Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment
Syracuse, Utah
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FamilyLight sm now recommends against referring to or enrolling in any Aspen or CRC Health school or program due to what the closing of New Leaf of North Carolina says about the value system of that company. For detail, see Tom's blog for May 2010.

This program is one that FamilyLight sm holds in high regard and expects to review in more detail soon. We hope to have that on the web by summer '09, perhaps sooner if we get a response to our questionnaire soon; perhaps later if we do not. 

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FamilyLightsm is an educational consulting firm specializing in work with families with a young person with behavioral, emotional or psychological difficulties.  We offer in-depth personal guidance to families on a fee basis and free guidance on the internet. FamilyLightsm attempts to be fully objective and accepts no advertising nor referral fees.

Aspen Institute is owned and operated by Aspen Education Group, also known as CRC Youth Division.

Briefly,  this is an intensive evaluation program for adolescents under 18, sharing a tract of land with Island View Residential Treatment Center.  It's single, self contained building does allow access to Island View facilities, such as athletic facilities, for patients/residents who can safely walk next door accompanied by staff.  The physical facility is modern, bright and cheerful. 

One thing that makes work with Aspen Institute particularly appealing is the clinical director, Dr. Kristen Shadow, who is qualified as a pediatrician, adult psychiatrist, and child and adolescent psychiatrist.  This kind of multiple areas of expertise can be quite helpful. We also like the fact that the people being evaluated will be getting therapy underway (intensively if needed) during the evaluation process, medication adjustments will occur if needed and will be monitored for results, and appropriate support will be offered to families and referring professionals while the patient remains and decisions are made about the next step.  The product of an Aspen Institute assessment is a clinical conference with some from the clinical team, parents, and referring professional.  After discharge, Aspen Institute will provide a booklet with plastic binding giving comprehensive multi-disciplinary reports on findings.  Everything is thorough, smooth, glossy, and professional.

Parents looking for treatment resources following Aspen Institute will do best if there is a competent independent referring professional working with them.  Whether it is Aspen marketing strategy or simply a consequence of what is familiar to Aspen Institute staff, we think it is unlikely that the staff of the institute will be especially helpful in locating continued treatment resources beyond what Aspen Education offers internally without the assistance of an independent referring professional.  That might be an educational consultant such as our firm, but other professions may have competence here as well.

We especially like: Thoroughness of the assessment issues.   Competence, professionalism of staff. Clarity and availability of communication. Excellent "customer service."

Areas for improvement: We would prefer to see more availability of diagnostic resources in more unusual areas.  We believe there are individual (exceptional) situations that warrant brain imaging (MRI, CT, qEEG, PET, SPECT), neurological consult, more in depth neuropsychological evaluation, endocrinological evaluation, allergy evaluation, suitability for neurofeedback, which we are unsure are available options at Aspen Institute. 

On July 27, 2009, we received an email from Dr. Jared Balmer of Aspen Institute which said the following:

"I would make the following comments. We routinely involve residents in specialty testing either in-house or through a consult. Hence, we send kids out to do sleep deprived EEG, MRI, Brain Scans, edocrinological exams, etc. Test permitting, we bring in experts in to conduct sexual risk, spectrum disorder, vocational, neuropsychological, testing. We conduct routine EKG exams on all admissions. We have discovered many abnormalities and disorders heretofore veiled. "

We consider Dr. Balmer to be highly credible and highly competent. We do not doubt the accuracy of his statements.  We have made further inquiry as to the ease of obtaining the special tests Dr. Balmer cites, and specific questions about neuropsychological testing, qEEG, and neurofeedback.  We will update this page when we hear back.

In summary, Aspen Institute is facility to which FamilyLight sm refers with confidence.  There are relatively simple improvements we would also like to see.

While you wait for us to present a more complete review, please look around this website.  Look at our Guidelines -- a fairly comprehensive statement of what we believe quality is all about.  If you come to a search and planning process with limited experience, this is an opportunity for you to find some principles to measure schools and programs against.

Keep coming back to see the updates. Look at "What's New" (Announcements).  In spring of 2009 we expect to have returns from schools, programs, and related organizations published, giving deeper insight into these than has ever been available on the web before. 


Official web site of Aspen Institute

Aspen Education Group aka CRC Youth Division

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Feedback is invited. We will publish any feedback in good taste. Email

Disclaimer: No  program review, no matter how positive, is a blanket endorsement. No criticism is a blanket condemnation.  When we express our level of confidence in a school or program, that is our subjective opinion with which others might reasonably disagree.  When we assert something as fact, we have done our best to be accurate, but we cannot guarantee that all of our information is accurate and up to date. When we address compliance with our guidelines, you need to remember that these are only OUR guidelines -- not guidelines from an official source.  We have also set the bar very high, and do not expect any school or program to be in total compliance.  It is not appropriate to draw a conclusion of impropriety (or even failure to live up to conventional wisdom) from our lack of confidence in a school or program or from less than perfect conformity to our guidelines.  Some will say we expect too much. Readers are responsible for verifying accuracy of information supplied here prior to acting upon it. We are not responsible for inaccuracies.

Last updated  5-16-2010,

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