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Aspen Achievement Academy

Wilderness Program

Aspen Achievement Academy Program Information

Gender: Boys and girls in single gender groups
Ages: 13 to 17
Grades: 9 to 12
Estimated Enrollment: 8 per group
Length of Stay:
Program was founded in: 1989
Accreditations: Affiliations:

Aspen Achievement Academy Contact Information

PO Box 400
98 South Main St.
Loa, UT 84747
Phone: (800) 283-8334
Fax: (435) 836-2477
School Contact: Kori Brown
Alternative Contact: Gilbert Hallows
Therapy Provided?: Yes

Program Description:

Aspen Achievement Academy is a licensed treatment program that integrates an accredited academic component, a sophisticated therapeutic model, and an experiential education curriculum in a healing wilderness environment. Aspen Academy recently participated in a landmark study of wilderness therapy that showed a dramatic improvement in teen behavior after participation in this type of program.

The Academy creates a modern “rite of passage” designed to assist adolescents in making the transition to responsible young adulthood. It guides each participant through a series of powerful metaphors that symbolize stages of growth, provide deeper insight towards developing self-reliance, and generate a sense responsibility for self and community. Aspen’s clinical focus is on insight-oriented therapy, rather than behavior modification. The model helps our students gain awareness of their emotional and behavior habits. This unique, nurturing approach allows our students to address individual issues, become engaged in their personal success, and begin the process of bringing their families back together.

Aspen Achievement Academy has earned the distinguished JCAHO Gold Seal of Approval, and has also received many accolades in the media. The Academy’s innovative and effective approach has been written about in the award-winning book “Shouting at the Sky.”

Aspen specializes in treating adolescents who exhibit any of the following behaviors.

Low self-esteem
Lack of motivation
Trouble with teachers
Poor grades
Confrontational behavior
Substance abuse
Defiance toward authority
Manipulative behavior

Being a teenager today is tougher than it has ever been before. The clear-cut rites of a simpler society permitted children to move into adulthood in a natural and predictable way. Today's teenagers and their parents no longer have the benefit of such clear rites and predictable pathways. As a result, even talented young people and well-meaning parents often struggle with the balance between independence and reliance upon families.

Teens today lack cultural rituals and pathways – or "rites of passage" – to maturity. Nowhere is the need for such rites more apparent (and help for teens and parents more necessary) than in the case of the troubled teenager. One of the most remarkable aspects of Aspen’s innovative outdoor therapy program is our proven ability to allow nature and skilled staff members to nurture self-reliance and self-respect, thus providing an appropriate rite of passage toward responsible young adulthood.

Aspen Achievement Academy has set itself apart from other programs by combining the best in therapeutic care, experiential activities, counseling, education, and group therapy. Therapists and field counselors join the students in the field along their path of discovery. They provide support and encouragement to help students deal with conflicts and learn to solve problems on their own.

Families benefit from the program as well. In addition to receiving weekly progress updates and phone sessions from Aspen therapists, they also have the opportunity to attend their own family therapy sessions and complete a family growth book that includes weekly reading and writing assignments.

At the end of the program, families attend a 2½-day workshop that includes a parenting seminar, family therapy, and experiential family activities. Through this workshop, parents develop communication and relationship-enhancing skills, and learn strategies that will help their child successfully reintegrate into their family, school, and community. The workshop also meets the needs of parents whose children will be transitioning from Aspen into a residential boarding school or other long-term placement.

Aspen Achievement Academy’s nationally recognized program has earned contracts with a variety insurance companies, employer groups, and managed care organizations. Letters from parents and referral sources praising the Aspen program are abundant, and Aspen's ability to correct behavior and effect students’ successful return to the school environment is outstanding.

Recent data indicate that more than 80% of adolescents who were treated at Aspen demonstrate better family relations, fewer legal problems, reduced abuse of drugs, and improved performance in school. To ensure the continued quality and success of the program, ongoing satisfaction surveys and outcome studies are conducted on all students.

Aspen Health Services acquired Aspen Achievement Academy in 1990 to help meet the increasing demand for an intensive, short-term alternative to traditional treatment programs. Aspen's outstanding program combines an extensive diagnostic evaluation with therapy and experiential learning in a challenging outdoor setting. The goal of the Academy is to provide "at-risk" and troubled adolescents with experiences that promote the development of self-discipline, confidence, problem solving skills, and a healthy lifestyle.

The key components of the Aspen program include the following:

A thorough diagnostic assessment.
A four-tiered level system.
Individual, family, and group therapy.
A credentialed school curriculum.
Recreational and experiential activities.
A 2 ½-day parent workshop during which parenting and relationship skills are strengthened and the students are reunited with their families.
All of these services are provided by a caring and supportive team of highly trained, experienced mental health professionals.

Aspen Achievement Academy is licensed as an outdoor youth program, and is recognized as a special needs school by the Utah State Department of Education.

The academy is headquartered in Loa, Utah, which is located in the south-central part of the state. The program operates year-round on hundreds of miles of Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land, where staff and students reside in temporary, self-constructed shelters for the duration of their stay.

To ensure the continued well-being of students and staff members, Aspen employs a rigid safety program that features ongoing radio communication, highly trained instructors, and an emergency response team.

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