A Critical Partnership

From the start, parents play key roles as a student’s success at Montana Academy invariably requires parental support and ongoing involvement. This involvement is not as an outsider to the process, but as a partner. In the beginning, parents become familiar with policies and rules in order to support a student’s adjustment to life at Montana Academy. It is typical for a new student to be anxious, and parents’ strength and resolve in communicating their partnership with Montana Academy can help their student commit to the program and get to work.

Once a student begins to settle in, parents work with staff to support the changes a student is making. Often parents will be encouraged to change their habitual reflex, or to rethink their usual approach. Sometimes parents are encouraged to set firmer limits. At other times, parents will be encouraged to support a student’s effort (e.g., to solve a problem, surmount a hurdle, endure anxiety, or negotiate a new relationship). From the beginning, parents must resist an unhappy student’s effort to escape from facing a challenge by dividing parents from one another, or by “splitting” parents from Montana Academy’s staff. To help students succeed, parents, clinical, academic and residential staff must forge a strong, resilient, unified alliance, bolstered by trust and supported by good communication. 

Parent Workshops & Trips

During a student’s tenure at Montana Academy, parents participate in three-day family workshops twice each year and join other parents on special parent-student team trips usually held in May and September.

Parent Workshops take place on Montana Academy’s campus, and there is always great excitement as the entire community of parents, staff and students participate together. The workshops include lectures, discussions and groups that further educate parents about adolescent development and its disruptions, about immaturity and its remedies, and about family dynamics. During the three days, academic faculty also conduct individual parent-teacher meetings and the Clinical team conducts in-person family sessions.

Also during the calendar year, parents visit Montana and participate in team challenge trips which are typically held off-campus taking advantage of the beautiful natural surroundings that the local area provides. These parent-student trips are chaperoned by the treatment team and provide an intimate environment to cook and eat together, to walk or paddle a canoe in pairs, and to talk in large groups or small ones. The team organizes a full itinerary and experiential activities so that parents and students can focus on quality time together. On these trips, parents and sons and daughters can find each other again and contemplate without distraction all the ways in which their relationships might be different now, and in the future, then in the past.

Communication

When students enroll at Montana Academy, parents join weekly family phone calls, and write weekly letters to help in treatment, to repair strained relationships, and to participate in their student’s campus or Sky House life. Weekly discussions and family therapy sessions (in person when parents come to campus) are aimed at making communications direct and clear; renegotiating parent-child relationships, and sorting out, clarifying and changing family dynamics. The goals include a changed alignment, and a new consensus about how things in future will be different.

Parents and students also engage in informal calls and students are able to receive mail and packages to better stay in touch and to provide items that a student either needs or forgot. These communications make key contributions, assuring sons and daughters of parents’ support, helping students settle in and get to work, and sustaining parents’ morale. As students continue to make program progress, phone and email privileges are appropriately expanded.

Parents and students also engage in informal calls and students are able to receive mail and packages to better stay in touch and to provide items that a student either needs or forgot.

These communications make key contributions, assuring sons and daughters of parents’ support, helping students settle in and get to work, and sustaining parents’ morale. As students continue to make program progress, phone and email privileges are appropriately expanded. .

Visitation

Visitation to Montana, either to campus or Sky House, is typically every two months and Montana Academy staff assist in working out dates and details. These visits, called “passes” reward clinical and academic work and program progress, e.g., the more advanced the clan, the more available and longer passes become.