Why a Therapeutic Boarding School?


Reflections by Rick Johnson; Co-founder

Almost two decades ago my wife Jan and I shared a meal with two dear friends – Mark Hostetter and Alex Habib.  Our conversation over dinner was about starting a program to help teens.  This idea began as a dream of Alex’s and mine in college, and now in partnership with Mark and Jan it was about to become a reality.  We had decided to start a nonprofit therapeutic boarding school.  At dinner we asked ourselves the question one final time “Why a Therapeutic Boarding School”.  It is now Summit Prep’s 15th anniversary.  Looking back, how did we answer that question?

I had run a number of psychiatric hospitals, so I knew the importance of short-term stabilization of psychiatric symptoms.  But especially for teens, who are still developing emotionally and socially, short term hospitalization often didn’t seem to help them get “back on track” developmentally.  There needed to be a longer-term option.  Outpatient therapy was one such option, and as former outpatient therapists both Jan and I recognized the value of long-term relational outpatient therapy for struggling teens.  But outpatient therapy didn’t seem enough for a number of teens, who increasingly struggled in spite of quality outpatient therapy.  They needed more professional support and structure.  So a longer term residential option offering both relational therapy with supportive structure seemed the best solution.

But what type of residential option?  Given that teens are in the midst of a developmental process, we also knew that the residential option needed to balance residential support with the experience of learning to live within a more normalized social and school environment.  Teens need to learn to face these challenges in preparing for life, while still having the therapeutic support necessary to mitigate personal issues and to grow in maturity.  So we needed to create an environment that would provide structure and supervision, without isolating teens too much from the realities of social and emotional life that they need to learn to navigate in life.  In addition, we also wanted to help teens finish high school strong in preparation for college.

Given all these factors, we choose to start a therapeutic boarding school.  And although over the years we have continually sought to make improvements to our program, we believe we made the right choice 15 years ago.  Summit offers a unique mix of structure, supervision, longer-term relational support and therapy, college-prep level academics, and the experience of living within a more normalized adolescent social and school environment.  This is why we chose to start a therapeutic boarding school, and I believe why so many families have chosen Summit Prep.

About Summit Prep School Blog

We are an accredited, private, non-profit therapeutic boarding school specializing in compassionate, relationship-based treatment of bright, capable high school age youth who are struggling in their current academic and/or home community due to emotional, academic and behavioral concerns. We seek to integrate professional therapy and college preparatory academics within a warm, nurturing and dynamic community that energizes and challenges adolescents to succeed and transform their lives. Our state-of-the-art campus is located on over 500 beautiful acres near Kalispell, Montana. This location allows easy access to transportation, medical and cultural resources, as well as unmatched opportunities for hiking, skiing, rafting, camping and fishing. We love what we do! Come by and visit and see if we are right for your family!
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