A Word from Our Directors
Choosing therapeutic residential care for your teenager is likely the toughest decision you will ever make as a parent. Feelings of frustration, anger, fear, confusion, anxiety, guilt and even failure may all be plaguing you right now. But, please be comforted in knowing that the only perfect parent who ever existed is our Heavenly Father—and look what His first two kids did! The toxicity of our culture and the proliferation of digital technology have teamed up to make it tougher than ever for even the best parents to feel successful these days.
Understanding our times and knowing what to do is much of the “How” and “Why” behind Shepherd’s Hill Academy’s (SHA) unique and successful approach to the healing and restoration of teens and families. Students are unplugged and detoxed from digital technology long enough for them to begin seeing the forest for the trees. They’re getting, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story.” It’s also a big reason why 70% of students coming to SHA on loads of medications are leaving medication free! Let me be clear—SHA is not against medication. And, certainly, true mental illness exists. But, still, we know that meds are too often grossly abused by the mental health industry these days. We also know that outside stimuli (our environment) have a greater effect on brain chemistry and behavior than most people understand. It also affects our worldview and how we deal with life’s issues, exacerbating any hint of mental illness that may actually exist.
At SHA our preeminent commitment is to obey the will of God, regardless of the cost. Shepherd’s Hill Academy was birthed out of our commitment to Christ and a vision for teens like yours. Based on the best and latest science, and in conjunction with a balanced understanding of God’s Word, history and good old-fashioned common sense, SHA’s therapeutic environment offers the highest degree of emotional healing possible. Our students are often very bright and simply need structure, purpose and direction to help them face, navigate and help transform the crazy world they’ve inherited.
SHA is a place of substance over style. You will not see impressive brick and mortar or grand white columns on our campus. We do, however, offer families a therapeutic environment on nearly 200 acres that averages over twice as many staff as we have students! This is intentionally designed to maximize healing and transformation. It is what mental health and childcare professionals from Harvard, Yale, UCLA, Indiana University, Emory, Chapel Hill and many other highly-esteemed institutions have described as an “authoritative community.” The term “authoritative” is not to be confused with the term “authoritarian.” At SHA, our authoritative community is designed to cultivate the soil of your child’s heart so that the seed of God’s Spirit has a place to take root and bear fruit.
When it comes to parenting kids, science now confirms virtually everything Scripture has already stated we should accept by faith. At SHA, we’re taking the “Why” of faith and integrating it with the “How” of science. When kids come to understand that science and faith are teammates, wonderful things happen!
And, though SHA is a therapeutic ministry with a spiritual foundation, we are no less clinical in our approach to healing. Yet, the final arbiter of truth is always the Word of God. Whenever there appears to be friction between Scripture and the position of the modern secular mental health industry, we have always sided with Scripture—and we have never regretted it; because, Scripture has always proven to be correct when thoroughly and accurately examined. But don’t just take our word for it. We would be happy to provide you with the contact information of any number of alumni parents who’ve experienced these life-giving transformations in their kids and in themselves. SHA desires to bring healing to the entire family.
SHA also has a strong academic and therapeutic record that is endorsed by world-renowned Christian leaders and therapists. As just one example, consider this: For the last seven years running, at least one SHA student has been chosen—as one of only forty students chosen from across America—to win a week-long trip to Washington D.C. for the American Association of Christian Schools’ Youth Legislative Training Conference. This is a week-long insider’s look into the Beltway, where kids get to meet top government officials—including members of Congress from their own home states. Five of those seven years, two SHA students have won this award! The award is for writing composition. There’s a reason SHA has a five-star rating virtually everywhere—including Google.
But, if you’re looking for a therapeutic program that keeps your child smiling and comfortable day in and day out for a year, SHA probably isn’t what you’re looking for. SHA is about healing and character building, so that long-term joy and contentment will remain in any environment your child is cast. This means taking kids out of their comfort zones for a season. Healing—just like building muscle—almost always requires a season and a level of discomfort. At first, 18th-century living isn’t comfortable for most kids. In a relatively short time, however, it becomes an adventure for them. They acclimate quickly, as they learn basic life and team-building principles and skills that impart wisdom and enhance their appreciation and concern for others. This is where real healing and character begins. It is also where their journey begins toward knowing and submitting to the Author of these principles.
Unfortunately, in a time when they’ve never been more materially blessed, deep down American teenagers are feeling worse about themselves. Many are exercising self-harm and even attempting suicide—two things almost unheard of not so long ago in simpler times. And the number one reason kids give for these self-loathing behaviors is that they have no hope! Romans 5:3-4 speaks to this issue almost perfectly. It says, “Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character “hope.” Generally speaking, all we have to do is reverse that passage to get to the crux of the problem facing so many kids today. Though not true in every teen’s case, we should consider this: Many teens are attempting suicide, today, because they say they have no “hope.” They have no “hope;” because they have no “character.” They have no “character;” because they’ve never “persevered” through much of anything.
They’ve never “persevered” through much of anything; because, they’ve never first suffered through much of anything. Again, this is a broad generalization that certainly isn’t true for all kids. But, it’s true for way too many today.
At SHA, when it comes to material blessings, kids will be given the basics and earn the extras. They will learn to attach a reward to achievement and have opportunities to be grateful for what they’ve once taken for granted. Again, we know from both science and Scripture the importance of being grateful. We know that, just by being genuinely grateful for something, the brain produces the same amount of serotonin as if a person took one Prozac or one Wellbutrin! In a world where kids have virtually unlimited choice, being genuinely grateful—or even satisfied—can be difficult. The therapeutic strategies at SHA offer endless opportunities for kids to appreciate the simple, but important, things of life. At SHA, we’re often turning “snowflakes” into snowmen and women—all with the purity given to them through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
And, just to be clear, know that nobody at SHA does anything to make kids feel like Jesus is being forced down their throats. SHA is not a legalistic religious enterprise. Jesus would never force Himself on anyone. Every teen is loved and treated with equal respect and dignity—regardless of their faith or their lack of faith in Christ. And, though we know Jesus Christ is the key to genuine and lasting transformation for anyone, He has to be their idea in His timing and theirs. Other than “The Abundant Life,” no student is rewarded or awarded anything because of their statement of faith. We don’t even do altar-calls in our chapel; because, we refuse to jumpstart kids into something only objective truth and the Holy Spirit can do.
Furthermore, at SHA, kids won’t have Hollywood, Madison Avenue, MTV or social media to distort the way things really are. Our aim is to provide a safe and judgment-free atmosphere for kids to see and experience objective reality. This lends opportunity for them to come to their own wise and logical conclusions about the deeper issues of life.
Too often the secular mental health field doesn’t offer it’s clients an “ought” when it comes to moral or spiritual issues—if these things are addressed at all. Most often they are not. Most everything is based on how a client is made to feel rather than dealing with reality from the standpoint of objective truth. For kids, this too often legitimizes their own subjective feelings, which may or may not be in league with objective truth. Remember, the frontal lobes in their brains aren’t fully developed until about age 25.
When the secular mental health industry fails to build a spiritual foundation under their approach to mental health and emotional wellbeing, they neglect the fundamental need in every human being—the need to worship. Our kids will worship someone or some thing—whether they’re aware of it or not. Missing the mark in this area is the basis of idolatry, which is the foundation of any addiction. When kids are allowed to believe that their own subjective feelings, alone, are the final arbiters of truth, they become their own idol or god. A violation of the very first commandment is the result; and, mental illness can often be the reward.
It has been our experience; however, that in the course of their year-long stay at SHA, the overwhelming majority of teens come to realize and accept, on their own, the scriptural, historical, logical, archeological, philosophical and even scientific support for the veracity of the Author of all truth and reality—the person of Jesus Christ. It’s also been our experience that, once this occurs, attitudinal and behavioral transformation happens exponentially. Mental clarity and emotional health also occur. Kids are then trained and equipped to re-enter their toxic world with a fresh new look at reality through the lens of objective truth, Scripture and the Holy Spirit residing in them. This is the foundation for true and lasting healing and transformation. This is our mission at SHA. And, we are committed to tapping into any and all prudent avenues that will give each of our students and their families the best chance of living the abundant life. May God grant you wisdom and provision as you seek only the very best for your child.
Please call us at (706) 703-4188, or use the online inquiry form. When you call, you will most likely speak directly with either of us. If not, ask for us and we’ll be happy to be involved in helping you make your decision.
In Christ’s Love,
Trace and Beth Embry, Founders and Directors