Our History

Our History

Since 1996, Summit Achievement has provided the gold standard of adventure therapy and education at our residential facility in the mountains of western Maine. Our model of can be traced directly to Outward Bound’s mountaineering-style of expeditions. High-quality gear, team work, and healthy food all are part of our expedition model and have been since day one.

The Beginning

Starting a program is about building a community of unique individuals around a mission to help young people via the wilderness.

People who are referred to as therapeutic program “founders” are usually those who have co-signed loans to take on the huge risk of getting a non-traditional business started. Under that definition, Chris Mays, Candide Kane, Adam Tsapis, Will White, and Andy Richardson (who trusted us when no bank would) are the founders of Summit. They all left their mark on Summit and were integral in shaping the program. Will White also went on to have a lasting impact on the field of Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare, having published the book Stories From the Field: Demystifying Wilderness Therapy, as well as creating the Stories From the Field Podcast.

Additionally, so many people over the nearly 30 years have helped start, cultivate, and grow Summit to be the excellent program that it is today; there is just not enough space in this section to thank them all. We want to thank everyone (students, families and former and present employees) for their help in making Summit such a special place.

Leading The Way

Summit was the first in the field in many ways.

Summit was the first program to be licensed by the State of Maine as an adolescent residential treatment center providing mental health and substance abuse treatment and integrating an outdoor component to the program. Summit also included family participation in the program, since its inception, which is evidenced by students having weekly family contact—not through letters, but over the phone or through video conferencing throughout their stay in the program. As a regular component of our families’ treatment plans, parents come visit their child and take them for an overnight visit into nearby North Conway, New Hampshire, and end the visit with a family therapy session on campus.

Our academic component is unique within our field. Not only are we a licensed residential treatment center offering therapeutic services combined with an expedition-style adventure program, but we are also an accredited private high school. We are fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), an internationally recognized accrediting body, and licensed by the state of Maine as a private boarding school.  We are able to award credits to our students for the work they do while in our program.  In addition, we are able to honor work done at other institutions to piece together a quarter or semester and issue combined credit.  We even issue high school diplomas to those students who prefer to finish high school with us.

Summit was also one of the first programs to expand into step-down transitional services, with Summit Semester starting in 2007 (renamed Summit Traverse in 2012). This program was designed to help students transition from wilderness programs to more traditional environments in 2-6 months, such as with an extended academic week, Monday to Friday.

Summit is one of the longest-standing contributors to research in the field of Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare, having contributed our student-based data into a de-identified pool of data, for research by the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council Research Cooperative. Studies by OBHRC and Summit’s independent research are available for review on-line (Summit Research). Summit is also one of the few wilderness programs fully accredited by the Association for Experiential Education/Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council.