Cruel Instruction: The Problem with Comparing Programs

Three people standing in front of an orange sunset. Cruel Instruction: The Problem with Comparing Programs.

Lifetime’s Cruel Instruction premiered on March 13, 2022, as a fictionalized account of two people’s experiences in a therapeutic program in Utah. The events of the movie were horrifying, including the restraint, isolation, physical abuse, implied sexual abuse, medical neglect of the young women. The prison-like setting created an environment of shame and bullying. The portrayal of therapy was minimal at best and unethical at worst. Parents were manipulated and lie to. It was disgusting.

To anyone who experienced this as a form of behavior modification, you deserved so much better. We hope that you find professionals who can compassionately and appropriately aid you in resolving the trauma you experienced.

After the movie, a short documentary aired that included an interview with a 22-year-old woman who implied that she experienced this type of treatment at Spring Ridge Academy. This accusation is deeply disturbing to those of us who have been at Spring Ridge for years, including the years of 2016-2017 when she said that she attended. Trying to compare the experience we provided to our student in 2016-2017 to that film doesn’t make any sense.

What the young women in the movie experienced is nothing like the Spring Ridge Academy campus, and we would like to take the time to point out those difference as they specifically relate to Spring Ridge and to the many high-quality programs that we admire.

Why Defend Yourself?

This may seem to be a defensive position to save ourselves, to make sure that Spring Ridge Academy gets to continue, and in many ways that is true. However, at this point, we feel like we need to advocate for mental healthcare as a whole, not just the work we do.

In December 2021, the US Surgeon General issued an advisory on the need to urgently address youth mental health, which has only increased with the COVID-19 pandemic. News stories across the nation have been highlighting for months the mental health crisis as it has been seen in emergency room. Youth are filling beds due to active suicidal ideation, significant suicide attempts, and drug overdoses. See one example of a recent article here.

Our greatest fear is not shuttering our doors, but that people will not have access to the high-quality mental healthcare that they need. Whether that is us or someone else. As in any profession, there will always be people in it for the wrong reasons, and there will always be room to learn and grow.  However, we cannot close the door to mental healthcare as a whole. By not speaking out to reduce the stigmatization of mental healthcare in all forms, people may not get help for their loved ones, their families, or themselves because of the fear tactics used in the film and subsequent documentary. We have to fight against that.

So, what’s right?

We hope this blog will encourage to look a little deeper than the surface. Don’t trust us. Don’t trust the movie. Don’t trust anything that is self-serving. Don’t trust social media. Visit places. Verify information. Your mental health and the mental health of your family members are too important to put blind trust into any one source of information.

In future blogs, we examine the portrayal of the therapeutic programs in the film and discuss the accusations that woman made against us as a starting point, so that you get the other side of the story as a starting point for your personal research.