Dr. Nicki Bush – ASTART Guidelines for Ethical Treatment of Teens

An excerpt from our upcoming documentary on the perilous world of ‘therapeutic boarding schools’ for teens. Here Dr. Nicki Bush talks about A-START, (the Alliance for the Safe, Therapeutic and Appropriate use of Residential Treatment), and their recommendations for parents, and teens, who are considering boarding-school therapies as a solution to teen and family problems.

You can visit the A-START webpage Here, and download a color PDF of their guidelines yourself Here

More to come…


About Liam Scheff

"Author, Artist, Film, Permaculture." Liam Scheff is a writer, artist and stand-up lecturer on issues that people usually don't make comic books about. (Visit liamscheff.com). Liam's highly-praised book "Official Stories" reveals the complex details behind the myths of our times.

Posted on May 1, 2008, in Surviving Cedu. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Good interview. She covers a lot of important points. That being said, what I’d like to point out is that for kids sent to these places there is no due process, meaning if your parent thinks your messed up (even for something as little as being gay, for example) you “are”…

  2. Hi Psy,

    I would tend to agree that parents who’ve decided to send their kids away to a high-priced (but dubious in reputation), secluded and isolated “fix-our-problem school”, may have reasons or rationales for doing so that wouldn’t pass many of our ethical/moral valuations.

    That said, can you elaborate on what you’re talking about a little? What’s your experience?

  3. Listening to Dr. Nicki Bush speak… CEDU had almost ALL the elements to look for in schools you should stay away from.

    –I was picked up by a bounty hunter and taken away from my friends and family

    –I was isolated and not allowed to talk to my parents but 5 minutes every week (not after 2 weeks for the first month) while being monitored by a staff or upper school student on a LOCKED phone. If I said the “wrong thing” or begged to come home, the phone call would be abruptly ended and I would be indicted in my next rap for being “in my shit” or “negative”

    –I endured harsh physical punishments for doing anything “out of agreement” Shoveling 6 feet of snow out of a horse arena for four days (with no horses to ride), picking weeds for 3 days (because my parents broke a rule).

    Some typical punishments I saw during my time: Digging ditches and then filling them back up for no other reason than to see how you “dig yourself into the ground” or taking a wheel barrel of rocks to the top of the Microwave (a very steep , long hill) for several days just bring them back down… to show “how you weigh yourself down everyday”

    Staying up for 24 hours was actually part of the program. We had to do this 7 times, if you were a good student you got the privilege of “auditing” this experience with younger people in the school. Yes, PRIVILEGE to stay up 24 hours for emotional abuse. Prison can’t legally do this to inmates who have committed murder!

    One exercise in the “I and Me” workshop was to run back and forth across campus until you were exhausted(you were lucky if you got to stop after 2 hours, I went for close to 4). Some passed out, some puked, some had asthma attacks… this is not an acceptable reason to let you stop. The purpose: To show you how “you run yourself into the ground everyday”

    –There was little to NO medical treatment. They actually displaced my menicus disc posteriorly and anteriorly and would not let me see a doctor. They told me to “take care of my feelings, and everything would be better”

    –They did not even offer a platform for parents to give constructive criticism. We were not ALLOWED to share what they were doing to us, and the parents were not TOLD what was really going on, therefore setting up a blind relationship with the school assuring they had the best intentions for their children.

    My jaw injury is an example of this. They would not let me go to the doctor, my parents were told I was just refusing and being manipulative. Almost 3 months later, seeing that my injury was not getting better they forced to school to take me to a doctor. I needed surgery. They school repeatedly recommended that I NOT come home for it.

    I eventually did come home and get surgery. (my parents FORCEFULLY told the school that this was going to happen) Scar tissue had developed over the joint and the surgery had difficulties. My equilibrium was shot and I threw up every hour for 8 days. The doctors accidentally hit a nerve (due to the scar tissue) and my face was paralyzed for almost 3 months.

    My parents knowing the pain I was in wanted to keep me home longer, the school threatened them and I was promptly sent back.

    I could not blink my left eye. I was only allowed 2 eye drops per day. They had a very strong NO MED policy during my time. IE: Cry my jaw will heal?!?!? MY ASS!!!!!

    –The school was not licensed when I got there in 1989. Supposedly it became “licensed” in 1990 by WASC. This still does not explain my high school diploma. I received math units for chopping wood and English credits for smooshing during floor time at night. I started college at an 8th grade level.

    These are all things that ASTART warn parents about. THESE are the types of programs to STAY AWAY from.

  4. This is a good interview with someone from a genuinely helpful organization. But one concern that seems to missed in this interview is that most programs claim they can cure anything.

    If a kid is mentally ill and it is severe they may need a stint in a bonafide hospital. If there is a substance abuse problem then perhaps a rehab designed specifically for this issue can help.

    But nowhere else in the world is there the concept of a lock down school independent of the judicial system for those with conduct disorders or “sexual identity issues”. With this in mind it is a surprise that organizations like Astart are not more strongly advocating that parents keep their conduct disordered kids at home.

  5. Yolanda, I agree with you. I’m confused though – what is a “conduct disorder”? I think coming from Dr. Bush’s point of view, they see that there are less harsh methods of treatment that are licensed and have a higher actual measured success rate than these ‘schools’. Having a kid stay at home, depending on the issue, may mean not seeking treatment at all which goes against Dr. Bush’s profession.

  6. “With this in mind it is a surprise that organizations like Astart are not more strongly advocating that parents keep their conduct disordered kids at home.”

    I like this point. I suppose the trouble comes from the parents’ unwillingness or inability to be part of the therapeutic process. I mean, my guardians, absentee as they were 99% of the time, weren’t the type to self-examine, or go for therapy. When I reached out for support, as a teen, to deal with some trauma, I was shipped off, more or less out of my parent’s standard reflex – ‘send problems away, pay money.’

    I sort of figure that if a kid has got a good enough parent to stick it out and deal with family therapy, and take the necessary weight of their role as parent, then the kid probably won’t have a major problem, or ‘disorder.’

    I wonder if we were just the kids on the cusp – fairly to very very lousy home lives, but with enough money to not get sucked into the social service sector, adoption, foster home, etc….

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