How Brat Camp Came to be and Where it All Began

Brat Camp seems a little rough for a name. It all began at RedCliff Ascent in 2003. With 6 teens, a camera crew and a wilderness therapy solution for parents to help their struggling teenager. Not knowing exactly what to expect in the process the cameras rolled. Our program carried on with treatment as usual. This “unscripted” approach gave space for true challenges. One of the biggest challenges was trying to work with minimal distraction from cameras and crew. We tried hard to present our program as it is, a place for troubled youth. 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. After the first successful season the venue changed, hence the viewership declined.

How and Why?

Tamara Abrood, producer for Twenty Twenty Television wanted to educate families in Britain. She wanted to show how “their friends across the pond” handle the growing problem of teens with addiction and other diagnosis problems. Tamara said of RedCliff Ascent, “We knew instantly they were the program for us. They have a devoted staff. You get 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. As such there was apprehension when Tamara first approached us. Steve Schultz, marketing director for The Ascent Companies shared his concerns about privacy and the impact on the therapeutic process. RedCliff Ascent’s clinical staff and admin team had the final decision. There was a promise that the producers and editors would give full control to RedCliff’s clinical team and would not alter the program or stage events. We really didn’t want them to manipulate the reality or outcomes of the nations top wilderness program. Our hope was to make it clear that the kids and their treatment were our priority. We also wanted to showcase how effective wilderness treatment really could be.

Rocky Start

A major factor that was missing for some of the students was total buy-in and participation. Whether it was the cameras or the hoped fame, both the parents and their kids had a rocky start. Data showed better results from our regular enrolled students. We really had to work hard to overcome the camera especially when it came to opening up to the clinicians. Students were more cautious as the world watch. But ultimately the experiential approach worked again. The proven system found a way through and students began to experience real positive change.

What Brat Camp Portrayed Versus Real Treatment Experience and Results Varied

A participating students recalled, “The camera’s perspective was too one-sided. The film crew chose what was 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. We really had fun laughing and goofing 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 eight 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. 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