Behind the scenes of teen treatment

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Patrick Berndt
Member since November 13, 2018
  • 1 Post

Free source: Photo by Abi Lewis on Unsplash

Free source: Photo by Abi Lewis on Unsplash

For parents of struggling teens, residential treatment centers seem to be an increasingly popular option. Children who have problems with addiction, depression, and emotional issues can be sent to treatment programs that promise safety and a solution to the child’s problems. Often times, the transfer into treatment is involuntary and most children are taken into custody and taken to the treatment center by transportation services known to treatment kids as “goons”. This is how my journey into treatment began.

On February 5th, 2017, I woke up to a woman and a man in my room. The woman flex cuffed me in my bed and appeared to be aggressive for no reason. I had been woken up and was just laying there. They reorganized as they gave me a simple shirt and sweatpants, and on a leash, led me to a car. They had not told me where I was going. In the car, I was terrified, however, I realized we were headed to the airport. In my head I became hopeful that the airport would provide me with an opportunity to escape.

When we got to the airport, nobody seemed affected by me being flex cuffed and lead around on a leash. I did notice men moving their girlfriends to the opposite side of them, which I found amusing. When we got to the security line the “goon” showed a police officer the plane tickets. To my surprise, the officer let us cut to the front of the line. The goons had no belongings and neither did I. I had seen the tickets and I figured we were going to Hawaii, so I wasn’t as freaked out. I was focused on finding an opportunity to run. The female transporter asked me if I wanted a plain bagel. When I reached out to take it from her, she dropped it on the floor. She then left and I got on the plane with the man. The flight was uneventful.

Getting off the plane, I was nervous because I didn't know what was happening. The male transporter was kind and didn't restrain me in any way. I guess the fact that I was on an island was enough for him. After waiting in the airport for what felt like an hour, another man and woman took me from the goon and we started driving to the program site.

Being transported in the middle of the night was a traumatic experience for me. In my treatment journey, it happened twice. The second time I got gooned my dad accompanied them to make sure they would be professional. For a while I had trouble falling asleep because I would be afraid that I would be gooned. This fear also ended up hurting me in school because I would be too tired to function.

I believe that having your child kidnapped will not benefit them in treatment. It makes kids angry at the entire process. Parents that are lost and confused about what to do with their struggling teenagers are vulnerable to the marketing of these kind of treatment centers because they hope it will help their child. This is why things like transportation services exist. Parents give away the custody to the treatment centers which gives them the power to discipline the kids how they want. In my experience, with one wilderness program and two therapeutic boarding schools, I have been put through some ridiculous situations and punishments. I decided to interview some of the people who were there with me to hear what they thought was the most absurd thing that happened to them.

First, I asked my roommate from my second therapeutic boarding school located in Montana. He reminded me of a required 12 mile snowshoe hike in Glacier National park that we did partially at night in below freezing temperatures. Some of the kids that were also forced to participate, were not in good enough physical shape to do the hike, however, stopping was not an option. We were given a granola bar and a pack of ramen noodles each. I then asked another student, who graduated the program, the same question. One thing he mentioned was how he was put on PR twice for not “snitching”. “PR” is an abbreviation for Personal Reflection.

This punishment meant that you need to sit by yourself and you literally can not talk to anyone. People have to act like you don't exist or they will be punished. This punishment lasts for about 48 hours; if you are perfectly behaved however staff can make it as long as they want.

In treatment you cannot “snitch” on other students or you could be beaten, but mostly if you did snitch, you would be hated by everyone, so kids would usually not snitch. Another student mentioned how staff would go on power trips. The student told me about a time when he was punched in the face by another student and had his own home pass taken away. Kids who are in the program for long enough, with good behavior, can go home for 5 days about twice in their 18 month stay. This student had that revoked from him when he squirted another student with a squirt bottle. The student got angry and punched him in the face. Instead of trying to solve the issue, a staff member decided that taking away the home pass was the better solution, despite the fact that the kid who punched the other student in the face, did not have one. This is wrong because students only get so many opportunities to see their families.

In my own experience, I was only given one overnight pass and I had to stay in the Montana. I also was not able to communicate with anyone from home but my parents.

In my time in treatment, I did not see anyone succeed. Every student that I know has fallen back into problems they had before. Especially with addiction. Not a single kid has stayed sober after treatment.

Recommendation, YouTube: John Oliver on Rehab

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