experienced while there. After more than a year, he still won’t sleep in his old bedroom because the memories of being “escorted” or “gooned” are too traumatic. He stays under the covers when it snows or if there are thunderstorms and has frequent panic attacks. He doesn't understand how we sent him to TN in the first place or, given his letters home and constant pleas, how we could possibly have left him there. He may never forgive or fully trust us again and, although I hope to change that, I can understand where he is coming from. TN had recommended that we send him to a therapeutic boarding school after graduation. We almost did. Thankfully, we changed our minds and brought him home so we could all heal together.

Within a few weeks after he came home, our son posted several negative reviews about TN using his own name as well as pseudonyms. He detailed the hunger, the weight loss and the running away, among other things. TN quickly abandoned any therapeutic interest in our son and became aggressively defensive about the business and hostile in their rhetoric towards him. We found their approach to his distress particularly shocking given the therapeutic nature of their role and the fact that, when our son graduated from TN, his course leader emphatically invited him to apply to be a guide one day in the future. We nonetheless asked our son to remove all but one review, which he did.

Thankfully, he is living home and now working really hard in outpatient therapy with a therapist who gives him hope and helps him build real skills to move forward. It is a long road and we are all learning to be patient.

I have thought long and hard about whether to post this review. After all this time, I have decided that I need to share my experience with others who are considering residential wilderness programs, especially for anxious kids with no history of substance abuse, violence or any other dangerous externalizing behaviors.

Every parent gets to decide what is best or right for their child. But I have concluded that no anxious 16 year old should be isolated from everyone he knows and loves and left to sleep in a tent for 93 consecutive days without heat or electricity during the brutal Vermont winter. I know that there isn’t enough support for kids who are struggling or for the parents of those children. The options are limited. But I have concluded that highly unregulated outdoor, therapeutic wilderness programs shouldn’t exist. It certainly was not an appropriate or effective therapeutic environment for our son. Collectively, we owe it to our children and to ourselves to find a better way to help them.


Source:
The original testimony on Google

søndag den 15. marts 2020

A testimony about the True North program

The True North wilderness program located near Waitsfield is mostly known in the public for a case where a detainee in the program ran away in 2019 for some time. Here is a testimony about the conditions in the program from a former detainee.

As someone who was sent here, I recommend not sending your children there.

All it taught me was how to bury my feelings because my parents' were more important and sent me away from my family and loved ones, trying to make sure I wouldnt see anyone from home. They had convinced me everything and everyone in my life was toxic and that I should abandon them. Thats why they send you to a "transition program" as far from home as possible. Their confidentiality leaves a lot to be desired, as I heard my "therapist" talking about our sessions to other people in the program.

My parents told me I would just go there and be done and that since I was over 18 and in the "young adult program," I could leave if I felt in danger. When I felt at risk to myself and tried to leave, the therapist (Bogie) wouldnt let me and ignored my requests to be taken out of the program. He also withheld me from "graduating" unless I agreed to go to another 9 month transition program away from my long time girlfriend and family at home. My parents had also been convinced by him that this was the only option, and as a result I wound up stuck with no alternatives, because the people they choose to be in the program are known to not have money to make it on their own without their parents, so the threat of homelessness becomes surreal and overwhelms you.

If you want your child to come out an empty husk of what he or she once was but work, then I'd very much recommend this place.

Source:
The original testimony on Google

søndag den 16. februar 2020

SUWS testimony regarding conditions in the 1990's

This testimony was found on Yelp. It refers to how the wilderness program was managed in the 1990's. It is uncertain whether the policies have changed since. All rights goes to the author.

Fuck this place.

I did two stints here in the 90s. They force you there against your will, cavity search you for "contraband," and make you hike around ten miles a day with 40-pound packs, rain or shine, summer or winter. They, the police, and the parents of these poor children support corrupt laws which transfer custody of teenagers to a "program" that promises to "reform" them into productive members of society. Nevermind that you're only hardening them further against authority and institution, nevermind that many of these kids turn to drugs and alcohol AFTER they return from such a traumatic experience, the main problem is that we're not recognizing liberty to move about freely as an inherent human right, regardless of age.

But hey, whatever, we'd rather bend over and take it from our government, or rather bend over our kids and give it to them in turns along with the government, than give humans a little freedom to move around according to their own free will and choice.

Source:
The original statement on Yelp entered on 2/27/2019

onsdag den 24. juli 2019

Testimony about an unnamed program

I went to shorter wilderness program in the middle of the winter in Oregon. When I got there, they strip searched me and took my stuff. I was given clothes and put in the back of a pick up truck with those removal plastic tops. After that I was driven up into the mountains at dusk. By the time we stopped, it was dark out. I was given snowshoes and was told to strap on a sled to drag some of our supplies (this duty rotated). We were hiking to some place in the dark in the Oregon mountains in January. I stopped and told them this was bullshit. They said I was free to walk away assuming I would be scared to. I unhooked the sled and started to walk away. They tackled me and made me put the sled back on and keep marching.

I remember being really cold all the time. Our tents didn't have bottoms. We had to dig a hole to put our boots in and sleep on top of them at night to prevent them from freezing stiff. It was 21 or 22 days out there. The guides were nice enough, but reflecting on it as an adult, their qualifications were more related to being able to hike than to counsel teenagers. I remember the stars being beautiful at night. I remember the hikes were grueling and I looked emaciated when I finished. We weren't supposed to go into each other's mids (tents without bottoms). The last night, I heard a bunch of other kids in one of the mids. When I went in, they were all huffing gas from the tanks we used for our camping stoves.

Despite doing well in that program and being considered a leader, they recommended I get sent somewhere else. I went on to military school followed by a two year stint at the now closed Elan School. The wilderness program wasn't even my first program. I went for a 3 month stint at Turn-About Ranch when I was 14. They had a wilderness program in the same town called Northstar. It was shut down the year prior after a kid was thought to be complaining to get out of hiking. He had a perforated ulcer and was bleeding to death. The famous writer Jon Krakauer wrote an article for Outside Magazine about it called "Loving them to Death."

I was 15 for the wilderness program. It has since been closed to due to participant deaths. I know one of the deaths was considered an accident. A large branch from a tree felling on someone while they were sleeping. At their program in Nevada, a girl died of heatstroke. I think there was one more.

As far as therapeutic boarding schools go, I went to the notorious Elan School. Look it up. You will find all kinds of horrific shit about it. During my time there, I was in a house with roughly 120 kids (we came in and left 1 at a time, so this is just a guess). The house population was between 45-60 at any given time. I've lost count of how many are dead now. I'd guess at least 25%, but possibly more. Suicide, drug overdoses, a couple murders. Some are dead, but I don't know what happened. A lot disappeared and none of us know what happened. They could fine. Recently, I found one guy everyone thought was dead and he was doing awesome. However, I also found another people had been looking for and he'd been dead for 17 years.

I bring this up because people all these troubled teen placements are trying to make a profit. It's commonly a one size fits all program. Some kids end up in these places for disturbing crimes. Other kids got smoking a joint or skipping school and their parents sent them there. Nor does success in these programs predict much. One kid who had done extremely well was murdered by his friend while smoking meth out in the woods. His friend went crazy, slit his throat, and left him to bleed out. Another kid who was just in there before me, murdered his mom with a sledgehammer. Kids who had never even done drugs would come out a few years later and end up heroin addicts.

That doesn't mean others didn't do well after leaving. One of my peers is a high powered lawyer in big law firm. Another is a fairly famous healthcare political activist who is quoted in the Washington Post and interviewed on television. Many move on to be normal people. But, most of us are somewhat or extremely haunted by it.

The truth is, it's all a crap shoot. No program has any guarantees. Also, while parents might send their kids to these places because they love them and want to get help, it can feel like you are being thrown away like a piece of garbage. For me personally, with each place I went, my relationship with my parents got worse. The anger just built up at them. So, I would do great at a program. Then I would come back home and it would get bad again. Most programs unfortunately do not look at the larger context a kid's problems exist in. They are the problem. The program is being paid to make them the focus of the problem. However, in my extensive experience in these places, sure, the kids were usually fucked up, but so was most of the family. The kid was just what was called in psychology lingo the "identified patient". Kids don't usually just become messed up in a vacuum. But, in a for profit endeavor, the customer is always right. Even in cases where the parents are supposed to be involved in the therapy, it's only to a point. After all, they are the ones cutting the check. So, it creates some pretty perverse incentives.

Sorry for the wall of text. I hope some insight can be drawn from my words, but everyone's situation is different.

Source:
Question for teens that have gone to a wilderness experience for 8 weeks or more: (Reddit meassage board)

søndag den 17. marts 2019

Lexi A at Trails Carolina

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.

Trails was quite a negative experience.

If you think you are sending your child for therapy, be aware that this is more of a scared straight kind of program. Yes, I did get far better and my future is far brighter than it would have been had I not gone to Trails, but I left feeling overall traumatized. There were major abuses of power on the staffs' part, with one staff even refusing to allow us to replace a broken water filter because it would have been "a waste of money" . I subsequently got very sick from the unclean water and had to take medication for my constant throwing up. The staff didn't write a medical report until the girls in my group vocally protested and stood up for me after my 15th time throwing up. (I was not the only one sick from dirty water in that group). They should have never let it get to this point.

Also, as a previous review stated, be aware when they recommend for your children to go to therapeutic boarding school because it is most often completely unnecessary and prolonging the distance from home will only make it worse. The program also overworks kids while giving them little to eat. They don't tell you future plans (i.e. how much time a hike will take). One girl purposefully broke her toe out of desperation for the 8 hour hikes to stop (something a certain staff member knew was purposeful but ignored). Certain staff members show major and unprofessional favoritism. The therapy seemed to be a joke (I had Tai as a therapist) and sessions with her consisted of reading cards to see our spirit animals and feeling extremely judged.

In the end I am happy I went to Trails because it helped me pull myself together with time for thought, fear of coming back, and a growing thankfulness for home. As with nearly all other girls that I met from Trails and contacted afterwards, my depression got a lot better but my anxiety became crippling. Hopefully, Trails staff see this to help understand these problems because I do believe Trails has the opportunity to be a good program but many issues and the general deception in their marketing really disappoint and leave lasting damage/trauma on children.

I am furious with a lot of what staff allowed to occur because of their abuse of power.

Sources: