|Posted by Roland R. Hansen on July 31, 2020 at 2:40 AM|
This testimony was found on Yelp where the marketing department of the facility has seen to that it is not among the recommended testimonies
I went to The Academy at sisters 10 years ago, I feel it's worth giving an opinion because that period of my life left quite a mark on me. This program and its dynamics are far more complex than parents or girls are led to initially believe. Although I credit that time for helping me arrive at a deeper understanding of myself and an improved person, I cannot- by any means, give the Academy any credit for this.
This is an intensive level based program with a cognitive behavioral approach to therapy. This type of therapy is accredited worldwide and admittedly has good results in some cases, in the short term. My opinion about this approach is that it is very superficial and deals with the outer layers, or symptoms, of behavior as opposed to leading a person more directly into the core of their problems and letting them explore what ails them more fully. Emotional support was lacking in the most profound way here. I wanted to do the emotional work and I observed how desperately the other girls desired to be supported in this way, through real therapy, but it just wasn't provided.
Initially I saw my very nonchalant, under-qualified case manager weekly- at best, for short talks that felt rushed and disappointing. The general day there consisted of the girls spending way too many hours doing mundane chores and being harshly graded through a point card system for failure to comply with rules and immaculate chore work. Through this point card system we were constantly being analyzed through a magnified glass and scrutinized for every possible thing you could imagine.
Certainly there were things a girl could get positive points for, and did, but the energy the staff put into negative criticism for us was such a primary focus that so often overshadowed really great achievements. As a consequence to getting over a certain amount of points off the following day you were not allowed to talk. There were some girls who "struggled" with this point system so much that there privileges for talking were often revoked for weeks at a time. I always thought that it was ironic that a consequence of perceived "bad", or "inappropriate behavior" led to your communication and therapy being revoked. You would think a girl would have more of an opportunity to address her issues in therapy when she's struggling with them so publicly but instead she was often left even more isolated and the issues ignored through this process.
Their reason for utilizing this technic for therapy may not have come from a bad place but it was being led by staff members who were uneducated and unable to understand even the most basic behavioral issues. Much of the staff were young and poorly trained, but then left to guide emotionally vulnerable young woman on how to conduct themselves. While the actual case managers, with assumed credentials, were more distant from the day to day process. And sadly even their "guidance", when given, seemed very basic minded and the work of an amateur , which I found (even then in my younger wisdom) to be a real problem when I had the intention to truly address who I was, and needed help in doing so . After a certain transitional period, which could take years, the girl usually conforms for approval and to redeem her "privileges"... I tried my best to carry myself through this process with as much integrity and personal truth as possible but this program encouraged robotic behavior.
In these stages the girls usually mimicked all the proper guidelines and protocol for upward movement in the program but had missed crucial steps in their internal work. It is very important that this is noted because this is a major issue in the failure of this program and the injustice that it served us. Had professionals been at hand we would've certainly had a greater chance of success when we reentered society because we would've been provided with the opportunities to explore the psychological root more appropriately and truthfully. But in all honestly it seemed as if there was such a barrier of ignorance in the staff members that they didn't even have a mild awareness that there were missing pieces, and that is exactly my point.
When my mother and I first met with Betsy, the program director, who seemed caring and charismatic we were led to believe that she would be an intrical part of the daily running. But later on it became crystal clear that she did not really know the girls at all, or have an understanding of how the program ran itself. I probably saw Betsy a handful of times in my 13 month stay, and this was usually to put on good face when there were parents visiting, how convenient. She quickly became somebody that I did not admire at all, although she seems nice enough on random occasions, her obvious absence warranted none of my respect, because- like I stated, it was certainly implied that she was part of the process.
This is just an example of the omissions that The Academy accumulates. Like forgetting to mention that the girls are basically maids and clean the entire property, shovel snow and feed the horses before sunrise in uncomfortably cold temperatures. The Academy omits this until it is mentioned to parents, and then justifies it as a means to teach the girls responsibility and tools for the world. Which, of course, depending on the individual one had certainly learn skills, but things like this were more so viewed as unnecessary trials for us, and a means for them to avoid the high costs of maids, gardeners, horse caregivers etc.. The motivation always felt a little sketchy to me.
I derived my own sense of achievement and pride in my ability to do my work there exceptionally well not because the lessons were well taught but because that has always been who I am. I made lemonade out of lemons, only because I was totally aware of the flaws in the program as I went along and developed a stronger relationship with my own truth in the process. I felt upset at the time that there were so many more girls going through the motions not understanding that The Academy was providing no foundation for them.
My catalyst came when I made it to level 3 and was sent to the public high school as some type of transition. This was exciting at first, but quickly I was faced with REAL societal pressures most teenagers experience. Sex, drugs, you name it.. I started becoming a split off person. Living one life in the confines of my program and another that was beginning to immerge in me again as my old issues (that were not properly addressed in the first place) became re-introduced. There was no manual for this. And considering the perfect performance the "upper levels" were supposed to exude there was no real way for me to communicate my stressors without being thrown down a level and lose my high school credits.
My case manager at the time would show up at the high school and practically spy on me and look up and of the kids I hung out with and constantly bagger me. Again intentions may have not have been bad but the level of conflict and stress I endured during this high school experiment was unbearable and totally unrecognized. I felt and knew I had no source to confide and process my true experience with, there was such a profound level of abandonment that occurred for me during this process and that is really why I choose to lend my story.
The Academy does not provide the psychological support these girls need during these level transitions especially. It was such a disappointment that I was basically left to drown because the proper tools were not implemented in a program the has complex stages and criteria. I made it a mission of mine, after leaving, to speak with Universities that educated those entering the field of psychology who would eventually be referring these programs to parents to do more research. I found a bit of justice and peace as I told my story. I hope that the Academy has greatly improved but I doubt it.
Even in watching that video I am able to see through appearances. They may appear to help these girls through troubling times, and I'm not saying there aren't some success stories, but keep in mind that they do not provide strong enough ground work for the "results" to have lasting effects, or at worse for there to be a level of injury -through trauma and abandonment, that may not even be fully realized by the girl at the time. Almost every girl I attended The Academy with that I've seen, talked to, or heard about certainly struggled with resentment and a void in the deeper work that later resurfaced in the real world and caused problems. Some stories more dramatic than others, and some with swear by The Academy and say it was the best place in the world for them, those are usually the ones that only know how to see their experience in a one-dimensional/concrete way, so for them I'm speaking a foreign language anyway, but even they experienced the totality of this program whether they know it or not.
My underlined point is please made a real investment of time doing research on what type of therapy these programs provide, get a sense of what it was like from former attendees. Make sure your child is supported- these are vulnerable times and these girls DESERVE all the care in the world, from on staff psychologists- especially for that kind of money!