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Schools, Programs, & Visit Reports - Dec, 1992 Issue 

The DeSisto School
Connie Real, Director of Admissions
Stockbridge, Massachusetts
413-298-3776
Tom Croke Visit: June 4, 1992

Woodbury Reports published an article on the DeSisto School in Issue #4, June, 1990, and reprinted it in the Directory. In that article Lon said, "The DeSisto School is obviously a personal creation of Michael DeSisto. There is no doubt he is in charge...His personal time is spent mostly in working with students' personal growth."

When I visited two years later, I saw a somewhat different picture. There is still no doubt but what the school is Michael DeSisto's creation, and that he has quite an impact if he chooses. But his associate, Mike Marconi, now has a much higher profile role, than what is reflected in that article. Mike Marconi clearly runs the day to day operation, seeming to function as a Chief Operating Officer, while DeSisto is a Chief Executive Officer. DeSisto is the source of creativity; Marconi is the source of consistency. The two personalities complement each other nicely in applying the long standing DeSisto philosophy on a steady consistent basis.

This is one of the few structured or therapeutic boarding schools with a personal growth program fully compatible with and supportive of twelve step fellowships, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

The most unusual feature of DeSisto School is the parent involvement. DeSisto School will not enroll students without a parental commitment to a personal growth program which simulates what the students are doing on campus. Parents who do not meet their obligations lose communication privileges with the son or daughter on campus, until the matter is rectified. Every effort is made to retain students who want to remain whose parents default on their commitment.

Emotional growth is fostered in a seemingly unending series of groups. Through these groups, confrontation, feedback, support, and acceptance begins. With an intricate web of group meetings throughout the day, with purposes ranging from administrative to therapeutic, and students mixing with staff in each, personal growth work is almost constant. The environment is intense.

My day began with a breakfast with four top staff and two highest level students, to plan commencement. Throughout the day, I attended at least four meetings with a stated business agenda, which included confrontation and feedback on personal issues.

The farm, described in Lon's description was no longer in operation as a separate location, when I visited, although there was the functional equivalent of the farm in the levels process.

Population was divided into four living areas: new boys, new girls, regular boys, and regular girls. Each living area is largely regulated by student consensus with concurrent staff participation and review of the process.

DeSisto School's students had a more self conscious awareness of their therapeutic process than the other structured boarding schools I have visited. There was an intensity here that I did not experience other places. With the intensity, and the twelve step involvement, there is a potential to deal effectively with students some other good quality structured boarding schools cannot. This is a good choice for students who have parents deeply invested in the resolution of the student's problems, and for students who are oppositional, some conduct disorders, addictive disorders and depression, within certain limits.

I would encourage a visit to the school because of the intensity of the commitment involved. I feel there is an important personality match issue here. But this is truly a superior offering for a particular kind of student.

Copyright 1992, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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