Brat Camp History

How Brat Camp came to be and where it all began.

Brat Camp, a rough name in and of itself, all began at Redcliff Ascent in 2003 with 6 teens, a camera crew and the hope that a solution for parents could be shared with more than the lucky few who discover wilderness therapy in time to help their struggling teenager. Not knowing exactly what to expect in the process the cameras rolled and our program carried on with treatment as usual. This “unscripted” approach gave space for true challenges and learning to occur with minimal distraction from cameras and crew. This approach led the show in its first season to win an international Emmy.

The show aired on ABC family, in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia however after the first season and the change of environment to other treatment programs the viewership declined.

Why and how was Redcliff chosen by the producers of the pilot wilderness program for Brat Camp?

Tamara Abrood, producer for Twenty Twenty Television wanted to educate families in Britain how their friends across the pond handle the growing problem of teens and addition and other dual diagnosis problems and said of Redcliff Ascent, “We knew instantly they were the program for us. They have a devoted staff. You got a clear feeling that you were dealing with committed professionals.”

Redcliff Ascent always considers media coverage with caution since our primary focus for our students and family are security and privacy.

Redcliff was not soliciting media coverage or a show or anything of the sort so there was apprehension when first approached. Steve Schultz, marketing director for The Ascent Companies shared his concerns about privacy and the impact on the therapeutic process and in the end, let the final decision be up to the clinical staff and admin team of Redcliff Ascent. Redcliff was promised that the producers or editors would give full control to Redcliff’s clinical team and would not alter the program or stage events etc. to manipulate the reality or outcomes of a top wilderness program. It was clear that Redcliff Ascent was there to provide treatment.

Rocky start

One major contributing success factor was missing for some of the students in the show were the total buy-in and participation from the parents that you normally get from our regular enrolled students. Other challenges included the presence of the cameras that affected behavior for show or the opposite affecting openness as clinicians and students were more cautious as to what was recorded for the world to see. But ultimately the experiential approach found it’s way through and students began to experience real positive change.

What Brat Camp portrayed vs. real treatment experience and results varied.

One of the participating students recalled, “The camera’s perspective was too one-sided. The film crew chooses what get to be shown. They showed the outcome of things but they didn’t show the cause. They showed the bad aspects of going through the hard times. They didn’t show how much fun we had. We laughed. We goofed around. People want to see controversy, so that’s what they put on TV.” A mother of one of the participants talked about how the show failed to show the power of the 8 step process that students and family go through including value courses where integrity, honesty, and core values help them along as they learn other tasks. Ultimately, however, student’s lives were changed and even years later positive effects of the program remain a part of the participants lives. Parents across the nation and the world realized they were not alone in dealing with some of the painful choices their teens were making.

Based on the success of the first season the producers approached Redcliff for a second season but the opportunity was declined as Steve Schultz stated, “Redcliff Ascent is a treatment program, not a TV show”

You can learn more about Brat Camp and additional Brat Camp series here: Wikipedia – Brat Camp History



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RedCliff Ascent is authorized under Federal law to enroll International students.
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RedCliff Ascent is accredited by the Association for Experiential Education - AEE.