Discovery Academy (1989-present) Provo, UT

Therapeutic Boarding School

History and Background Information

Discovery Academy is an Ascent Company behavior-modification program founded in 1989. It is marketed as a Therapeutic Boarding School for teenagers aged 13-18. The program is divided into a Girls’ program and a Boys’ program, and, interetsingly, the issues they report being able to help treat are different for the two programs. The boys program enrolls boys’ who struggle with “Learning disabilities, ADHD/ADD, Adoption issues, Appropriate assertiveness, Substance abuse, Depression, Trauma, Wilderness transition, and Family communication.” The girls’ program enrolls girls who struggle with “Trauma, Emotional regulation, Physical or sexual abuse, Adoption issues, Self harm, Learning disabilities, Substance abuse, and Depression.” The average length of stay is reported to be between 6 and 18 months. When the school opened, it had a maximum enrollment of 24, but their that has since grown substanitally and is currently at 82 teenagers. The school’s motto is “Discovering who you are and learning what you can become.” Discovery Academy has been a NATSAP member since 1999.

The program is located at 105 N 500 W, Provo, UT 84601. The campus is divided in two, with one side for the Boys’ program and one side for the Girls’. In addition, Discovery Academy is a sister program to RedCliff Ascent, Discovery Ranch, Discovery Ranch For Girls, Discovery Connections, and Oxbow Academy.

Discovery Academy is “accredited” by the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools (NAAS), but it is important to note that neither the United States Department of Education nor the Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes NAAS as an accrediting agency for institutions of higher education. NAAS is an organization that has “accredited” many notoriously abusive behavior-modification programs, including many WWASP programs.

Discovery Academy is believed to be a spin-off program of the notoriously abusive Provo Canyon School, which is located only about 6 miles from DA. Provo Canyon School is a confirmedly abusive program, and is widely regarded as the birthplace of the extremely abusive WWASP organization. Discovery Academy is owned, founded, and directed by former Provo Canyon School executives and staff members and, although the school maintained it was not connected to PCS, the school utilizes a very similar program model and structure.

Founders and Notable Staff

  1. Eugene Thorne was the Founder of Discovery Academy. He previously worked as the co-owner of Provo Canyon School, a confirmedly abusive behavior-modification program which is also where many of the founders and staff members of WWASP began their careers, until 1986. He is reported to have practiced the controversial Aversion Therapy during his time at BYU in the 1970’s. He passed away unexpectedly on December 19, 2018, at the age of 84. Link to his obituary.

Brent Hall is the Executive Director of Discovery Academy. He previously worked at the confirmedly abusive Provo Canyon School, which is widely regarded as the birthplace of the WWASP organization. He also worked for a time as the Director of NATSAP.

Matt Child is the current Clinical Director of Discovery Ranch. He began his career at DR working as a Therapist.

Robert Crist is the Owner/Vice President of Discovery Academy. Crist was also the founder of the notoriously abusive Provo Canyon School (which is widely regarded as the birthplace of the WWASP organization), as well as Silverado Academy/Boys Ranch. He also worked as the Medical Director for the notoriously abusive Logan River Academy.

Program Structure

Like other behavior-modification programs, Discovery Academy utilizes a level-system consisting of four levels. Residents progress through the levels by earning points while avoiding demerits, which are given for negative behaviors and rule violations. This merit/demerit system is very common in many behavior-modificiation programs, including the extremely abusive WWASP programs.

According to one survivor, “the program had 4 levels, divided into “plus” and “minus”, greater divided into “upper”, “middle”, and “lower” levels. “upper” levels are between 3 and 4+, “mid” levels are between 2 and 3, ”lower” levels are between 1- and 2-. Each group were given certain privileges, for example upper levels were allowed outside jobs, could leave campus, and were given greater deals of money for trips as well as more posh outings. “mid” levels were allowed trips to movies and other activities with less money allotted towards themselves, and “lower” levels were not allowed any privileges.”

Survivors report that students at DA are prohibited from contacting their parents by phone for the first few months of enrollment. All subsequent phone calls are strictly monitored and terminated if the student says anything negative about D.A. All mail, both incoming and out-going, is monitored and censored. Letters critical of DA are never sent and detainees were ordered to re-write them to D.A.’s satisfaction. Many incoming letters to students were never delivered, including those sent by parents.

All detainees are reportedly forced to comply with fundamentalist Mormon teachings. Mormonism is regularly pushed onto students. Atheism or agnosticism are considered to be problems in need of fixing. All boys are forced to have their heads shaved on enrollment. Girls are often forced to have their hair cut depending on the circumstances. No form of individual expression is permitted at DA. Strict military-style conformity is reportedly imposed on all students. DA is also reported to be extremely anti-gay and homophobic.

All education is reportedly “self-study”, meaning students are given study books and, when ready, can opt for the test. It is reported that there are no teachers that actually teach at DA, but instead the teachers there are strictly guards. No proper education is offered at D.A, instead, a student’s success and growth was left completely up to them with little to no guidelines on what to do.

DA does not employ any medical staff. When serious injuries are sustained by students, they are taken to the local emergency room, who never question the number of injuries sustained by the school.

Individual therapy sessions are conducted by reportedly barely-qualified employees and consist of verbal abuse and religious preaching. Group therapy is supposedly offered to students, however, more often they were group sessions in which many students suffered even further emotional and mental abuse.

Discovery Academy is also known to use soliatry confinement as punishment, which is colloquially known by residents as the “hole in the wall”. A survivor has provided the following photo of what this room looks like. It has been reported by survivors that teenagers at DA can spend weeks in solitary confinement, forced to do nothing but stare at the wall.

The facilities shown on Discovery Academy’s website are reported by survivors to be misleading. According to an image posted to the Subreddit, the program’s actual facilities are nowhere near what is shown on their website.

Abuse and Lawsuits

Discovery Academy is widely reported to be an extremely abusive program. Survivors report emotional, physical, and sexual abuse at the hands of the employees of DA. Some of these instances of reported abuse and neglect include:

  • Children were thrust into an environment where their only way to survive was to traffic drugs, gangs, or sex. This would mark the end of many a childhood innocence.
  • Students were regularly struck, beaten, and kicked. Many serious injuries including broken bones were regularly sustained.
  • Students were often “restrained” by extremely large, muscular “mentors” even when the situation did not call for it. Many students suffered sprains, bruises, and lacerations due to over-discipline.
  • One student was badly injured due to a busted window and students were forced to clean the blood despite the obvious dangers of glass and blood born disease.
  • Students were often left unattended for long periods of time.
  • Many students would cheek medication and drugs to barter to other students for sexual or violent favors.
  • Students were permitted one hour of exercise per day, the rest of the day was spent sedentary.
  • Students were occasionally denied food due to “bad behavior”.
  • Students often got in brawls or would jump other students, most of which were ignored by employees.
  • Students were forced to shower together in a communal bathroom.
  • Many students attempted suicide or self harm and rather than being helped or understood, were punished, forcing further mental trauma which only worsened hopeless situations.
  • Students were regularly deprived of sleep while staff would “monitor” the children every hour by shining a flashlight in their faces.
  • Students were often deliberately fed foods the program knew they were allergic to.
  • Every student was forced to wear exactly the same clothing as every other student every day, and were forced to do the laundry for the entire school.
  • Boys and girls were regularly abused about their appearance, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs.
  • Solitary confinement was often used even for months at a time.
  • Some boys and girls were subjected to sexual abuse by staff and other students.
  • Many more abuses occurred at D.A, but the above represents the most serious and prevalent among them.

In July of 2002, an employee at DA, Joseph J. Butler plead guilty to attempted rape, a second-degree felony, and making a written false statement, a class-A misdemeanor. This came after a 16-year-old girl at DA reported that she had been raped by Butler in the kitchen while getting a drink. Butler admitted to having sex with the minor and was sentenced in October to one year in jail and ordered to register as a sex offender. (Reference)

In 2006, a mother and son filed a lawsuit against the school in connection with reports that her son has been sexually assaulted by another teenager at the facility. No additional information is known.

In 2007, the Disability Law Center sued Discovery Academy in federal court for refusing to release patient records related to an investigation into abusive practices. The DLC has said that they have received credible allegations about “potentially abusive practices being used against a youth who was a resident of Discovery Academy.” This lawsuit was later dismissed by the judge.

Survivor/Parent/Ex-Staff Testimonies

11/24/2020: (EX-STAFF) “I used to work as a mentor here for two years, and I do not recommend sending your kids here. I could go on and on about this place and how badly it’s run, and how negatively impacted the kids are after being here. The only reason I stayed so long was because I cared for the kids, and wanted to do whatever I could to bring something positive into their lives while at Discovery Academy. But please do not send your kids here, they will suck you dry of money and leave your kid more traumatized than before.” – Sami (Yelp)

11/16/2020: (PARENT) “Do NOT send your child to Discovery Academy. Their website homepage states that they are following guidelines established by the CDC regarding Covid-19. The staff assured us that covid safety precautions were in place and that it was a closed campus. Nothing could be further from the truth. During his 17 day stay at DA ,our son was taken to a water park, movie theater, Chinese buffett, other restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores. Some of the students have part-time jobs off campus and are coming a going. And we never received any therapy sessions during that time. Would give this place negative stars if possible.” – Cissy (Yelp)

11/15/2020: (SURVIVOR) “RUN! DON’T DO THIS TO YOUR CHILD. I ran away from this boarding school. Do not send your kids here! Upon arrival, they place you in a white, empty hole in the wall, with a plastic mat in the floor, with no shoes and minimal cloths, with nothing else, similar to an insane asylum. TO WHO EVER IS READING THIS: We aren’t making this up, there are numerous reviews explaining how this happened to them. They left us in there for days! I’ll never forget the numerous cold nights I spent crying in that white tiny area, hoping, and praying someone would come save me. In regards to reviews that state the room (hole in wall) didn’t exist, I am reposting a picture to demonstrate the white area they locked us in. The positive reviews must be fake accounts or owners of DA. The entire time I was there, they didn’t allow me to speak to my family. This was traumatic. Thankfully, I was smart enough to crawl out of the roof window and scale down the wall and run, as fast as I could without shoes. Best decision in my life…we had a wonderful escape plan…too many details for a post here,, but we end up making it home back to Cali…long long greyhound ride, with lots of loving individuals and new friends who helped us on the way. Most the counselors were uneducated and unfriendly. The scholastic standard is below minimal. Your kids will receive horrible education here. Teachers are not accredited. Be aware of what will happen to your child when you send them to an enclosed building with strangers. Upon me escaping, they refused to return the full year payment my single mother had paid. After a legal battle, we received part of our payment in return. If you don’t believe me, feel free to contact me and I will tell you the entire story how I escaped from this hell in Provo Utah and arrived in San Diego, CA. As much as I have healed from the scars caused by this place, I must warn others, don’t place your kids in danger. P.S. Simple look at the bars on the windows. SCARIEST place ever. Link to Photo attached by Author” – A. A. (Yelp)

11/10/2020: (EX-STAFF) “This is one of those programs that takes advantage of parents who don’t know where else to turn and charges them astronomical prices for low quality treatment. I had worked previously in one of the pioneering, most renowned treatment centers, and after a few weeks of working here I quit. The training for mentors (the people the kids spend the most time around) wasn’t sufficient to handle crisis situations and staff often escalated situations that could have been deescalated if handled better. If I hadn’t previously worked in a program where we were well trained, I probably would have done the same. I was hired as a mentor to boys on the autism spectrum in a program called Nexus. Things may be different in DA’s other programs, but the way they treated these boys was NOT ok with me. Like I said, I’ve worked in another program, so I know treatment is difficult and emotional and at times intense, and you have to hold boundaries. But the kind of difficult this was was not the kind that will help kids change or grow, merely drive them into submission. It is purely contrived reward and punishment conditioning with unclear standards, so there was little consistency among staff members judgements. I think a lot of employees genuinely wanted to mentor and help kids when they signed up for the job but they just didn’t receive adequate training to handle situations correctly and as far as I could tell, the program is not up to date with current industry standards in mental health care. Many of the staff did not know how to effectively support the kids with healthy relationships, even though this is emphasized in their advertisement. If anything, many staff taught the clients that when someone doesn’t do what you want, yell at them and threaten them. Many staff were disengaged and some spent entire shifts on their phones with little personal interest in the kids, until they acted out. Most days the boys just watched tv for hours. Again many staff were well meaning but just didn’t have any idea what they were doing. What I REALLY don’t understand though, is how they could advertise a program specifically for boys on the Autism spectrum and NOT TRAIN a single one of us (not an exaggeration) about ASD or how to best help these boys!! I relied on youtube to learn what I could about ASD and it seemed like many of my coworkers were unaware of or just didn’t care about their sensory and processing needs, which caused a LOT of problems. This program doesn’t help the kids to see their potential or good qualities. In staff notes and meetings, they focused almost entirely on ‘”fixing” clients negative behaviors with little conversation about how we could actually help meet their individual needs that were driving the behavior. Take this review as you will, I have nothing to gain personally if DA’s business is effected. But I can’t not let people know what they’re paying for if they send their kids here.” – K.C. (Yelp)

November 2020: (EX-STAFF) “I’m surprised by the amount of positive reviews that are here.. I hesitated to post this on my account because it’s so public, but I want people to know I’m legit and I’m doing this in hopes that it keeps a family safe from going here. This is one of those programs that takes advantage of parents who don’t know where else to turn and charges them astronomical prices for low quality treatment. I had worked previously in one of the pioneering, most renowned treatment centers, and after a few weeks of working here I quit. The training for mentors (the people the kids spend the most time around) wasn’t sufficient to handle crisis situations and staff often escalated situations that could have been deescalated if handled better. If I hadn’t previously worked in a program where we were well trained, I probably would have done the same. I was hired as a mentor to boys on the autism spectrum in a program called Nexus. Things may be different in DA’s other programs, but the way they treated these boys was NOT ok with me. Like I said, I’ve worked in another program, so I know treatment is difficult and emotional and at times intense, and you have to hold boundaries. But the kind of difficult this was was not the kind that will help kids change or grow, merely drive them into submission. It is purely contrived reward and punishment conditioning with unclear standards, so there was little consistency among staff members judgements. I think a lot of employees genuinely wanted to mentor and help kids when they signed up for the job but they just didn’t receive adequate training to handle situations correctly and as far as I could tell, the program is not up to date with current industry standards in mental health care. Many of the staff did not know how to effectively support the kids with healthy relationships, even though this is emphasized in their advertisement. If anything, many staff taught the clients that when someone doesn’t do what you want, yell at them and threaten them. Many staff were disengaged and some spent entire shifts on their phones with little personal interest in the kids, until they acted out. Most days the boys just watched tv for hours. Again many staff were well meaning but just didn’t have any idea what they were doing. What I REALLY don’t understand though, is how they could advertise a program specifically for boys on the Autism spectrum and NOT TRAIN a single one of us (not an exaggeration) about ASD or how to best help these boys!! I relied on youtube to learn what I could about ASD and it seemed like many of my coworkers were unaware of or just didn’t care about their sensory and processing needs, which caused a LOT of problems. This program doesn’t help the kids to see their potential or good qualities. In staff notes and meetings, they focused almost entirely on ‘”fixing” clients negative behaviors with little conversation about how we could actually help meet their individual needs that were driving the behavior. Take this review as you will, I have nothing to gain personally if DA’s business is effected. But I can’t not let people know what they’re paying for if they send their kids here.” – Katelyn (Google Reviews)

10/14/2020: (SURVIVOR) “I went here in 2015-2016. For my freshman year of high school. Undoubtedly I think these negative claims have some validity. But I want to give my honest critique of this place because I’ve thought about my experience there a lot and Want to inform people with my experience of spending 11 months there. I went here after attending red cliff ascent. And I can confidently say that the structure of the program was deeply flawed and had massive potential for abuse, from both the staff and students. I will go into detail of this but I first I will say that when I attended this program I was subjected to an unfathomable amount of bullying and violence, my therapists were manipulative to both me and my parents, some of the staff were extremely cruel and belittling. There were major problems that weren’t properly addressed such as sanitary conditions, lack of supervision due to understaffing, which lead to bullying, violence , and sometimes even rape. But that is my own anecdotal claim. However that is not what I want to be emphasized from this. Because neither the staff or students that were there in 2015-2016 are there anymore. There are rules, guidelines, and conditions that are a formula for disaster within this program. Starting with the demographics; this is a “one size fits all” program. Which means they accept troubled kids from a variety of reasons ( such as drug addiction, sexual violence, video game addiction, suicidal tendencies, clinical depression, self harm, sexual trauma, fighting, and gang related court ordered reasons) and propose a very rigid solution for these very complex psychological problems. Such as therapy groups, and individual therapy once a week. The amount of time per day on average for therapy is about 2-3 hours, which I didn’t find useful, plus school. But other than that we had a considerable amount of time for doing nothing. And locking up to 80 kids ( boys, in my case) with a whole spectrum of issues in the same building with a lack of supervision is a recipe for disaster in the first place. The rule such as the collective principal: which is that everybody will suffer for your mistakes, is a flawed principal that has no utility in the real world. For example: if you fight or choose to attack somebody, than everybody you live with is held accountable for it. Which obviously ends up with that kid getting beaten up oranges in a sock (it doesn’t leave bruises) for making everybody suffer for his mistake. Since these kids are only in contact with each other, they naturally developed their own sort of culture that splits into cliques and than hierarchies. And from that certain traditions are developed and than passed on such as beating up the new kid, making kids cheek their medications so that other kids can take them, stealing hand sanitizer from outings and drinking it with their friends to get drunk, and having weekly “fight nights” in the laundry room. I lived with a kid while I was there that cut his leg open and almost died and he got hospitalized, and the staff made us clean up the enormous pools of blood off the bathroom floor. In conclusion I think it is a toxic environment to send your kid to, especially if he/she has severe emotional issues. I’ve seen many of the kids I lived with spiral into depression including myself. I left having more issues, making even worse mistakes, and becoming considerably suicidal for a period of time. Thankfully I decided to get my life together and looking back on it, I think going through such a traumatizing experience humbled me and made me a wiser person having gone through it. Unfortunately a majority of my friends I made there are mostly locked up, dead by suicide or drug overdose, or helplessly addicted to drugs. A small amount of them are living a healthy life that was promised by the program. If I were to give advice to a parent that is worried for their child such as my parents once were. The most simple answer to this would to try wilderness treatment programs. Even though I don’t agree 100% of their methods and those methods vary depending on the program, I went to 2 wilderness programs and out of the 7 treatment facilities I went to I would recommend this method of rehabilitation the best, but I wouldn’t recommend sending them to any rtc or boarding school.” – Ray (Yelp)

October 2020: (EX-STAFF) “I worked there for 2 years in management over one of the girl’s programs and it was so exhausting. Always getting texted when I was off, always expected to do more work than I was trained for. Poor, POOR management. They say one thing, make a lot of empty promises, and give bare minimum resources. Office management is a joke. Residential department is a joke. They advertise a school of arts but kids get bare minimum time with studio or anything art related. If employees or therapists don’t volunteer to help the kids with studio or plays, it doesn’t happen. As someone looking for employment: be ready to be short staffed, undertrained, unsupported, and getting calls and texts asking if you can come in. Get ready for upset kids who need better resources and attention acting out. As a parent looking to send a kid here: your kid will not get the help they need because of the lack of resources available. Staff to student ratio is never appropriate. The staff and therapists are great, they just are outnumbered. It feels more like a juvenile detention center than an actual treatment center. Don’t send your kid here. Employees get a week of training before they are thrown on the floors. Therapists are overworked and have an overwhelming caseload. Admissions take in kids who should be in lockdown facilities putting other kids at risk. Kids are genuinely getting hurt here at times by untrained staff or their peers and nothing happens when its reported. HR states he is a 3rd party but doesn’t do anything productive for the programs or staff. There have been multiple times decisions are made off of how much money the company gets instead of what is best for the client. It takes awful things to happen to staff or kids for them to finally take action. If your kid is coming out with more trauma than what they had going in, it is not a safe place!” – Shannon (Google Reviews)

September 2020: (PARENT) “WORST DECISION OF MY LIFE! Don’t send your child here. My son was here for 10 months, it was the biggest waste of time and money and it was detrimental to his health in addition. He received no education here, that was a joke. $70k for nothing” – Bough (Google Reviews)

8/20/2020: (SURVIVOR) “As a previous survivor of this shameful excuse of therapeutic school for youth, I can only share my experience and urge parents to rethink such an abusive and life altering solution. Dr. Thorne was pro electrotheropy for the “gays”. I was heterosexual but was deemed depressive and was forced to take inappropriate dosages of an antidepressant twice a day as well as a sedative every night with counter effects and potential for seizures. I was forced beyond my will to take these meds for 2 years. If I refused, I was placed into a white isolation room with bare mattress forced to stand and stare at a wall at half hour intervals as punishment. Each interval was named a demerit. At one point I had 2000. I was in isolation for several weeks staring at a white wall. Whilest in there another girl decided to slit her wrists with bra wire. And I was forgotten for 8 hours. I witnessed counselors abusing girls, and know of girls who were drugged and raped. The physiological abuse was however the most disturbing part of the experience. Every way you react is judged and determines the level of “trust” you are given, which only promotes hiding your actual troubles and accomplishes nothing. It wasn’t until over a decade later that I could start to think back at the damage this place has caused me. Please do not send your children here.” – Aurore (Yelp)

3/14/2020: (SURVIVOR) “I’ve read posts about Discovery Academy in Provo, Utah and thought i’d put in my two cents. DA was basically an excuse for my parents to not have to deal with me. I was getting C’s and D’s in school due to the abuse i dealt with at home and the pressure of growing up as a gay man/transgender woman in a strict catholic household, so this was the perfect reason for them to ship me off. I know DA describes itself as a “therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens” but its hell. For me it was basically a straight camp. Now, some of the kids there definitely have problems, mainly with drugs, gangs, or behavioral issues, but a lot of kids there are just struggling with some personal things their parents either don’t know how to deal with or just don’t want to. I don’t know what kind of parent would ever trust a stranger enough to leave their child with, but this place had its fair share of abuse in my day. Granted this was about ten years ago and things could have changed but i have a feeling that’s highly unlikely. Obviously i was put on the boy’s side despite identifying as female, but there is a massive difference between the sides. the girl’s side is new, posh, they get their own bathrooms, and quite frankly compared to the boys they’re spoiled quite a bit. The boys side is a century old, haunted (if you believe in that, though i have had experiences i cant explain), decrepit old building built like an m.c. Escher maze. In order to survive, the kids created a barter system of drugs, favors, and sex. I am ashamed to admit i participated. Part of me believes if i hadn’t, i might not have survived it. Many kids tried to kill themselves, me included, or run away. If that isn’t a red flag i don’t know what is. I’ve heard people trying to praise the staff but in all honesty many of them were very abusive. I don’t know how or why a 300 pound Polynesian man of pure muscle has to use so much force on a 100 pound 14 year old. They really, really overdo it at times, believe me. Many staff members are not only physically abuse, but mentally and emotionally as well. This place will take a good kid struggling with personal problems and turn them into a cold-hearted sociopath. I wont deny some kids need the extra help, but many kids in there are just normal kids dealing with problems at home, school, etc who could benefit from maybe just talking to someone, namely a pair of understanding parents. If you’re having trouble understanding how negative and damaging these places are, imagine a young teenager, being emotionally and/or physically abused at home, dealing with the fear of coming out to their devote catholic parents as they attend a private catholic high school. Suddenly thrust into a world of gangs, drugs, sex, and violence and expected to adapt to survive. In just my first week there, i was isolated and jumped by a group of kids looking to establish their dominance. This was the first time but it wouldn’t be the last. In places like these you gotta rely on yourself to survive the kids, the adults, the system as a whole, by doing unimaginable things. Anyone who would ever praise one of these places truly doesn’t know what it does to kids. In my experience, 9 times out of 10 the kids leave more effed up than when they got there. I mean, im almost thirty years old, its been over ten years since i was in that place and i still have recurring nightmares about it. Anyway, that’s my two cents.” – u/HecateNocturne9 (Reddit)

2/25/2020: (SURVIVOR) “If you actually care about your children – DO NOT SEND THEM HERE !!! I’ve spend 6 months in Discovery Academy and I know exactly what it is on the inside. It is very much like a real prison with its own “local authorities”, who abuse weaker individuals and bully the ones, who are not like them as a group. Kids who spend too much time in this place are filled with anger and frustration, and they let it out on anyone they can that is getting in their way. If the “leaders” don’t like you – you’re in trouble and if they do – you better make sure it stays that way. My therapist made an impression of a failed psychologist, who could not get a real job in her field. Her sessions dispelled my boredom from time to time, but not a single one of them was actually helpful. That is not to mention that most of the staff are ACTUAL former prison guardians (their own words). I was send there by my own will, because the other choice was to do 11th grade over again (I got behind in school due to attending another program that was in the wilderness). When I described the place to my parents, they immediately offered me to come back home, but I refused because I really didn’t want to graduate high school as a 20 year old. However, being was incredibly hard because you feel like a legit prisoner and because the atmosphere is FILLED with HATRED. I was one of those, who wasn’t “popular” and I had to FIGHT FOR MY DIGNITY EVERY DAY. Mentally I am a strong person which is why I handled it alright, although sometimes I still have nightmares that I’m in DA and feel like a prisoner again. A weaker person could easily break down in my position and be scarred for life. Now last of all, but MOST importantly, I REALLY CANNOT IMAGINE HOW THIS PLACE COULD HELP ANYONE. Every person that got out who I checked on went back to their old lifestyle and it didn’t change. And now the only person, who was nice to me and was my friend there is being charged for MURDER and going to spend (at least) his 20s in prison!!! So please, don’t send your kid there if you actually care about his or her life and don’t want to just “get this weight off your shoulders”. I’ve seen a lot of kids there with all sorts of problems and they all had just thing in common – their parents sent them to DA and they suffered. If you wish to help your kid – be kind to him and try to connect with him. Trouble teens are most often the ones, who did not receive enough love from their parents. Trust me, you will not help them by sending them to this horrible place. Thank you for reading and heal your children with love, it’s really the only way.” – Borys (Yelp)

8/6/2020: (EX-STAFF) “I am a former employee at Discovery Academy. I worked here for almost a year because I felt bad for the kids and really wanted to make a difference. The management did not care what was going on and viewed the kids as money signs. There are no cameras except two that view the parking lot. New staff do not get training before being thrown on the floor which has resulted in many kids being hurt. We get AEGIS restraint trained , but most staff run to restraints instead of actually working to talk your child down. I have seen many kids thrown to the ground and against walls , and giant men 5 times bigger than the child hold them completely down. I have seen therapists skip out on getting their clients (your children ) because they did not want to deal with the kid that week , and have residential staff tell them why. Discovery Academy does not care about residential staff which is why their turn over rate is huge , meaning every few months it’s a brand new team of people who have never worked in treatment and have zero training and zero idea what they are doing. Also I will be honest , if you have a son and want to send them here , the male staff always leave your child unsupervised and that causes them to become worse. Not better. Management will always tell you what you want to hear.” – Alexis (Yelp)

5/31/2019: (SURVIVOR) “I went to Discovery Academy in Provo Utah from March 18th 2008 (my 16th birthday) to November 26th 2008 (I was in this hellhole 8 months and 8 days). I was physically emotionally and sexually abused while locked up in this hellish place. I was part of the child labour force they utilized to build the new girl’s dormitories. I still suffer from PTSD and my attempts to block out traumatic memories with substance abuse. I will update my experiences tomorrow as I have just discovered this reddit resource, but I am very eager to connect with other survivors of Discovery Academy or other Redcliffe programs and share our experiences. I recently traveled to Portland,Oregon to reconnect with a good friend from my days in DA and while in Portland we met up with two other fellow former prisoners and the amount of visible pain in the room was overwhelming. I am an on again off again drug addict and I was smoking black tar heroin off of foil while my good friend D and another old friend who is now working as a male prostitute in the Portland area smoked methamphetamines and another former prisoner who was a frequently physically abusive bully who has now deteriorated into schizophrenia looked on in a blank stare and just seemed… lost. I apologize for the somewhat incoherent/rambling/ poorly constructed nature of my post but it’s late in North Carolina and I’m tired and a little drunk. I am curious how other survivors are doing these days and I’m curious how much things are the same and or have changed since my time there. I was there when Brent Hall managed and operated the program if that helps anyone place the era I am referring to. I will add posts tomorrow detailing some ofmy more memorable experiences.” – u/TheRealTBudd (Reddit)

12/7/2018: (SURVIVOR) “Went to this crap hole back in the mid 90s. -I had contracted scabies while in their “isolation unit”. Suffered for 5 months before anyone bothered to care that I needed medical attention. Sent my floral bedding down to be washed and it was stolen by a male student. I had to sleep with my sheet only, in the middle of fall. No staff was even concerned about me getting it back. -They bill parents for extra supplies for classes the child isn’t even enrolled in. -Girls were throwing up in the air vents to get away with being balimic. -One girl tried to kill herself with the underwire of her bra while another attempted by drinking glass cleaner. – Another gave birth to a still born, alone, in the bathroom. -I was able to break out of the school by jimmying a window and jumping off a two story glass menagerie with another student. We were gone for roughly four hours before anyone noticed we were gone. -While I was there a male student escaped as well and took off on a staff members motorcycle. -I was there for over 9 months before I was able to get to a level 4-. -They would rarely raise levels and give vague reasons for why they didn’t raise your level, giving no feed back on how or where to improve. -The lied to me and my parents when we firsr got there. They told us I would be able to go house back riding once I got to at least a level 3. Never even saw a horse during my 10 months of captivity.” – Tiffany (Yelp)

8/16/2018: (EX-STAFF) “Please don’t send your kids here. As a former staff, college degree holder, and after working in a similar field, I can tell you this place is not worth a cent of your (nor the governments) money. Your son or daughter will AT BEST see their therapist not the prescribed multiple times a week, but rather 1-2 a month at best. Among the entire therapy team there are perhaps a couple who are even remotely involved in their residents’ lives. Upper management is condescending to both students and other staff. They are particularly apathetic to the small DC boys group (a smaller, more expensive group with virtually NO additional treatment relative to the already meager “treatment” the rest of the school receives. Laura, the chief operator, is condescending and has a serious superiority complex. She is terribly out of touch with the treatment center experience from your child’s point of view. Her lack of compassion is evident in the constant refusal of any/all extra curricular requests. She pushes to keep boys in the more expensive DC program when they obviously need a different sort of treatment. She is apathetic to the work that staff constantly puts in. I believe that it is her decision making that maintains one of the lowest wages among similar facilities which leads to immense staff turnover, indicative of a lower mentor quality (mentors are those who stay with your child 99% of their day to day life). Having been on the inside, it is quite clear that the management if this facility treats it SOLELY as a money generating mechanism and in that sense they are quite efficient! In regard to treatment, however, very little progress occurs over the months/years of each resident’s stay here, unless they are lucky enough to have a GREAT staff in their daily program.” – Sam (Yelp)

2018: (SURVIVOR) “I went there, I got punished for being suicidally depressed. and I still have nightmares about being there. Do not send your children there, the organization they claim to be a part of is non-accredited, and despite the fact that they pull in so much money, only meager portion goes towards your child’s treatment and living expenses. This facility claims to repair issues, but it only deepens them and creates more. I realize when it comes to subjects relating to discipline and authority such as this, one may not immediately trust the patients, in favor of the staff. I will just give my thoughts: I have nothing to gain materially through continuing to spread my story about DA. However, DA does have something to gain from lying about their location being better than it is though, which is your money. Think very carefully about this, and the extremely polarized reviews that exist for this place. If you doubt my words, I am completely fine with personally being contacted in order to explain my entire experience in further detail.” – Willow (Google Reviews)

2018: (EX-STAFF) “I am a former employee of the Discovery Connections (which is a branch of Discovery Academy). My experience working there was very different then I would have ever expected. I was hired on the spot with no background check or any sort of clearance. I literally walked in and was training the following day. The main thing I did was sit around on my phone or watch TV with the students. There is very little effort to get anything done, or do activities. With almost 80% of the day spent sitting around this causes trouble… There is a lot of fighting and unrest in that house. We employees are always in fear of something going wrong. We are paid extremely little wages for such HUGE liability. Employment turnover is also a big issue due to the major lack of training, and the incredible amount of sitting around and boredom. The house is run by very lazy staff who will hire anyone off the street and fire anyone for any simple reason. Another problem is the money. To sent your child here is unbelievably expensive, yet they don’t even have socks and underwear..? We all go out to eat and go to the movies, and afterward the students all sign a paper that bills the parents. I find that very disgusting because that should be covered in the 12,000+ monthly payment they are already spending. The money doesn’t seem to be used for the children as much as it goes into the management’s pockets. Every time there is a tour of the house we spend the whole day cleaning and setting it up all nice and presentable, and I don’t know why a house that is bringing in over $100,000+ cant keep it like that all the time. It is a major scam, and I wouldn’t say it does anything for the child. If you simply want your child to live somewhere else this is the perfect place! If you are seeking rehabilitation or therapy, there is much better options. Discovery Academy is not the answer for any parent seeking help for their child. It is a place to house them, while the directors make a large sum of money off of desperate parents that cant find an answer for their kids. If your going to tour and check the place out, make sure to ask questions and make sure this is a good step.” – Barrett (Google Reviews)

8/25/2017: (SURVIVOR) “I was sent to Discovery Academy in Provo at the age of 14 I had some addiction problems and some behavior issues. I was forced to stand demerits and was abused mentally sexually and physically by the staff there. When they broke my arm for fighting back, they called my family and told them that I was the most disturbed violent child they had to deal with in a long time. My family is in NYC, so they had no way of checking on me regularly since I wasn’t aloud to make phone calls and my mail was screened before it went out. I was LOST ALONE and STUCK in a Prison that claimed to be a therapeutic boarding school. Dr.Thorne and his family were the owners at the time and are probably the most disgusting human being I have ever met, not only did they not care about the kids living conditions, being abused or beaten they acted like they were gods if we ever stood up for our selves we were forced to stand facing a wall for 15 min intervals not to mention there son Dennis aka Denny Thorne was a drug abusing pedophile of the highest order. I know this is old news but I felt the need to share my experience, so maybe a child can avoid what I had to go through. Parents, please listen to your children accusations of abuse should be taken seriously at all costs. 3 years after leaving on my 18th birthday I had started to abuse heroin just to hide from my memories now 15 years later I have just finally gotten my life on track with a lot of therapy and money spent on real treatment. If you are the kind of parent who looks at costs for this instead of benefits for your child, then you had better be ready to spend 10x the amount of boarding schools just to deal with the black hole that they leave your child with.” – u/nirik83 (Reddit)

8/20/2017: (SURVIVOR) “From the Mormon cult that runs this hell hole, to the soggy expired food, this place really is as sketchy and illegal as a business can be. If I could give a 0 star review, I would. I was sent here 3 years ago when I was dealing with severe depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. I was sent to 3 residential programs, 3 psych wards, a wilderness program, then this place (all back to back). One thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that adolescent “treatment” is one of the biggest scams in existence. Therapists make commissions whenever they convince parents to send their suffering child here. They use fear tactics, labeling, and lies to make money. That’s all it is and that’s all that should really matter to you. This place is a business, not a treatment center. Even then, it’s a dishonest pathetic excuse of a business. While I was imprisoned at this place, they built a whole music studio that I NEVER saw any “student” ever use. They built it to show parents when they did campus tours and I even heard them say directly that the studio is used by the students. Any “student” who would speak out and try to expose the fake tour, would be punished severely. Staff members paid minimum wage abused us physically and mentally every day, making the living situation constantly stressful. Meal quality is below the quality of the worst McDonald’s store I have ever been to. They literally fed us expired food (I am dead serious). I refused to eat the expired food and was put on a “suicide watch”, which banned me from leaving the building, even to catch a breath of fresh air. Highly unreasonable, highly uneducated, and highly ignorant are the staff. Anyone with any drug, behavioral, or mental illness should definitely not be in an environment like this. While I was at this place, someone slit their throat with a razor blade they snuck in. He almost bled to death and I have never seen so much blood coming out of someone’s throat in my life. He was taken to a hospital where he got multiple stitches. The staff didn’t even bother to call an ambulance. They just scolded him while his face started getting pale from blood loss and shoved him into the company van. A few months after I left the boarding school, I heard news that he had taken his life as soon as he got out of the program. Almost every person I kept in touch with after getting out of this place crashed and had a mental breakdown shortly after leaving. Many of the drug addicts got back into drugs. Many of the depressed kids got even more depressed. Those with anxiety got even more anxiety. You get the point. For confidentiality, I will not disclose any names as they deserve their privacy. As for myself personally, I am no exception. I crashed and continued to contemplate suicide for another year after leaving this place. I am now a 20 year old college dropout with self made financial freedom. I followed my own spiritual path and found a life purpose. I write this review from a good place, almost 3 years after leaving. I am not writing a biased review as much as I am writing an informed one. If your child is suffering, you are suffering. It’s hard on you, but it’s also hard on your child. Learn to understand and truly connect with your son/daughter. Learn to respect them and support them. Don’t let fear get the best of you… one fear based decision can last a lifetime. My parents regret sending me here. I forgive them and have made peace with life, but I am one of the lucky ones to survive this place. P.S. Check out the Landmark Forum if you want true transformation. Within a month of participating in the forum, I made $50k, started a business, healed my relationship with my parents, met the girl of my dreams, and am on track to fulfilling my life goals. It has been over 6 months since I have taken the landmark forum and I am still going strong. These are real lasting results. Discovery Academy is not.” – Jonathan (Yelp)

5/14/2017: (PARENT) “We realized after having our daughter at DA for three months, that it was NOT the place for her. She did not have the types of behaviors that the other teens there had – drinking, drugs, sex, and rebellion. We sent her there thinking it was a place to help our depressed, anxious and suicidal teen. WRONG! It only made it worse. Everything that you can think of is wrong with this place. Boys have more privileges than girls. There is mostly negative reinforcement instead of positive. They don’t allow the kids to lay on the couches, or have any real privacy. The other girls were clique-ish and rough, and treated our daughter horribly because she didn’t do drugs or sex. The food was bad, our daughter was always hungry. They allowed the kids to play rap music full of sex and violence references that our daughter hated. They did not allow her to call home as they said they would. Classes were boring and kids had to always be quite. They punished them constantly for every little thing. The completely untrained staff that spends the most time with the kids, are rude and unfeeling. They punished her for having cramps and needing to sit down during a work project. No one ever listened to her or gave her opinions any attention, not staff, counselors, the kids, or teachers. It was literally a prison were rich people could send their kids to get them out of their hair. But it does nothing for these kids. They make everything sound so great, but it was a living hell for our daughter. She has nightmares all the time and no longer trusts us for sending her there. We are considering suing.” – Vicky (Yelp)

2/15/2017: (SURVIVOR) “I called not to long ago acting like a parent who was thinking bout sending my child to this facility…. the first thing i was told. I wasn’t even asked if my “child” was a boy what i was told that there was a special going on right now “only 7k a month!” there was never any concern of why i would want to send my “kid” there… there was never any explanation as to what his or her day to day life would be like… just send em here and we will watch them for you was the vibe i got… when i was here it was awful… the first thing your subjected to is getting naked in front for 3 men… which for a 14 year old is a pretty traumatic and embarrassing experience…. its still makes me shiver when i think about it.. I was given no care… 2 of my meals a day were pb and j sandwiches on stale bread… I learned how to play poker and spades…. besides cleaning this is what i spent most of my time doing… the 3 months i was there i was NEVER allowed to talk to my family.. not even once… which was really tough on me… Im now a parent of my own and could imagine sending my kid to live in such deplorable conditions…. leaky roofs.. no educations… no nothing… i still have nightmares where i wake up and i think im there again… and i cry… it still confuses my wife… I have never forgiven my parents fully for putting me through this bullshit… your kids needs better your kid needs to just build a relationship with you… Your kids High risk you say? he or she is disrespectful? doing drugs? sneaking out? guess what that can be fixed with love and an open discussion… not from a point of anger but fix it with love… my parents have long since apologized for sending me there but the abuse will stick with me the rest of my life… i hope this place burns to the ground…. please hear my pleas your kid needs you… not to be knocked around by people making minimum wage who dont give a fuck about your child…. the bottom line is your child is attached to a dollar amount… let me guess they want your kid to go to their “wilderness program” for only 50k that should be a quick fix right? wrong.,.. but thats a whole different program with even more issues and abuses ….. I know if youre a parent reading this youre making a tough choice… but i beg of you… just try and find local help dont send you child away… they will feel given up on they will feel worthless they will feel like you dont love them… and thats a resentment that will last a life time….” – Gregory (Yelp)

4/21/2016: (SURVIVOR) “I also attended Discovery Academy from December 1999 to January 2000. I am now 32 and the memories from this place still haunt me. DA had a practice of locking children in an isolated unit for weeks at a time, refusing to turn the lights off. I was deprived of sleep and food when I disagreed with their rules. The staff that runs this place are in their early 20’s and they are as mature as the students that are forced to go there. The staff encouraged bullying, and fights were a daily occurrence. One staff member, Dan even encouraged students to fight in the large classroom after the teachers had left for the evening. I also saw a male student get raped by 2 other students. A few female students claimed that they were raped by the counsellors, and I completely believe these allegations. I watched a 14 year old girl get injected by a drug that made her pass out, after that 2 male counsellors brought her into the isolation unit. A few days later, she claimed she was raped and they left her in this unit for a few more weeks before she was transferred to another program. This school controls how long you are forced to stay by limiting the amount of classes you can take, I was actually punished for studying. If you completed too many units in a week, you would be forced to stand in front of a wall for days or weeks at a time. I actually spent my Easter weekend starring at a wall for studying too much, I still have back issues from this today. There was also a counsellor that provided the students with ecstasy on more than one occassion, he also provided students with alcohol. I left this place with more issues than I came with. The son of Dr. Thorne, Denny Thorne, was accused of raping a student who was 16 at the time. I have no doubt that these allegations are true. This place abused children, and then dismissed the claims as displaced anger. I was personally jumped by 4 students when I first attended the school, I was beaten and the counsellors just watched and laughed. Another student was beaten so severely that he suffered permanent brain damage and talked with a slur for the remainder of the time that I attended. Of course the staff did their best to dismiss this as “boys will be boys” his parents obviously didn’t want anything to do with him, very sad. I learned very quickly that I would have to literally fight every single day to survive this place. I was sent here because my parents did not want to take responsibility for raising their own child. Sure I skipped class a few times and I smoked weed here and there, when I left I couldn’t relate to people, and within 2 years of leaving I was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. Prior to going to this school I had never been in a fight in my life, by the time I left, at least 50. I stopped communicating with words and used my fists instead, sadly as aforementioned, this was encouraged by the staff. The children here would routine play a game of passing each-other out at night. I saw one kid convulse for almost 5 minutes. I am certain that these activities kill more brain cells than your kid smoking weed with his friends on the weekends. Don’t be a fool, if you send your child here, they will come home with more issues than they were sent there with. I have been in contact with a handful of the students I went here with, and they all have the same issues I have or have had. Many of them ended up in jail or worse. These years are the most important years of your child’s life in terms of mental development. Do you want your children raised by 21 year olds? Wake up people, don’t convince yourself that you are doing the right thing, be a parent, that is what your child needs right now.” – C.P. (comments)

2016: (EX-STAFF) “I recently worked at Discovery Academy. It was for less than a year, but it was enough time to see things parents absolutely need to know. I have experience working with at-risk youth in other organizations; at an institutional level and by comparison, Discovery Academy is nothing short of alarming. Discovery Academy has a history that begins with the “experimental” shock therapy treatments for homosexuality Mormons conducted on their BYU campus in the late 1970s. Those treatments were overseen by Eugene Thorne. He left BYU to start Provo Canyon School — a place that in 1981 the LA Times called “one of the most restrictive private boys’ schools in the nation.” Thorne’s harsh disciplinary techniques resulted in more than one lawsuit and his eventual transition to another school, where more legal violations occurred. Thorne left there in the late 1980s and began Discovery Academy, the last surviving institution of his dishonorable legacy. (Yes, this is all documented; if you’re interested in reading some documentation for yourself, feel free to message me. There are court cases, property records, articles from national newspapers, etc.) It’s true some have benefited from being at Discovery Academy, and that sometimes the staff are genuinely trying to help them succeed. But places like Discovery survive because they are in a business that is not regulated.

  • E.g., you can see certifications from the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) on their website and around their building. This is only encouraging if you don’t know the NATSAP board of directors is led by the very people who own Discovery (RedCliff Ascent). More than half of the other schools represented on the board are based in Utah. There is no “neutral” representation between the school and your child, thus no accountability.
  • Some administrators, such as the residential director, do not have a license and/or degree of any kind. They have their position de facto, from seniority of experience working there. This isn’t negative as a general thing, but since there’s also no institutional recourse, there’s plenty of room for the abuse that does happen, both between employees and with the youth.
  • Therapists occasionally employ methods that might not be considered credible or necessary by the psychiatric industry (such as polygraphs). Since the therapists don’t always respect privacy, sometimes the youth don’t trust their therapist and don’t make much progress towards their mental health. Having sat in on some of their meetings as well as youth groups, I also know the therapists are sometimes callous and even derogatory towards the youth. (E.g., during a group activity, one therapist held a discussion where she told the youth some bigoted things about Muslims, and one of the youth who was Muslim got so emotional he had to leave the room.)
  • The mentors, at least for the boys, are not professionally trained beyond some powerpoint presentations and physical restraints. They’re not required to assist with academic studies, and are often on their phones or with each other, giving the youth minimum attention. Even if they wanted to do more, they’re given little resources.

Both locals in Provo and the internet have stories through 1990s and 2000s that may sometimes seem dramatic but are not without foundation; Discovery’s reputation is inseparable from its origins (e.g., one reason the feds investigated Thorne’s first schools is because he was illegally administering polygraphs). If you want your son or daughter to be sent away to a fancy babysitting service, seek out a local crisis shelter. If you want them to get therapeutic help, look for a school that is nationally regulated and professionally credible, and not simply in a decorative sense. Discovery Academy is not always unhelpful. But considering their price and how they manage themselves, they are also a risk you cannot completely trust with your child.” – Elder Roxas (Google Reviews)

2016: (SURVIVOR) “It has been a decade since I was at discovery academy, I still have dreams about being there and being unable to leave. A few years ago an actual therapist told me that I was suffering from PTSD from my experiences there. I say actual therapist because the therapists at this school are not there to help the kids, their job is to convince the parents to keep the kids there longer and therefore extract more money from that family. I was a happy, social person before being sent to Discovery Academy but in the decade since my release I have shut myself away and shunned human contact. These people stole my life and I will never forgive them. Over the years I have dreamed about bringing legal action to places like this but they are able to stay open because of Utah’s backwards laws. In prison inmates get put in solitary confinement for murdering other inmates but I, a 17 year old kid, was put in isolation for days (the longest stretch being 8 days) for “refusing the program” meaning I didn’t do as I was told. If you love your kid then you must consider something else. And if you don’t love your kid and are just trying to get rid of it then you may want to find somewhere cheaper. In 2005/2006 my ten month stay in Utah cost my family $95,000. And it destroyed me as a person.” – Alex (Google Reviews)

2015: (SURVIVOR) “I was sent here for 2 years of my life. My name is now put in stone on the wall of one their newer building for Graduating their program. My parents spent a lot of money and time to try and make me better. I must say that this place is horrible. Its the equivalent of a juvenile detention center for children. I must say that this is one of worst places ever. I came out worse than i went in. I became more decieving and distrustful because you have no life inside of Discovery Academy. I have witnessed some of the horrible things staff have done to children there as well. One staff fired now broke a boys arm. When i was 18 i got put into the 18 year old house. boys downstairs, girls up. Its just so happend a girl got pregnant. They wont tell you about that but this is not the place for your Child now or ever. Please take my advice and look else where.” – Graham (Google Reviews)

12/9/2014: (SURVIVOR) “Look guys, all these programs are the same. I went to Sorenson’s Ranch school for 6 months, then Pine Ridge Academy and finally Discovery Academy for 6 months (all Utah facilities). Let me tell you what your son or daughter will experience. They will get the worst kind of education possible, with rampant cheating, teachers who are barely qualified and a learning environment that is set up like a prison. I learned absolutely nothing at this place, and the therapy is also a joke. The food is terrible, all carbs and no veggies or good sources of protein, and the staff are complete morons paid $10/hour to smack around your son or daughter when they get out of line. Parents: Save your money, grow some balls and handle your son or daughter yourself. I went to three of these programs, none of them work; most being ILLEGAL to own or operate in any state other than Utah because they are abusive, violate human rights and have little if any scientific data to support their claims that they can “reform/heal” your child. Also, all the staff are Mormon and will treat your kid like a “sinner” who needs to be saved while holding your child to the same cult-like religious standards they adhere to for themselves. Freedom of religion A-holes! Just because we weren’t legal adults didn’t give you the right to force your beliefs on us, hold us prisoner and violate our natural and legal rights as people and as Americans. Discovery Academy: You clearly and without remorse violated my Fourteenth Amendment rights under the Equal Protection Clause that applies to children in the United States. I should have sued you into ground and had the ACLU shut you down years ago. Maybe I still will. Parents: You’re to blame as well. Save your money ($5000 + per month) and take your son or daughter on a camping trip or vacation or something. Better yet, tell them you love them, get to know them, figure out what they like to do, become their friend and work out the problem as a family like normal people. DON’T write off your son or daughter, give up and put them in a “program.” If you send away your child not only will your kid hate you for years to come, but the staff will treat them like shit for their entire stay. Can you really blame the staff though? By writing off your own child and signing those papers you are sending a clear message to the staff, “Do what you will with my child, I don’t want to deal with them anymore, they are your problem now.” We were treated like hostages in a foreign country; 6-18 month annoyances that happened to bring in $5,000+ per month. Make no mistake about it, your son or daughter will get the same piss poor treatment as well. Bottom line: the program is abusive, ineffective, manipulative and brainwashes your kid into thinking they are a bad or broken sub-human being, and dealt with like a prisoner.” – Joseph (Yelp)

2013: (SURVIVOR) “I attended Discovery Academy from 2004-2005, so I cannot speak about the new facilities or any staff members that may be there. However, am currently receiving treatment as a 27 year old from PTSD, a direct result of this school. While the previous reviews may sound sensationalized, I can assure you that they are not. Physical abuse, isolation, poor food quality, and staff members that lack the training or credentials to run the facility are all true. My parents were repeatedly lied to about the “activities” that we did, and were charged insane amounts of money for things that I did not receive. Parents, be advised that you will not be able to hear from your child unless the letter that he or she writes has been approved by staff, and any phone communications happen during “therapy”, and are monitored and led by the “therapist”. While I was there, a few of the girls had serious medical conditions that were called “fake”, but one of them was vomiting 10+ times a day because of severe acid reflux. Her parents eventually came for a visit, found out the condition she was in, and pulled her immediately. Others were not so lucky and had to “suck it up” until they graduated, which was months/years. Also, every single girl I was with gained 50+ pounds during her stay. The “healthy” options are rotting fruits and vegetables. If a girl refuses to eat the greasy, nasty, fatty foods, she is considered to be a threat to herself and is put in to isolation. This is basically a hole in the wall where you lay on a mattress for 3 days without communication with your therapist, fellow students, or staff. A staff member is assigned to sit on a chair in front of the entrance to monitor her. Any girl that is considered a “run threat” has her shoes taken away and is dropped in level, meaning she is that much further away from getting out. If your child is said to be “improving”, this just means that they have found out how to fake it until they make it. This school is a game, and the students have to learn how to manipulate the staff and the system so they can get out as fast as they can. The school is a joke, and it does not prepare one for furthered education. If you are considering placing your child in a facility, please, please consider a different school. There are so many great facilities out there, but this just isn’t one of them. If your child is in this school, I strongly suggest you pull them out and put them somewhere else before more harm is done. I can guarantee you that you are being lied to, and your child is fighting to survive. I am not kidding. This school does way more harm than good, and it keeps your child from learning important life skills that they will need when they get out. Please, reconsider.” – Andrea (Google Reviews)

Related Media

Discovery Academy Website Homepage

HEAL Program Information – Discovery Academy

Discovery Academy – New Perspectives (April 1991)

Provo youth facility sued (Herald Dextra, 7/13/2007)

Suit targets Discovery Academy (Deseret News, 7/25/2007)

The story of how Patrick got released from his illegal captivity at Discovery Academy/Utah after the FBI, police and local authorities did nothing…and can anyone write a press release? (Reddit, 5/25/2012)

Far From Home: Utah Makes Millions On ‘Troubled Teens’ (NPR Illinois, 12/18/2019)