Many painfull years at The DeSisto School
Date: October 10, 2007 10:48AM
I attended DeSisto from 94-95. I have to say that it was one of the strangest, hardest, and yet enlightening experiences of my life. There is not a week and sometimes not even a day that goes by that I do not think about it. I can honestly say that I was not brainwashed by the program there. I ran away more than once and ultimately for good without finishing the program.
I have to disagree with the notion that it was a cult however. Prima facially it did appear to be somewhat cult-like. But I believe that that was more due to the nature of the program than than any inherent "cultness".
The objective of the program in the beginning stages was certainly to more or less cut the teen off from the outside world, and so in that respect it was certainly cult-like. But the purpose behind that was legitimate. The focus was to get teens to get in touch with the emotions and feelings that are troubling them and to express those feelings and emotions in a positive way with dorm parents, counselors, and fellow students rather than in a negative acting out way that can be harmful and destructive to themselves and others around them. Furthermore cutting off ties with parents and family, at least in the beginning of a student's stay at the school, was legitimate because anyone who is at all familiar with addictive and acting out behavior knows that co-dependency with family only reinforces that negative behavior. In order to remedy that you have to get outside of it for a little while to realize what is actually going on.
I suppose one could call that brainwashing if they want, but really all we are doing is arguing semantics. All therapy etc...is brainwashing to a certain extent. A person must learn how to develop knew thinking patterns and behavior strategies in order to change.
Anyway, enough soapboxing. I think it is very telling that a neutral objective observer, our friend the state investigator, generally concurs with my assessment. For those of you who do not, I nevertheless understand. I felt the same way that you did for a long time after I left. My parents would not talk to me for a long time due to the school's influence and the fact that I was "on the road". However it is hard to see what the school was really trying to do when you are so recently divorced from the situation, and resentment is probably running high. It is even harder to see what the program was attempting to do when you are in the midst of it. BELIEVE ME, when I first got there I thought I was in a really bad episode of the twilight zone. I mean come on, "turn-ins", "off-limits", "inappropriate", "sitting", "farmed", what the hell is all this??!! Looking back though and thinking about what I was doing with my life, it doesn't seem all that crazy.
I won't sit and here and say that DeSisto was perfect, great, or even right for everyone. Clearly it wasn't. Nothing ever could be. But in a school that deals with teens who are/were that troubled certain incidents are bound to happen. I was on the Farm for about 7 months and so I saw my share of crazy "incidents". The school did all that it could do, all that any school of that sort could possibly do. It made a good faith diligent effort to keep those incidents to a minimum.
In the end I would have to say that DeSisto saved my life in a lot of ways. I was a very depressed teen who was withdrawn from my feelings and consequently from those around me. While I was there I was forced to deal with those feelings and to share them. This was an invaluable trait that I was sorely lacking. The best friend I have ever had in my life was a dorm parent there. Anyone there when I was there surely remembers Big D.
I would just ask those that have recently left the school for whatever reason, because it closed or otherwise, to give yourself time and maybe even let a few years pass and see if you do not think about your experience differently. Looking back with a little age/wisdom may change your perspective.