Frequently Asked Questions

Are there parents that we may speak with who have children that have already completed the program?

Yes! Please contact our Admissions Director and she will provide you with a list of parent references you may contact.

Can students take pictures when out on expedition?

No.  However, our Guides take pictures of each student which we send to parents on a weekly basis.

Can you accommodate a gluten free diet?

Yes, although it is important for staff to know whether or not your child has a severe gluten allergy or simply prefers gluten free foods.  Our campus kitchen is not a gluten free kitchen, so some accommodations might need to be arranged.  Please discuss these needs further with our Admissions Director so that we can assess ahead of time whether or not we will be able to meet your child’s unique needs.

Do the students ever get to cook while in your program?

Yes!  They get to cook in the backcountry on camp stoves every expedition. All students will have the opportunity to plan and prepare a meal for the whole team while on an Expedition. The Teams also rotate helping prepare and serve dinners on campus.

Do the therapists ever go out on expedition?

Yes, therapists go out and camp for the first night of an expedition every 3 weeks. Spending time with their students in backcountry provides them with valuable insight and observations, as well as some great bonding and rapport building time.

Do you still hike and camp in the snow?

We sure do! Because of their fears, very few people get to experience the pleasure of hiking and camping in the snow. Snow covered landscapes are beautiful and our students get to see spectacular views that ordinary folks do not. Like all things in the wilderness this activity requires careful planning, good gear, and a sense of adventure. Your child will be hiking with snowshoes on to keep them above the snow. If you’ve never been, snowshoeing is great fun!

Summit provides our students with the best gear, the warmest boots and a sleeping pad to protect from the cold when sleeping. Setting up camp in the snow is actually quite nice, as the snow packs down to create comfortable sleeping and sitting areas. What most people don’t realize is that it is actually easier to stay dry in the snow than the rain, and staying dry is an important aspect to keeping warm.

How do you choose which therapist will work with my child?

All of our therapists are great at what they do. We will match your child to the therapist that we feel best suits their needs, while also taking into account which group your child will best fit into.

How do you keep students safe in the snow and cold?

Safety is our #1 concern.  We have been keeping students safe in the cold and snow for over 20 years!  We provide all of our students with top of the line gear and clothing that is designed to keep them safe, dry and warm for the current season, including a snowy winter. We teach all of our students about backcountry safety and appropriate layering for all conditions. When the temperatures get extremely cold or wet, we have access to shelters as well as heated wall-tents that come equipped with wood-burning stoves. Each of our Teams carry satellite phones as well as cell phones so that they are able to reach out for help in the event of an emergency. A Director and an on-call support system is always in place to assist groups out on the trail as needed.  Please see our blog post on how we thrive in the winter months.

How long does the program last?

The length of stay depends on your child’s pace through the 6 levels of the program, which leaves their forward progress in their hands. A student can accomplish up to one level per week, making 6 weeks the minimum length of stay.  Average stays are 8 weeks, but individual students may take 10 weeks or longer.

In the case where a family or child wishes to extend their time at Summit Achievement, we offer 3 Graduate levels extending beyond the traditional 6 levels.

How do you keep them safe in the backcountry, considering that there are bears and moose out there?

Safety is certainly our number one concern on our expeditions (as well as on campus). We have many protocols in place to help keep our groups safe in the wilderness. All of our Guides are trained in backcountry safety and have extensive personal experience camping and hiking in the wilderness. We take care to teach important expedition safety skills to all of our students. As for the animals, fortunately most are more scared of us than we are of them, and they tend to avoid our noisy groups easily. For the occasional run in with a moose or bear, our staff are trained on what to do to keep the group safe and how to move away from the animal.

How many miles a day do students hike on a typical expedition?

The amount of miles a group might cover varies depending on the season, weather, and overall ability level of the group. Each week we tailor each Team’s expedition with all of these factors in mind. A group might cover as much as 10 miles in a day or as few as one or two miles. In the summer months we also offer canoeing expeditions where students don’t hike at all, although they might cover several miles in a canoe. Our goal is to help our students feel challenged while also keeping them safe so that they can benefit from the powerful feeling of success and sense of accomplishment.

How much therapy will my child receive?

At a minimum, your child will participate in three types of therapy once a week while at Summit: individual therapy, family therapy (via phone or video), and group therapy.  They will also see their therapist around campus and have check-ins as needed.

How will Summit help my child gain self-esteem?

Your child will have the amazing opportunity to accomplish new goals and gain a strong sense of self satisfaction while at Summit Achievement. Positive self-esteem is fostered through a strong sense of self-worth and from the accomplishment that comes from hard work and overcoming challenges. While on expedition your child will climb to the top of many mountains and experience the joy of reaching the summit. They will push through the discomforts of being in an unfamiliar environment and learn how to create their own comfort and safety. Back on campus, they will move forward with academic goals and work closely with their therapist to foster a stronger sense of self. Coping skills will be taught to help combat negative emotions and to push through adversity. To make sure your child doesn’t overlook their own growth, we gather each week as a community and recognize students for their accomplishments and movement through the levels throughout the week. By the time your child finishes the program, they will have many reasons to feel that they can do whatever they put their mind to.

I understand that the program is co-ed. In what ways are boys and girls separated, and what things do they do together?

We offer both single gender groups and co-ed groups (Teams) depending on the current milieu and the need of our clients. We are an intentionally small program with an emphasis on family and community. We want all of our students to not only feel a sense of belonging to their Team but to the greater Summit Community. Expeditions, cabin life and classroom schedules are done by Teams, however all teams eat together in the lodge when on campus and come together for the Level Movement Ceremony that takes place each Tuesday. On campus there are also times when the Teams have an opportunity to meet each other and to play a supervised game or other activity.

I would like my child to go to a traditional boarding school after finishing your program. Is that possible?

Yes.  We have found that 83% of our students go on to a traditional school or setting after completing our program. We have found that our unique combination of 4 days out on expedition and 3 days on campus attending traditional school better prepares our students to return to traditional environments.

My child doesn’t do drugs; that isn’t their issue. Will the group contain drug abusers? I don’t want my child thinking drug use is ok or common.

We offer several different groups or “Teams” of students and will do everything we can to place your child on the team that best fits their needs, age, and issues. However, it is still possible for your child to be on a team with a few students who have used drugs or alcohol in the past. This is a therapeutic program and all of the students at Summit are here to work on their own personal growth. Any discussion regarding drug use would be educational and therapeutic in nature, and would be focused on the negative impact of choosing to use substances. No casual talk of drug use or “war stories” will be tolerated. The Guides, therapists, and teachers are there to supervise and curb these conversations towards a productive means.

My child has been in therapy for several years now and it hasn’t been very effective. How will this be different?

At Summit Achievement, your child’s therapist will do much more than meet in an office for an hour once a week. The therapist will get to see your child in a range of elements on campus and in the wilderness. The therapist works as part of a Treatment Team that collaborates for the greater good of each student. As a team we have the privilege of seeing your child interact with peers on campus, on phone calls with you, and in a classroom as a student and learner. We will get to see how they handle the adversity of a challenging hike and the reward of a beautiful view at the top of a mountain. With all of this information, your child’s therapist will have so much more to work with, including a clear assessment of what makes your child thrive as well as what challenges them. Most importantly, the therapist will have a relationship with your child that is built on trust and understanding.  All of this will help to make the therapeutic process more productive and rewarding for your child.

My child is a “master manipulator.” How do you know they won’t just go through the motions of your program(in other words, mind their P’s and Q’s and focus on going through the levels) and come home completely unchanged?

Great question! Your child will be with us 24/7 for 6 to 10 weeks. This will provide us with the opportunity to see how they operate in many different facets of day to day life: in school, their social skills, handling adversity on a hard hike or test, and communicating with family. Eventually your child will be challenged and the behaviors and emotions you have seen at home will come out. That is a good thing! It gives us the opportunity to help our students work on different coping skills and appropriate responses to things going on in life. Keep in mind that with two decades of experience, we are very good at recognizing therapeutically what is going on with a student beyond the surface level they try to show us. It’s what we do!

My child is a Scout and loves the outdoors. Will they still feel challenged by the expeditions and grow from them?

We welcome students with outdoor experiences! Our Expedition model will allow your child to utilize some of their skills while also providing new experiences and adventures.  No two expeditions are alike and there are plenty of exciting new challenges waiting in the White Mountains!

My child is afraid of being cold. Your program is in Maine. What should I tell them?

Depending on the season, it is true that your child might get to experience both the pleasures and challenges of Maine in the cold. Summit will provide all students with exceptionally warm, premium layers and boots, along with a sleeping bag rated to the highest degree of warmth for the season.  Students are taught the appropriate layering techniques for optimal effectiveness and will be guided at all times by trained professionals.  We want our students to be safe, dry, and warm whenever possible.  Summit has access to heated shelters for those nights that get extremely cold, windy, or wet while on expedition. These shelters come complete with a raised wooden floor and a wood burning stove, allowing students to stay nice and toasty!

Expeditions are 4 days and 3 nights long.  Upon returning to campus students are able to take a hot shower, do laundry and sleep in their campus bed in a modern heated cabin.  For 4 nights and 3 days of the week, students come in from the backcountry and regroup, warm up and live on our fully equipped residential campus.

My child is really close to their siblings. Can they write letters?

Yes! Family is welcome to send letters. Your child will even have a cork board above the desk in their room to hang pictures and letters from home if they wish.

My child is used to sleeping with music playing in their room. I am worried that they will have trouble sleeping. How have other students handled this adjustment?

There will not be music in the cabins or on the trail for sleeping. Your child will adapt with time. With a packed schedule, students are certainly tired enough to get a good night’s sleep even without music.  Many students have come before with the same adjustment to make and have transitioned better than they expected.

My child is very musical. Can they bring their instrument?

YES!  We love music.  Acoustic instruments are welcome on campus to be used during free time.  We often have musical students and staff on campus and welcome the occasional jam session or sing-along.

My child recently became vegan. Can you accommodate their diet?

Yes, we offer a wide range of healthy foods and can assist your child in maintaining a suitable vegan diet for the range of activities they will be doing.

My child wants to know if they can wear makeup while at Summit?

We ask our students not to wear makeup while in our program.  We want our students to learn to be comfortable in their own skin and to focus inward versus outward as a means to define themselves.  Plus, critters love the sweet smells of makeup and lotions.  Students are better off in the wilderness without these items (and the extra pack weight).

My child went to a wilderness program a few years ago and then on to a therapeutic school. They recently started to struggle again and my consultant has recommended they attend your program for a “refresher.” How is this experience going to be different from the last?

It is likely that your consultant recommended Summit Achievement specifically because it will offer a unique and different experience unlike any other your child has experienced so far. Our unique hybrid model combines weekly adventure-based wilderness expeditions with time on our residential campus and in the classroom each week. This model will help your child transfer those skills more easily to a traditional environment. Our trips into the wilderness are based on an expedition model and focus on modern outdoor skills and accomplishments, instead of focusing on the primitive skills taught in many traditional wilderness programs. Your child will likely have a very different type of wilderness experience here at Summit Achievement and will learn coping mechanisms and techniques to take home, should they determine that the time spent in the wilderness has a positive personal value.  They will also be communicating with you on a weekly basis through family therapy so that we can continue to work together to help maximize this experience and transfer both new and old skills.

One of my child’s issues is social skills and making/keeping friends. Do you think they will bond with the other students and make friends while at Summit?

Students come to Summit from varying backgrounds with a range of different personalities and interests.  One thing that tends to bring them together is the shared experience of the expeditions.  They work closely together as a team and learn to value each other’s varied offerings and skills.  Many students make strong connections with members of their team or staff while at Summit.  Our clinicians and staff are trained in helping students develop social skills and work through the nuances of interpersonal relationships. Realizing that you are not alone in some of your life struggles can be very eye opening for students and brings about a certain compassion and understanding amongst peers.  At the very least, they learn valuable skills about how to be a productive member of a team and to respect those around them, regardless of differences.

We don’t have a lot of money. How do families afford this kind of thing? Do you accept insurance or have any grants we can apply for?

We are pleased to inform you that Summit Achievement is one of the approved programs for a partial grant fund called the Sky’s the Limit Fund. You are welcome to apply for a grant and Summit Achievement will match whatever amount Sky’s the Limit grants you. We do not bill directly through insurance, but we can direct you to services that can help you work with your insurance company. They can assist you with the possible task of seeking insurance reimbursement for portions of our program. As a licensed Residential Treatment Center (RTC) we have found some families to have success in gaining partial reimbursement from insurance, depending on company and individual insurance plan.

What are the age ranges in the groups? How do you decide what group my child should be in?

We are licensed to work with students ranging from ages 13 to 21 depending on their issues and overall fit for the program. Students are placed in the group that best fits their needs, personality, and maturity.

What do students do on campus when they aren’t in school or therapy?

They have both personal time and structured group time where they do a variety of supervised activities. Students can read a book, journal, play games, play instruments, or take a walk with their Team.

What do you do if my child tries to run away?

We go with them. It happens from time to time that a student feels the need to walk away out of frustration. This is often an opportunity to walk, talk, and process their treatment. Most of the time this student will come back to the program in a better place than before they walked away.

What does self-paced mean in the classroom? How will my child be pushed to do their best?

The online curriculum we offer is self-paced, which means students move at their own pace instead of keeping up with an entire classes of different students. Students need to demonstrate a certain level of mastery and understanding in order to move on to the next assignment, which prevents them from getting lost or moving ahead before they are ready. Each student has academic goals tied into their level movement within the program. This encourages students to put forth sufficient effort in the classroom. They also have an Academic Advisor who helps them develop healthy goals in the classroom.

What does supervision look like on campus and in the cabins at night?

Students are placed in Teams of up to 8 students with a ratio of at least one Guide per 3 students. The Teams stay together during the day and sleep in their Team Cabin at night.  There is always at least one adult with the team at all times, including in the cabin at night. Alarms are set in each cabin once students go to bed, so that staff can ensure that no one is leaving the cabin at night. During school hours, students are in a classroom with one teacher and a Guide that acts as a Hall Monitor to assist teachers and supervise students when needed between classes and for bathroom breaks.  Throughout the day there are also various directors, therapists, and teachers to assist with supervision.

What happens if my child becomes suicidal while at Summit?

We do everything we can to keep our students safe both physically and emotionally. Any student who becomes suicidal is placed on suicide watch and provided additional counseling. If at any point your child feels that they cannot contract with us to stay safe, we will take them to the local hospital where hospital staff will provide a high level of care and assessment. Once stable, your child will likely return to Summit Achievement to complete the program.

What happens if my child doesn’t get along with the other kids in their group?

Our students are always supervised by our Team Guides. If students are struggling to get along, an adult will help them process and learn from the situation. Depending on the therapeutic needs of your child and the Team, we have the flexibility to move them to another group if absolutely necessary. At Summit, we hope to teach students that we can’t always choose who we work or go to school with, but we can choose how we deal with people and manage our behaviors around them. Summit Achievement is a safe place to practice some of these life skills.

What happens if my child doesn’t like their therapist?

Our therapists have a knack for working with this age group and population and tend to be very good at building rapport and trust with their students. That being said, we will do everything we can to ensure that your child has a productive experience here at Summit Achievement. Every child has a Treatment Team consisting of a Therapist, Academic Advisor, and team of Guides that work together for each child to get the most out of their experience in our program. Together, this team can collectively work through any roadblocks in your child’s progress and find the most effective way to help them move forward.

What happens if my child gets an injury on expedition?

Each team has one Guide on the expedition that acts as the Team Medic and is qualified to provide backcountry medical care(EMT, WEMT, WFR or WFA). The Medic will provide initial treatment for any injuries that come up while in the backcountry.  Summit’s consulting physician is always available by phone. Once students are back on campus the student will be seen by our nurse and doctor (if necessary). If your child’s injury looks to be serious enough to warrant evacuation from the field, our Guides will contact the Director on Duty and work to develop a safe evacuation plan. Our Guides carry satellite phones as well as cell phones on every expedition, and we always have a team of folks ready to help if ever such a plan is needed.

What happens if my child gets sick while at Summit?

We will care for your child and provide medication and medical attention as needed. We will evaluate whether or not the student is well enough to participate in the expedition of the week. If not, we will make arrangements for your child to stay on campus in order to receive the care and rest needed to recover appropriately.  Our consulting physician is on campus once a week, and is available for consultation at any time, even when the team is out on expedition, should a medical need arise.

What if my child has no outdoor experience and is scared of the idea of camping?

Summit has trained and experienced Guides ready to teach your child all of the skills necessary to be safe and comfortable in the wilderness. Our students come from all different types of backgrounds and experiences, which means fears of the unknown in the outdoors are common. Part of the beauty in this experience is in having your child try something new and exciting, to overcome their fear, and to realize that they are capable of whatever they put their minds to. Students often discover a love for the outdoors, especially reaching a mountain summit during their experience with us.

What if my child needs their medications to be changed or adjusted while in your program?

No problem! We have a doctor on campus every Tuesday who serves as our Medical Director. He can write prescriptions and make changes as needed. He is also happy to communicate or partner with your child’s other medical providers if necessary.

What if my child refuses to participate once they get there?

Unlike a parent that has to get to work and can’t wait for their child who is “shut down” or refusing to go to school, we can absolutely wait while your child goes through this stage in their process of accepting where they are.  We will work with your child to help them feel safe, heard, and encouraged.  We will work to uncover the root cause of the refusal and address that through counseling, coaching, setting boundaries, and providing structure.

What is the closest airport and how far away is it?

Portland International Jetport (PWM) in Portland, Maine, is the closest airport to our campus and is 1.5 hours away by car.  Manchester, NH, (MHT) is 2.5 hours away and Boston, MA, (BOS)is 3.5 hours away.

What is your visitation policy?

We encourage you to bring your child on admission day to meet their therapist and get to know the Summit Team and setting. Our program allows for weekly phone calls to maintain contact with family.

Once your child makes it to Level 3 (with therapist approval and guidance), you are invited to come and take them off campus for the night. This usually takes place on Sunday after they return from their expedition. Upon return, there will be a session with your child’s therapist.

Once your child completes the program, we invite you to participate in their Graduation Ceremony and Good-Bye Circle as well as a final meeting with their therapist.

What kinds of experience do your therapists have? Are they all licensed?

All therapists are master’s level clinicians with many years of experience. Each of our therapists carry independent licensure or are supervised directly by our Clinical Director.

What percentage of students return home after completing your program?

Roughly 40%.  This may seem low, but many students come from boarding schools and return to boarding schools after Graduation.

What types of clothes should we pack? Can my child wear their own clothes?

We provide all of the expedition clothing and gear needed to keep our students dry, warm, and safe while in the backcountry.  Monday through Wednesday, while students are on campus and attending school, they can wear their own clothes from home. We ask that students not wear clothes that are provocative by nature or contain offensive words or graphics. A packing list that details these guidelines is available through our Admissions Department.

Will my child earn credit for the classes at Summit? Will the credit be accepted by their next school?

We offer accredited courses through an online curriculum that we facilitate on campus in structured, assisted classrooms.  We typically enroll students in up to 4 courses while in Achievement.  Due to the shortened school week and average length of stay being only 8 weeks, your child likely won’t complete full semester courses in that time.

The good news is that students can keep pace with school back home.  Many schools have been flexible with counting the work toward their own curriculum and providing credit on their end once the semester is complete.  Students also have the option to complete online courses at home or from their next setting in order to acquire credit from the online curriculum provider.  These courses belong to your child even after Summit Achievement, and students have a year to complete them for full credit.

Will you help me figure out where my child should go to school after completing your program?

We will be happy to provide you with some guidance determining your child’s next steps in education. One of the great things about enrolling your child in Summit Achievement is the level of assessment they will receive. Upon completion of the program we will provide you with a therapeutic and academic summary which includes recommendations for level of care, structure, and academic setting that we feel your child would benefit from. For more detailed suggestions, we may recommend that you work with an Educational or Therapeutic Consultant who can help you find the specific school to meet your child’s unique needs. We would be happy to provide you with some names of consultants if you do not already have one.

You have computers in the classroom and classes are taken online. How do you keep students from surfing the web or getting on social media sites?  

Students have access to the internet for academic work. We have systems in place to block sites we don’t want them having access to. We also have a teacher in each classroom to help teach and monitor the students throughout their class time.