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Montana Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for struggling teenagers ages 14-18. At its founding in 1997, it was unique in the nation. For it combined well-trained clinicians, an effective therapeutic program and a challenging prep school, all situated on a remote Montana ranch. In the years after its opening, the Academy fulfilled its promise to become a remarkable combination of clinical sophistication, staged incentives and ambitious academics. Emancipated from intrusive insurance companies and the mediocrity of “managed care,” its staff has been free to do its best work. Removed from the distractions of mass culture, shielded from ubiquitous illicit drugs, unplugged from the matrix of modern media and protected by adults, MA students have been free to join with staff in a collaborative culture that is dedicated to a restoration of progress in adolescent maturation.
At the Academy, we take a distinctive psychiatric approach to adolescent troubles. We recognize that many presenting symptoms and misbehaviors—at school, at home, and among social peers—result from a relative immaturity. For this reason, instead of limiting treatment to symptom relief, we pursue a two-step diagnosis and dual treatment: (a) to identify and then to remove, insofar as possible, the obstacles to psychological development; and (b) to prod students to achieve new psychological milestones and so to restore the momentum of normal maturation. These twin developmental goals require a coordinated and sustained effort, not a quick fix.
Montana Academy’s clinical, academic and program structures have been designed from this understanding and promote this goal–to help struggling students to move on to academic and interpersonal successes, which follow from a restoration of normal adolescent maturity.