Frequently Asked Questions

What is residential treatment and how do I know if it is right for me?

Residential treatment is a level of care that combines 24/7 support staff, individual therapy, group therapy, and education. It is ideal for the young person who is making poor choice, is engaged in dangerous behaviors (e.g. cutting, eating disordered behaviors, drug or alcohol abuse, etc.) and/or who needs a high level of support for mental or behavioral issues. By contrast, acute care (hospital setting) is a higher level of care (typically for suicidal or extreme out of control states and shorter term) and therapeutic boarding (less therapy, less supervision, and longer term) is a lower level of care. For a more detailed assessment of your situation, call 1-888-406-5968.

How much therapy would my daughter receive?

The norm at CERTS residential treatment centers is three one-on-one sessions weekly (of approximately an hour in length each) between your daughter and her therapist—two that are purely individual therapy and one that is a family therapy session. Additionally, your daughter would participate in at least four group therapy sessions weekly. These groups may be specialty groups (e.g. adoption group, addictions group, etc.) or issues groups. In addition, there are also activities throughout the week at each of our programs where therapists are present with students. While not technically considered “therapy,” these activities are inherently therapeutic and are an important part of the change process.

Why are the CERTS programs clinically intensive?

CERTS programs are more clinically rich (more individual and other types of therapy) than most programs for two reasons: first, we believe it gives us a better chance of getting at the core issues which drive behavior, thereby increasing the odds of your daughter truly healing and making better choices in the future; second, we believe it also shortens the average length of stay, saving everyone money. Incidentally, we use the word “rich” to answer this question instead of “intensive” because of the types of therapies and some of the elements successfully used by our therapists: art, horses, toys, and the great outdoors! Healing can be rewarding and often even fun!

How large are your caseloads? And why does that matter?

A good metaphor for therapist caseloads is the number of students in a teacher’s classroom. The larger the number in the class—no matter how good the teacher—the less individual instruction your daughter receives. Small caseloads, we believe, equate to better outcomes—more time to observe your daughter, to offer insight, to provide feedback, and to facilitate lasting change. For this reason, your daughter’s therapist will never have more than 5 to 6 girls on a caseload in a CERTS residential treatment program.

What kinds of therapies are used?

Lots! Art therapy is a mainstay at La Europa Academy. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a useful therapeutic approach for girls with struggle with emotional regulation and is used at all the CERTS programs. Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP or “horse therapy”) is a powerful way of reaching and teaching girls with a variety of issues and is used at both Kolob Canyon RTC and Moonridge Academy. Recreational therapy and a wide variety of experiential approaches (including sand tray therapy) is freely intermingled in order to reach our girls in the ways that work best for them at all of our programs. Moonridge Academy uses play therapy in ways that are impactful for the younger average age in that program. And all of the programs use traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (talk therapy) in many of the individual therapy sessions.

CERTS believes there are two keys (at least!) to clinical success: having lots of therapy “tools in the tool belt” AND having the flexibility to use whichever one the therapist feels is best suited at that time. The first explains the wealth of clinical therapeutic options above. Then therapists in CERTS programs are encouraged to do whatever will be most impactful for the girl with the second weekly hour of individual therapy—an extra art therapy project, work with the horses and the therapist one-on-one, a sand tray session, etc.

Are parents and families involved in the treatment process? If so, what would be expected of me?

Yes, parents and families are extensively involved in treatment. We believe that failure to heavily involve the family system would set up many of our girls to relapse when returning home. The vast majority of our parents are excellent parents. While not perfect, they have generally parented the best they know how—and often very successfully with other children. It just hasn’t worked with this particular girl.

CERTS programs teach you how to parent your daughter successfully. Parents do homework that corresponds with the clinical work their daughter is doing in the program. This is often subject matter for family therapy sessions. Parents also participate every other month in a Parent Seminar where all of the parents come together and learn principles, share experiences in the Parent Support Group, do therapeutic activities together as a family, and more. The net result is that the whole family system shifts while the daughter is in treatment—everyone emerges healthier, more open about change, and equipped to handle the challenges of the future.

What is an average length of stay?

Our average is nine to eleven months in treatment. Obviously this will vary from girl to girl depending upon the depth of trauma and to what degree certain behaviors are entrenched. We have also had girls in treatment for more than a year—typically in cases of adoption or extreme trauma.

Are there any guarantees of success?

The short answer is “no.” The only person who can guarantee change is your daughter, and we cannot (nor would we try to) force true, lasting change. However, our average girl comes in very resistant to change, and yet this same girl often doesn’t want to leave when she is ready to graduate! We are quite good at setting the table in a way that is inviting for them to come and dine. Usually over a fairly short period of time the depth of your daughter’s relationship with our caring staff and an expert therapeutic team causes this to shift inside her, allowing her to embrace change.

And by the way, one of the best “guarantees” of success is parents and family systems that are open to change. Parents that are willing to do the homework and look at themselves and their family system openly and honestly do more to predict successful outcomes than just about anything else.

How do I pay for residential treatment?

Residential treatment is expensive. When you factor in 24/7 residential staff, all the clinical support to help someone heal, a fully accredited school that is completely self-contained, nursing, etc., the total cost can be overwhelming. Over the years, we have observed that many families look at the following as avenues of getting some financial help while on this journey:

    1. Insurance—depends upon your mental health benefit. If you have excellent mental health benefits, insurance may reimburse a percentage of the full tuition amount (less common) up to a certain number of days. You should call your insurance to find out if you have a “residential treatment benefit” (be aware that many times what they define as “residential treatment” is really a short term, hospital stay). If so, they will tell you what steps to follow to get pre-authorization. More common is that they will not pay for residential treatment, but they will reimburse itemized therapy sessions by a licensed clinician up to an annual limit. Because so much itemizable therapy happens in a CERTS residential treatment program, this can add up to a large amount of reimbursement for many families.
    2. School districts—some school districts will authorize payments of at least the educational portion of the stay if your daughter has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with them.
    3. Home equity loans—generally the best way to borrow for many families (consult your tax adviser on your unique situation) as interest rates tend to be lower and the interest is often tax deductible.
    4. Educational loan programs—there are several excellent companies that offer educational loan programs for families considering this type of treatment. Although they typically have higher interest rates than home equity or other secured loans and do require good credit, these types of loans have provided a real service to many families who can afford to pay hundreds of dollars a month for treatment, but not thousands. Most schools and programs, including those in the CERTS family, are already set up with certain companies to provide these loans where appropriate. For more information on these types of loans and the names of companies that provide them, call 1-888-406-5968.
    5. Retirement plan loans—some families have taken loans against their 401(k) or IRA assets to pay for treatment. One advantage to this is that the interest paid on the loan is paid to you instead of to somebody else. A disadvantage to this is that you have less money compounding at market rates over time to fund your retirement (consult your tax adviser on what is best for your situation).
    6. Trust or education funds—some families have educational money or trust funds available that they have used to pay for treatment (one Dad observed, “Unless we do something, there won’t be an education to worry about paying for!”).
    7. Family members—often work in conjunction with some of the above (might co-sign on a loan) or just help pay each month. Many families have pooled resources to help those in need.
    8. Financial assistance—many treatment programs have scholarship programs. These must be qualified for, and sometimes funds available are limited, but when available, these funds can be used to pay part of the monthly tuition so that you don’t have to.
    9. Credit cards–most programs are equipped to accept credit card payments.

Who is CERTS and how long have they been around?

CERTS, the acronym for Certified Educational, Recreational. Therapeutic Schools and Programs, was founded in 2001. Kolob Canyon Residential Treatment Center was started in 2002, followed by both Moonridge Academy in 2004. Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy and La Europa Academy followed in 2005. Collectively the four CERTS schools have literally graduated hundreds of successful students and families and have changed many lives.

What is the admissions process like?

While the process varies from family to family, there are certain things we always recommend to families to help them make an informed decision:

  1. Call an admissions counselor at 1-888-406-5968. A counselor can help you understand not only what type of girl does best at a CERTS program, but just as importantly, who is not appropriate for one of our programs.
  2. We strongly encourage you to tour any prospective program to see what it is really like in person.
  3. Many families have waived their right to confidentiality and will discuss their experience with you. You will find their stories inspiring and insightful into what their journey was like for them.
  4. If you decide that a CERTS program is appropriate for your situation, you must complete the CERTS Application in its entirety. You can then fax the completed application to the fax number listed on the application. We usually are able to approve or deny an application with in 24 hours of receipt of an application.

If I decide to do this, how quickly can I admit my daughter?

New students are admitted as beds become available. While historically CERTS programs run full with a waiting list, there is also a seasonal element as well, with certain times of the year when beds are available without delay. These beds are always first-come, first-serve as long as all criteria for admission is met.

Are there factors that can preclude my daughter from being admitted?

Absolutely. Girls that are actively suicidal, that have a history of fire-starting, or that have conduct disorder are not appropriate for our programs. Additionally, a felony conviction is often a rule-out for our programs. Between the respective programs, there are additional factors that might make one program more suitable than another. Please call to find out more.

Can the CERTS schools and programs take international students?

Yes. All CERTS programs are approved by the Dept. of Homeland Security to take international students on a student visa.