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

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


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.

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.

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.

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