Welcome to Mountain Springs

by Jon Larsen, LMFT, Head of School

I love working at Mountain Springs. I love the people who work here; I am inspired by their dedication, compassion and willingness to go to such great lengths for our students and their families. I love the opportunities that we provide students. It is not an easy job. It is much easier to implement systems of control and behavioral intervention, get students to walk in a straight line and say, “Yes sir" and "Yes ma’am”. But at Mountain Springs, we want to see the real behavior - the real challenges that a student faces; where they would struggle when they return home - so that we can intervene now before they return home or move onto independent living. At MSPA, we can support them through this process and help them learn by engaging the challenges of real-life.

We understand that none of us are perfect and that we all make mistakes. Oftentimes, some of our greatest life lessons are a result of learning from past mistakes. At Mountain Springs we want to give the students enough rope that they can learn through the process of doing, but also enough support that the mistakes that they make aren’t life altering.

When I started at Mountain Springs in the fall of 2005, I thought I was in for an easy job. It is almost humorous to reflect on now, but I believed at the time that I would be getting students on the tail end of the treatment process, so most of the work would be done. What I have come to realize is that there is so much growth that happens at the step-down level of care that often cannot be accessed and initiated in your higher levels of care. When you open up choices and freedoms for students, it becomes much clearer what areas they still are weak in and where they need continued mentoring and growth. I believe every student would benefit from this period of practice.

I love our philosophy and have seen the strong need for it after working as a therapist and clinical director for many years in residential treatment. It can be anxiety producing for both parents and as staff when a student makes a poor choice. However, having sat in the office for years with students and parents, working through the accountability and amends-making process, I have seen the growth that happens in these kids’ lives in a way that is deep and meaningful and that can’t be replicated through the traditional talk-therapy approach. Many of these students have had years of counseling, but there is a profound potential sitting down with a student right in the moment as something has happened, using the immediacy of the situation and the understanding of the impact of the poor choice that creates learning on an emotional level that is poignant and lasting. We want change that will last, even when the external constraints and watchful eyes are removed. We call this result value-governed behavior and it has been a joy for me to be a part of this journey with so many of our students. Watching them mature into young men and women is a true reward. One of my mentors once said about working with adolescents, “This work chooses you, you don’t choose it.” I have found this to be true for myself and those I have hired around me. They are truly individuals called to the work and my life is richer being able to be surrounded by people of such high caliber and integrity.

Thank you for your interest in Mountain Springs. It is an honor to work with your students.