top of page
  • Does In Balance Academy bill insurance?
    We understand the importance of providing quality care while ensuring accessibility for all our clients, so we are proud to offer our families the opportunity to partner with Bridgeway Billing. Bridgeway Billing streamlines and manages the insurance billing process, allowing our families to focus on their journey to wellness. Many of our families have seen insurance coverage for a good portion or even the entirety of their son’s stay with In Balance. Bridgeway Billing is a trusted partner with expertise in healthcare billing services. They work seamlessly with us to handle insurance claims, making the financial aspect of treatment more transparent and manageable for our clients. To learn more about Bridgeway Billing and their services, visit their website at For any billing-related inquiries, feel free to contact them at Together, we are committed to providing comprehensive care and support to those on the path to healing.
  • Do you label your students as addicts?
    No, we do not label our students as addicts because, the truth is, we do not know if they are, nor does it matter. All of our students have multiple areas in which they are struggling—school problems, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and complex trauma are some of the most prominent issues—and substance abuse has played a role in their lack of functioning. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a research institute overseen by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Most adults who develop a substance use disorder report having started drug use in adolescence or young adulthood, so it is important to identify and intervene in drug use early.” Therefore, with our comprehensive treatment approach, it is far less likely our students will develop a full-blown dependency. Our model utilizes the 13 principles of adolescent substance abuse disorder treatment endorsed by NIDA, which you can learn more about here:
  • If you don't label your students as addicts, why do you use a 12 Step exposure program?"
    Our 12 Step approach gives our guys exposure to a community that they can access anywhere in the world free of charge. One of the most important factors of success after treatment is the post-discharge environment. Building a schedule that allows them to feel purpose, community, and fun, is essential. Teaching and showing them the key elements of 12 Step meetings and the program is critical for any child that has abused substances. Transitioning home without a support system almost always leads to transgression. That's why our 12 Step exposure, based on developmental psychology, is the perfect model for the young people that we serve, and the most effective.
  • Why is the Academy located in a rural setting?
    It is well documented that nature and natural settings are some of the best additions to the healing process. The surrounding mountains and the amazing night skies, along with the breathtaking sunsets, all come together to make our 123 acres the perfect setting. With our climate, our guys spend the majority of their day outside in activities and fellowship. It truly takes them back to simpler times, and we facilitate all the areas that help keep them better. We have fireside meetings, the equine program, a soccer field, a full basketball court, and hours of trails to hike and ride, right out our front door. There is lots of room for families to spend quality time with their young people. It is truly the perfect setting for healing the mind, body, and spirit. View Document
  • Does your rural setting place the young men in an artificial bubble?
    Not at all. The rural setting lowers the number of day-to-day distractions, allowing the hard work of internal change to take place. It gives clients the best chance of immersing themselves into the internal changes necessary for sustainable transformation. We go into either Sierra Vista or Tucson several times a week, so, truly, we have the best of both worlds: Our clients experience the serenity of nature and interface consistently with the larger urban area.
  • What other advantages does your expansive setting have?
    One of the psychosocial-developmental needs of adolescents is a sense of purpose. Young people have a natural desire to contribute to their community; it is truly built into their DNA. In our modern society, young people are often treated as consumers with nothing to offer back. In every aspect of our programming, we believe that the young people we serve are our most valuable assets—and we treat them as such. Therefore, they truly develop a sense of purpose and work ethic that they so badly desire and need. They help in every aspect of the program: they care for the horses, they help with meals, they take care of their living space, etc. They develop the skills necessary to create a bright and meaningful future.
  • Why is the equine program such an important part of the Academy experience?
    As mentioned before, there are four psychosocial milestones adolescents must meet in order to exit adolescence with a sense of agency and completeness. Those four milestones are: having a sense of power/agency, a sense of purpose, passage, and pride. These are necessary for the development of a healthy adolescent. The horses help in each of these areas. It is well documented that the use of animals (especially horses) in therapy is instrumental in helping thousands of people with their struggles with mental health and substance abuse. Our young people will become outstanding riders, and in doing so, they will see their self-esteem increase exponentially. They will feel a sense of purpose in helping care for the horses and developing relationships with them. They feel a sense of pride as they demonstrate their new skills to their parents and family. It is an expensive pillar of the Academy, yet it is truly magical how young people fall in love with their horses and feel better about themselves as a result of their five hours of horsemanship-development a week. It's also well documented that by mixing up the school day, a young person’s ability to learn is increased. Our horsemanship program is offered throughout the week so students get the chance to be in school for a period of time, and then experience equine for part of their day twice a week. This is the perfect balance to optimize their learning in both areas.To learn more about the benefits of equine therapy, see the article on page 21 of in The Newsletter of the Independent Educational Consultants Association at
  • The website references five pillars. Can you please review those five pillars that the Academy offers?
    The five central areas to In Balance’s students’ experience that bring about the most change are: twelve-step exposure, learning about the community and culture of recovery, the academic program meeting each student where they're at and helping identify their best learning style, the equine program that helps develop a sense of purpose and boost self-esteem, and our clinical program that helps develop and execute a comprehensive plan to help students recover from their challenges with mental health, trauma, substance abuse and incorporates our comprehensive family program.
  • What do you mean by “Positive Peer Culture,” and why is that model one of the pillars of your program?"
    The Positive Peer Culture (PPC) model was developed by a couple of the most respected folks in the field over the last 50 years, Larry Brendtro, PhD, and Harry Vorrath (now deceased). Their model and vision about how young people in programs should be valued is parallel to In Balance’s. They believed, like we do, that, with the correct staff training and culture, the young people in programs become the agents of change. In simple terms, they believe “We are our brothers’ keeper.” This model takes kids that often haven’t cared about anyone over the last couple years and helps guide them to become effective mentors and leaders. The model believes that each child has the capacity to become a change-agent for others. In the prologue of their first book, they wrote, “The largest PPC in the world is AA. AA is the most effective model in the world because its memberships value each other and the wisdom involved in one person's life experience helping another.” In our program, we include our young people in the direction and focus of the Academy. We are truly a relationship-based program and see everyone in our program as an asset that has different levels of expertise to contribute. So, the CEO’s opinion may have the same value as a senior-student member’s when it comes to a program decision. We role-model, at every turn, that we value young people, and we are not a top-down organization, but rather a horizontal organization. This is critical to the overall mission: to help young people sustain the changes they make in the program for the duration of their life. [Larry Brendtro, PhD., ( is the author or co‑author of over 200 articles and 15 books on strength-based interventions; the PPC model is considered one of the most influential models of modern time in the treatment of young people. To learn more about PPC, please visit: The second edition of Positive Peer Culture, the resource mentioned in this answer, is available through many retailers, and you may find purchasing options here: l=en&gbpv=0&kptab=getbook.]
  • Because your program is a therapeutic boarding school and not a residential treatment center, does that mean you are less clinically sophisticated?"
    Not at all. In Balance started as an outpatient clinic in 1996 specializing in mental health and substance abuse, and the Academy has one of the most comprehensive clinical approaches in the nation. We have 10 Masters-level folks on our staff for students’ behavioral health needs. We have a psychiatrist we contract with, and we are also a designated practicum site for the University of Arizona College of Medicine’s Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program.Our therapists are trained in many modalities, including: DBT, CBT, MI, EMDR, the treatment of complex trauma, family systems models, and other evidence-based modalities. We offer a variety of specialty groups, all conducted by Masters-level therapists, that cover every area that our students are challenged by in terms of mental health. These specialty groups’ topics range from depression and anxiety, to grief and loss, to executive functioning skills, to complex trauma. And these are just to name a few. To learn more about In Balance’s partnership with the University of Arizona College of Medicine, please follow these links:1) raining-sites 2)
  • Is there any evidence that demonstrates that the Academy brings about change, or is it just anecdotal?"
    Since In Balance started in 1996, we have been collecting data about our efficacy. That same commitment to studying our outcomes was applied when the Academy was opened in 2004. We have three very specific metrics of success. One is the Youth Outcome Study. The second is pre-and post-psychological testing conducted by a psychologist that measures 12 levels of functioning and charts improvement. The third metric, though anecdotal, is tracked through our alumni outreach wherein we collect a variety of data through direct interviews. Measuring our efficacy is necessary because the Academy experience is a big investment. Our commitment to our families and to our students is to be able to demonstrate that what happens at the Academy is based on best practices and evidence-based modalities. We have established through the data that what happens at the Academy brings about significant elevations in functioning across a multitude of areas. These areas measure mental health functioning, academic functioning and substance abuse. View Results Document
  • Does your academic program simply consist of students sitting in front of computers doing online courses?
    Nothing could be further from the truth. Our students are fully engaged in their learning experience. The Academy was set up in such a way that academics are instrumental. Each student, whether they struggle in school or whether they are advanced students, benefits from the academic program. San Pedro Valley Academy uses curriculum developed by our staff that truly sets young people up for success whether they return to their regular high school or they pursue college. In Balance truly meets young people where they are at academically and helps them feel good about learning again. We have experienced teachers that use curriculum developed to meet the individual needs of the students we serve.
  • Many programs have very robust schedules Monday - Friday, but some often don't do much on the weekends. How does In Balance approach weekends?"
    We feel strongly that, as parents, you are sacrificing greatly to have your son in our program. We recognize that you're not paying tuition for five days a week, you're paying tuition for seven days a week. Our schedule has always been a strength and was developed years prior to opening the Academy in 2004. Scheduling considerations were developed and based on the owner’s experience in the field about what optimizes the schedule for young people in a residential setting. The development of the Academy schedule has evolved over the last 19 years, and the weekends are an important part of that schedule. We have multiple opportunities for fun and relaxation. Infused in all those opportunities are opportunities for growth. Whether it is going to an AA meeting, doing a club activity with their vocational program (like rebuilding the engine of the truck), or whether it's rock climbing, all of the opportunities challenge young people physically and emotionally. Our weekends are a time students value and look forward to, and definitely have a different pace than Monday through Friday; but, the weekends are seen as an opportunity to continue to grow as well as have fun and bond with each other. We have full staffing on the weekends and we have clinicians assigned to the program seven days a week; you can truly rest assured that seven days a week our programming fits into the larger goal of helping young people make sustainable change long after the Academy is completed.
  • What is involved in your expedition program?
    Young people take several trips during their time at the Academy. There are four trips that are central to their therapeutic experience; with each level, students will go through a rite of passage, as this is a critical part of the adolescent experience. These four Level retreats are part of the magic sauce that makes the Academy a life-changing experience. We have an amazing retreat located in the forest in beautiful northern Arizona; two of the four expedition trips are done at that retreat. The Level II trip is a 4-day equine camping trip which centers around a special rite of passage that is very affirming to each young person. Our Level IV trip takes place in Bryce Canyon, and truly has an incredible combination of intense group work and a ton of fun—which is true of all the rites of passages. Throughout the expedition program, we always combine intense work with intense fun, so young people always perceive the healing process as both work and fun. We also do several trips that help with the mission of twelve-step exposure. We introduce our guys to lots of young people throughout the United States that practice an abstinence-based lifestyle, one day at a time, and love the life that they have built. A group of our students also go on an international trip that is committed to service, community-building, adventure, and fun.
  • There has been a fair amount of young people that have become vocal about bad experiences in programs in the last 20 years.  How has that affected the Academy?
    The field of youth treatment has evolved significantly in the last 50 years, and, in many cases, the voices of these young people have been instrumental in the evolution of the field. Their speaking out has helped affirm that, since the Academy opened in 2004, we had the correct vision. Since day one, we have had policies in place that treat each young person with respect and compassion and avoid interventions that could potentially do harm. From day one, we taught de-escalation techniques without including training on physical restraints or therapeutic holds. We have always felt like developing a relationship with our students is the best method to de-escalation. Therefore, we do not use any sort of physical restraints or therapeutic holds, and never have. Neither do we, nor have we ever, use(d) isolation of the student as a behavioral intervention. A typical week at the Academy will often include 22 hours of group therapy, individual therapy, and family therapy, as well as equine sessions and school. We have an amazing housing unit that overlooks the San Pedro Valley which we use to help young people if they are overwhelmed by the day-to-day happenings of the Academy. In this house, a young person is always with at least one of our life coaches, and often with supportive peers. This is a therapeutic intervention to help our students that need to slow down and are in need of extra support. It is not, nor has it ever been, a punishment to bring about behavioral changes.
  • How is your campus set up to take care of students in this time of COVID-19?
    We are perfectly set up, and our students did really well during the most difficult time of the pandemic in 2020. Being located on 123 acres, we had everything our students needed within our campus. They had zero disruption to their school, therapy, recreation, or food service, and we met their medical needs. We have a panel of medical folks that volunteer to help inform our policies as they evolve to keep our students, staff, and families safe.
  • Why is the Academy length-of-stay typically a year?
    Over and over, data consistently shows that, the longer the treatment experience, the better the outcome. Each level at the Academy is crafted in order to optimize long-term success. We start preparing and planning for transition to home, or a community-based transition program, from day one. This preparation continues throughout the program with multiple home visits, in-town visits, and on-campus workshops. Our families feel fully prepared once a child is ready to return home or transition out of our program to a community-based step-down program. This comprehensive approach to successful transition is truly what sets us apart. And to accomplish sustainable changes that last a lifetime, approximately a year’s time is needed. You can be assured it will go by fast, and you will be fully prepared to continue the growth long after your son leaves the Academy.
  • As parents, we feel scared, anxious, and often all alone in this process. How does the Academy support us and our family?"
    Hold on, because this answer may feel overwhelming. We truly stand out in the field in this regard, among others. Prior to opening, in 2002-2004 we spent extensive time with a panel of experts to develop our family program; and we improve this program each and every year based on your feedback and the developing data from the field. Firstly, we offer weekly family therapy. Next, three-times a year, we host comprehensive family weekends that span over three days wherein the entire family spends time together in workshops. In addition, we offer a monthly webinar series that covers Academy campus updates followed by a topic-driven presentation by Patrick J. Barrasso, LCSW. Patrick utilizes his education, training, and vast experience spanning over 40 years, to explore topics relevant to your family's journey. These are truly one-of-a-kind experiences to help you feel supported and expand your knowledge. In Balance Academy also offers Zoom meeting support groups, big book studies, and general Al-Anon meetings, up to five times a week. This part of our parent support was started by parents, for parents, and has made a huge impact on helping families through this challenging process. You will never again feel isolated as a parent of a child that struggles with mental health and substance abuse if your family joins our program.
  • Who owns In Balance Continuum of Care?  Does it matter?
    In Balance Continuum is owned entirely by the Barrasso family. And the answer to the second question is really yours to decide. We have ownership infused in every major decision throughout the Continuum and each of us come from a mental health background. Four of us are masters-level clinicians with combined experience in the field totaling over a hundred years. Every major program development is made to improve the experience of our students and to improve the outcome. If we see an opportunity to inspire recovery by taking a group of students to Founders Day in Ohio (where over 10,000 visitors from around the world go each year to celebrate the successes of the AA community), we do it! We don't need to send a proposal to corporate and make sure there's approval based on budgetary considerations. Having ownership with the experience, education, and background that we all have means we will always let best practices inform our decisions about care; in our opinion it is a huge advantage for your family.
bottom of page