Disclaimer: This is a lengthy post.
While talking with my parents about the SCLA program a few months ago, and watching the Montana PBS documentary on Spring Creek and other similar schools, I made the comment that the program should have done better research on every student they admitted. My mom responded that the program had in fact evaluated me before accepting me, and that my parents still had a copy of this psychological evaluation. My mom then went and got a folder for me with this eval, along with other information they had on the program, and letters I had written home while in the program.
The eval consisted of a standardized assessment, along with an interview portion, neither of which was given by anyone with any legitimate background in adolescent psychology (the Family Representative). These two parts of the assessment were then mailed to a psychologist who combined them into a report and signed his John Hancock. I am still of the opinion that this evaluation was not an adequate measure of the psychological state of many students, myself included. Also, the program seldom followed through on the recommendations suggested by the evaluating psychologist (who actually never met the students he was evaluating). It is my conclusion that SCLA and other similar schools used these evaluations as exemptions from liability should anything go awry with the student…
In this post and the next couple posts, I will be sharing parts of this “evaluation” and commenting on the report’s conclusions.
Date of Examination: 8/14/01
REASON FOR REFERRAL
[The student] was referred to the Spring Creek Lodge Program by his family, who reside in […] Indiana. Specific concerns at the time of admission were [the student’s] escalating acting out behaviors which had recently included his participation in receiving stolen property and breaking into a vending machine. He also at the time was on probation [for fighting in school]. He also apparently had been extensively involved in substance abuse and the family had questioned the possibility of depressive symptoms. [The student] has been court ordered to the Spring Creek Program. As part of the diagnostic and evaluation process at the program, psychological evaluation was requested specifically to assess his current level of psychological and intellectual functioning and to address any treatment and/or placement recommendations.
SUMMARY OF INTERVIEW MATERIAL
As acknowledged, [the student] was evaluated at the Spring Creek Lodge Program in Thompson Falls, Montana. He appeared, at the time of the evaluation, as a casually but appropriately groomed and dressed adolescent who was cooperative with the examiner and who readily responded to tasks and questions assigned him.
- Mental Status Examination: Mental status examination completed suggests that [the student] is appropriately oriented to person, place, and time. He is displaying no signs of psychotic symptomatology, including delusions, hallucinations, obsessions or phobias. Mood, affect and demeanor throughout the assessment process was somewhat constricted, however, generally within appropriate ranges. [The student] is currently verbalizing no suicidal ideation or intent.
- Current Circumstances: When [the student] was questioned as to the reason he was referred to the Spring Creek Program, he reported, “Well, I robbed the pop machine,” reporting that he and a friend had broken into a vending machine and had taken in excess of $100. He also reports that he had been on probation at the time. He also is openly acknowledging the fact that “I was doing a lot of pot.” He also reports, “Another problem is that I was lying so much.” He also is acknowledging the fact that as a result of his difficulties he had essentially been court ordered to complete the Spring Creek Program. This was apparently an alternative to incarceration.
- Current Family Circumstances: [The student] reports that at the time of referral, he was living with his biological mother and father. Also in the family was a 14 year old brother, a 15 year old sister and a 10 year old sister. [The student] is reporting that his father is employed [in the construction field]. His mother is employed as a registered nurse at a healthcare clinic. When questioned concerning the quality of his relationship with his parents, he reports, “Well, for the most part I’d do what they wanted at home just so long as they left me alone.” He reports that he would spend prolonged periods of time while he was grounded “just playing my guitar. He also adds, “Basically, I was just trying to stay away from them.” When specifically discussing his father, he reports, “Well, he’s never really showed a lot of emotion. I guess I’m a lot like him.” With regards to his mother, he reports, “Well, I’ve really never opened up to her. For the most part, I would blow her off when she’d try and ask me something.”
- Academic History: [The student] reports that he is currently working on eleventh grade curriculum at the Spring Creek Program. He is reporting somewhat of an erratic academic history, reporting, “I pretty much got kicked out of school two years in a row.” He reports that in the ninth grade he had been suspended for pulling a fire alarm. He was also in the tenth grade suspended for fighting. When specifically questioned concerning the quality of his academic performance, he reported, “Well, I would do okay. I’d usually get anywhere between an A and a C” He reports this was primarily determined as to whether he had an interest in the course. He is unaware of any learning disability and, again, tends to characterize himself as a capable student who, however, lacks motivation.
- Physical and Sexual Abuse History: [The student] denies any history of either physical and/or sexual abuse. He also denies any history of this type of abuse in either the immediate or the extended family.
- Substance Abuse History: As previously acknowledged, [the student] is reporting a significant level of substance use and abuse. He reports that his drug of choice and most frequent use was marijuana and he reports using “weed a lot of times every day.” He also reports that he had used alcohol “a lot, especially when I was on probation so I wouldn’t get caught.” He also reports that he, for a period of time, had done acid, estimating that he was using it one time a month[…] He also reports that he had experimented with cocaine on two occasions.
- Legal and Criminal History: Again, [the student] is reporting a history of legal involvement. He reports that he was initially referred to the court system for an assault charge. Recently, he was referred for receiving stolen property. He also reports that he had a shoplifting referral in the eighth grade.
- Medical and Physical History: [The student] reports no history of serious injury or illness that would, in any way, contribute to his current level of psychological functioning. He characterizes himself as generally healthy. He reports that he has been sexually active in the past, reporting that he has had two sexual partners. Both of these are characterized as girlfriends. He reports practicing safe sex and reports no history of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease as a result of his sexual activity.
- Psychological and Psychiatric History: When [the student] was questioned concerning the possibility of depressive symptoms or other psychiatric symptomatology, he reports, “Well, I used to think I was pretty happy but then I’d kind of realize that I tell myself I’m happy a lot (when I really wasn’t).” He is reluctant to admit that he has experienced depressive symptomatology but is actively questioning his feelings at this time. [The student] is reporting that he has seen two therapists historically. However, these have been brief contacts, estimating that he has only seen them for one or two sessions, at which time he was reluctant to go. No history of psychotropic medications is reported.