The Academy’s program provides two sustained, key experiences: (a) a balanced life; and (b) a sustained, deep experience of accurate recognition and deft limit-setting.
Rather than fix upon scholastic exercise at the expense of fitness or close relationships, and instead of pushing therapy at the cost of academic excellence, social grace, empathic friendship or teamwork, we challenge students to master a combination of demanding academics, intense interpersonal conversation, expressive arts and strenuous athletics. The implicit theory, i.e., that a balanced life creates a balanced mind, is an old idea, which turns out to be no less true in modern Montana than in ancient Athens.
To become mature, moreover, teenagers need close, influential relationships founded upon accurate recognition: the experience of being well understood. This is the purpose of MA’s scheduled therapeutic conversations (individual, group and family), and the reason that MA organizes students and staff in teams, which are close-knit small groups in which a student becomes well known to adults and peers.
To grow up teenagers also need to come to terms with social constraints. The program prods students to become mature by setting limits. These constraints are implicit in the clan system and explicit in rewards and sanctions prescribed by clinicians, team-leaders, teachers and parents.