Program Description


Big Sky provides academic and treatment services to students who are typically experiencing significant problems in the following areas: difficulty establishing and maintaining positive long-term relationships, learning disorders often with significant setbacks in academic progress.  Big Sky students may present with a range of mood, anxiety or substance abuse diagnoses.  There are also a significant number of students struggling with trauma and attachment-related problems.

Big Sky Academy addresses these problems by integrating the Positive Peer Culture model through all aspects of the campus.  Students address problems through group, family and individual therapy sessions, academic work, recreational activities, and student responsibilities in helping to maintain and improve the campus.  By fully integrating a therapeutic and experiential milieu conducted within the framework of Positive Peer Culture (PPC), students receive a values-based and process-oriented model utilizing a system of cognitive strategies and interventions. PPC strives for long-term change by teaching core values of pro-social and positive behavior such as altruism, responsibility, acceptance, self-worth, and autonomy. The internalization of these qualities requires the student to be an active part of the helping process. These qualities are developed as the treatment process exposes and provides insight into the student’s previously unsuccessful efforts to discover identity, status, and a self-concept based upon negative behaviors. "The central position of this model is that young people can develop self-worth, significance, dignity and responsibility only as they become committed to the positive values of helping and caring for others." (Harry Vorrath, author of Positive Peer Culture)



Big Sky Academy provides Positive Peer Culture group treatment throughout the day. Our holistic treatment approach entails PPC group-based treatment. The entire milieu is included in efforts to support youth in making therapeutic change.  The Big Sky Academy clinical team operates with sincere appreciation and adherence to the PPC treatment model and includes a consulting Psychiatrist (onsite weekly and 24-hour consulting services), a licensed Executive Director, a licensed Clinical Director, licensed master’s level therapists, and frequent counseling interns. Additional treatment services are administered by para-professional milieu instructors, in adherence to the treatment model and under the supervision of licensed clinical professionals. Big Sky Academy also has a licensed Registered Nurse.

Each group of students at Big Sky Academy has a treatment team comprised of a team therapist, group leader, and milieu instructors for each team. The clinical director and the principal are adjunct members of all treatment teams. Big Sky Academy operates a specialized schedule in which assistant administrators, team therapist or group leaders work late night and weekend schedules to support treatment services in the evenings and on weekends. A licensed mental health professional is present or available 24 hours a day for regular services, consultations, and emergencies. 

Students at Big Sky Academy participate in Group, Family, and Individual Therapy. Group sessions focus on assisting youth to work through the problems which led to out-of-home placements. The PPC Model utilizes 12 Problem Labels that aid youth and families to address how the various diagnoses manifested in their daily lives. The emphasis is directed more toward helping students make use of the therapeutic milieu at Big Sky to practice new ways of thinking and behaving.

Therapists use a Cognitive Behavioral approach, augmented with aspects of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Students are encouraged to practice mindfulness; self-regulation; and distress tolerance. The peer model allows students to experience feedback in every aspect of their daily lives. Group therapy is held a minimum of 3 times weekly and serves as a vehicle for students to focus on how problems are manifesting in the classroom, during parent calls, or activities with the other peers.

Training for staff includes trauma-informed care to assist personnel in working with students who have experienced trauma. At times, BSA therapists also utilize EMDR as a resource for these youth. Students with Substance Abuse Problems begin that work in the group process by identifying how Substance Abuse disrupted their lives. They begin work in a specific Substance Abuse workbook, once the Treatment Team has determined their suitability for this level of work. The Group Drug Counseling workbook is a 12 Step model that has been effective at guiding youth toward sobriety.

12508 Cramer Creek Road
Clinton, MT 59825

(© Big Sky Academy 2020