Both schools are now closed but did they good for anyone? It is doubtful. One – Oakley – was just a warehouse. It was first owned by Aspen Education Group and later by Innerchange. Carlbrook was based on some crazy stuff invented at Synanon – defunct Church community and remodeled at CEDU for school purpose. Here is a testimony found on Fornits.
To anyone who believes that Carlbrook “saved” them, or that anyone who speaks out against it “didn’t get it” or is “clearly still fucking up”–
In total, I attended two wilderness programs and two therapeutic boarding schools, one being Carlbrook. I was sent away initially for using marijuana, skipping school, and just generally being irresponsible. I am the type of person who learns lessons the hard way. I went through wilderness, and then arrived at Carlbrook. I was determined to give it a try, get through the program, and move on with my life. After six months, though I was only fifteen and did not know anything about what is ‘appropriate’ and ‘inappropriate’ in a therapeutic sense, I knew that something was not right. I asked to be sent anywhere else, not even home just any other program, but the school instead restricted my access to my parents and put me on a disciplinary action program. I had been raped at fourteen and was told alternately that it was my fault and that it was not my fault, and that if I did not successfully comply with the program, it would happen to me again. I was made to tell another boy who had molested his sister that I forgave him for what he had done, by way of forgiving my rapist, which I was in no way prepared to do anyways, and this boy had nothing to do with what happened to me. I know now that this is all incredibly inappropriate for someone struggling in the aftermath of sexual assault. I was informed that my drug use and behavioral issues all stemmed from “daddy issues” and convinced that I had said “daddy issues”, which alienated me from my father. My father is a loving, caring man that was wrongfully blamed by Carlbrook for my problems. Carlbrook seemed to believe that all behavioral issues stemmed from some deep-seated childhood wrongdoing, and pushed/pressured teens to the point of admitting things that never happened. I watched it happen many times. Sometimes, yes, teens with behavioral issues do have serious repressed trauma, but this is NOT the standard.
I was placed on suspension for not “being on the plan”, while struggling to understand what that meant, as I had not broken any actual rules, or “standards”, as they were called. In suspension we were forced so sit facing forward in a separate room from 7 am until 10 pm, and we were not permitted to talk or look at anyone else. We were taken outside for an hour every day. If you raised your hand and asked to go to the bathroom or get water more than once every two hours, you were written up, and made to stay on suspension for longer. I finally made it off suspension and into good standing by becoming completely fake, as being myself did not cut it there. They were looking for a cookie-cutter kind of result, instead of kids who are really working and struggling to find out who they are and why they have done the things they do. Because I was completely fake and just going through the motions, I began breaking rules that I found stupid, like the school’s system of “bans”, where you cannot speak or look at certain people for various allotted reasons. I had been put on bans with all of my closest friends. I began to develop a romantic relationship with a friend who was struggling, which was NOT allowed (though an unreasonable expectation among teenagers, this is the standard of many treatment programs. While there are good reasons for it, it is unrealistic to think you can ask a teenager to ignore the opposite sex for a year and a half). We did nothing more than kiss. He was put on suspension and interrogated about any rule-breaking, and I lied my ass off to get into suspension with him. (Young love.. very stupid) After a year at Carlbrook, I was kicked out after leaving a group where I watched several people I cared about being told that they were worthless (the girls were called whores, the boys monsters and drug addicts) by both the owner and fellow students, some of them also my friends. I got up and walked out of the room, and was removed from the school and immediately send to another wilderness. My parents were told nothing about my removal from the school, just that I had not “complied with the program”, and Carlbrook made it appear as though I had done something truly terrible, not just kiss someone and walk out of a group.
After my second wilderness, I attended the Oakley School. I will not pretend that it is perfect in any way, but going to Oakley really showed me how wrong Carlbrook’s tactics are. At Carlbrook, they use an unrealistic setting where teens cannot make the mistakes they will most certainly make/face in the real world, incredibly aggressive therapy, inappropriate scare tactics, and students learn that the only way they will avoid being screamed at and avoid getting in trouble is to employ the same tactics that the staff use on their fellow students, to get them first and bandwagon. At first at Carlbrook, you work out of fear to save yourself, until it becomes second nature and you fail to see the pain you inflict on your fellow students. Anyone who does not fully comply, who is not afraid, is eliminated as quickly as possible. This is not to say that the students enrolled are not intelligent– in fact, for the most part they are, and this helps the school in that students soon realize the path of least resistance and flock to it. There are five therapeutic workshops in the process– I went through the first three and know the details and processes of the last two. They are meant to tear you down and build you back up, rendering you, essentially, as others have said, dependent on the program. I would love to believe that I could have made it through the entire program without succumbing, but from what I have seen from some of the kids who my closest friends at the school– that is not realistic. Sure, many of them go on and continue to use and party, but there is something still something different about all of them. This is not a positive difference, and many of them still seem totally dependent on the school in a way, constantly referencing it, etc. Its as if they have been brainwashed– this may seem like a complete exaggeration, but I don’t believe it is. I successfully attended the Oakley School, made many, many mistakes, which the program allowed for, and still made it out. I now attend a tier one college with an excellent GPA, I am in a stable, loving relationship that began at Oakley (we’ve been together for two years), and there is no rehab in sight for me. At Carlbrook, I was told college was not an option, I was not able to figure out how to have a healthy relationship, and I left quite possibly worse than I started (as demonstrated by my drug use IMMEDIATELY following leaving the school).
I urge any parent considering sending their child to Carlbrook– PLEASE consider other options. There are many. Make sure you choose a certified school, and choose a therapeutic boarding school over an RTC, if possible. Absolutely NOTHING positive awaits your child at Carlbrook, and you may never hear of the damage done, as many kids are too afraid to tell their parents the truth.