Treatment Abuse, Behavior Modification, Thought Reform > Mission Mountain School

A former students experience


Hi, I was a student at Mission Mountain School. I was directed to this forum by a friend of mine,also a former student. I think it's great to have a forum like this so that parents can get a good idea of what different programs are like. I was at MMS for a year and a half and have been out of the program for about 5 years now. It had both positive and negative aspects, as do most things in life.

I was sent there after being sent to a wilderness program,SUWS. I was 15 years old and I did need help. I was a serious drug addict, had a strained relationship with my family, and found myself trying to find love and acceptance from boys by sleeping with them.

I took some great things from my time at MMS. I met girls who were incredibly supportive and are my friends to this day. Without them I wouldn't have been able to make it through the program. I had never enjoyed outdoor activities particularly and I became an avid runner, and enjoyed riding bikes,going on hikes,cross country skiing etc. I was able to come to terms with my addictions and begin on the path to getting them under control. I formed relationship with some of the staff members there, and it taught me how to have constructive relationships with adults. Also, when we had school I learned a lot in my classes. I was especially impressed by the math/science teacher Doug who really inspired me to try hard in school.

However, there were things that occurred during my time at MMS that I feel were inappropriate. I realize that sometimes aggressive therapy is needed to help people get out of denial, I needed it. There is a line however that can be crossed when things go from aggressive therapy to aggressive manipulation. There were times that I was confronted about issues I didn't have and told I was dishonest because I wouldn't admit to them, even though they weren't even true. I disclosed in group about an abusive relationship I had with a boyfriend who beat me and raped me. I found out down the road in our relationship that he was a nazi (or at least claimed to be at the time). That wasn't something I condoned or participated in and I made that clear. John Mercer (the headmaster) decided that I was a nazi and kept pressuring and pressuring me to admit to it. I didn't want to of course, because it was false and it hurt me that he would make that assumption about me despite my saying I didn't condone my boyfriends nazi behavior. Eventually I gave in and said that yes, I was a nazi because I didn't know what else to do. Everyone was stuck sitting in group, it was very late at night 3 am or so and we had to wake up early the next morning. I felt like I had no other choice, I was stuck in the middle of Montana with no where to go and didn't want to have my peers or myself punished. John then instructed me to go around to every girl in the room of non caucasian descent and tell them to their face that I hate them because they are not white. I was sobbing hysterically, but he made me do it. He made me tell girls who were some of my best friends that I hated them because they weren't white and in return I lost some of those relationships. That is cruel and unusual in my opinion. I know similar things happened to other girls where a staff member got it in their head that something was right and even if it wasn't until the girl admitted it they and everyone else were punished. People admitted to lots of things that weren't true out of fear. Ruling by fear is no way to teach girls to grow into healthy,functioning adults.

There were also many times where people would be hurt or sick and still forced to do physical activity that only hurt them more. Girls having to ski or run with sprained ankles or the flu. One time I was very sick and was told that I was lying and it wasn't until I got up at dinner and threw up all over everyone's coats on the coat rack while trying to make it out the door that anyone believed me.

School was taken away from us as a punishment when the staff felt the girls weren?t functioning properly. We were sent to live outside in the woods in tents and clear forest with hand tools all day long and then have group at nite. We weren?t permitted to shower for over a week at times. I do think that punishment is necessary at times when people are blatantly disobeying rules. I don?t think taking school away as a punishment is ever appropriate though. When my parents found this out they were outraged. I was at a school and school was being taken away? That makes no sense.

There are many more examples of both good and bad things that occurred and I would be more than willing to share them with anyone who is interested. I'm not trying to make MMS out as either evil, or wonderful because it's not one or the other. It's a program that works for some people and not for others. Hopefully this will help some people get a little more insight about life at MMS. I know when prospective parents came to visit the school no matter what was going on  suddenly life would go back to ?normal?. We would be back in classes, looking clean and happy even if the day before we had been cutting down trees and unshowered. When visiting the school the visitor gets a very one sided view of things the way the headmaster of the school wants things to be seen, not necessarily how they really are.

I have maintained my sobriety since I left MMS 5 years ago. I have a great life now. I am in college, have a great relationship with my family, have been in a stable relationship for several years with my boyfriend, am keeping with my health, staying in shape and eating right. I attribute part of that to MMS, but most of it was work I did on myself once leaving MMS.

If anyone has any questions feel free to contact me.

Melissa Gower.
[email protected]

Hi Melissa,

Please see my response to Kerry, because what I said to her goes for you, too!!
It takes courage to come forward. I hope others continue to come forward with their experiences, good or bad, positive or negative, or a mix of both. Parents need to know the truth about where they are sending the most precious thing in the world to them - their child!!

Thank you!  :tup:

Your story sounded very genuine. It's great that you are doing so well.  It is sad that you had some crazy guy force you to lie and say that you were a nazi and to tell the girls who were not white that you hated them.  Also keeping you up until 3 am to do this.  This sounds extremely abusive and I'm sorry that you or anyone else should go through this. This is wrong and should not have happened. Also - they should not have deprived you of going to school. WRONG WRONG WRONG.  Best wishes to you.


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