This is the History of and Reporting Guide for Second Nature Wilderness Program(s)  in Duchesne, UT, Santa Clara, UT, Clayton, GA, & Bend, OR

(aka Evoke Therapy Programs with same locations in Santa Clara, UT and Bend, OR)


On this page you will find incomplete staff and complaint histories with sources cited, the general advisory against segregated congregate care with sources cited, and a reporting guide for those unlawfully harmed or firsthand witnesses to unlawful harm by or at this location to report violations of the law to the proper authorities/law enforcement.  The staff list itself will not be updated with additional names out of a sense of fairness where those providing the names ask for anonymity or confidentiality.  This program is no longer eligible for merciful release as a guest sermon is on file.  However, it can graduate the COPE Conversion Program by meeting the Honesty In Marketing Standards (HIMS) or permanently close to be removed from the watch-list/released from the COPE Conversion Program.  If permanently closed prior to graduation, it will be buried in the virtual graveyard.




Additional Information
Brad M. Reedy Founder ALL PROGRAMS--Brad currently sits on the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs Board and the Utah Board of the Department of Child and Family Services.

In the public sector, Brad worked at Loma Linda University Hospital,  at Riverside Family Service Agency, and  at Center for Family Development.  In private practice, Brad has also worked with individuals and families with eating disorders and other addictions.  Brad worked as a field therapist and Clinical Director with Aspen Achievement Academy and Aspen Ranch.

Reedy is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Utah.  He has been licensed in Utah since March, 1998.  Source:

Cheryl Kehl Founder Prior to founding Second Nature, she was the Clinical Director at Aspen Achievement Academy (a therapeutic wilderness program in southern Utah) where she worked as a wilderness therapist and staff supervisor for five years.  Her experience also includes serving as the Clinical Director at Aspen Ranch (a residential treatment program for adolescents in southern Utah), as a therapist at the Comprehensive Clinic at Brigham Young University(BYU) in Provo, Utah, Wasatch Mental Health and the American Psychological Association in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Kehl is not licensed in Utah.  She was formerly licensed as a Clinical Social Worker and Certified Social Worker.  Both licenses are expired.  The first expired in September, 2010 and the latter expired in September, 1996.  She is not a licensed professional in Utah.  Source:
Devan Glissmeyer Founder Devan’s experience includes work at the Center for Family Development.  He worked as a field therapist at Aspen Achievement Academy.  Glissmeyer is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Utah and has been since October, 2004.  He earned his PhD at Brigham Young University.  Source:
Leah Halverson Admissions Halverson does not hold any professional licenses in Utah.  Source:
Shahara Davis Admissions Davis does not hold any professional licenses in Utah.  Source:
Steve Kirk Admissions There are too many Stephen/Steven Kirks licensed under various professions to determine from a basic search if this particular individual holds any licenses in Utah.  Source:
Tere Snodgrass Admissions Snodgrass does not hold any professional licenses in Utah.  Source:
Lori Armbruster Admissions Armbruster does not hold any professional licenses in Utah.  Source:
Ben Pearson Therapist Duchesne, UT Location--UINTAS/Uintas Program--Ben began working with adjudicated youth for the Anasazi Foundation in the fall of 1997.  In January of 2000, Ben came to Second Nature.  There is a Benjamin Albert Pearson that is a licensed clinical social worker in Utah.  However, that individual has only been licensed since 2006 and earned his degree from Eastern Washington University in 2003.  Given this Pearson's history and timeframe working for various programs dating back to 1997 and beginning with Second Nature in 2000, it suggests they are different individuals.  Source:
Bryan Lepinske Therapist Prior to his return to Second Nature Bryan was on the clinical team at Willow Creek School, a program in Provo, Utah.  He has also worked as a primary therapist at Vista Adolescent Treatment Center in Magna, Utah.  Bryan William Lepinske (may be different person) is a licensed Clinical Social Worker in Utah and has been since May, 2008.  The licensed Lepinske earned his degree at the University of Utah and under-graduate degree in Anthropology at Syracuse University. 
Jake Blackwelder Therapist Blackwelder has been with Second Nature since 2004.  Blackwelder no longer appears to work for this program.  Jake Blackwelder has never held a professional license in Utah.  Source:
Jason Capel Clinical Director Jason completed his undergraduate work at the University of Utah with Bachelors degrees in Psychology and Physiology in 1989. While there, he worked as a research assistant in the areas of human sexuality and memory working with both human and animal subjects.   Capel no longer appears to work for this program.  If this Jason Capel is Jason Lee Capel, he is licensed as a Clinical Social Worker and has been since 1997.  Source:
Jason Dalton Therapist The last program he worked at before joining Second Nature was Logan River Academy where he worked for nearly 3 ½ years.  While working at LRA, Jason saw a large number of students coming from wilderness program.  Graduate of BYU.  Jason B. Dalton (may be different person) is a licensed Clinical Social Worker in Utah and has been since May, 2001.  Source:
(Dr.) Quinten Harvey Therapist One mother reported Dr. Harvey to HEAL in September, 2009:

"They claim that he is independently 'contracted' by Second Nature, but I was told by Second Nature, in writing, that he worked for Second Nature.  I believe they are lying."  Harvey no longer appears to work for this program.  Harvey is a licensed psychologist in Utah and has been since December, 2007.  Source:

Jen Murphy Counselor . In 2000, and for the next four years, Jen worked for Aspen Achievement Academy.  Jen left Aspen Achievement in 2004 when she was sought by Second Nature.  Murphy no longer appears to work for this program.  Jen Murphy is not a licensed professional in Utah.  Source:
Jennifer Wilde Counselor Moving to a private facility in 1999, Jennifer worked at Island View Residential Center for seven years.  She has also worked as the Clinical Director at Willow Creek School.  Jennifer Orme Wilde (may be different person) is a licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been since March, 2000.  You will notice that this Wilde began working in the field prior to 2000 and therefore it may be a different person or she may have worked without a license at some point.  Source:
Jess Jewell Teacher Jess also worked at Gateway Academy, a residential treatment program in Salt Lake City.  In addition, Jess completed an internship with ChoicePoint Therapeutic Services.  Jessica Dawn Jewell (may be different person) is a licensed professional counselor in Utah and has only been since July, 2011.  Jewell has been working for this program since at least October, 2010.  Source:
Jody St. Joseph Therapist St. Joseph is not a licensed professional in Utah.  Source:
Devan Glissmeyer Therapist Glissmeyer is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Utah and has been since October, 2004.  He earned his PhD at Brigham Young University.  Source:
Patrick Logan Outreach Director Formerly worked for Hurricane Island Outward Bound's S.T.E.P. program, an adjudicated intervention program 
1995, parts of '96 and '97 Aspen Achievement Academy Senior Instructor and Team Leader (responsible for supervising and developing both rotations of Instructors in the field).  For 8 months in '96, Hidden Lake Academy as their Assistant Wilderness Director 1999 joined Second Nature as Field Director, helped develop Second Nature Cascades (Bend, Oregon), Information Technology projects, assisted with Willowcreek School (a.k.a. Willow Creek School)and continue as Outreach Director.  Logan no longer appears to work for this program.  Logan is not a licensed professional in Utah.  Source:
Shaun Woodard Field Director He joined Second Nature in 2000 as a field instructor.  Woodard is not a licensed professional in Utah.  Source:
Steve DeBois Clinical Director He worked for Youth Care residential program prior to coming to Second Nature.  Steven DeBois is a licensed psychologist in Utah and has been since 2004.
Tom Crist Logistics Crist is not a licensed professional in Utah.  Source:
Allison Conover Parent Coordinator There is an Alison Conover that is a licensed therapeutic recreation specialist.  But, the name is spelled differently than the Second Nature employee.  Alison Conover has been licensed as a recreation specialist since 2003.  Source:
Andy Dunn Therapist Clayton, GA--Second Nature Blue Ridge--Andy worked as a field guide for a wilderness program in Maine and a residential therapy program in Hawaii for adjudicated youth.*  Andy arrived at Second Nature, Utah in the Spring of 2000.  Dunn is not a licensed professional in Georgia nor Utah.  Sources: and
Leah Halverson Admissions Director Formerly worked for Aspen Achievement Academy and SUWS of the Carolinas.  Halverson does not hold any professional licenses in Utah.  Source:  Halverson does not hold any professional licenses in Georgia.  Source:
Shahara Davis Admissions Originally from Utah.  Davis does not hold any professional licenses in Utah.  Source:   Davis does not hold any professional licenses in Georgia.  Source:
Steve Kirk Admissions Kirk attended BYU and is from Utah.  There are too many Stephen/Steven Kirks licensed under various professions to determine from a basic search if this particular individual holds any licenses in Utah.  Source:   There are too many Steven/Stephen Kirks licensed under various professions in Georgia to determine from a basic search if this particular individual holds any licenses in Georgia.  Source:
Tere Snodgrass Admissions Originally from Arizona.  Snodgrass does not hold any professional licenses in Utah.  Source:   Snodgrass does not hold any professional licenses in Georgia.  Source:
Lori Armbruster Family Services Director Formerly worked for Monarch School in MT.  Armbruster does not hold any professional licenses in Utah.  Source:   Armbruster does not hold any professional licenses in Georgia.  Source:
Dan McDougal Owner/Partner/Program Director He then went on to work as a senior wilderness instructor at Aspen Achievement Academy in Loa, Utah. He was hired by Second Nature Utah to assist in the development of the field program at its inception in 1998. He has worked as a Senior Mentor and Field Director with Second Nature Utah. In 2002 he developed and co-founded Second Nature Blue Ridge.  McDougal holds no professional licenses in Georgia.  Source:
Dana Karkotsky Parent Coordinator Dana worked for two years as a clinical assistant at Ridgeview Institute on the Child/Adolescent Program.  After working at Ridgeview Institute, Dana came to Second Nature Blue Ridge as a field instructor.  Karkotsky holds no professional licenses in Georgia.  Source:
Diana Gordick Counselor Gordick holds no professional licenses in Georgia.  Source:
Erica Thiessen Counselor She worked both as a lead peer group counselor for two groups as well as wilderness counselor at The Academy at Swift River, a therapeutic boarding school in Massachusetts, before moving to Asheville in 2003.  Erica Lynne Thiessen (may be a different person) is a licensed professional counselor in Georgia and has been since April, 2007.  Source:
Jeff Scott Clinical Director Jeff has worked at SUWS of the Carolinas as well as the Aspen Achievement Academy.  He has also worked at Charter Provo Canyon School and the Heritage School.  There is one Jeffrey R. Scott (may be a different person) that is a licensed professional counselor in Georgia.  Jeffrey R. Scott has been licensed in Georgia since 2005.  However, the qualifications required to be a licensed counselor are often very minimal and certainly would not, even if it were the case, qualify them to be the clinical director of a therapeutic program.  Source:
Shelley Tom Therapist Tom is not a licensed professional in Georgia.  Source:
Paul Case Psychiatrist Paul Case, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist who joins Second Nature Blue Ridge from Montana Academy, where he worked as a Clinical Supervisor and therapist for four years.  Case no longer appears to work for this program.  A Paul Wesley Case (may be different person) is a licensed psychologist in Georgia.  However, there are NO PAUL CASES licensed as a psychiatrist in Georgia.  Case has only been licensed as a psychologist since 2008 in Georgia.  Source:
Tony Issenmann Therapist Issenmann no longer appears to work for this program.  Anthony John Issenmann (may be different person) is licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in Georgia and has been since August, 2009.  Source:
Tyson Farmer Field Director Tyson became a backcountry instructor at Alternative Youth Adventures (an Aspen Education Group program) in Loa, Utah in 2001.  Tyson started working at Second Nature Blue Ridge as a field instructor shortly after it opened in December 2002.  Farmer is not a licensed professional in Georgia.  Source:
Amanda Lilla Admin. Director Lilla is not a licensed professional in Georgia.  Source:
Casey Fitzgerald Parent Coordinator Fitzgerald is not a licensed professional in Georgia.  Source:
Andy Dunn Co-Field Director Formerly worked for Second Nature in Utah.  Dunn is not a licensed professional in Georgia nor Utah.  Sources: and
Mary Flora Counselor Formerly employed with Phoenix Outdoor wilderness program.  Flora no longer appears to work for this program.  Flora is not a licensed professional in Georgia.  Source:
Lu Vaughn Counselor Lu worked as a Program Director with Boy’s Clubs of America.  She worked 7 years with the State of North Carolina Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center; Director of an adult "therapeutic community"; Primary Therapist and Clinical Director for an adolescent "therapeutic" boarding school located in Bahia de Kino, Mexico; Clinical Director for Coral Reef Academy located in Samoa.  She is still listed as the clinical director for Coral Reef Academy.*  Vaughn no longer appears to work for this program.  Vaughn is not a licensed professional in Georgia.  Source:
Allison Hilemon Psychiatrist Santa Clara, UT Location--Entrada--Joined Second Nature in 2007.  Allison Lorick Hilemon (may be different person) is a licensed psychologist in Utah and has been since October, 2011.  There are NO ALLISON HILEMON'S that are licensed psychiatrists (M.D.s) in Utah.  Source:
Becca Carlin Asst. Field Director In 2004 she moved to Salt Lake City and began working for Second Nature in Duchesne as a Field Instructor.  Carlin no longer appears to work for this program.  Rebecca/Becca Carlin is not a licensed professional in Utah.  Source:
Beth Fogel Therapist Beth is a licensed social worker in both Utah and Pennsylvania and has been working in her field since 1994.  Beth has experience with adolescents in both inpatient hospital, residential and wilderness settings.  Most recently, Beth has worked for Passages to Recovery.   Fogel no longer appears to work for this program.  Beth Joy Fogel (may not be same person) is a licensed clinical social worker in Utah and has been since 2003.  But, you will notice the above claims she has been a social worker since 1994.  There is a 9 year gap between the licensed Fogel's licensing and her claims in Second Nature's materials regarding being licensed.  She earned her degree at Marywood University in 2002.  This again contradicts the information provided by Second Nature regarding her qualifications.  If Beth Joy Fogel and the employee of Second Nature are not the same person, than Second Nature's employee has never held a professional license in Utah.  Source:
Charlie Carlin Counselor Carlin no longer appears to work for this program.  Charles Richard Carlin (may be different person) is a licensed professional counselor in Utah and has been since November, 2010.  He was not licensed at the time he was employed by Second Nature.  He earned his degree from Prescott College in June, 2008.  Source:
Gail Bramlet Office Mgr. Gail is the Entrada Office Manager since 2004.  Bramlet holds no professional licenses in Utah.  Source:
Sara Carroll Field Director Carroll holds no professional licenses in Utah.  Source:
Clay Garrett Assoc. Field Director Formerly a zoologist.  Garrett holds no professional licenses in Utah.  Source:
Emily Douglas Nurse Formerly worked for Department of Corrections.  There are two Emily Douglas/Emily Douglass' licensed as nurses in Utah.  Without knowing whether Emily is Emily Anne Douglass or Emily Marie Douglas or neither, it is difficult to determine her standing.  Assuming it is Emily Marie Douglas, she has been a registered nurse in Utah since March, 1998.  Source:
Josh Nelson Logistics Nelson is not a licensed professional in Utah.  Source:
Tabitha Scarbrough Family Coordinator Scarbrough is not a licensed professional in Utah.  Source:
Tara Cook Parent Coordinator Cook is not a licensed professional in Utah.  Source:
Justin Stum Therapist Prior to coming to Second Nature, Justin was employed by RedCliff Ascent, a wilderness therapy program in southern Utah.  Justin Karl Stum (may be different person) is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Utah and has been since April, 2006.  He earned his degree at the University of Kentucky in December, 2003.  Source:
Lauren Roberts (Maiden name: Sperduto) Field Staff Roberts has been with Second Nature since 2006.  There is a Lauren Sperduto Roberts that is a licensed associate professional counselor in Utah.  This may not be the same person.  If it is the same person, she has only been a licensed associate counselor since March, 2010 and did not earn her degree until March, 2010.  She earned her degree from the University of Phoenix which raises additional concerns.  Source: 
Matt Hoag Therapist (Ph.D.) He began in the wilderness with RedCliff Ascent in southern Utah. He then worked for three years at Aspen Achievement Academy as a field therapist, assistant clinical director and director of research.  At both programs, Matt conducted psychological and psychoeducational evaluations with adolescents.  He has worked at both Second Nature programs in Utah, and done psychological testing at all four Second Nature programs. He has been with Second Nature for nine years and helped start Second Nature Entrada five years ago. (as of 2009).  Matthew James Hoag (may be different person) is a licensed psychologist in Utah and has been since December, 1998.  Source:
Mayer Jeppson Therapist (Ph.D.) Mayer focused his clinical experience on at-risk adolescent and adult populations.  He has conducted psychological assessments and/or conducted individual and group therapy through St. Elizabeth's Hospital (a forensic mental hospital based in D.C.); the Northwest Child and Family Community Support Center in D.C.; the Juvenile Addictions Receiving Facility (JARF) at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, Florida; Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) in Miami, Florida; South Miami Excel Shelter; University of Miami Institute for Family Living; Brigham Young University Comprehensive Clinic; Utah State Fourth District Juvenile Court; Utah State Adult Probation and Parole Salt Lake City Daily Reporting Center; Utah State Board of Pardons; Utah State Prison Sex-Offender Treatment Program; and the Utah State Prison Olympus Forensic Mental Health Unit. Before his psychology internship from September 2006 to September 2007, Mayer worked as an assistant therapist and primary therapist at the Second Nature, Duchesne site.  Jeppson is licensed as a psychology resident only and not a psychologist.  He has only been licensed since October, 2011.  This appears to contradict the information provided in his profile above.  Jeppson did not earn his degree from Brigham Young University until August, 2008, which also appears to contradict some of his above claims.  Source:
Mike Hench Therapist Most recently Mike has worked in the youth/young adult treatment industry as a program therapist for SunHawk Academy, a residential treatment program operated by Aspen Education Group in St. George, UT, and as the Director of the Medicine Wheel program, a wilderness therapy program for young adults operated by RedCliff Ascent in Enterprise, UT.   Michael James Hench (may be different person) is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Utah and has been since March, 2004.  Hench earned his degree at the University of Kentucky in 2001.  Source:
Paul Goddard Therapist (Ph.D.) Paul Goddard was Clinical Director at Aspen Achievement Academy in 2005. Goddard was the psychologist at New Haven, Clinical Director at Vista, and both Clinical Director and Executive Director at Adirondack Leadership Academy in New York.  Paul Eugene Goddard is a licensed psychologist in Utah and has been since November, 1995.  Source:
Rick Heizer Owner/Program Director Rick joined the Second Nature team in their first year of operation.  During his time with Second Nature, Rick has held positions as Field Coordinator, Assistant Field Director, Field Director and Program Director.  Currently Rick is an owner and the Program Director for Second Nature Entrada.  Heizer is not a licensed professional in Utah.  Source:
Sean Denali Roberts (Lauren Roberts' husband) Instructor Sean also worked for Outward Bound’s Department of Juvenile Justice and DCF programs.  Sean joined Second Nature Entrada in the early fall of 2005 as a wilderness instructor.   Sean Denali Roberts (may be different person) is a licensed associate professional counselor and has been since March, 2010.  Sean earned his/her degree from the University of Phoenix in March, 2010.  Source: 

 Roberts reportedly worked for Cascade Crest Transitions from 2015-May, 2021 and as of September, 2021 is reportedly starting his own private practice in Bend, OR. 

Brian Rossiter NO TITLE(?) Bend Location--Second Nature Cascade(s)--He also worked with the CEDU schools for seven years, as the Program Director for Phoenix Outdoor Education Center in Vermont and as Program Manager at the Ascent program.  Rossiter no longer appears to work for this program.  Rossiter holds no professional licenses in Oregon.  Source:
Cindy Fogel Therapist Fogel has worked in industry since 2001.  Fogel is registered professional counselor intern and is not qualified nor licensed as a counselor nor therapist in Oregon.  Source:
(Dr.) J. Huffine (male) Therapist He started working in a wilderness program in Texas in 1998, before moving to Oregon where he has been Clinical Director at SageWalk the past five years.  Huffine is not a licensed therapist in Oregon.  Source:  Huffine is not a licensed counselor nor therapist in Oregon.  Source:  Huffine is not a licensed social worker in Oregon.  Source:  Huffine is not a licensed psychiatrist nor medical professional in Oregon.  Source:
(Dr.) Willow Huffine (female) Therapist Huffine is not a licensed therapist in Oregon.  Source:  Huffine is not a licensed counselor nor therapist in Oregon.  Source:  Huffine is not a licensed social worker in Oregon.  Source:  Huffine is not a licensed psychiatrist nor medical professional in Oregon.  Source:
Mischa Shriver Parent Coordinator Shriver is not a licensed counselor nor therapist in Oregon.  Source:
Michael Griffin Clinical Assistant Griffin is not a licensed counselor nor therapist in Oregon.  Source:
Heath Vaughn Reportedly Former Owner/Therapist Reportedly working at another youth facility (not yet identified) in Utah.
I went into the woods a teenage drug addict and came out sober. Was it worth it? A large, unregulated wilderness therapy program treats thousands of teenagers each year. When I was 17, I was one of them. by Emmett Rensin on July 7, 2016 I have only been home for a few hours when two strangers open the bedroom door. It is 6 in the morning, but the disturbance doesn't wake me. I am awake already, I don't know for how long. Minutes or seconds. These two men preparing in the living room, the last Are you sure, a hand on the doorknob. I must have heard it, opened my eyes. They are standing in the doorway, two men, each of them alone more than big enough to move me on his own, one of them speaking, very kind already, Hey. Let's go. My parents are gone. Or they are in the living room, watching. Or they are in the kitchen, or at the front door, a quick goodbye while we pass through to the driveway. My father, not my mother? My mother, my father already in his office? Or it was one of them who woke me up, down on one knee next to my bed, hand on my shoulder, lightly shaking like, Hey buddy, you're going be late for school, except it isn't that this time. I don't remember. I have the sense that they were there, but I can't place them. There's an SUV in the driveway. One of the men, "transporters" I'll later learn they're called, asks me how old I am. Seventeen. When's your birthday? It is July. I am six weeks into summer school, which I have been attending five days a week despite the fact that I walked out of my parents' house a month prior with $200 and had, until the night before, been dividing my time between three or four friends with empty couches and a taste or at least a tolerance for the kinds of drugs I like. Some youth wilderness programs are sincere in their effort to help students; some believe help is best achieved by breaking them I don't know why these friends let it go on for so long. I think my parents must have known where I was, called them, made sure I was at least still living, still going to classes. Why else would they be so willing to be up by 7? Driven me to campus through Los Angeles traffic? Summer school has not been going well. I've fallen asleep each day in music history. I'm failing tests. On a trip to the Getty Villa, a recreation of a Roman estate high up over the Pacific Coast Highway, I hang back in the bathroom for an hour, convinced I'm having a heart attack. I'd come back to my parents' house the night before after negotiation. In the driveway the next morning, I finally understand why they agreed so easily. My birthday is in January, I say. Oh, that's not for a while. You'll probably be back in time to celebrate. I do not ask where I will be back from. I do not ask or say anything. It is urgent that I remain indifferent. I decide, for reasons I do not quite understand, that there is something to be won by appearing utterly calm. Do I hope this will make me appear stable? You've clearly made a mistake. This boy is fine. I am indifferent in the SUV, one transporter up front, the other in the back seat beside me. One highway east, one south out of the Valley. I am indifferent in the parking lot at LAX, and in the terminal, and through security. A TSA officer nods when one of my escorts shows her a pass in lieu of a ticket. He's not flying, but both have them, have got to guard me until boarding. I wait for the agent to ask what the hell is going on, but she nods. Evidently I am the only party that has not consented to this abduction. The flight is delayed. We wait the better part of the day in the terminal. We fly, five hours, then another two men and another car and a long drive, and I am as cheery as the first pricks of withdrawal let me. I am indifferent for nearly 40 hours. Then, in the forest, in Georgia, a few yards beyond a large canvas propped up like a tent top, with 10 or 12 men below it, away from them I am sitting on something — a stump? A rock? My backpack, I don't remember — and crying. For God's sake, just let me go just let me talk to my parents just let me have a phone just let me convince, I can convince, I get it, I know, I know you can't, but let me just let me just let's step back from what we're doing what the rules are, just begging I am begging for an exception person to person, just please. This is not unusual. I will see a dozen patients come and go in the months before I get back to California. While not all of them beg quite so explicitly, while not all of them cry, most do. Nobody knows precisely how many youth wilderness programs exist in the United States. Attempts to count them produce wildly different results, anywhere from dozens to over a thousand. Some are licensed, others are not. Some states require that programs register with a regulatory board, but many do not. Parent companies own entire networks of programs and schools but have at times taken legal steps to conceal their connections. The largest umbrella organization for wilderness programs is the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs. The group contains wilderness programs like Second Nature — the one I was sent to — and therapeutic boarding schools as well. These schools take students full time, with patients often spending years in them, indoors but subject to the same restrictions encountered in wilderness. These, too, have no official count. These, too, are sparsely staffed, without screening or adequate training, in corporate networks, skirting around the legal borders of health care and its attendant regulation. These too are part of a larger network of business interests, the "troubled teen industry," including transporters and "educational consultants" who help parents place students with programs often on the basis of prior relationships and at times on the basis of referral payments; who exert tremendous pressure on transitioning children from wilderness directly into a therapeutic boarding school regardless of the child's progress in wilderness. Nicki Bush, a child psychologist, told the Atlantic in 2014 that "these programs call themselves wilderness therapy or come up with their own categories so that they can avoid the criteria that would apply to, for example, a mental health treatment facility." According to the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs' definition, wilderness programs: subscribe to a diverse treatment model that incorporates a blend of therapeutic modalities, but do so in the context of wilderness environments and backcountry travel. The approach has evolved to include client assessment, development of an individual treatment plan, the use of established psychotherapeutic practice, and the development of aftercare plans. Outdoor behavioral health programs apply wilderness therapy in the field, which contains the following key elements that distinguish it from other approaches found to be effective in working with adolescents: 1) the promotion of self-efficacy and personal autonomy through task accomplishment, 2) a restructuring of the therapist-client relationship through group and communal living facilitated by natural consequences, and 3) the promotion of a therapeutic social group that is inherent in outdoor living arrangements. You could be forgiven for believing that this corresponds to any legal or medical theory of treatment. Parents often are. "When Keith Couch stumbled onto, he thought he was getting exactly what was advertised," reported the Des Moines Register in April 2016, "a free referral service to help the couple identify 'some of the top Youth Development Programs in the world.'" "The Couches now believe they were unwittingly steered toward Iowa's Midwest Academy by a business more geared toward profit than therapy. In Utah, where AnswersforParents is based, a whole industry surrounding troubled teens has delivered cash and kids to controversial residential facilities for more than 30 years, experts say." These businesses tend to be in Utah. Or in Georgia. In any state where the law makes it easier for parents to sign over temporary custody, where small towns cannot betray them for fear of ruining the biggest business in town. "There's social capital to having one of these in your area," Bush told the Atlantic. "Moreover, because the youth that are put there are predominantly at risk for something — either they have some peer problems or behavior problems or social problems, etcetera — when something happens to them, people tend to dismiss it as, ‘Well, they're bad teens.'" The biggest business I ever saw in Clayton, Georgia, was a salvage yard. Before I go into the woods and join my group, I am processed in a small office beside a car salvage yard. It's late. The woman who does my intake has stayed late for this, and she hurries through the steps. Maybe she always hurries through the cavity search. I'm measured and weighed. She draws my blood. They take my clothes and give me my uniform: two bright teal shirts, two pairs of cargo pants that can be unzipped into shorts. Hiking boots. A full-body backpack and smaller sacks to go in it. The transporters told me to bring books, if I liked, but all three I've brought are taken while we're waiting for the results of my drug test. "You can get them back with your therapist's permission after you're settled in," she says. I never get permission. The group therapist, a man named Paul* who brings his dog to work and who has the friendly affect of a man overestimating his own charm, says I like abstraction too much. Books contribute to this problem. I need to learn to focus on myself, see the situation around me as it really is — by which they mean, as it will have to be from now on. For the first few days, you're alone. This is intended, in part, to allow you to observe before participating, to acclimate to the woods and to the hikes and to sleeping outdoors, to detox if you have to, before becoming responsible for your share of the group's labor. You see the rituals before you join them. You learn how you are supposed to look. But the isolation is also a tantrum buffer, a space in which to protest or cry or passively resist without directly impeding the activities of other patients. You're given a journal, some food, a plastic spoon. It is a temporary luxury — you'll need to throw it out soon and make your own from wood. You are told to write your life story. No further instruction, although there are wrong answers. You're told that you're in "Earth Phase," the first of four phases, each with attendant privileges. Earth Phase is the shortest: It ends after a few days when a clumsy, semi-serious ceremony carried out in perfect seriousness welcomes you into the group proper. You enter "Fire Phase," like most everybody else. You sleep under your own tarp after that. You talk to the others. You participate in therapy and carry your share of group supplies. You help cook. You enter ordinary life, or a life that will come to feel ordinary soon. (There are two other phases — "Water" and then "Air" — achieved by completing a variety of tasks. These include reading and writing, accomplishing certain key therapy events, demonstrating certain wilderness skills such as weaving a length of string no less than 6 inches from bark, capable of holding a 50-pound weight suspended for an hour. Some of these tasks have explicitly therapeutic purposes: Fill out this 12-Step Workbook. Some — for example, a book report on Man's Search for Meaning — do not. I am Water Phase by the time I leave, a status that carries with it a small personal flashlight. Only one patient achieves Air Phase in my time there: He gets an air mattress and a folding chair, impossible luxuries.) Any group that requires its members to tolerate one another's presence at all moments of each day, and that furthermore expects them to provide constant therapeutic support for one another, must induce shared trust. In every story you'll ever read about these programs, there is a sentence introducing the reader to their very existence. You've probably never heard of this industry, but... At Second Nature this was accomplished in a number of ways, largely through rigid communication structures. All conservation takes place within staff earshot. Certain kinds of conversation — for example, "war storying," i.e., valorizing past misdeeds — are forbidden. Important conversation occurs in "groups" of tiered importance. Standing groups are casual, for the organization of chores and small grievances. Sitting groups are slightly heavier, for therapeutic confession and conflict resolution. Stick groups — sitting groups opened and closed with the ceremonial breaking of a stick and a few words of incantation — are the most serious of all, reserved for heavy and notable moments in group therapy. We make structured statements. "I feel x because I believe y; when p did q, I felt z." Second Nature is very bullish on the notion that emotional states are a consequence of belief. If you're angry because someone shoved you, it's because you believe, rightly or wrongly, that people shouldn't push each other. As if rage required cognition. Group trust is also accomplished by breaking in new members; by pointed, communal humiliation. The first stick group I participate in is the reading of my "letter of accountability." Everybody has one. The group is convened, a stick is cracked, and you are given a letter written by your parents. You have not read it before, and you will read it aloud now: a liturgy of disappointments and misbehavior, concern, well wishes. At the behest of the program it includes particular incidents, particular wrongs. We did not miscount the money on the counter. But even when we confronted you, you insisted you hadn't taken it. The lying hurts more than the theft, and we don't know what to do anymore. It comes down to: You've hurt us. It is difficult to remain aloof after this experience. You are part of the group, and you will later read a reply you write to your parents, subject to critique by other patients. I feel like you're evading; I wonder if you're not rationalizing there. It is unclear if your peers are particularly concerned with the honesty of your reply. I never was. But there are phrases you learn to say, evasions you learn to look for and point out. It is important that staff see that you have grown since you arrived, that you are now helping others through their difficult early days. You come to like your group, at any rate. How could you not? There is no one else. I come to like Jackson, a wiry tweaker so evidently bullshitting his way through the program that it is a wonder he is allowed to leave at all. I come to like Rich, proportioned like a high school football player too skinny for the pros, who is at once capable of demonstrating peer leadership and always being very slightly in trouble with staff. I come to like "Cool Mike." He is 13 years old, and his parents have sent him here for excessive marijuana use. On the third day, I run. It's morning when I do it, early enough that I don't have my shoes back yet. We're breaking down camp and staff looks away for a moment, and I walk over a pebble ridge in just thick socks. I don't know how long it takes for them to realize I am gone. Nobody yells. Nobody runs after me soon enough for me to see them. We're in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, trails and roads elevated between ravines above tributaries. I stay off the road for hours, stay between trees. I walk across shallow water a few times, believing this will help if Second Nature makes use of tracking dogs. I shit in the woods without digging a hole and don't bury it; fuck them and fuck Leave no Trace. I do not know what my plan is. I walked off on impulse, and it is several hours before Now what? cannot be deferred in the name of outrunning imagined, immediate pursuit. I do not know the way to Clayton and do not make a conscious effort to walk in a single direction. Second Nature operates at the southern tip of the Appalachians, and for all I know I am headed further in. I still believe that if I can only get ahold of my parents, talk to them directly, they'll see reason. After three or four hours, I decide this has been my course of action all along: Get to town, get a phone, call, and beg. In the afternoon I see a pickup truck parked next to a stream. An older man is fishing; a woman is sitting in the car. I am still wearing my orange safety vest when I walk over, but even if I had taken it off, they might have noticed I wasn't wearing any shoes. They might have known in any case: These are locals, and Second Nature is the biggest business around. If they do know, they say nothing. They give me a small bottle of water and a cigarette. I'm soaking from the knees down in river water, from the waist up with sweat. We talk about how humid it is for late July. I walk away and head up onto a road. During a hike the day before, I noticed how many bulletin boards there are on the roadside and believe I may be able to locate a map on one of them. But I am only on the road for 10 minutes before a white van passes me, then comes to a stop some 200 yards ahead. Two staffers come out, and I run the other way. I'm exhausted; they catch me quick. I go limp, say nothing, and they carry me into the van. I don't know how far I've gotten or how far my group hiked that day, but we are back inside of five minutes. I spend the next week on "watch," sleeping tucked in between bodies in the staff tent. Shouting won't cut it anymore — when I use the bathroom, a counselor comes with me. My group did solos, three-day periods of solitude for patients, only once during my time there. They came three days after my escape attempt, and so I am forced to set up my tarp a few dozen yards from where staffers will spend the next three days, within easy sight but subject to a silent treatment. God knows how I ruined their vacation. God knows what they do when they get to camp a few days, with no patients to watch and no patients watching them. Some youth wilderness programs are worse than others. Methods vary. Some are sincere in their effort to help students; some believe help is best achieved by breaking them. Reality television shows have caught on to these boot camps, but none have bothered to see if they work. The National Institutes of Health believe these programs can worsen existing behavioral problems. "Experts say schools associated with the network and others modeled after them have made millions of dollars marketing fixes to parents with out-of-control or drug-addicted teens," the Des Moines Register reported. "The schools get new clients from troubled-teen websites in which consultants are paid for referrals." In a story published the same week, the Register interviewed a former employee of Midwest Academy, now shuttered, whose director has been accused of sexual abuse, fraud, and child neglect. The employee, Nathan Teggerdine, told the Register that the program made no effort to distinguish between students truly in need of help and those being disposed of by their parents. More from First Person Confessions of a former internet troll "I had kids in there who had committed assault, and others who were just being disrespectful or not getting along with their siblings," Teggerdine told the paper. "It just felt like those students were being shipped off because they were being difficult to handle. But the thing is, they weren't being taken care of." You hear this story all the time reading about wilderness and about therapeutic boarding schools. Parents are terrified. They're preyed upon by "consultants" working for referral fees. Their students are taken regardless of their needs. They are transferred between programs, as many as the consultant can persuade the parents of. The money comes in quick. In 2007, the Government Accountability Office compiled a report on wilderness therapy and residential treatment programs, concluding that these programs were dangerously underregulated. "We found thousands of allegations of abuse, some of which involved death, at residential treatment programs across the country and in American-owned and American-operated facilities abroad between the years 1990 and 2007," the report says. The examples cited include the 2001 death of a 16-year-old girl who fell 50 feet while climbing in an "extremely dangerous area," and a 14-year-old boy who became so dehydrated that he began to compulsively "eat dirt from the desert floor." His "limp body" was placed into a sleeping bag, where he died. Another example: In May 1990, a 15-year-old female was enrolled in a 9-week wilderness program. Although the program brochure claimed that counselors were "highly trained survival experts," they did not recognize the signs of dehydration when she began complaining of blurred vision, stumbling, and vomiting water 3 days into a hike. According to police documents, on the fifth day and after nearly 2 days of serious symptoms, the dying teen finally collapsed and became unresponsive, at which point counselors attempted to signal for help using a fire because they were not equipped with radios. Police documents state that the victim lay dead in a dirt road for 18 hours before rescuers arrived. Who, precisely, did they expect to rescue by then? Shortly after the girl's death, the program was closed. Its founder relocated to Nevada, where she opened another. These relocations are common. A new name and a new headquarters, often in a state less inclined to regulate troubled teen programs, can allow criminally negligent programs to survive for years. In 2008, the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act was introduced in Congress. The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, along with other industry groups, lobbied against it. It died in the Senate. In May 2013, the bill was introduced again. It died in the House. In every story you'll ever read about these programs, there is a sentence introducing the reader to the very existence of these programs. You've probably never heard of this industry, but... In every conversation I've ever had about them, someone says, I've never heard about any of this before. I've never seen anything about it at all. We hike five days a week. In the morning we eat grains and oats, then break down camp: individual tarps, group tarps, pots and pan and other supplies. We load them into full-body backpacks and go. Hikes can last a few hours. They can last a day. They are interrupted by lunch, culled individually from the personal food supply each of us is granted per week (a pack of soft tortillas, three pieces of fruit, two ramen packs, and canned diced chicken). They are interrupted when a fight breaks out, or when somebody refuses to hike. They are interrupted by injuries. When we reach our destination, we set up camp. Each of us has a flat tarp and string. We know the knots for creating shelter within trees: A-frames, slants, more elaborate designs if you're able. We bow-drill for fire. Each of us has built a bow and a pummel and a top stone; somebody busts an ember to cook, or the dehydrated beans and rice we eat for dinner go cold. They give us communal meat and cheese on supply days, but it goes bad fast in August. If the light isn't out yet when everything is done, we might play a game. My group prefers Mafia, and I will say you haven't really played it until you've played it with a dozen teenagers, gathered because they are duplicitous fuck-ups. We leave our shoes beside our tarps, and staffers collect them. We're alone in bed. We sleep. Except sleep, solitary, shoeless, and in darkness, nothing happens at Second Nature outside of the earshot and eyesight of staff. Over three months I will not have a private conversation with a fellow patient, nor be alone with any of them. Even perfectly audible conversations may be ruled technically out of earshot, if, for example, they are about a topic with which the staff is totally unfamiliar and therefore incapable of monitoring for forbidden subject matter. (This will occur several times during hikes when Rich, a tall Canadian ketamine dealer, and I get to talking about computer science, and staffers are unsure whether we are telling "war stories," inappropriate glorifications of the bad behavior that got us here). In daylight, a staff member can always see you. One leads the hike, one brings up the rear. They form a triangle at camp; each one always has at least 60 degrees of vision. The environment is "secure," it is a "gift," it will "transform" everything from your child to your family to your life There is an exception to this rule. When we shit or shower (fill a sack with river water, strip, and pour; repeat as necessary), we are allowed some privacy. But there is a catch. When out of sight, we must shout our first name every three to five seconds, loud enough to be heard at camp. The first time I try to, I cut myself short, go back to camp, don't use the bathroom for days. I have to eventually, waddling up now swollen to the latrine another patient dug, yelling, half-assed, like a kid acutely embarrassed by fun. This is precisely as ridiculous as you imagine. Or it is for a while. Shouting your own name, especially with pants down, or naked, does not become normal, but it is quickly unremarkable. Second Nature was founded in 1998, by Cheryl Kehl and Devan Glissmeyer. Its first campus was in the Uinta mountain range, in Utah, but within a few years the program had expanded to Georgia, where Second Nature Blue Ridge opened in 2002, five years before I arrived. In 22 years, they say when I reached out for this story, nobody has ever died at Second Nature. Today it has added additional programs for adults and younger children, as well as a second Utah location and a location in Oregon. Each site serves around 200 students per year, at a cost of nearly $500 a day, some of which may be covered by insurance. Second Nature's website is filled with videos. On the homepage is a teenage girl, who tells us that Second Nature changed her life. We see pictures of smiling students and the Georgia wilderness. A man's voice intones: Second Nature restores families to wholeness. It brings about miracles in the lives of troubled youths. He speaks like a television pastor, like an infomercial for an animal charity. Your confusion and fear and concern can be transformed into a better future for your child and family. "Looking back, nothing else could've helped me," the girl says. "I am healthy and hopeful." She sounds like she is reading these words for the first time. The FAQ contains more than 30 videos, a 90-second clip answering every question. Most feature Dr. Brad Reedy, sitting in a study with a phony-looking fireplace. Many of the questions are mundane: What will my child eat? How will they keep warm? What is the average stay? But many touch on more abstract subjects. How does wilderness work? a video asks. "Through the use of metaphors, of rituals, of living in the wilderness" Reedy answers. It creates a sense of empowerment in a difficult but safe environment. "This little universe teaches them how the big universe operates," he says. It teaches them about natural and logical consequences. "You don't need a lecture when your tarp falls down in the rain," he explains. Throughout the videos, certain themes recur. The environment is "secure," it is a "gift," it will "transform" everything from your child to your family to your life. "There's more than resignation and acceptance," one says; the child "invests" in their treatment. They "buy in." They "understand what's at stake" and "want to do the work." Watching all of Second Nature's videos, it is clear that this is the program's fundamental promise: We will get your child to invest in what's happening to him. We'll direct your money to a consultant, we'll push him toward long-term care, we'll threaten you with your child's death to get him here, but at bottom we promise: Your child will leave an active collaborator in his good behavior. He'll be transformed. But what, precisely, were we being transformed into? To hear the rhetoric, to see the stock photography of nature, to hear Dr. Reedy mumble "Native American spirituality" in one video, you might believe the goal was profundity. That we were to develop a desire to live predicated on a radical discovery of meaning, Thoreau-at-Walden, a vision quest, something sacred and vulnerable and particular to every one of us. But that isn't what happened to me, and I don't think it's what happened to the others, either. We accepted that we were trapped. We accepted the logical and natural consequences of bad behavior. We discovered that our day-to-day happiness and our long-term prospects for freedom were dependent on buying in. We lied, at first. We spoke the program's language and performed the qualities they were looking for. Eventually these became routine. I was not lying when I left, but I had not been transformed into a believer, either. It was only automatic: a vacant animation of the easiest way to get along and get out. This little universe is how the big universe works. If there is an American paragon for the myth of transformation by wilderness, it is Henry David Thoreau. As legend would have it, he was the first to go outside for a long time and to find that in so doing a person might cast aside bad habits and bad thoughts and be permanently altered by the experience. He wasn't, of course, but it is worth noting that Thoreau did not go to Walden Pond in order to make himself more agreeable to the society he left behind. The whole enterprise was nearly sabotaged when he was jailed for taxes owed; the purpose of his trip was not to learn how to deal with his defiant tendencies but to escape a civilization that could not accommodate his personality. He did what, in the rhetoric of Second Nature, would be called a failure to "buy in" to his own well-being. "I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary," Thoreau writes. If Walden transformed him, it did not transform him into a man who saw the value in learning to resign himself more easily. Although we do not know where or for how long we are hiking, we imagine there is a plan. We imagine a map back at the office, the next week's worth of routes plotted for each of half a dozen groups. Once, we are forced to stop along a westbound path for the better part of an hour while another group, barely audible, moves southward up ahead. But there are few near misses. The plans work: lines traveling on a map of the Blue Ridge Mountains, careful to never crisscross. Geography varies. We travel low along riverbeds under the cover of heavy trees. We ascend barely perceptible inclines. We make sharp turns up steep mountains, coming around bends to see our old path a thousand feet below. We must stay near water, but unless supplies are coming in we rarely stay at official campsites. So long as there are trees to strip up tarps, we can sleep. (Brittany Holloway-Brown/Vox) But during a thunderstorm, trees crack and fall. We sit far apart, at least 30 feet between us, backpacks beneath us, both feet planted firmly on the ground. An hour and nobody moves. The sound of an oak tree exploding and the bark drumming down with the rain. The sound of staffers stopping short on a hike when we come over the ridge of a high hill, and across is the side of a mountain, brown and black over thickets of twisted grass. We hike on, but it's slow going. We're top-heavy with our packs on. We trip in the underbrush. Crossing takes hours and the desolation continues over every ridge, and when night comes we are still not out of it. We set up camp. For the first time, staffers come and check every tree we've strung our tarps against, check every tree nearby. They don't say what the trouble is. They don't say they were surprised. Officially, everything is as it should be. The program has planned for this. But back in the office on the map on the wall, there is a line crossing a controlled burn zone. They didn't know. Some people can work the program better than others. There are genuine enthusiasts. There are liars. There are those of us who do not quite know what we are doing anymore, but who understand, as everybody does, that cooperation will make this easier on everyone. Doug arrives three weeks after I do, and by the time I left he was still not working at all. Doug throws tantrums. He refuses to walk, to speak, to eat. He stomps his feet and screams, he cries, and for sheer endurance the whole thing is a bravura performance, except that he is not performing. Like all of us, he arrives believing that he has fallen victim to an injustice from which he must immediately extricate himself. He never stops believing this. We're sympathetic to Doug, but he holds us up. If he refuses to walk, none of us walk. If he refuses to eat, we've got to have a circle group to talk about it. Some of this is by design: If Doug's behavior inconveniences the rest of us, the rest of us will exert whatever individual effort we can to bring him into conformity with the group. If it fails, we will resent him, not wonder if every one of us shouldn't be protesting too. Bad Doug is petulant, but his real trouble is that he's dim. It is clear that he has some kind of developmental disorder. He's never conned anyone in his life. He is told by staff, by Paul, by the whole program that he should be honest, and he is. He does not understand what they are asking of him. Late in my stay, when the disappearance of most of our group has left me by far the most senior, I mention this to Paul. I'd like to help Doug, I say, but I worry that he doesn't understand the advantage of going along. "Some of this, at least for a while, is just pretending," I say, "That makes it easier. But he doesn't get that." Paul pauses and allows that this may be true. Subject line on a forum for former patients: Nearly 15 years past. Does it ever get easier to deal with? Another: Been half a decade but still having trouble getting over my school. Another: Ten years out and I still notice if I go a whole day without thinking about it. A post: In seminars, where they broke us emotionally and mentally, they taught us to admit to and internalize crimes that we had not committed ... to truly understand that we were at fault for the things other had done to us ... all of us, boys and girls (anything beyond that wasn't allowed), were taught that our rapes, our abuses, our neglect, was 100% our fault. Another: While we were there we were required to write a letter to our parents confessing all the bad things we had done, how we were flawed, broken people and how we needed to be fixed. More from First Person The internet is full of men who hate feminism. Here's what they're like in person. On this small forum alone, there are more than a hundred posts that use "torture" or "abuse"; dozens from those who are five, 10, 15 years out and still preoccupied by their experiences in wilderness. Many are just the names of programs. "Were you here?" "Any other survivors from this place?" They go on for pages and pages. It is difficult to know how often and to what extent these institutions traumatize their patients. Some schools, some programs, are surely worse than others. But it is difficult to escape the impression that many of these reports are hyperbolic. What is wilderness, even multi-year stints in therapeutic boarding school, compared with even criminal incarceration? Abduction, torture, war? I called one of the contributors on the phone. She was my age and from the same city; she went to Second Nature at the same time, but to another location, in Utah. She has asthma, and the staff carried inhalers for her. She told me about a long hike, well into the night and so extraordinary that the staff admitted they were lost. "It was really foggy," she says, "and we were hiking uphill, up steep hills. We had all run out of water, and I was having trouble breathing." She had an asthma attack, she says, but was denied her inhaler by a staffer. "She told me that I was faking my asthma attack, that I was trying to be manipulative because I wanted a break," she told me. "I was audibly breathing at that point, pretty bad, and I was starting to get panicky. I asked another staffer, 'Please, please ask her to give me my inhaler, I really need it.' And the other staffer took her aside and convinced her, had to convince her to give me my inhaler." She tells me this was common, that staffers would routinely insist that patients who weren't feeling well were engaging in deliberate manipulation. She says she began to prepare for the possibility that she would not get her inhaler until she collapsed. In the 2014 Atlantic article, Sulome Anderson wrote that "critics of ... wilderness programs point out the lack of regulation for these businesses, citing abuse allegations as well as deaths that have taken place at such programs." Despite elevated attention, these abuses haven't stopped. As recently as January 2016, Midwest Academy in Keokuk, Iowa, was raided and shut down by police after allegations of sexual abuse by staff. I do not think of myself as a survivor. I did not suffer permanent injury in Georgia, and I cannot reject completely the argument that the program helped. I was a drug addict when I went in and sober when I came out. Could this have been accomplished in a more pleasant way? I don't know. How could I? The girl I spoke to does not know either. After Second Nature, she spent two years in a therapeutic boarding school, convinced, like all of us were, that this would all be over soon. "What seems obvious to me now, but wasn't at the time, is that from the day I was sent to wilderness I was never going to come home," she says. "My parents were never going to rescue me. They were never going to come get me early. They were not going to let me come home after wilderness." "I was told perpetually throughout the first few weeks at Second Nature that I'd be there a few weeks, and then go home," she says. "That was a lie they told us to get us to work the program. Most kids are sent to a residential treatment center no matter what. It's decided in advance. Now I know there was no chance that I was going to come home. I was going to be gone for two years, from the day I got escorted to the wilderness." She does not know if it helped her, those full two years of her life. Does it get easier to deal with? The honest answer is that I don't think so, goes a reply to one post, I think the only thing that changes is that we go forward in life, which is not quite the same as moving on. To some extent I think we probably do move on, but I think it is a fairly muted form of doing so. Muted is right, but I cannot quite tell you why. I suspect reasonable people will conclude that allegations of abuse are serious, that some programs go too far. But, they'll go on, there's a difference between kids who were really tortured and kids who just didn't like the tough love. Maybe so, and so maybe it is easy to see why some former patients are inclined to strong language, to anger, to proving that something bad happened to them, something beyond a bummer time for a shitty teen, something that should not happen to anyone. When I began writing this piece, I wanted that too. I wanted to find some proof that Second Nature was among the bad places, the kind of proof that you can print in a magazine. I wanted to justify why I am writing this at all, why I was the one who wrote, Ten years out and I still notice if I go a whole day without thinking about it. That was me. When I first read Anderson's article, I thought I had found it: "As recently as six months ago, police began investigating allegations that a counselor at Second Nature Blue Ridge, a wilderness program in Georgia, forced a 14-year-old into a sexual encounter. That investigation is ongoing." But the link is dead. The story, and any other stories about the investigation, are no longer on the Clayton Tribune's website. A search of the archives yields nothing. When I wrote the paper to request a copy, they told me they didn't know — it was a different staff then; they don't know the details anymore, or what happened to the story. I don't know the results of that investigation. I do not know what the particular allegations were, or who made them. But I believe it. Paul did not tend to believe me. We had a difference of opinion regarding my problems. He believed, soundly, I suppose, that most patients' trouble arises from a lack of self-awareness. They try to fix the wrong problems, don't understand their own motives, sublimate and deflect. But more than that, he had a particularly narrow sense of what might be hiding under a teenager's superficial rationales. Drugs, in his view, were always a way to medicate unhappiness; always indicative of depression or anxiety, the kind that could be treated with conventional methods if only the patient realized she was self-medicating. I do not know how often this diagnosis was correct. In the absence of a specific trauma in patient history, I imagine it explained 80 percent of his cases. I do not know, either, if it was ultimately true of me. But I know that at the time, when I insisted that I did what I did in large part because I was bored and surrounded by friends who were already using, he did not try to persuade me. He only told me I was wrong and implied that a failure to move past this insistence would jeopardize his assessment of my progress, and therefore my release. I know that I learned to say what I was meant to be feeling, to have scripted conversations reflecting my progress along expected lines. It was not that I accepted these platitudes, but it was not that I was lying, either. I learned to suspend any feeling at all, to play a game like this might as well be true, to treat my sessions as events removed from myself, where I was not really present at all. I learned to give him what he wanted if I wanted this to end. There are no mirrors in the wilderness. For months, you do not see your own reflection. You catch a version of it in the water, too dark and rippling, or in steel, on the hubcap of the supply truck, sun smashed on the steel. The glare blinds you if you try to meet your own eyes. You know that your body is changing. Your hair grows longer. You gain weight or you lose it. Your legs become thick. For all the bags of river water you pour over your own head, your skin is caked and cracked with dirt. You put your palm to your face and feel the beard growing in, take stock in the manner of the blind, press fingertips down to find your cheekbones, your jawline, your neck. You see the others changing and think you must be changing as they are. There is an American myth that goes like this: A man goes into the wilderness to escape his life. There, away from society, closer to some primal way of being, he finds clarity. You forget that is a strange thing. How many times you met your own eyes in ordinary life. The faculty for tracking incremental difference becomes dedicated to leaves, to rocks, to sky, to the footfalls of the others. Then a car ride. Then the road, the salvage yard, the small office where your clothes are given back. Then a small bathroom by yourself, where you must remember you do not need to shout, where there is a shower but there is a mirror, too, and there you are. Your own eyes back at you straight on, without the murky interference of shallow water. You see yourself the way a friend does who has not seen you in a while. In the manner of parents at the curbside, waiting for a son come back for his first collegiate Christmas. All at once transformed. The novelty wears quickly. The beard goes and the legs wither, too. In wilderness it is impossible to know what anybody is thinking. Surely some of them believe in the program, really do, and surely some of them are liars. Some of us are unsure what we are doing. I am closer to Rich than to anyone, but our friendship is as performed as it is genuine. I like him and I believe he likes me, but we speak for the benefit of the staff, at least a little bit, always. I suspect that he, too, occupies some space between sincerity and deception. I suspect that he has become automatic in his acceptance of the program, that he means it in a vacant way. But I do not know. He has been here a long time and is, if nothing else, very good at speaking the program's language, performing its concerns. Rich leaves three or four weeks before I do. Like everyone, he finds out he is going an hour before he goes. When somebody leaves Second Nature, they give away their goods to the others: food, walking sticks, anything they cannot take with them. When Rich leaves, camp is in unusual chaos. We're spread out everywhere. Supplies are coming in; his parents are in a car waiting. He rushes between us: his ramen to Mike, his bow to Andrew. He won a bag of M&Ms the week before, the promise for anyone who can bust an ember in under 30 seconds. He hands what's left of them to all of us. I am nearly at Water Phase, and one of my remaining tasks is to create a length of string by weaving bark, one that can hold up a heavy bag for an hour. Rich has been Water Phase for a while, and he is meant to teach me how to do this but has not had time. When he comes to me he's manic, grinning; he's going home. He shakes my hand. He presses his own bark string into it. Just tell them I showed you how to make it, he says, and then he goes. There is an American myth that goes like this: A man goes into the wilderness to escape his life. There, away from society, closer to some primal way of being, he finds clarity. He finds that he had not been living at all, not really, but now he is transformed and happy and at peace. It is an old myth. It has animated centuries of our history, easily adapted, from the genocidal imperialism of Protestant frontiersmen to the proto-libertarianism of Thoreau, through the Christianity of Dillard and the environmentalism of the Sierra Club. It remains today, in backpacking trips and festivals, promising an escape from the hounding modernity of cellphones. To hear the sales pitch for Wilderness Therapy, to watch Second Nature's videos, it is easy to believe they promise a version of this story. Your child is troubled. He's in danger. To recover, he must go into the wilderness and undergo this ancient American rite. More from First Person How I became afraid But are they? In every version of the wilderness myth, the object is escape. Society is stifling, cruel, vicious, hypocritical. One goes out into the woods to make a new society, or simply to be left alone. The wilderness is for iconoclasts and malcontents, not patients in search of a cure. Second Nature does not promise an exit from society so much as integration into it. It will take your fear and your worry and even your kid who only smokes pot too much and carry them from educational consultants to wilderness programs to therapeutic boarding schools, not so that rough edges can escape the friction around them but to smooth those edges out. Second Nature wants to make misfits well-adjusted. When I was in the wilderness, I believed I was pulling one over. We all did. We believed we had learned the language, played the part, that we had conned them. We believed we had escaped with our hearts intact. Not transformed, not really. Did we? Or was this the object all along? Second Nature taught all of us how to pretend, how to better bury ourselves and be agreeable, to get along. It taught us precisely what is required in polite society. It allowed us to believe in our subterranean dissent, but who was conning whom, at bottom? Second Nature promises to make you healthy, and it does, so far as anyone can see. Is the health superficial? Does it matter? I went to the woods and learned to pretend, to become vacant in the act of citizenry, to behave. Was this the point? Is it a bad one? Did it work? In one of Second Nature's videos, Dr. Reedy reassures parents who feel guilty about sending their child into captivity. They may threaten to stop loving you, he says, or to withhold forgiveness. But parents must make these sacrifices, he says. They'll forgive you when they're healthy. I have not refused forgiveness, but I don't know that I have forgiven, either. I am still vacant on it, not quite present, not quite incarnated in my feeling or memory of the place. Am I healthy? It looks that way; it looks like what was meant to happen there, no matter what, really did. I left Second Nature in fall, after monsoon season, in weather like the weather I came in on. My parents had come a week before for a visit. I don't remember it now, but my father says I cried. I believe it, although I do not know how much I believed myself then. I wasn't lying. Only I did it, like I did circle group and stick group and counseling and the importance of leadership and everything I'd tell my therapist in the months that followed — automatic, suspended. I spent the week suspicious that I would leave soon. The long walk back from the shower happened then. What consequences would there be for taking a little too long, going a little too far? I didn't cry when they came back. I was indifferent, pleasant, glad, all the way back to the processing office, in an SUV my parents rented, the first car I had seen in months, my belongings given back to me at the desk, a real shower, clothes that barely fit anymore. There's a picture of me outside the office: against a low wall with my knee bent. I looked at it years later and realized that there are memories we can re-inhabit — where we can see again out of our old eyes, recall what we were feeling, where this particular moment fell on a continuity of desires and concerns — but that this wasn't one of them. My face, in the photo, says nothing. I remember the inside of the shower but nothing else. I was there; there's a picture. That's all. The Second Nature office is at the foot of the mountains; after we left, it was hours back to Atlanta. I don't know that I said much. But when we turned off the country roads and onto the first long highway, I didn't see a street with traffic. I saw steel boxes passing within inches of each other on the basis of painted lines, ordinary life conducted at 80 miles per hour on the faith that nobody would break the rules today. Have you wondered what would happen if you had a heart attack on the road? How can you clutch your chest if you've got to keep both hands on the wheel? Today, when I return home, my parents find me at the airport in Santa Barbara and drive me an hour down the Pacific Coast to their home. Even now, years later, I sit in the back seat and fail to see what I'm supposed to, worry what happens if the driver's heart isn't what it seems. * I refer to Paul, and all the other people I met during my time at Second Nature, by only his first name. Source:
External Link: (Wilderness Camp and Second Nature videos by Survivor)
1/27/21: "A Reading on Second Nature (re-branded as Evoke) in Utah" by Survivor and Guest Sermonizer Emma Singer

In Georgia, the criminal statutes of limitation are 2 years on misdemeanors, 4 years on most felonies, and no statute of limitations on more serious felonies including rape, murder and kidnapping.  For civil suits in Georgia, the statute of limitations is 2 years.  In Oregon, the criminal statutes of limitation are 2 years on most misdemeanors, 3 years on most felonies, 12 years on sexual assault where the victim was under 18, and no statute of limitations on murder.  For civil suits in Oregon, the statute of limitations is 2 years.  In Utah, the criminal statutes of limitation are 2 years on misdemeanors, 8 years on many felonies, and no statute of limitations on child sex trafficking or murder.  For civil suits in Utah, the statute of limitations is 4 years. Here are your options:
1.  Report crimes such as fraud, assault, battery, false imprisonment, labor trafficking, and child abuse to law enforcement in Georgia, Utah, or Oregon.  You can call the law enforcement body in the respective jurisdiction where the crime(s) occurred listed below to inquire about filing an official complaint which may provide the probable cause needed to get a warrant for investigation and/or prosecution. 

Second Nature in Duchesne, Utah Contact the Duchesne County Sheriff at or by phone at 435-738-0196 to report crimes and you may also file a complaint with the civil regulatory body by clicking on "Submit A Concern" and completing the online form here:
Evoke in Santa Clara, Utah Contact the Santa Clara Police at (435) 652-1122 and you may also file a complaint with the civil regulatory body by clicking on "Submit A Concern" and completing the online form here:
Evoke in Bend, Oregon Contact the Bend, OR Police at (541) 322-2960
Blue Ridge Wilderness in Clayton, GA Contact the Clayton Police at  (706) 782-6226. 

2.  File a consumer complaint with your home state's attorney general against Second Nature, Evoke, and/or Blue Ridge Wilderness and include your request for compensation for any harm done to you.  If your home state is Georgia or you'd like to file with the Georiga State Attorney General as a non-resident, here is that link:  If your home state is Utah or you'd like to file with the Utah State Attorney General as a non-resident, here is that link:  If your home state is Oregon or you'd like to file with the Oregon State Attorney General as a non-resident, here is the link: 
3.  If you do not wish to file a consumer complaint, you can contact a private personal injury attorney and look into suing in tort/civil court.  However, if you can't afford the retainer, you should expect to settle out of court with a non-disclosure agreement which may bar you from speaking publicly about the incident because you've agreed (even if with a grumbling assent) to the terms of the settlement. 
4.  You may send a new e-mail to with subject "Post My Feedback" and we will post your feedback (e-mail printed to .pdf disclosing your name and e-mail address and any information in your e-mail with that subject) to  and add a direct link to those .pdf files to this page . 

 5. You may also wish to provide a guest sermon.  Guest sermons are posted at , under Progress Reports/Guest Sermons at where appropriate, and on program info pages when applicable.  So, one provided by you on your program would also be placed on this page .  Guest sermons should be written into the body of an e-mail and sent to . Your first and last name will be disclosed (contact info will not be unless you expressly request disclosure).  For sermons available on our site see  (and sermon archives linked on that page).  If you have questions about this option, please contact Please see  to get an idea what your sermon may be worth.


All segregated congregate care providers, including those on our watch-list, are welcome to contact us to correct any information or provide additional data that may assist with delivering the whole truth to the public.  The HEAL Mission of COPE (HEAL) found in many cases where this offer has been abused or resulted in revealing additional basis for our concerns. For some examples see feedback.  Now, we are willing to look at the facts and may have questions or require documentation backing up any claims.  We do verify licensing, academic backgrounds, and other qualifications when investigating and researching programs on our watch-lis/enrolled in the Conversion Program to assist consumers seeking additional information on such programs or victims requiring assistance with getting corroborating evidence of their claims.  We do that in order to make sure the information we provide is accurate and verified and cite our sources.  In the event any information we've posted is in error, we're happy to make a correction. 

HEAL does not support segregated congregate care for many reasons which include that many such facilities are abusive, exploitative, fraudulent, and lack effective oversight often as a result of fraudulent misrepresentation coupled with the ignorance of those seeking to enroll loved ones in such facilities, programs, schools, or centers without a valid court order and involuntarily.  In the United States such involuntary placements done without a court order are apparently illegal as they either violate the Americans with Disabilities Act community integration requirement or due process rights of those involuntarily placed.  Now, in regards to parents, in the United States parents have the right to waive their own rights, but, not the rights of their minor children.  See for more information.  Now, most facilities on our watch list include waivers, indemnity clauses, and sworn statements legal guardians must sign assuring the program that the parents/legal guardians have the right to make the placement involuntarily and without due process in a segregated congregate care environment, however, California and federal prosecutors as well as settled law appears to suggest that is not the case.  In fact, in the David Taylor case found at , Taylor sued Provo Canyon School and his mother as co-defendants.  His mother was found liable for 75% of the damages awarded to Taylor as a result of multiple complaints including false imprisonment, while the program was found only 25% liable because the mother owed a duty of due diligence to investigate anyone to which she would entrust care of her child and she failed to do so. 

Now, HEAL opposes segregated congregate care and we find most placements are happening illegally in the USA which if the youth understood their rights would result in unfortunate outcomes for the parents, particularly when they don't exercise good judgment and support the fraud and abuse rather than their own children when they need remedy and justice.  And, HEAL supports all victims of fraud and abuse in seeking remedies at law for any crimes or torts committed against them.  And, that's true whether or not the program or victims are in the USA. 

HEAL has a 5 point argument against segregated congregate care we'd like you to consider:

a.  Segregated care is unconstitutional and a civil rights violation.  It is only permissible if a person is unable to survive independent of an institutional environment.  For more on this, watch the HEAL Report at  Or, see:  which includes in part:    "United States v. Florida – 1:12-cv-60460 – (S.D. Fla.) – On April 7, 2016, the United States filed an Opposition to the State of Florida’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.  In the Motion, the State had asked the Court to rule, on a variety of grounds, that the United States could not recover damages for unnecessarily institutionalized children to whom the State had been deliberately indifferent."

b.  Institutionalization is always dehumanizing and coercive.  Institutionalization always harms the institutionalized and deprives them of protected civil rights.  Dr. David Straker, Psychiatry Professor at Columbia University's School of Medicine (Ivy League) explains this in detail at  "Many institutions, from prisons to monasteries to asylums, deliberately want to control and manage their inmates such that they conform and do not cause problems. Even in less harsh environments, many of the institutionalization methods may be found, albeit in more moderated form (although the psychological effect can be equally devastating)."  (See website linked in this paragraph for more info.)

c.  Institutionalization is not in the best interest of children.  Institutions are not ever better for a child than living with a loving family.  Source:       

d.  Reform schools, residential treatment programs, and other segregated congregate care settings have been shown to be ineffective and harmful.  Best source on this currently is:

e. Boarding Schools, even the "good ones", result in a form of social death, isolation, and cause both anxiety and depression.  Therefore, it is clearly not in the best interest of the youth subjected to those environments.  Sources: and

Beyond the above arguments against segregated congregate care, we have reports from the NIH, Surgeon General, Yale University Studies, and much more showing the methodologies of behavior modification are damaging, harmful, and ineffective.  You can request these documents via e-mail.  In addition, for such programs offering academic services or claiming to offer diplomas, certifications, or the like, it is important to check to see if it is a diploma mill with no accredited academic services.  Please see article: "Avoiding Scams: What You Need To Know"  for important information on how to avoid education/training scams.

If you'd like to see what HEAL suggests rather than segregated congregate care (i.e. committing a crime or tort against your child if done against their will without a court order), please see articles: "Fix Your Family, Help Your Teen" and "Emancipation Guide".

2/3/21: Conversion Program Progress Report: Second Nature/Blue Ridge Wilderness in GA.


 Last Updated: February 28th, 2023

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