“You would be hard pressed to find a more qualified candidate for treatment than myself in the spring of 2006. I owned a colorful rap sheet, violent and manipulative tendencies and an overall criminally anti-social perspective. Traditional treatment methods did little to improve my condition and months of incarceration only added to my hatred. I arrived at Penrith determined to manipulate staff and patients before returning to my previous lifestyle. I will not detail my own experience at Penrith, because no two are truly alike. Each individual has own their own path and their own set of expectations dictated by their own actions. Subsequently, Penrith mocks the outside world, while creating an environment where mistakes can safely occur. These mistakes and failures then become the stepping stones with which a patient can undergo a healthy recovery process in a structured fashion. Soon the client’s mistake is behind them and the overall experience serves as a guide which they can utilize to recover from inevitable pitfalls. At Penrith farms, as in life, mistakes are not only inevitable, they are expected and utilized as opportunities to empower the individuals involved.
As a direct result of my time at Penrith Farms, I am enrolled in school full-time and living happily. I currently am in my second year of community college with a 3.89 GPA and plan on transferring to a prestigious university next year. After I complete my Bachelor’s degree in English, I will take the LSAT and apply to law schools with hopes of becoming an attorney. My own goals and experiences are unique to me and I do not wish to make light of or overly embellish them. What I do intend to communicate is that my transformation was made possible through a template created by Penrith Farms and my own willingness to give it a try. Penrith will not hand clients the keys to successful lives, but rest assured those keys are buried somewhere; in a row of potatoes, a strawberry patch, a field of horses, or maybe beneath your own reflection on the water’s surface.”
“As a parent of a former Penrith student I can’t say thank you enough. Thank you for tailoring your program to the needs of the individual. Thank you for looking deeply at each student, and endeavoring to understand him/ her and to ignite the inner spark that will inspire a better life. Thank you for having good bs detectors, and for not being afraid to take on very troubled students and families and help them find healing.”
“Penrith Farms taught me that I can handle the hard things in life no matter how big or small. I was able to turn my life around with some of the most supportive and understanding people by my side. I learned more about my self in 9 months then i ever thought i would. The relationships that were created while i was at the farm almost 3 years ago are still going great, even though i live on the other side of the country!”
Leslie P (Reviewed on Yelp)
“My daughter attended Penrith Farms for 16 months. While there, she benefited from the group therapies, the individual therapy and the fact that every situation, be it in the house she shared with others young women or her work on the farm was used as a learning tool. She went in an impulsive young woman who acted out in a myriad of ways and came out of there being more “whole” and introspective. Being on the farm with all the llamas, dogs and horses calmed my daughter’s anxieties and the good, hard work of gardening, toting bales of hay and grooming horses was good for her soul.”
“I attended Penrith Farms right after I graduated high school. it made a big difference in my life. Very safe environment, always supervised. Before coming to Penrith Farms, I didn’t care about anything, getting myself in trouble. I was doing things I shouldn’t have been doing. When I got to Penrith Farms, day by day my life was changing for the better. I matured, and I started taking care of myself (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc…) I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend Penrith Farms.”
“I started my treatment at the Menninger Clinic in Houston with a diagnosis of anxiety and depression. At the point of my departure I was given the opportunity to choose a step down program in order to continue my healing process. I was handed many different informational packets about programs to comb through which was an overwhelming task. When looking over the information for Penrith Farms something intuitively spoke to me. After, a couple conversations with Jim my decision was made. I wanted to try something different than the conventional therapeutic community. At that point I needed medication and structured therapy, but more than that I needed guidance, connection and a community to heal in. While I was in attendance I did not appreciate the opportunity that I was being given. I clung to the very things that had made me want something different because I was afraid. Needless to say I started a small coup among the students and the staff and I tried to discredit the program wherever I could. I was angry, scared, and confused and I needed to feel some control over my situation.”
Jim and the staff allowed me enough room to hang myself, which is to say they let me play out my behaviors and they watched and observed. They read me like a book. Jim constantly called me out on my antics. However, I was not ready to really deal with the painful reality that had landed me in Penrith Farms. I was used to playing the system and winning. However, I quickly learned that there were consequences for my actions. Although, at the time I thought it was unprofessional for any of the staff to show their anger or disapproval of my actions in anyway but through the use of clinical terminology and whilst sitting behind a desk. It was easy for me to rebuff any comments made by clinicians because I was sure I knew better than they did. Looking back, I now realize how the staff at Penrith Farms began to teach me that connection and community would lead to mental health and not power tactics or isolation. On a human level I started to feel a dissonance between wanting to create contention to gain power and wanting to create mutual and authentic relationships.
I have not been back to the farm in over six years and the lessons I learned there have paved the way to who I am today. I now realize that healing has to happen in relationship. I am a big supporter of the therapeutic alliance. However, therapy is a broad term with a lot of different modalities. This May, I earned my Masters Degree in Social Work from an Ivy League institution and plan on becoming a licensed mental health clinician. At Penrith farms I do not exactly remember what I spoke about in therapy sessions, but I remember the feeling of community. I remember waking up EXTRA early to take yoga classes with a teacher who truly inspired me and is still one of my favorite yoga teachers to date. Last summer I completed a course and earned my 200 hr yoga teacher certificate and continue to practice and study Yoga.
Working on the organic farm side by side with staff and other students was really fun for me. I felt a sense of pride for the work I was doing and it helped to combat the shame and worthlessness I had internalized from growing up in an emotionally abusive family. In reality I had always been a hard worker and a good student. Working on the organic farm, chopping wood, and taking care of the animals renewed a sense of confidence that I had not felt in a long time. I began to associate hard work with feeling good and it was reinforced when I would receive a work card from the garden staff, which had all threes, the top performance score. This was critical for me because I had always thought of myself and been told that I was a lazy brat who was handed everything and had no work ethic.
Penrith Farm allowed me to connect to a part of myself that I forgot existed. The part of myself, that yearned for true connection and authenticity. When I walked on the farm I truly thought that the way to happiness or contentment was through external things such as beauty, money, power, designer clothes, looking good and status. I did not realize that any other world existed. Through my time at the farm I started to develop real interests that fed my soul from the inside. I was introduced to different activities such as guitar, knitting, horseback riding, farming, hiking, rock climbing, poetry, kayaking, cooking, child care, and equine therapy. One of my favorite memories is when Sherry Brewster invited me into town to hear Buddhist monks speak. These are activities that bring me real joy. I am still sometimes guilty of trying to fill myself from the outside in, but I know that it never really works for long.
When I was at Penrith farms they had a lot of colorful staff working there. I felt really close to some of the staff, but others I would enjoy having power struggles with. However, at the end of the day I still miss the farm and the relationships I made while living on it. I will not even begin to say that I am a completely healed human being. I still struggle with anxiety and dysfunctional family dynamics, but in hindsight I learned a lot from Penrith Farms. Even after all of the battles with staff, temper tantrums and demanding to be taken out of the program I can still look back on it with a smile.”