This testimony was made by a person known as "yellsnomatt". All rights go to the original author.
Oh man once i get started on residential treatment centers...
When I was 17 I spent four months in a wilderness "treatment center" down south. This treatment center was advertised as a rehab, behavioral center, fat camp, and juvie all in a single facility. But it didn't matter why you were there, all the kids went through the same shit. We slept in tents and spent the majority of our time doing group exercise and outdoor labor. But that's not the bad part. While the initial transition was rough, the physical environment of the program wasn't bad compared to the psychological bullshit.
We were not allowed to speak (or nonverbally communicate) at all without first raising two fingers to get the attention of a staff member to ask permission. The only time it was appropriate to speak "openly" was in group therapy twice a week. Conversation was not allowed. Period. If you spoke out of turn they put you on non-comm which meant you were not allowed to ever speak and you had to write everything you had to say. Break non-comm and they put you on med-comm which means no communication unless it concerns a medical emergency. There were other punishments (called "consequences" b/c treatment programs don't believe in punishment) too for breaking the "standards", such as being banned from using condiments on your food for using more than three shakes of the salt/pepper shaker. (NO JOKE) Another consequence was that we all would have to work out outside for our morning PT if one of us farted without excusing ourselves during PT, which was inside b/c its cold at 5 am in March.
Our only communication with the outside world was through letters written to our parents, unless you said things that the staff didn't like. Each and every one of our letters had to be read and approved by a staff member. We were not allowed to ask our parents to come and get us. And it'd be safe to say that parents were discouraged from doing so 100% of the time when they asked about picking up they're kids prematurely. (which is kind of understandable.)
The only way out of the treatment center was graduation. And graduation depended on how much you followed the rules, and how much ass you kissed and made it appear you had changed your "oppositionally defiant" disposition. It was required of you to snitch on your peers for breaking the rules (everybody did) in order to reach the next phase of the program. Whether or not one would advance a phase and get a step closer to escape was determined by the group therapist that the entire group of 4-6 troubled kids met with twice a week as group for hour-long sessions. It would be a good idea to make yourself cry during therapy so it looked you were making some kind of "progress". The therapist mostly went off of the written reports of the group leaders who were staff members. The group leaders were either newly graduated psych majors or just some guy with a degree who needs a job. And most people would only work for a few months and then leave. Anybody who has ever been in a treatment center knows how power corrupts in that type of position, like in those Stanford Experiments. The lack of empathy is disgusting.
The worst consequence was supposed to be level 3 separation but my time on level 3 was the best time I had in the program. In level 3 you are separated from everyone else and you aren't allowed in any of the buildings. You sleep outside and you spend most of your time either hiking or just sitting under the sun. And you get to have your own fire! But you are under non-comm. It's not a big deal because it's refreshing not having to put up with everyone else, mainly the staff. The only real interaction you have with staff on level 3 is when you pick up your food. All meals on level 3 are cold. I was lucky I was there in the summer. I'd heard some ugly stories about the winter.
It's funny because it's going to sound like I'm making this up too but we were also forced to go to Baptist church twice a week with the most stereotypical Southern preacher lol. Technically, we weren't forced but it was either go to church in the nice air conditioned trailer or wait outside. I think many of us were just glad we got to sit and relax for a bit. There was one Muslim kid and the preacher would talk so much shit about Muslims. It was kind of crazy how ignorant the guy was. He would literally say, "I have nothing against Muslims," and then say the most offensive things.
The staff smoked cigarettes in front of us. The staff ate their delicious food in front of us while we were stuck with facility food. They never shared. The staff regularly made fun of us. Interactions with staff were usually confrontational. These people have the nerve to complain to us that they don't paid enough as some of us sleep in the fucking mud getting hit in the face with rain because we annoyed them.
This is getting too long so I'm gonna try to wrap it up. I could write a motherfucking trilogy about the place.
As unpleasant of an experience as it was I don't know whether it was bad or good. I got in shape and my tolerance for discomfort is higher. I went back to school (the main reason my parents sent me there was truancy. also pot). But I don't know if I'll ever be at peace with those experiences. It was definitely the worst experience of my sheltered life. And it really revealed the true nature of humanity to me. People will do what they can get away with.
Some of the kids were as bad as the staff.
There were a few individual staff members deserving of respect.
The original testimony on the Reddit message board