Treatment Abuse, Behavior Modification, Thought Reform => Facility Question and Answers => CALO - Change Academy at Lake of the Ozarks => Topic started by: yossarianoftheozarks on May 11, 2019, 01:18:16 PM

Title: Calo Teens "CALO" of Embark Behavioral Health
Post by: yossarianoftheozarks on May 11, 2019, 01:18:16 PM
The internet (outside this topic) doesn't have much information about Calo Teens (, which is part of Embark (, an umbrella corporation presiding over a number of residential treatment centers and wilderness programs across the United States (including Calo Preteens ( for children as young as nine). Long before it became a huge, well-respected corporation, it began with a teen program in Lake Ozark, Missouri called Change Academy Lake of the Ozarks, or CALO, a residential treatment center focused on treating (mostly) adopted teens with symptoms of attachment disorders. They have since rebranded to Calo Teens, but I’ll refer to it as “CALO” in this post. It has been several years since I left, and so I cannot speak directly to the state of the program now and intentionally write in the past tense. However, in providing a glimpse into the program as I knew it, I ask you to question whether a program like that could ever evolve into something entirely untainted. I refer to the teens (and preteens) who went through CALO as “students” just as they were referred to at the program. However, the level of enclosure and lack of real academic resources makes “inmate” more appropriate.

CALO was a facility considerably more restrictive than minimum security and some medium security prisons. Every aspect of our lives was controlled; where we went, who we talked to, what we talked about, what media we were exposed to, who was allowed to write us letters from outside (letters which were reviewed by therapists), our bodily functions, what we ate (and when the food budget was drastically cut), when we ate it, when we went to spiritual time (no matter what we believed or didn’t believe), and so much more. It was a textbook example of a total institution ( The amount of psychological and emotional manipulation embedded into every dynamic we encountered is inarticulable. The kind of restrictions placed on us were severe and prolonged. The website used to claim that the average stay was 14-20 months ( (now the website claims 12-13 months ( while the blog claimed 17 (, but this was just the average. On any given day, most students had no end in sight. Two years was not uncommon at all. A few students were there for as many as four. In many other parts of the US, even the most dysfunctional people are not placed in restrictive residential environments (and those are less restrictive than CALO) for more than 90 days. Length of stay was supposedly determined by a student’s progress. However, the normalization of the student’s stay often prolonged it, and the emotional and psychological toll being there had on students affected their therapeutic progress. Some parents used CALO as a way to “park” their child without proper regard to the detrimental effects such an environment would have. Therapists and staff seemed to demonstrate a mindset that one had to be fully “healed” to leave - and often that included a level of self acceptance, overcoming of trauma, and “healing” that many people outside of residential treatment never achieve. CALO was a horrendous abuse of a set of residential conditions that should be reserved only for individuals in extreme conditions, temporarily. It was certainly not the least restrictive environment for the vast majority of its students. Below, I include a very incomplete list of problematic aspects of CALO, but at the root of its atrocities is the sheer amount of time CALO students were incarcerated in such a place.
Some past or present staff/leadership reading this may be horrified by what they perceive as false accusations. “Rewriting history,” the former CEO calls it, his attempt to call us liars without making us angry. That’s how CALO responds - sometimes more threateningly than others - to those who raise challenges.
Reading the bullet points I’ve written, the place I portrayed feels so removed from the normalcy of CALO life I experienced. Yet everything I wrote is factually accurate and, I repeat, incomplete (there is so much more that simply cannot be conveyed without revealing more personally identifying information). That’s what makes these programs complicated. Objectively, the place was horrific. Yet I left it confident that it was one of the good ones. On various networks, I often see Embark leadership sharing articles about childhood trauma and pictures of themselves at prestigious national conferences. Some staff - especially floor staff - aren’t comfortable with what goes on and they quit or get fired for challenging the status quo. But most employees take pride that each day, they help young people live better lives.

I’ll never convince those CALO employees that they are perpetrators of, complicit in, or negligent of the evil I present. I’m also aware that CALO has changed over the years, and there are many “generations” of students, each with unique experiences. But I argue that an organization that has seen the kinds of abuse I have described is problematic at the core. Even discounting each bullet point I wrote, the facility’s restrictiveness and average length of stay alone makes the program problematic.

I ask those who doubt me to think about what I would gain by spreading falsehoods about a little-known residential treatment center in the midwest. I am posting this anonymously and no one currently in my life knows I went to treatment, so attacking CALO does nothing to affect my reputation. I’m not seeking retribution, nor am I promoting legal action. This post will likely get buried and probably won’t prevent students from being sent to CALO. There is plenty of information about the horrors of these programs and parents continue to call upon their services. I’m also confident in CALO’s ability to convincingly discredit me.

Please, ask yourself why someone would invest so much time and energy into writing a post about a relatively obscure teens’ therapeutic facility just so it could get buried in this small corner of the internet.

The kinds of abuse kids suffer at programs like CALO are as intimately physical and manipulatively emotional as it gets. And the betrayal lies within every structure in society - the government that has passed laws against these “treatment methods” that still continue, the education system that failed us before (educational consultants who recommended the places) as well as during and after (depriving us of education that could enable us to move on), medicine (obvious), and family (also obvious). They will continue. They do continue. CALO lives on in Calo Teens and Calo Preteens and in every one of the programs scattered across the United States under Embark ( To this day, Calo Teens is considered one of the good ones. But if you’ve read this far, one more person will have heard a different story.

(Originally posted on /r/troubledteens on Reddit) (