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Carlbrook is a behavior modification facility marketed as a therapeutic boarding school. The address is 3046 Carlbrook Road, Halifax, Virginia 24592.


The program lasts about 15 months. There are three group therapy sessions per week. A peer group consist of 12 to 15 detainees. The therapy sessions on Monday and Friday are so-called Request Group (Where the themes are issues at hand with one or more student, which need to be confronted and addressed; this is generally a terrifyingly painful experience). The therapy session on Wednesday is a Team Group.


The facility demands that the detainees participate in wilderness therapy course before admission.

All candidates for admission to Carlbrook must successfully complete a wilderness experience directly prior to enrollment.

Level system

The program consist of two phases:

  • The lower school
  • The upper school

The homepage does not mention a level called Middle school, which used to exist in the past.


In order to reach the higher level and earn visits from the family, the detainee has to pass marathon therapy session called workshops. There are 5 workshops based on workshops by the now closed CEDU facilities.

The names of these workshops are Integritas (Integrity), Amicitia (Friendship), Animus (Passion) Teneo: (Tenacity / Perseverence) and Veneratio, (Honor)

Here are a detainees description of each workshop along with some good advice:

Integritas: Honesty

You're woken up by your student supports, you're on bans with the whole school, eat breakfast, and head over to the workshop room.

You go in, there's music and your supporting advisers. You assign yourself a Truth (what is true about me), get a workshop journal (I don't believe these are ever read by staff) and then start learning some tools.

I think we did our heroes in the morning. I believe silver ball is this day. After lunch, I can't really remember what happens....(this was 4 years ago now, almost exactly), and then that night is a group of sorts.

Peers and staff give you feedback about how you don't live your truth and you're forced to figure out your lie. This can last very late, until after midnight. When everyone is done, you go back to special dorms set up (people are just moved around so all the workshop kids are in the same room)

Lessons to learn that make this marathon workshop easier to pass:

    • You are what you do, not what you say you do. (If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck.)
    • Silver Ball (Every child is born a shiny silver ball....and then shit happens to it/on it)
    • Pendulum (The more you feel pain, the more you feel joy)
    • Truth (What is fundamentally true about you)
    • Lie (The Main Belief that keeps you from your truth)

Amicitia: Friendship

In the circle of exclusion, the other students are the ones responsible for barring the student undergoing the exercise to enter. If you succeed, then an adviser pulls you out and you start all over again. It was emotionally harsh, especially when taking into account some of the issues I had with relationships that I detailed earlier.

We did rudimentary honor lists beforehand, and we didn't do skits. Our honor lists were generally things that were stupid, like not doing laundry, swearing, what have you. We didn't have consequences for Amicitia, but I'll get to that more later.

We also didn't have communal naps either, nor were we ever prohibited from talking about workshops with anyone who had already been through one. You were allowed to talk about your experience, and the tools you gleaned, but not about other people's disclosures/statements/feedback. Confidentiality, for both workshops and group, was very highly stressed, for good reason. And we weren't allowed to tell our parents until they had gone through their version of the workshop, before our second parent visit.

Lessons to learn that make this marathon workshop easier to pass:

    • The harder the truth to tell, the truer the friend that tells it.
    • I am my brother's keeper.
    • No man is an island.
    • Friends are the family you get to choose.

Animus (Passion)

Honor lists, this time we had to come up with consequences too, for each infraction. Things like "I didn't take my shoes off in the commons building" = "I will organize the mud closet after last light before going off to my dorm to bed."

The first day occurs right after school. Students write there goals for the workshop while continuing to "come clean" with all past events. The first four hours occurs going over workshop rules. Students are forced to stand until each student comes out with every small action including owning frayed pants, going a minute over a phone call, or taking stiring straws outside the dining hall. After a grueling four hours of standing up, students go to the "break out" room while the advisors prepare for the next event. Students then enter the workshop room with pitch black darkness with a skit occuring in the middle. Students sit around the "older student" who is being the "actor" of the skit. The student is in some type of situation that changes throughout different Animuses but usually deals with issues as heavy drug use, suicide attempts, and/or being passed out. Fake drugs are placed around the student. This scene usually causes a reaction of fear and depression and most students cry during the experience. After watching the passed out student surrounded by drugs or red paint symbolizing blod, a few older students enter...react in the way they would in real life, and carry the student out in hope. The next day students have to stand again until everyone is "in standard" and everyone admits to small issues such as not wiping down the water off the shower or more frayed pants issues. Afterwards, students sit in a circle and come otu with 5 private "disclosures" while sappy music is in the backround. These disclosures are 5 secrets that you want no one to knwo that usually have to do with sexual experiences or abuse situations. Afterwards, they play intense music and lie the students on teh floor. While on the floor and in tears, they give the students a notepad and a black market and you are commanded to draw your "inner self"... while people draw hideous figues, supports and advisers go around saying "is it THAT pretty" causing more heartache. After goign to lunch and being on bans, students notice two posters on opposite sides of the room... one saying LIE and the other saying DEATH and advisers ask us to stand in a line from who was closest to life and who was closest to death. Everyone was inclined to wlak towards the death wall...thus causing a clutter and everyone pushing eac other in violent ways to get "close" to the wall... I remember seeing a man physically harming a girl to get towards the wall. They gave us partners after the wall exercise... and our partners are to put us in a "waxed statue" position of what our lives owuld look like in 5 years if we didnt care about our lives. Girls were lying on there back or people were injecting drugs... symbolizing there downhill track. After another break, students get in a circle and one by one the student stands in front of everyone (including staff) and wills in the blank "I stand for being ________" ... This causes emotional breakdowns. Then they describe WHY they stand for what they do. Following this, we had the pillow fighting in which a student slams on a pillow with all there force and cries out in angry and pain... usually last between 2-3 minutes and is physically and emotionally draining... often causing a few students to throw up. In celebration, they play dance music and students dance, in exhaustion, to the music. This was my favorite part. The third day.... not a lot of actions occur but it is a powerful experience. Students are sprawled on the floor adn taken on a guided meditation... the story? All teh students in the peer group are on a boat... the boat sinks and there are only 3 seats on the safety boats. In a panic, the students are demanded to stand up and notice the 3 physical chairs in the room. Instantly, the advisors tell us to fight for the chairs and instantly the students start physically fighting eachother to gain a seat...but after a few minutes the advisors tell us to stand in a circle... Given only 3 votes, the students must walk around in a circle, stare at each person in the eye and claim to that student whether if they "live or die"... The students who got the most "live" votes got to sit in the chairs and the students sitting on the carpet (drowning) have time to request to say something to a loved one. Afterwards, we are given to go on a break and write a one page obituary for our death. When the students return, the whole workshop room is transformed into a eerie funeral scene with the "dum da da dum...da da da dum dum da dum" funeral music playing. With a personal object symbolizing love all around the candles in the room, we are asked to read our obituary. After we are done, we are guided to the floor and placed in a idol position...lying down... with our eyes close and an advisor saying "rest in peace... (name)..." Afterwards we get a motivational speech on the floor and this is probably the most emotional part of hte workshop... we our then risen by teh supports and given a candle... following this, all the older studnets who have passed the workshop enter the room with a candle and there is a ceremony of life in a dark room full of candles... following this comes a dance party in the commons building (which tends to be the most envied moment for pre-animus students and the best moment of a carlbrook stay) It certainly was mine!

Teneo: (Tenacity / Perseverence)

I think this workshop was also three days. I know there was a running in place exercise. You ran in place and ran your "negative self talk" and you just didn't stop, some metaphor about the fact that you never stop beating yourself up. And it was where we did our I/Me tool. Our parents sent the school, in secret, pictures of us as little kids and stuffed animals from home, animals that a lot of us hadn't seen in a long time. And when you're in the thick of your I vs. Me, you're given the picture of me and told to imagine telling all the awful things you tell yourself to that little kid. Heartwrenching, I know. then the next day you do a disgust excersise where you write everything I tells me and the supports are screaming things that I says to help make the list long. then the adult supports read the list out loud and have you make a sound to match the pain inside and then they get you on the ground eventually. The rest of the workshop was just building on the I/Me concept. There are other aspects, but it was a 4 day workshop that I went through three years ago, I don't remember all that much about the rest of it.

Lessons to learn that make this marathon workshop easier to pass:

  • The way is thoroughly known.
  • I thinks; me feels.
  • There is only now.

Veneratio: Honor

Last workshop. 5 days. Some on campus, some off. This was a workshop very much unlike the others. The first day? Maybe 2; were spent recapping the other workshops.

Oh, just remembered the first night. They brought in booze, drugs (or prop drugs) cigarettes, porn.....made the workshop room look like a crack house. Then we watched the last ten minutes of Requiem for a Dream. I damn near puked. I still refuse to watch that movie. Then we were asked what we were afraid of, what things were calling out to us when we got home. And we each had to go up and grab those things one at a time.

These were done on campus. Then there was a "baggage hike". I don't remember what it was called, but we went on a long hike and carried a brick in our arms. Some metaphor for the weight of the baggage we carry around. We did some of the exercises again, but they were different this time around. We knew what was coming and we were guided into working the metaphors and exercises into a positive light.

Either the third or fourth day we were taken off campus to a very nice conference center and continued the workshop there. I think it's simply because we needed the vertical space and we were doing more outdoor exercises. We did another exercise, this one with balloons of vice. Money, booze, sex, drugs....we had to hold them out in front of us, arm locked, until we were too tired to hold them up, and we went outside to let them loose. We talked about our personal hells, and described them. I believe drawing might have been involved. Then that night we figured out our individual honor codes, the thing/things which we know we are and yet are too afraid to be.

I'm powerful and trusting. Yeah, it reads like a kitschy saying that you tell yourself in the mirror every morning. It did get me through some rough times after graduating though. Kind of like a slap in the face when I'm being ridiculous.

Once you figure out your honor code, you're crowdsurfed for a lap around the room. The only thing I really remember about the next day is we talked a bit, nothing too deep, just recapping the workshop, and had a really great meal, while sitting on the floor with our peer group, talking quietly. It was dark and candle lit, and there was soft music. It was for the sense of family, so they said, and so that when we left, we'd have someone to turn to if we needed (I believe.) Don't quote me on that.

Then we cleaned up our corner of the convention center and headed back to campus. Oh, and over the course of the 5 days, we had to read an abridged version of Les Miserables

Also there are 4 family workshops a year where the parents go to the campus to see their child and make some efforts of minimizing the feeling in the detainee for being banished from home. During these family workshop there was family group therapy. The participant in the therapy are three families and two therapists and a higher-level student. The detainees can confront their parents, share things or discuss whatever they wanted to.

Living conditions

The teenagers live in trailers with a mix of teenagers new in the program, as well as teenagers with seniority in the program. They were not co-ed. There were three or four teenagers in each room, and about six to eight rooms in each little trailer. There were showers, toilets, and limited room for storage of personal items (hence the rules on minimum personal items).


  • Communication between the teenagers in the program: Teenagers new in the program are not allowed to speak with others in the program, who has not been through the first marathon workshop (In most cases the first workshop is done 3 months into the program). Apart from students punished with speaking bans, a teenager can talk to everyone else.
  • Parent - School communication: There is a weekly phone call between the parent and a therapist. Because the letters from the detainee are not censored like most programs, the therapist use some time to discuss what the staff calls manipulation from the detainee with the purpose to be released.
  • Parent - Child communication: The detainees on lower school had one phone call every two weeks and letter privileges. The letter are not censored but read, so the staff knows that the child tell the parent about the facility. When the detainee reach a higher level, they earn the rights to one phone call per week.
  • Family - child visits: The detainee earns the right to see the parents for the first time after they have been detained when they have passed the first workshop. The length of the stay is 2 days and the detainee has to remain on the campus.

The second is after passing the second workshop. The detainee is allowed off the campus for 2 days, but they are not allowed to visit their old home. The third visit is for 3 days off-campus but there are still a ban on visits home. When they have passed the fourth workshop, they are granted to go home to their old home for a weekend. There are also a fifth visit with a undetermined length of stay home.


Unlike most facilities the staff do not use force, when a detainee runs. They notify the authorities, who will try to find and arrest the detainee as a runaway based on the laws in the state. If the state does not want detain them in juvenile hall and return them, the facility will demand that the detainee should be escorted to a wilderness stay before he or she can return.

They have recently added an isolation room in which students are forced (with manipulation, not physical force) to sit facing forward and not speak besides asking to use the restroom or to get water. A detainee will be in this room for anywhere from one day to three months. A violent detainee would be expelled.

A normal consequence for a role violation would be to be put on a suspension (Previous it was called Program). Described by a detainee:

So she put me on a program. I still went to school and what not, but when I wasn't in school, I was sitting at a program desk, on bans with everyone but my supports, and had to do writing assignments and write in an emotional journal. I also had to read The Five Love Languages for Teens......and my advisers made my parents do it too. My mother did, my father didn't.

Another is to be followed all time by a teenager in the program. As a former detainee explains:

The only time you would get followed is if you had tried to hurt yourself, or someone else but they believe that with a little bit more instruction you will be okay. My best friend from the woods, who I am still in contact with almost every day had an eating disorder, she puked, and therefore people had to go with her to the bath room, not in the stall just in the room to make sure she wasn't doing herself harm.


How some detainee looks at the school (A letter from a detainee smuggled out to a friend)

This place is like a prison with no walls because running away will just get you sent to a worse place, similar to a real prison. There are so many ridiculous rules that are driving me crazy and I don't think I can handle it much longer. I'm trying to fake it as much as I can but it's not working out too well for me. I'm different than I used to be though by a long shot. I don't want to do drugs or drive cars or "fuck bitches" anymore if you know what I'm saying.

All I want to do is be somewhere that I can slow down and workout and run all the time and be able to have general freedoms like talking to my friends. I'm reading a lot because it's one of the only things to do around here besides play chess and work on your "emotional growth". To top it off, I can't run, at least not on my own terms. I am allowed to run on campus, which is much smaller than XXXX, with a partner. The fastest guy here is as fast as XXX(slowest, fattest friend they had), so that doesn't exactly work out for me. Of course I thought I could get around that rule, so one day I took off running down the road and I got in a lot of trouble. I really miss XXXX(school) and all my friends there. I took for granted all the freedom I had there. I did whatever the hell I wanted to do, and the worst part is, if I hadn't gotten caught up in stupid stuff, which eventually led to my downfall, I might still be there.

That whole thing really stresses me out when I'm here and I can't have all my own clothes, hygiene products or pictures. I'm making straight A s in school with little effort, which is nice and relaxing, but for some reason I'm in a stage where I want to learn and be challenged. Just think of my ass sitting here in the middle of nowhere being drilled every day for "being negative" and "not being committed to my emotional growth". You have it so good. Don't screw it up like I did.


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