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Educational Consultants

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Educational Consultants



Educational Consultants are private consultants who help parents choose schools, boarding schools, residential treatment, wilderness programs and similar programs.


Questions & Advice from Parents Related Pages

2010 - 2013 Recommendations


What do educational consultants really do?

May 2013

What do Educational Consultants do for Families?

I wanted to provide my experience working with David Heckenlively over the last two years. I was referred to David by a Therapist who told me that I needed to explore some options for my 16 year old extremely depressed & anxious teen. We met with David for three months, investigating options such as Outdoor Therapeutic programs vs. keeping him at his current public high school with more support services. David has a very special way with teens, he relates to them in a way that doesn't ''feel'' like therapy. He gained my confidence after a few meetings, in his vast knowledge of troubled teens and various options available to help families of teens. I am not rich either (referring to another person's comment) but I knew that I had to do what was best for my son. I eventually made the decision to send my son to an Outdoor Therapeutic Program in Utah for kids with social and emotional challenges. It was a very difficult decision but I was concerned that if I didn't make a drastic change, my son might attempt suicide.

David Heckenlively was extremely supportive and provided guidance, strength and support during the entire process. During this time, my son was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome with severe anxiety and depression. Per David's recommendation, after three months at an Outdoor Therapeutic program my son was moved to a Therapeutic Boarding School specializing in teens with Asperger's syndrome (executive functioning, social and memory challenges) .

I have also attended the Parent Support Group which David facilitates and he has many families from all over California who depend on his service, support and guidance. I feel so strongly about David and his ability to provide guidance to troubled teens of which he has dedicated his life, that I have referred my sister to utilize his services for her troubled teenage daughter.

I look at David's role as a parent and teen advocate who has the capacity to guide families through the challenges of the teen years with options / solutions. He travels all over the Western United States keeping in contact with Therapeutic programs so he is current in his knowledge.

I am a single mother, and the costs of these programs is expensive. I had to use my 401K funds to pay for them, but in retrospect, my son is worth every penny. My son has benefited enormously from these experiences; in fact, he is coming home at the end of May, If you find that you have explored all options and you don't know what to do with your struggling teen, and you need support and guidance for academic, therapeutic, addiction, and/or dangerous behaviors, David may have a solution for you -- Check him out: http://www.integratedteen.com/ Mom of Aspie who needed help


I usually refrain from giving negative reviews, as I have no desire to hurt people professionally. However, in this case I feel I need to give an accurate picture of how I experienced David Heckenlively's services.

We were referrred to David Heckenlively for educational consultation when my son was expelled from a small, private high school in his senior year. David is a nice, friendly person with one thing to offer; a recommendation to a wilderness program priced upwards of $45,000. His fee for this service is a cool $250.00 an hour, in the form of a $3,000 retainer. He promised (verbally; the written contract was very basic and did not spell any of this out), to give us a written account of his time spent consulting the various professionals who have worked with our son. He knows the details of these different programs, and is able to get troubled teens into these programs very quickly. He describes them as a ''vision quest'', personal growth for confused teens. His friendly, relaxed demeanor is reassuring to parents in crisis, and we were excited about the possibilities. He suggested he could get us an adjustment since we are not rich, and we left, dazzled with the idea of 3 months off parenting and a transformed child on return. He called us quickly with a reduced price on a program. It was still in the neighborhood of $35,000.

Once we decided that this was not an option we wanted to pursue, David had nothing else to suggest. We asked for a refund of money left unused of the $3,000 retainer. He offered to continue to see our son as a ''mentor'', to use up the rest of the retainer, at some unspecified cheaper rate( than 250.00 an hour).

Ultimately, he met once more with our son, and cancelled several other appointments. We never received a written account of who he consulted with, and for how long. He never responded to my 2nd request for a refund. In our opinion, he is a one trick pony. If you are wealthy and desperate, he can get your child quickly into a residential treatment program, where they will meet lots of other rich kids who identify with their diagnoses and are looking for new buddies to party with. That's all he has to offer. We sent our son back to public school, where he was placed in what has turned out to be a wonderful, individualized, supportive continuation program. He is receiving high grades, is on track to graduate this spring, and is already receiving college counseling through his school. We are very happy with our decision and our son's progress. I sure do miss that $3,000 we handed over to David Heckenlively. It could help pay for Senior Ball and Grad Nite. EB mom


If you can find a GOOD Ed. Consultant they can save you a lot of stress and time finding a placement for you child. If that is what your intentions are. If you are looking at them for educational needs I am not experienced using them in that way. If you are looking at hiring an Ed Consultant to assist you with the possibility of sending your child to wilderness or residential placement...please read the post from last week regarding David Heckenlively. They are not alone in their frustrations with (him) hiring a POOR Ed Consultant. I know several that have hired Bob Casenova who is in the Petaluma/Santa Rosa area and have been very pleased with his service. It is a costly endeavor no matter what. If you have questions I am happy to discuss our experience. s

Experience using educational consultants - useful or not?

Dec 2012

Our 20 year old daughter has had a serious problem for the last 4 years with with anxiety, depression and marijuana addiction. We've tried therapy, medication, outpatient rehab and one inpatient rehab. We've tried tried being flexible and we've tried tough love (kicking her out of the house). Nothing has worked. She is not willing to quit using marijuana, and it's very clear to us that her marijuana usage makes her depression and anxiety much worse. Our daughter's therapist has recommended that we speak to a local educational consultant about a possible longer-term placement for our daughter. Honestly, even though I really like and trust my daughter's therapist, I am very leery of hiring an educational consultant. I'm afraid they're all in bed with the wilderness camps and schools that they recommend and that it's an industry that preys on families in crisis. Am I being overly paranoid? Anecdotally, I keep hearing about people who have spent a fortune with ed consultants without good results. I would really appreciate some feedback from people who have gone this route, either confirming my fears or telling me that your family did it and it really did help your child. Of course I realize that my daughter has to be ready to make a change in her life for it to work- I'm just trying to figure out if I should be working with a consultant so that if and when she's ready for help we have the right help to offer her. Thanks in advance. worried


First of all, I'm sorry that you're having to go through this. It is grueling, heartbreaking, frightening, numbing and overwhelming. I'm speaking from experience. My daughter was younger and I did use an ed. consultant. She was away from home in 2 different programs for almost a year. As to whether or not it was useful, it's a little up in the air. I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't gone that route. Things were NOT looking good. Is it a quick fix?? Not for most kids or families. My daughter would say it was a complete waste of an insane amount of money and the most horrible thing she's gone through. She would also say it has turned her off from receiving any kind of therapeutic help. On the other hand, she's still quite a bit in denial about her issues. I am not convinced I made the right decision, but I made the only decision I could then, for her well being. It did allow me some relief, knowing she was safe for a while.

If your daughter is 20, unless she's a harm to herself or others, she will need to agree to go to any program an ed. consultant might suggest. People have to want to change. Bottom line. If you do decide to talk with an ed. consultant I can highly recommend David Heckenlively in Walnut Creek. He is compassionate and truly cares about the whole family and not in it for the big bucks. He knows the programs well, including the ones for young adults. He also runs a parent support group which is so important. his number is 925-681-1700.

Good luck. Take good care of yourself. Been there


We are a family that spend a good deal of money on an educational consultant, a wilderness program and a therapeutic boarding school, and ultimately it did not stop our daughter from making a serious of disastrous choices that have seriously impacted her life. We don't blame any of the professionals we worked with, however, and left to do it again we probably would have made the same choices. At least she was safe, she gained some skills and some insight into herself (though not enough to stay on track), and we learned a lot about how to let her make her own mistakes without sucking our entire family into a vortex of anger and recrimination.

None of these programs work miracles, and they require a certain amount of buy-in from the children themselves (even for younger teens who enter them against their will). Our children are individuals with free will, and some of them have developed incredibly strong defenses against changing their behavior or facing their innermost problems.

At 20 years old, there is very little you can do without her consent and agreement. Even if you get her to reluctantly agree to something, I would worry that if she is not really committed to changing, the impact could be only temporary. If she is still working with a therapist, that is a good sign, but it sounds as if it might be time for you to disengage a little and let her make her own choices, as painful as that might be.

I hope you have someone you can talk to who is supporting you in this situation. Good luck to you. learning to accept my limits


I feel a GOOD Ed COnsultant can in the right situation be worthwhile. We hired one for the placement for our teen daughter. Although I give them credit for heading us in the right direction,in the end it wasn't someone with vested interest in our daughter other than getting our money. Because of the age of your daughter I am wondering if they have the resources to help. I will assume the majority of their clientel has youth under 18. Programs are very difficult to find once they are over 18 because they are adults and therefore have to be the one to make the commitment. I would think for you to send her you will need proof of mental incompacity.

Hopefully parents with older children will answer you with their experiences. I am happy to share with you who I would not recommend and other consultants friends have had good luck with.


We used an ed consultant in SF, Molly Bloom, for a residential placement for our daughter. We were not particularly happy with the placement she recommended and she was curt and unsympathetic. I would not use her again, but we couldn't have found an all-girls residential treatment center on our own in a short time, so I feel we did need an Ed consultant.

For wilderness, we went with Second Nature and did not use an Ed consultant. Second Nature was wonderful, and I highly recommend their program. It was recommended to us by several parents. Good luck! It's a very difficult and painful process. Mom of a 16 YO girl


Which Albany Kindergarten?

Feb 2012

We recently went through the craziness of choosing a school for our son who will enter kindergarten in the fall, so I feel your pain! While I can't speak specifically to the Albany choices, I recommend you contact Theresa Lozach. She is an educational consultant. I first talked with her by phone and then met with her in person, and both interactions were all I hoped they would be. We were struggling with the many schools, the many things to consider, the many ways of looking at what's right for our child, and she brought us such calm and clarity. She really helped us sort out the facts and our feelings and guided us in choosing a school that matches both our goals and our son's personality and needs. She has many years of experience, so much passion for her work, loads of useful information, and best of all a real understanding of what it's like to be in this process! Check out her blog (http://beyondqualityco...) and give her a call. You'll be glad you did! Happy Parent


Need Help with High School Selection

Dec 2011

We need some guidance and help with looking at high schools. It is so overwhelming. Can you recommend someone to help us. Have you ever heard of Gail Berland or Amanda Mallory? Please send your recommendations. thanks! Middle School Mom


Amanda Mallory is very experienced and professional, in addition to kind. She was an immense to us when we were looking into alternative highschools for our son who was struggling at the time. I can't say enough wonderful things about her. HTH Grateful mom

Need advice on alternative schooling/treatment programs

Oct 2011

My daughter who will be 16 in December is in her sophomore year at Acalanes. She hates school there mostly doesn't relate to the student body of kids especially not much diversity there. She has always struggled in school and now has gotten into drugs. She has gone to raves and done ''E'', smokes weed, took my rx drugs, ambien, ativan and got into vodka/rum and got really drunk and sick. Drugs and alcohol gone from my place, but friends have it. There is nothing current on this site as far as residential treatment centers and if there are any good ones. I've read a lot of dangers of the places especially in Utah and how awful they are to the kids. Need current info on RTC's and Boarding schools that might be good for her. She will spend a day at Holden High School in Orinda to see how she likes it, but what about after school and keeping her from doing crazy stuff. I'm worried sick and need help asap. She lives with me half the time and now doesn't want to go to her dad's cause he just gets angry and that doesn't help. Also does anyone have names of good teen therapists in the area (Walnut Creek,Lafay, Orinda) or Berkeley (dad lives there). Also an education person to help with placement at a school. Nothing current again on this site. Thank you so much!!!! desparate single mom of teen


I suggest you either try Vive, which has a program which includes a mentor for the teen as well as a coach for the parents to try to work things out with the teen still at home. Their website is Vivenow.com Read it and see if it might fit your situation. If you feel your daughter needs a residential placement to keep her safe, the best way to find a suitable program is to hire an educational consultant who is personally familiar with programs. They will only guide you to safe programs where there is structure but never anything that would harm a teen's health or safety. Here are some you might try. Don't let geography stop you. You can often do much of the work by phone, email or mail, so you don't need to limit yourself to the closest consultant. Do talk on the phone to several and see which one you think fits. These consultants can have your child out of the house and in a program in a matter of days if need be. I am one of the directors of Willows in the Wind. We are a free support group for parents while their teens are away. We have monthly meetings in Tiburon and Los Altos Hills, and have had experience now with more than 100 families who have been through this process. Here are the names of some of the educational consultants they have used successfully.

David Heckenlively has offices in Walnut Creek and Mill Valley his website is integratedteen.com It has contact info and info on his services

Molly Baron is at McClure, Mallory, Baron and Ross in San Francisco. Their website is mmbedu.com

Jennie Heckman is in Palo Alto. Her telephone number is 650-941-4662 If you Google Jennie Heckman it will take you to a site called Caring 4 Youth which has more information about her and what she does.

Vania Matheus has her own website vmatheus.com She works throughout the Bay Area

Also please call me or email me. Those of us involved at the Director level in Willows have each had a teen go through the wilderness, therapeutic boarding school process. There was no help when we did it, and we don't want people like you to struggle the way we did. There is no charge for talking with us on the phone or attending our meetings or emailing us. Robin Sacks robinsacks@earthlink.net 650-996-0897


I am sorry to hear what you are going through. I don't have any advice but you were asking for a counselor. My son has been seeing Paul Lewis in Walnut Creek for several years. He works primarily with teens and their parents and I can highly recommend him. My son is a high school student in the Acalanes school district and also a child of divorced parents. Paul is very familiar with Acalanes and often conducts workshops/readings at the school. You can contact him at 925-944-5523. mom of high schooler
First of all, my heart goes out to you. It is frightening and depressing to have a teen who is so out of control. Good for you for recognizing that you can't do it alone and that she needs some kind of intervention.

There are hundreds of therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment centers, many in states far away and really the best way to find the right one for your daughter is to work with an educational consultant. Our family worked with David Heckenlively and he has been great. He has a background as a therapist and has years of experience working with teens. (www.integratedteen.com)

He will probably recommend that your daughter go first to a wilderness program. The one our daughter went to is called Open Sky. This is not a punitive, boot camp program. It is extremely nurturing and caring, with staff that are trained in how to deal with troubled teens, and extremely talented therapists.

No good program should ever be harmful or dangerous. Safety and health should be primary concerns of any wilderness program or boarding school you consider. Ask lots of questions about this if you are concerned. I thought these programs were somewhat unregulated and could therefore do whatever they wanted, but actually they are highly regulated and good ones adhere to really high standards of care.

That being said, these programs can be tough. Teens in wilderness therapy live outdoors for weeks, hiking, camping, building their own shelters, cooking their food, etc. But these programs have a remarkable impact on teens, by interrupting their dangerous and destructive behaviors and making them realize the impact of what they have been doing.

Boarding schools are not as physically demanding, but do impose lots of restrictions and rules, and as a parent, you have to be comfortable with those rules and agree to the restrictions or the program will not be as successful. A good school (and wilderness program) will demand a lot of you as a parent, in terms of communication, participating in therapy, etc.

While it is a relief to have a child in a safe place, making progress in school and emotional growth, parenting long distance is emotionally exhausting and it is a long hard journey for everyone involved.

These programs are also extraordinarily expensive; our retirement savings are going toward the boarding school tuition. But in return we have gotten our daughter back and that is worth any amount of money.

Good luck to you. Been there


My son went to Holden High for a month, and I know a couple of other kids who went there longer. Our experience was that most of the kids there are seriously into drugs, and the school does nothing real to discourage it.

What about rehab? The only one I know locally is Thunder Road which is part of Alta Bates. We had a good experience there. If you have Kaiser, check with them.

I can highly recommend Second Nature Wilderness Program. They have sites in Utah and Oregon at least. My 15 year old daughter went there this past summer and absolutely loved it and got a tremendous amount out of it. I can't say she's home and sober now, because she is in a residential treatment center (in Utah, they're not all bad), but many RTCs won't take your child unless they have first been to Wilderness Therapy. Or so I was told. If you're serious about taking the RTC or Therapeutic Boarding school approach, you should get an educational consultant like Bodin or David Heckenlively. mom of another troubled teen


please see my message to 16-year old doing drugs. david heckenlively can consult with you about alternative programs for your child. he placed our son in two wonderful programs and during a recent home visit invited him back to speak to the parents' group. as you know, it is a difficult journey; the most difficult thing i've ever faced and heckenlively helped our family navigate it with honesty, openness, humor and hope. been there, too

Help finding a facility for a troubled teen

April 2011

We recently used the services of Bob Casanova (707-526-5800), a therapeutic/special needs placement counselor with McClure, Mallory and Baron. Bob is one of two counselors who find treatment programs away from home for "at risk youth." While various people in our lives recommended we look into having our 14 year old very depressed daughter go to a therapeutic boarding school, we kept trying to solve things here at home with counseling, medication, consequences, and then a day program at John Muir Hospital.

Unfortunately that was not enough, and after residential treatment only available for a month and one-half through insurance, it was clear that coming home was not yet a good option. We were very lucky to see a flyer about a talk Bob was giving in Santa Rosa. Although we live in the East Bay, and Bob is based in Santa Rosa, he quickly started to work to find us the next step for our daughter. As with other educational consultants, he has visited many of these places, and has professional relationships with the owners who trust his judgement about who would fit in and benefit from their program. We also wanted to find a place where our daughter would be able to continue developing her creative talents. He honed down 15 possibilities to 5, and recommended we visit all five. We actually only needed to visit the one that appealed to us the most for us to realize it would be a great place for our daughter. All this he did under emergency circumstances for a very reasonable cost, in comparison with other consultants we knew about.

Bob has followed up with us to be sure things are working out, and we are very happy that our daughter is at a special place where she can overcome her depression and accompanying trauma. Bob's clinical background enabled him to do the necessary homework about our daughter's issues. He was realistic and straightforward in evaluating our situation so that he could get us through this tough time quickly and successfully. We feel incredibly lucky we found Bob to help us.

We also recommend a book that was very helpful in understanding what this situation is all about. It's titled ''What Now: How Teen Therapeutic Programs Could Save Your Troubled Child'' by Dr. Paul Case. S.


Bay Area resource for specialized schools for troubled teens

Oct 2010

We need experienced suggestions for a resource that can suggest a specialized middle/high school for a troubled pre-teen. Molly Barron of MacClure, Mallory and Baron in SF has been recommended. We would welcome hearing of anyone's experience with her, or other local suggestions of placement experts or schools. My son is 12, in the 7th grade and has had recent issues with thievery, skipping school and being disrespectful to his teachers. Thank you in advance for your counsel. A Worried Mom


We used Molly several years ago, as well as David Heckenlively in Walnut Creek, as educational consultants for our troubled teen. Molly is very experienced, but seems primarily geared toward helping families send kids to Wilderness and Residential programs. She was not very familiar with East Bay schools, in my opinion.

Have you tried individual therapy for your son, or family therapy? Coyote Coast in Orinda can be an excellent resource for helping families deal with difficult teens through family therapy, mentors, and peer groups. Good luck! anon


Bay Area guide for choosing a HS for troubled teen

Oct 2010

I am looking for experienced suggestions for a consultant who can suggest a specialized (maybe residential) middle/high school for a troubled pre-teen. Molly Barron of MacClure, Mallory and Barron in SF has been recommended to me. I'd like to hear of anyone's experience with that firm or others with the same expertise. Also, any suggestions for a specialized school in the Bay Area. My son is 12 and in 7th grade. His current issues include thievery, skipping school and disrespectful behavior at school. Thank you for any counsel you can offer. Worried Mom


Best of luck to you. One of our boys went here: http://www.bridgesboysacademy.com/ It is not local. It was pretty good, but he's a tough case. We used Jennifer Graham at Bodin Associates to help us find a good fit. -anon
April 2010

Re: School for 15-y-o who may have mild Aspergers

Nancy Chin is very good with children and teens who have asperger. She has done wonders with a child that my son went to elementary and middle school with. This boy who really had few social skills and had trouble fitting in is now a happy, motivated high school student. I highly recommend you call her at 925-299-1069. http://www.stepbystep4success.com/ Nancy-Can-Help


Sorry, I don't have advice on particular boarding schools, but I wanted to respond to the post from Bodin associates about their placement and assessment services. A few years ago we paid for their services for my daughter, on the advice of her psychiatrist. I felt they had a very limited perspective on alternatives. Most of the programs they suggested were really designed for teens out of control, not for teens with depression, motivation, and more subtle social interaction problems. When I indicated I did not see the programs they were suggesting as a good fit for my daughter (whom I would have described at the time as depressed, and with nonverbal learning disability issues), the reaction of our consultant was that she guessed we were just not ready to take these steps. She had little to offer that did not involve what seemed to me quite extreme situations that in our assessment could have been a disaster for our daughter. The service was expensive, and may well be worthwhile for out of control kids, but for us it was an expense we could well have saved. Not a Bodin fan
I saw the response about Bodin and wanted to offer one other suggestion. We used McClure, Mallory and Baron to help us find a school for an ADHD (inattentive type) teen. Amanda Mallory helped us find a boarding school that worked for him. While they do offer theraputic placement help, they also have lots of experience finding schools that work for a wide range of student needs. They are in SF. www.mmbedu.com

There are also directories of boarding schools. You can find something that sounds interesting and then research on your own. Some of the families at my child's boarding school found it that way. Schools will provide references. I got names of several current and past parents and called them all. Good luck. anon


We also found consultants (we used McClure, Mallory, and Barron) unhelpful in a similar case. They made very strong recommendations for wilderness followed by schools that felt inappropriate, and against the school my gut told me was right. We felt guilt tripped -- told we were in denial, falling into the same bad habits that supposedly got us where we were, etc., even though the wilderness program director agreed that it wouldn't be a match. The process wasted time and money and confused my son. It seemed oriented towards teens who need to be separated from a detrimental peer group, have problems with substance abuse, etc. and not more complex or subtle profiles, such as my son's anxiety and learning disabilities. We went with our gut feeling, and our son flourished. It was a residential program back east that helps with emotional, social, and learning issues. At home he had failed in two private schools, refused school, and became socially isolated. He had been diagnosed with ''atypical'' Asperger's or high functioning autism, and schools talked of defiance or even megalomania. That was all wrong -- learning disabilities (masked by high IQ) kept him from doing the work until he had effective remediation, and anxiety made him withdraw, which fooled some professionals into thinking he had social skills issues.

When we told him he'd be schooled at home as long as it took to find the right school -- home study wasn't a permanent solution -- he became more cooperative and optimistic than we expected. Being in a supportive, structured residential situation was a big relief to him. Success, academic and social, turned things around. It was a very hard decision to send him away, but our relationship became so much better! But it was very expensive, and it's nearly impossible to get funding through a school district. Another problem with going away, is that we didn't have continued support when he returned -- but he left because we didn't have it here to begin with.


March 2010

Re: Wilderness program for angry, defiant 14-year-old
I did use the Bodin Group as consultants to help me find a program for my young adult and am pretty pleased with them though they charge a lot for what they provide... best wishes


Please, proceed with great caution. There are lots of wilderness programs; some are awful and dangerous. It is an extreme, last resort sort of decision and you need to know what you are doing. Unless you are in crisis mode (and even if you are in crisis mode), consider whether there is a less severe alternative means to helping your child. Beware of ''educational consultants'' who receive kickbacks from wilderness programs and beware of programs that pay ''educational consultants'' for referrals. The programs are extremely expensive and there is no assurance that the result will be positive. It is often a stepping stone on the way to long-term therapeutic boarding school. anon

2007 - 2009 Recommendations


Help pinpointing best school for 1st grader

Nov 2009

We need someone to help us. Our son is in first grade in a bilingual school (this is his 4th year, has been there since pre-K). While his language acquisition is great, it is becoming clear to us that the school's learning approach is not a good match for our son. He is very interested in science and hands on work (a kinesthetic learner), and the emphasis in the program is on language acquisition and verbal engagement (auditory learning). We are considering moving him to a different school -- but the thought of navigating the search for private schools in Oakland is extremely daunting. We were hoping that we could get a recommendation for an education consultant -- someone who really knows about learning and Oakland schools -- who could help us pinpoint the private schools that might be the best fit for our son. Any recommendations would be much appreciated! Help us find a school for our hands on learner!


We were so lucky to have found Ethan Ris from another parent on the newsletter. I have talked to some other consultants but found that Ethan to be the most reasonable and helpful. Yes he looks very young, but he has been in the business for quite a few years and has a good connection and understanding with teenagers. He answers calls/emails quickly. We used his Diagnostic Evaluation package but he went beyond. He gave great tips on essay ideas and strategies on why my son should apply certain schools and why to avoid others. He is warm hearted and always willing to help. If it's anything quick, he'd help you even without charge. For us, he read and commended on my son's essays and answered our ''emergency'' questions (i am sure you will have one or two of those in the last minute) how to fill application forms. His fees are very reasonable and he does not just watch his clock and to count the fees. He goes to your home to meet the child and parents, that's another big plus. his website and contact info is in google. i think he does hourly rate too which is really reasonable in the bay area. good luck to you! we have another child who will need such advisor in a couple of years. we will definitely use his service again. you can contact me for any other questions.
Oct 2009

Re: Feedback on Wilderness and RTC
In 2001, my 15 yr old who was spiraling down terribly. I also went to the Bodin group. A therapeutic wilderness program was recommended for my dd, Second Nature. They also recommended a therapeutic boarding school.

Please reconsider. Second Nature worked well for my daughter d emotionally. I asked lots of detailed questions and still did not knnow the harsh conditions. Her diet was restricted to beans and water until she earned the privilege to eat more. She slept on the ground in the snow of the Utah mountains. All she had was a tarp, no tent. My girl was signficantly injured in the program. The program was described as gentle; it was not.questions, but still I did not know what the conditions would be. Caveat Emptor with these programs.

My biggest mistake was sending my daughter away after Second Nature. Many of these therapeutic programs are very behaviorally based. The staff is often poorly trained. The therapists typically are right out of school; they stay one year to be licensed and leave.The staff psychiatrist overmedicated the kids. My daughter received 3X the maximum dosage allow of her medication. My daughter was emotionally harmed by staff and victimized by older boys in the program. I found that Bodin was in bed with the program. When it came to protecting my daughter,they did not act to do so.

This was my direct experience with my own child. Please be careful. Before taking such a drastic step, I recommend consulting with a therapist in Albany, Terry Trotter. She is amazing.


I understand the anxiety about wilderness programs all too well as it was one of the most difficult decisions that my husband and I have ever made. In 2006 we sent our son to a 5 week program I won't name (very well known), and it had limited impact. In 2007 we decided to work with Bodin and subsequently sent our son to Second Nature, and our son then moved on to an 8 month follow-up program recommended by both Second Nature and Bodin. I'd like to balance the critical perspective about Bodin offered by Peggy who posted today, though by no means can I argue that our experience is typical or applicable to others. Yes, it is the case that Bodin is favorably disposed to Second Nature, but Bodin prefers to send clients to programs they know well, and we found that to be a tremendous benefit. Our son's co-therapists talked with us almost weekly, and our Bodin consultant was on the phone with us as well, and therefore we had a network of support. Our son's follow-up program is a program favored by Second Nature and Bodin, and I suppose some parents would be suspicious about that, but, for us, these program relationships facilitated continuity of treatment from one program to another. All this said, after all this treatment, our son continues to struggle, and none of his three programs were 'cures.' On the other hand, we've learned a great deal about our son (as he did about himself), and we now understand that he may never be able to handle his life like an adult. As sad as this is to accept, we've had the input and perspective of many professionals, each of whom has expressed both 'glass half full' and 'glass half empty' perspectives, and offered us hope as well as painful realities. These professionals definitely offered our son hope - yes, maybe the programs are challenging, but our son was loved in so many ways, and he carries that love with him. It's noteworthy that his former therapists are his facebook friends. I'm very sorry that other parents and kids have had less positive experiences with Bodin and Second Nature, but I just wanted to offer another perspective. Best of luck, and a hug of support. anon
June 2009

Re: Residential treatment for RAD ADHD Oppositional Behavior
Call Virginia Keeler-Wolf in Oakland. She is one of a group of therapists who are specifically trained to work with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). There are only a few such therapists in the Bay Area. She is also knowledgeable about residential treatment. A friend worked with her and his son was successfully place in residential for over a year and is now ready to come home. Our family worked with her for several years, and she is very insightful and knowlegeable. One of her partners, Laura Soble, has worked in equine therapy. Mom


Seeking good school placement for autistic spectrum 10yo

May 2009

I need to find an educational consultant who has a lot of experience with kids on the autistic spectrum. This child is 10 years old and kind, friendly, verbal, and never in trouble. He's at public school and struggling even with some special help academically (which will disappear because of budget cuts). He does not need a lot of testing. We want someone who can help figure out a good school placement for him. He would benefit from focused and supportive academics. He needs some directed social encouragement as well. Parents don't have a lot of money. Somebody who has worked with school districts before would be helpful, because we might have to get their help. It would be great to have the advice from a parent of a mildly-autistic or ASD child who's been through this before. Thanks!


We hired Renee Lamborn of Deborah Bloom Consultants (http://www.deborahbloomconsultants.com/) as our educational consultant/advocate for our son's first IEP when he turned three, and we will be using her again for his second IEP coming up. We found her to be extremely easy to work with, and she worked well with our school district contacts. We came up with a plan for our son together with the school district, and we've been very happy with his school program. Renee was able to help us understand what our options were and our legal rights in ''user friendly'' terms. anon
I have a ten year old son with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism (received both diagnosis at different times). We were in Berkeley Public Schools, but have been in and out, tried Hickman Charter school for a few months (3rd grade). Now are attempting to home school because son developed extreme shyness, germ phobia at school. HMO Kaiser refused to provide any therapeutic services because we refused to let them dope him with SSRIs.

I've been lucky to have been able to spend a lot of time with him the last two years. He is a wonderful child, very intelligent, but he abhors school, and anything thing else he feels forced to do. I am starting a website at http://EinsteinsClubhouse.org about these issues. I have also filed articles of incorporation with the state for a non-profit of the same name to develop educational strategies to help ASD kids and their parents cope.

I am not a educator by profession. I am a builder, a carpenter and web designer mostly. I can't offer any specific service, but I would greatly appreciate talking to you and trading stories, etc. I have been to the county Family Resource Network, and they can't help because son is not severely afflicted. It's that way with other schools and so on too.

Please get back to me if you want to get together and talk. John L.


Jan 2009

Re: Boot camp for 19 year old?
You might consider engaging the services of an educational consultation who specializes in such placements, as they are often able to sort through the variety of programs to match the specific needs of your child. The Bodin Group (925- 283-9100) is one such resource. They have an enormous amount of experience in these matters. Good luck. Andrew


I highly recommend that you work with an educational consultant. We worked with a woman named Virginia Reiss (in Larkspur, CA) and found her to be incredibly helpful and knowledgeable. There are many good people out there who can guide you through the process. It is important to find the right place for her, especially due to the fact that she is over 19 and cannot be legally held against her will. There are also many places that are not safe so it is worth spending the money on a consultant to help guide you. Good luck! step mom of a formerly troubled teen

Need to find a therapeutic boarding school for my talented, difficult, bipolar 15-y-o

Jan 2009

I have used your site and love it. I'm in Mill Valley trying to find a therapeutic boarding school for my talented, difficult, bipolar 15 year old who goes to school only 50% of the time. School has threatened me with SARB. My daughter has a history of poor attendance as she's tired, depressed even with the meds that have been changed extensively. Does not do well with theraist and she's had many. I'm thinking that expressive arts or a teen group might be better and am looking. It's hard to get her to transition to any place expect being with friends. She's attending AA on her own because of drug and alcohol issues in the past and is on probation with a very skilled probation officer, but that almost over and I'm scared. Tough behavior mod as a motivator partially successful,but tends to lock her into fight mode. She responds better to structure, love, clear consequences, one to one (executive function issues along with working memory problems) and community.

In the process of therapeutic school placement with IEP but don't expect much.Searched your site and read horrific and wonderful stories of placement concluding I need an ed. Consultant and Molly Baron might be good? Also, does anyone have an attorney which I expect to need, but finances are hard as a single parent. Exhaused and not able to work away from home very much, she needs extensive supervision. Joyce


First, Molly Baron is excellent from what I've heard. My daughter attended an RTC in Utah (her problems were not drug or alcohol related but many of the kids had those issues). The school/RTC that we used was Island View in Layton, UT. It has a decent academic program and fabulous therapy. Once you get to a situation where you need this kind of resource, most local therapists aren't able to help much, particularly because they don't see the kids as often as they'd like and they need to balance being honest/helpful with the kids while at the same time not alienating them. Judy
I highly recommend Molly Baron. She helped us place our son in a therapeutic boarding school. She's knowledgeable, responsive, and compassionate.

We also used a lawyer whom I highly recommend. He specializes in representing families of special needs children. His name is Mike Zatopa and his email is mike@zatopastephens.com anon


I had a completely different experience with Molly Baron. Caveat Emptor. Molly recommended one school for my daughter. Molly was adamant that this one school was the only good placement. In the 17 months my daughter was with this school, it seemed that Molly represented the school, not my daughter. In fact, she dropped my daughter when difficulty arose with this program, right at the moment of crisis. The above action caused the caseworker who followed my daughter from our local county mental health program to speak to me about the unethical behavior demonstrated by Ms. Baron. The situation was serious, involving safety, lack of supervison by school staff and abuse. Molly Baron failed to respond to protect her client, my child. I would never, ever recommend Ms. Baron to anyone. anonymous

Seeking consultant to help select private school

Dec 2008

We would like to move our energetic third-grader to private school, and are searching for a consultant who can help advise us. Any recommendations? DC


I would highly recommend Nancy Blum. She's lived in the Bay Area most of her life, raised her children in Marin and knows all the principals and schools throughout the Bay Area. Her background is in education and she's been an educational consultant for many years. She's absolutely lovely! She really listens to what you're looking for, what your child's interests are, and understands best ''fit''. She can be reached at 415-435-2414. Best of luck to you. Dana
Sept 2008

Re: Chronically truant 17-year-old smoking weed, won't come home
I'm so sorry to hear your son is struggling, and my heart goes out to you. I recommend the Bodin group www.thebodingroup.com, because they refer to a wide range of settings, and they're also skilled interventionists. Of course there is a cost to their services, but, without them, you're handling all this on your own with little confidence that you've made the right decision. Bodin works with you to select a setting, and monitors your kid's progress. They periodically visit every boarding school and therapeutic program, and they know the staff personally. They've been working with my son and our family for over a year now, and we appreciate their expertise and support. I commend you for deciding to intervene now - we hung on far too long and intervened way too late. I was in same place years ago


There are many therapeutic boarding schools out there. I visited several (most were out of state) a year ago when my step son was acting similarly to yours. I highly recommend that you meet with an educational consultant right away. (we went to Virginia Reese and Associates in Larkspur.) Educatinal consultants know the boarding schools intimately and visit them constantly to ensure good teaching and therapeutic staff. They find out as much as possible about your particular child and then guide you to the right schools. Once there (my stepson was actually taken by force....hard to imagine but that is what it came down to) the educational consultant acts as a liaison and can also help guide you to the best counselors etc. I don't think we could have made the choice to send him away without the guidance and counseling and support of our educational consultant. Good luck....and know that you are doing the right thing for your son. p.s. my step son is now drug free and on his way to getting his GED. anon

2004 - 2006 Recommendations


April 2005

Re: Good boarding school for totally out of control teen
When we needed to send our son away, we had no idea where to start. There must be thousands of boarding schools and programs out there. Some are definitely better than others, and some are better for particular kids.

Fortunately [well, it did NOT seem so fortunate at the time], we tried and my son flunked a local rehab program, and the psychiatrist there referred us to an educational consultant, Bodin Associates [in Lafayette and Los Altos]. They were able to recommend a therapeutic wilderness program and then a boarding school, both really right for our son.

We really needed the support, the assurance that these folks had visited and knew the places they suggested, a reasonable number of safe places to look at [they suggested 8 places, and we discussed 3 more we heard about], and the practical input they had at certain points. I can't imagine how to approach finding a boarding school without some kind of guidance like this. It would be a total crap shoot.

The internet is cool, but -- too many choices, too little info relevant to a particular kid or a particular place.

There was a time the cost of the consultant would have knocked me over, but [a] that is nothing compared to the cost of a boarding school, and [b] much more importantly, our son ended up where he needed to be, and is doing well after 14 months, and he has been safe and supported and challenged -- and also, at his particular school, he got sober plus had fun. And he's graduating next month!

Best to families in this situation.


July 2004

Re: Need info about out-of-state residential treatment programs
This is a tough situation. There are a number of schools with excellent reputations, and a number that are run by absolute charlatans, so my advice, having had a very difficult/high-risk behavior teenager, is to hire the services of an educational consultant. It's their business to know which schools are okay and which should be avoided or have had serious problems. It's not cheap, but making the wrong decision about an emotional growth school creates more problems than it solves. I can strongly recommend the services of Elizabeth McGhee at Virginia Reiss Associates in Larkspur (980 Magnolia Drive/Suite 8, Larkspur, CA 94939/phone is 415-461-4788). Anyone in that office would be okay to work with.


2003 & Earlier


November 2002

Re: Residential school for teen with emotional problems
I have worked with two ed consultants and would be happy to discuss my experience. I think it's important to have a good psychological evaluation of your child done before trying to select a placement. Until you know exactly what the issues are it's hard to select a place that can address them. -A mom who's had similar challenges


I strongly recommend spending the money for an educational consultant. Their services are often a couple of thousand dollars, but considering the other potential expenditures you're facing they are an essential investment as well as being an excellent resource. They should help evaluate your son's situation and try to match them with an appropriate school, and my impression is that they don't recommend someplace unless they're familiar with it's approach and have personally visited the school. The good ones will remain in contact with you during his time there, which helps you understand what's going on.

There are a number of good ones in the bay area, and we used Molly Baron at McClure, Mallory & Baron in San Francisco, who was very helpful. She combined her own evaluation with tests and evaluations from other professionals to help us make the appropriate choices. She also met with us while our son was in the program to help us evaluate his progress and future needs. Good luck to you and your son. anonymous


I'm replying to the mom looking for a residential school and/or educational consultant for her son. Several years ago we were seeking a boarding school for our daughter, at her request, and we went to see a very knowledgeable counselor who specialized in boarding schools. This was in the Fall of 1996, and I don't know if he is still around here, but just in case, here is his name and number: Douglas Bodin Bodin & Associates Los Altos, CA (415) 948-8651 Our daughter ended up at Happy Valley School in Ojai, CA. It is a wonderful school; however, I don't know if it is appropriate for your son's needs -- you might want to check it out. Their web site is hvalley.org Good luck in your search. JS
To the anonymous worried Mom looking for boarding schools and/ or ed consultants. We've been down this road very recently and have gotten VERY good help from Bodin Associates in Los Atos. They are profesional and well informed. they also do no take any money from any school. They are also expensive but in my opinion, worth every cent ( and I am not well of by any means). Their phone # is 650-948-8651. They plan to open a Oakland office sometime soon too. I have been extremely happy with the school that Bodin Associates have helped us find. If someone would have told me 8 months ago how happy and well adjusted my daughter would be now, I never would have believed it. Good luck, it is a very hard road to go but it is harder to watch your child lose hope, self-esteem and get into trouble. Another Mom
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