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Information Standards


Warning Signs of a Potentially Abusive


 Behavioral Treatment Center



(& questions you should  ask any program you are considering)



A Treatment Center/Wilderness Program/Boot Camp/etc.  Is Likely Abusive If:


      1.      Verbal and/or written communication between the client and family members is prohibited, restricted or monitored.


      2.      The program requires the parents or client to sign a form releasing the program of liability in case of injury and/or DEATH during  treatment/program duration, even if as a result of abuse or neglect by staff/program management/etc.


      3 .      The program requests/demands legal custody of juvenile clients.


4    4.      The program houses clients in foster homes or host homes instead of allowing them to reside with their parents.


      5.      The client or parents are forbidden from discussing the daily happenings at the facility. Often this policy is called “confidentiality.”


6.      The client is denied access to a telephone.


7.      Client phone calls are monitored.


8.      The program uses confrontational therapy.


9.      The staff includes former clients of the program.


10.  Clients are restrained or otherwise physically prevented from leaving the facility.


1    11.  The program claims that self-injury or cutting/carving on ones body is normal behavior for a client in treatment.


      12.  Parents are not allowed to stay with their child during the entire intake/entry process.


      13.  The program inflicts physical punishments on clients such as excessive exercising, running, food restrictions (i.e. starvation), and cleaning.


14.  Reading materials are prohibited or restricted.


      15.  The facility does not have a clearly visible sign outside the building stating the name of the program.


      16.  Clients must submit “chain of commands” or any other such requests for basic needs such as clothes, shoes, personal items and medical care.


17.  The program is run or staffed by persons who lack adequate experience or credentials.


      18.  The program requires parents or siblings of clients to volunteer services and/or raise money for the facility.


19.  A medical doctor (MD) is not present at any time during normal operating hours.


20.  Clients of the program conduct, participate in or supervise the intake/entry process.


      21.  Staff members offer to help the parents obtain a court order forcing the client into the program.


      22.  Clients are observed on any level of the program, while bathing, dressing or using the toilet.


      23.  The purpose of the program is to treat drug abuse, but the program does not conduct a drug screen prior to entry.


24.  The program requires clients to be strip-searched.


25.  The program does not allow clients to follow their religion of choice.


26.  Staff members must approve friends, siblings, family visits, or employment.


27.  Juvenile clients are not afforded an education in accordance with state requirements.


      28.  Medication is recommended, prescribed, approved or dispensed by anyone other than a medical doctor (MD).


      29.  Staff members make statements such as “your child will die without treatment” to the parents of prospective clients.


30.  Clients escort/supervise other clients.


31.  The program lists a post office box instead of a physical street address.


32.  Clients have to “earn” the right to speak during group sessions.


33.  Clients are denied outside activities on any level/phase.


34.  Staff must approve the withdrawal of clients from treatment.


35.  The program expects total and unquestioned support of parents.


36.  Clients on any phase/level are forbidden to speak to other clients.


37. Program questions parents in-depth but cuts off parents' questions and/or refuses to answer or redirects when asked specifics about program policies and procedures.


38.  See the Federal Trade Commission warnings and suggestions at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro27.shtm



HEAL will be adding to this list as necessary.


If you are a parent who is considering placing a child in a behavioral treatment facility, PLEASE protect your child. Thoroughly investigate the program and all staff members by contacting local news sources, conducting internet searches, and reviewing court and police records. Be sure to verify all licenses, certifications, and accreditations of the program.


NEVER place your child in a program outside of the United States.


NEVER place your child in an unlicensed facility.


NEVER surrender custody of your child to a treatment center.



Questions You Should Be Asking Any Program You May Consider:


Keep in mind, there will probably be explanations for each of these questions by trained program staff. These explanations are often lies and distractions used to ease the minds of parents so that they might disregard anything that didn't feel right or seemed unprofessional.

1. What are the treatment methods used in your program? Please be elaborate and don't leave anything out. Explain the group environment, level system, and punishment/disciplinary system precisely.

HEAL recommends you review the following websites to be better informed of what language is used and what is meant in describing common behavior modification practices: 



We understand that many feel it is unreasonable to take a sampling of abusive programs and generalize the entire industry.  However, we have spent decades researching this industry and the connections, business partnerships, and systemic abuses are widely evidenced throughout our website and in our records.  For instance, Aspen Education Group and some former CEDU programs are now owned by CRC Health Corp.  CRC Health Corp. is in partnership through Avondale Partners, LLC with Universal Health Services (the current owners of Provo Canyon School).  Provo Canyon School is where Robert Lichfield and Karr Farnsworth of WWASPS started their infamous careers in the industry.  Teen Challenge, Pathway Family Center, AARC (Canada), Kids Helping Kids, and many others are spin-off programs of the notoriously abusive Straight, Inc. program set.  And, Pathway Family Center (Straight spin-off) is working with Aspen Education Group (a.k.a. CRC Health Corp) in Indiana (2009).  CRC is connected to Straight, CEDU, Provo Canyon School, and WWASPS in their business associations.  Our research findings suggest an extensive network of exploitative programs conning parents and hurting kids while knowingly using psychologically and physically damaging methods on our children. 


2. Are your program's treatment methods scientifically proven to be helpful? If so, please produce this data? 

HEAL recommends you look into scientifically proven methods that help struggling families and individuals.  Programs make a lot of false claims and use deceptive marketing practices to pressure and manipulate parents into using their services.  Please see the Congressional Hearings exposing industry-wide deceptive marketing problems, abuse, and death.  Visit http://www.beyondbusiness.net/congress.htm to watch the hearings.  Also, see http://www.heal-online.org/programharm.pdf.  There are many more resources throughout the HEAL website showing that the National Institute of Health, Surgeon General, and Federal Trade Commission have warned of the ineffectiveness and harm caused by these programs. 

3. Why is communication disallowed between parents and their kids in the early stages of the program? Is this necessary? 

HEAL warns you now that the purpose of disallowing communication is to isolate your child which is psychologically harmful and part of the first phase of coercive thought reform/brainwashing techniques

4. If a kid is being abused in your program, does that kid have direct access to contact the police, their parents or child protective services? If not, why?

HEAL warns you that there is no valid reason to prevent a child from seeking emergency services.  Many children have died in programs due to the programs desire to hide abuse and programs continually blame the children for any long-term maiming, ill-health, or death they suffer because the program assumes that all children are liars and faking and willing to let children die instead of owning up to their own culpability in abusing, torturing, and/or neglecting children in their care.  (Again, we recommend the Congressional Hearings.)

5. Are kids that enter your program considered to be liars or manipulators? Can this have negative consequences? 

Program staff/directors are master-manipulators, liars, and crafty salespeople.  They are great at side-stepping questions and blaming the kids (that they see as "throw-aways") for the program staff's own wrong-doing knowing that many parents send children to programs as a punishment.  Some parents are in genuine need of assistance.  And, those parents are being defrauded by manipulative programs who do nothing but hurt and defraud families.

6. Is it safe to have teens in charge of other teens in the program? 

HEAL warns that it is dangerous for any individual or group, regardless of age, to have unlimited control and power over other individuals.  This always lends itself to horrendous abuses and creates a hostile and frightening environment.  (See the following: http://www.prisonexp.org/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment)  Such power structures are psychologically damaging and part of the psychologically abusive practices common in these types of programs.

7. Why is it that no one is allowed to witness what occurs inside the program (especially group sessions) except the kids and staff? How do I know the kids are safe?

HEAL warns there is no way to know if kids are safe when they are away from their homes/communities/communication.  If they are in a lockdown facility or wilderness program with no access to communicate any problems to loved ones or familiar authorities (teachers, extended family, clergy, etc.), then the very environment lends itself to abuse and secrecy.  HEAL receives reports regularly from newly matured young adults who didn't report abuse to their parents until they were 18 or older out of fear of being sent back to an abusive program.  Often, the safety of adulthood and independence provides an environment where a young adult can inform their families of abuse without fear of being put back in an abusive setting.  However, this is often after the statute of limitations has run out and the victims (children and families) are unable to take legal action.  This circumstance is also an example of how programs destroy the trust between children and their families since abused children don't feel safe to report the abuse without incurring additional abuse. 

8. Why is the environment of severe restriction on the first level so similar to that reported in Cults?

Most of these programs were born out of the "Human Potential Movement" of 1970s era cults (i.e. Lifespring, Synanon, etc.).  See: http://www.pfctruth.com/pathwayorigins.htm http://www.cultnews.com/?cat=136 and http://www.rickross.com/groups/lifespring.html

9. Is it necessary to isolate kids from the outside world in the beginning of the program? Isn't this a known brainwashing technique?

(See #3 above)

10. Shouldn't a parent have knowledge of exactly where their kid is at all times if they are in the care of the program? Who holds liability for the host homes or off-campus activities and employment?

Most likely the contract puts all liability (even for events/injuries that are the sole cause and legal responsibility of programs or their staff) on the parent in the event of accident or intentional injury or death.  For instance, a wilderness program can take a child hiking in a dangerous region without proper gear, nourishment, or hydration and the child can die from exposure, starvation, or dehydration.  In that event, the program hopes that their unconscionable and/or illegal contract agreements will intimidate the already devastated family into not taking legal action.  And, if the devastation causes a significant delay in seeking justice, the statute of limitations will run out anyway before those guilty are held properly accountable. 

11. Why are so many people concerned about what is occurring within these programs? Why is there so much government investigation recently?

There are a growing number of victims (according to FTC, 8% of American children are placed in some form of behavior modification facility each year) and survivors and their families are really starting to speak up.  The fraud and abuse is so much a part of the industry's practices that legislation is needed to insure our families are protected.  A lot of people have lost time, money, and loved ones to the scams perpetuated by the "teen help" industry. 

(Also see #2 and #4 for more information)

12. Why are kids encouraged to falsely confess implanted and coerced past behaviors in Open Meetings or letters to parents while parents are disallowed from participating or knowing about the forced false confessions?

False confessions are one part of the brainwashing/coercive thought reform process.  This is why this is common-place in these programs.  They are cults and use basic brainwashing methods to manipulate and control children and often their parents (through parent seminars). 

13. If the program is a different program now, are they able to explain those differences in detail? Why and when did these changes take place?

HEAL warns that many programs claim that a change in ownership means a change in methodology.  The interesting thing is that programs often acknowledge any and all reported abuse that is outside the statute of limitations while vehemently denying any current suspicions or reports of abuse.  Many lawsuits are settled outside of court and the programs refuse to settle unless the victims sign a non-disclosure/confidentiality clause as a condition on the settlement.  Those settled in court take years sometimes and the program can always claim that any legal action is either old news or still being decided and therefore doesn't show abuse happening right now.  A history and pattern of a abuse at a facility should be enough for any reasonable person to understand that it is not a safe environment in which to risk your child or your money.  There are also many clues to conflicts of interest and corruption covering up abuse at multiple facilities.  Feel free to review our site for more information.

14. Could having an "in house" assessment of kids be a conflict of interest for the program?

"In house" assessments are often a conflict of interest for these programs.  Most programs use other teens to do the so-called "assessments" or program staff with no qualifications for proper diagnosis.  Even trained psychologists and psychiatrists get it wrong often.  People with no professional training or skills are not qualified to assess the real needs and proper treatment for mental health or family issues.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosenhan_experiment for more information on false-diagnosis and the long-term ill-effects of improper treatment and assessment.

15. Detox and withdrawal are two important characteristics associated with drug addiction problems. What types of detox and withdrawal services does the program provide and do they have qualified staff for these medical situations?

We suggest you compare and contrast any lockdown facility with a medical detox facility to determine what is and is not "normal" or effective in drug treatment.

16. Why is it that the kids in programs aren't allowed to go to church with their family until a certain level is achieved? Is there anything that could possibly harm a kid at their church?  (See #3 above)


17. Shouldn't the parents of a kid in treatment know exactly what treatment methods their kids are being subjected to?

Many of these programs are openly experimenting on the children using non-FDA approved medications to research the effects on the children within the program.  Others openly admit that they are using children as research subjects (in violation of the Nuremberg Code of Ethics) without their knowledge or consent or even the informed consent of the children's parents.  Programs are in violation of parent's and children's rights when they experiment on the children using destructive and psychologically damaging methods.  Due to embarrassment and/or ongoing corruption, these programs are allowed to avoid scrutiny or oversight.  This is why new legislation is so necessary to regulate this industry and put an end to the cover-ups and abuse.

18. Why is there such an environment of secrecy surrounding these programs?

HEAL warns that programs will manipulate parents using "mystical" or "magical" language to avoid addressing real concerns about their methods.  Please review the work of Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer, especially as related to cults and the "teen help" industry.  We recommend her book "Cults in Our Midst".  It is a real eye-opener. 



(Question format courtesy of Pathway Family Center Truth and warnings signs, courtesy in part of the International Survivors Action Committee (ISAC))

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