Below is a list compiled by youth advocates and agreed upon by the United States GAO (Government Accountability Office), Multiple youth and disability rights organizations and many mental health care professionals to be considerable warning signs of abuse and mistreatment in residential treatment programs. This list is meant to be used as a checklist/ questionnaire to assist in the screening of potentially abusive programs. If any program you are considering for your teen displays any of these warning signs, proceed with caution. If many of these policies are followed by the program you are considering, DO NOT ENROLL YOUR CHILD. You could be risking their life, health and wellbeing.

*Not all policies in this list apply to Copper Canyon Academy.

Practices of the “Tough Love” Troubled Teen Industry that are illegal, abusive, unethical and a blatant violation of human rights.

1) Admittance without consent or due process/ Involuntary and forceful escorting to program.

2) Aversive Behavior Modification/ Fear and intimidation based control.

3) Physical/ Mechanical Restraint/ Pressure Points and Use of chemical/mechanical methods of control (such as pepper spray or electric shocks) as punitive punishment.

4) Isolation/ Social Ostracism used as punitive punishment.

5) Stress Positions/ Infliction of painful punishments.

6) Food/ Water/ Bathroom/ Sleep deprivation.

7) Denial of adequate medical care.

8 )Denial of communication with Parents/ Access to law enforcement, lawyers and advocates.

9) Mail censorship.

10) Placing higher level students in a position to police and punish lower level students.

11) Inadequate or “Fast Track” education/ Lack of qualified teachers, tutors and proper class oriented participation.

12) Forced Labor/ Denied access to school as punishment. (ie: 8 Hour Detention/ “Homeless”/ “Worksheets” or all day work projects)

13) Lack of proper social interaction/ Levels of silence/ Code silence punishments.

14) “Attack Therapy” Using mental, emotional and verbal abuse as “treatment”.

15) Sexual abuse/ Forced sexualized behavior/ Sexual shaming.

16) Operating as a private/ unlicensed/ unregulated “Treatment Center” without being subject to regulation of clinical standards in patient care.

17) Accredited by Program Trade Organizations that DO NOT properly monitor or set specific standards of care to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students. Often spearheaded by the program owners themselves and only perpetrated as a third party agency. Membership status does not depend on proof of standards being met, only requirement is payment of dues.

Agencies such as:

NATSAP – National Association Of Therapeutic Schools and Programs

NWAC – Northwest Accreditation Commission

NAAS – Northwest Association of Accredited Schools

IECA – Independent Educational Consultants Association

OBHIC – Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Industry Council


Please take a moment to review the related links, regarding red flags and warning signs of abusive treatment.

ASTART – Warning Signs

HEAL – Warning Signs of a Potentially Abusive Behavior Treatment Center

CAFETY – Research

Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act 2011

 4 Things Every Parent Should Do Before Sending a Child to Treatment