Camps for troubled teens is a sort of trope one sees in Hollywood films, but they do also exist in real life, in several forms.

Most of us are familiar with troublesome "conversion" camps; establishments that attempt to condition people out of homosexuality using dangerous and ineffective methods. We are also familiar with "fat camps," which try to encourage a spike in weight loss.

But there are many, with many different functions. And Hollywood has yet to explore just how varied those stories can be.

u/7deadlycinderella asked:

[Serious]Former teens who went to wilderness camps, therapeutic boarding schools and other "troubled teen" programs, what were your experiences?

Here were some of those answers. Massive trigger warnings ahead: abuse, suicide, violence, abuse.

Refocusing Ahead


My father lost custody of me for domestic violence and I got scooped up by CPS and put into the group home system. He got custody back a couple of months later and I ended up running away. They sent me to a place called "Vision Quest," which was a place with troublemakers, but not that bad. The thing that was bad was that there wasn't any food. I was eating little single serving cups of cream cheese.

Ended up running from there with another dude, and when we got picked up I ended up in a residential treatment facility, mostly because they didn't know what to do with me since I didn't earn any jail time along the way. That place was full of mostly native American kids. Some of them were from rival gangs. The violence was pretty bad. Midnight beatdowns, gang fights, racial violence. The people running it really seemed to mean well and were actually pretty fair about seeing "what really happened" vs "everyone gets punished, no matter what." Despite what the other kids were like, it was the first time anyone really told me that it was my family that was wrong and to just focus on the program and work towards an independent living program, which I did.


Life On The Outside

I went to a wilderness program then a residential treatment center. In the end, it was good for what was going on in my life, but it was a roller coaster. Raging out at being sent away one moment to being awed by nature in the next in the wilderness program, playing silly games with similar aged teens to feeling trapped behind tall metal gates, surrounded by large staff at the residential treatment center. I learned a lot, I healed, I had some wild moments, and wished I had kept in touch with other people who were in my group.

I wonder what they are doing now, did they make it? There were pictures on the wall of the art room of people who had graduated and a therapist was having a heart to heart with us, told the group to look up. Then told us a good percentage of those people were dead. They relapsed, they got back with abusers, they killed themselves. It hit me in the gut. Life's hard after treatment. You've been taught a lot then you are thrown back in to your old life and you have to use the skills for real. It's never as simple as the books explain it. (Second Nature and Vista in case any fellow alumns are on reddit)


Goodbye Goodbye

I did Outward Bound when I was 18. The group consisted of about 14 of us, all between the ages of 16 and 20.

One girl was "sent" by her parents, I assume to straighten her up. On the first night we camped, she fled. She took a map, a compass, and I think some matches and was gone when we woke up.

We were told later she had made it to a road and hitchhiked to somewhere. I think she eventually made it home.

If there are camps specifically for kids in trouble, her parents should have sent her to one of those.


Why We Need Reform In This Country

Went to Discovery Academy in Provo Utah for two years, until my parents went bankrupt and the school kicked me out. They also refused to release my transcripts so I ended up having to get a GED because I was technically two years behind.

This place had some amazing tools for parents with troubled kids. They had goons that would fly to your home and take your child out of their bed in the middle of the night and escort them to Provo. They had comfortable rooms that were probably 4x12 with no doors that you got to stand in all day in nothing but your underwear with a councilor guard outside. Hazing and bullying were essential to the therapy.

It had decent moments, but there was so much misery, so much Mormon indoctrination, and so many abuses of power over the students.

I saw this in another post and had to add it here: Just read that comic.


It's This School Again

Got the heck repeatedly beat out of me at a Mormon boarding school in Provo, Utah. Almost everyone there was kept on incredibly high doses of anti-psychotics to keep us in line and so we couldn't fight back. When we did there was getting beat, strapped to a table, injected with drugs like haldol and the tossed naked into a concrete cell. "School" was a joke there and didn't actually bother to teach anyone anything. And the "therapists" well, what they and the other employees deserve probably isn't allowed to be said on here. Those that have been know what I'm talking about. Basically, the whole experience was rather quite unpleasant.


Time Heals Nothing

Went to Dundee ranch academy when I was 15, I am 32 now. It was shut down by the embassy for child abuse and living conditions among other things. I was there for a year and I still have nightmares of being trapped or jailed and other triggers. Sucks, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.


Too Many To Count

My experience with being forced to stay at a boarding school was horrible. It was highly abusive in uncountable ways. The staff were unprofessional and most certainly not there to comfort you in any way. They actually did the opposite and called us names like "liars" and "manipulators" and overall tried to make you feel like a bad person. They controlled every aspect of every moment of your waking life. It was not therapeutic at all. Anyone who says otherwise who went to these places is either brainwashed and in denial or enjoyed the sadism of bullying other students. The ones willing to snitch on and mistreat others did well and advanced in the program.

I was emotionally victimized by staff and students. There was no such thing as personal space or privacy. I was physically assaulted and abused by the staff. I am appalled these "schools" are still around and operating. I hate parents that put their children through that hell.


Plenty Of Gays

Was sent to a Marine style bootcamp for troubled teens. I was sent there because I was an a-hole towards my parents. Discovered upon arrival I was the only person sent there who was not in trouble with the law for assault, robbery, or drug possession. And I was made platoon leader of a bunch of kids who would probably end up in juvie after the camp. Fun times; would recommend for the amount of beatings, reprimands that went on there.


It Depends On Your Life

I got sent to a military school across the country for a year because I smelled funny one night. Now I was drunk and high on ether, but that's besides the point. I went in with a shallow knowledge of drugs and came out with a masters degree. Fortunately, I found my feet after a few years of the lifestyle and am just an average drinker now that will occasionally indulge in some refer. Overall I would suggest that putting a bunch of people with similar problems together for an extended period of time isn't really a great idea. I was definitely one of the fresh fish there. Most of those kids had way more serious issues, just based on what they claimed. Hard to say.


The Gay Persists


I went to a place that was for Christian parents to bring their teens who were "troubled".

Every morning we were required to wake up 2.5 hours before school and do an hour of chores upon waking, followed by an hour of mandatory bible study. We then would go to "school" which was really just a building with two ladies that sat all day at their desks as you did christian homeschool work books from like the 1950s. We werent allowed to listen to secular (non Christian) music, watch secular movies nor books. We were allowed to communicate to 2 friends on an approved list once we "leveled up" which was achieved by memorizing 30 plus bible verses that sometimes were multiple pages long. I had a friend who is from the middle east whom i had been best friends with since childhood and I got into huge trouble for trying to contact him as an approved friend, even though my parents were completely ok with it, because he was Muslim. If we did get into trouble (which I did A LOT) we were required to sit for up to 24 hours in a room by ourselves with only a bible, were not allowed to see our parents, and had to do 30-40 hours worth of chores. Sometimes we weren't even allowed to eat.

We got all our food donated to us, so most was way out of date.

I got kicked out after a year and a half being there because, well you cant take the gay out of someone.

I still have nightmares about that place.


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