Lava Heights Academy Approach


(Toquerville, UT) Campaign for Teen Behavioral Health, in April 2014, reported juvenile courts in the United States handled approximately 1.7 million cases involving a delinquency offense, the equivalent of 4.600 cases each day. Although the number of juveniles arrested for this type of crime declined significantly between the period of 1999 and 2008, an astounding 15.7 percent decline, the number of court cases dropped by only four percent. Parents worried about their child and the life they are currently living often turn to outside facilities for help, and Lava Heights Academy has earned a top spot in this field, offering therapy for troubled teens using the arts as a way for teens to communicate with a therapist.

“Talk therapy fails to help many teens because they are often unable or unwilling to open a dialogue with a therapist in a traditional office setting. In addition, traditional weekly therapy often fails because with every hour spent with a therapist, there are at least 50 more per week spent with peers who offer the opposite, or undo any progress that was made. After spending so much time with little results parents often believe they are running out of options. Lava Heights Academy offers an alternative approach; one which involves comprehensive art therapy programs covering drama, dance/movement, art and music therapies. With the use of these therapies, professionals find they can reach adolescents who failed to respond to other  treatment options, as the arts allow students to communicate complex struggles, fears, and feelings they are coping with when words aren’t enough,” Kathy Michaels, spokesperson for Lava Heights Academy, explains.

Creative professionals work alongside therapists to assist adolescents. Teens who take part in the program find they learn to accept themselves and others who have different ideas about the world and how it operates. Children learn to accept praise and feedback in a healthy way, and all participants are provided the opportunity to create and perform – often doing things as a character they wouldn’t dream of doing as themselves, thereby gaining confidence to extend their experiences to their own lives. Although art is the modality or tool used to facilitate therapy, students do not need an artistic background to take part in this therapy. The goal isn’t to produce fine art or exceptional musical or performing talents, in fact, some of the most important works created by students are often finger painted figures representing their fears, family, and hopes for the future.

Therapists work to promote dialogue between participants, while addressing social skills development, Michaels goes on to say. Empathy and cooperative play are emphasized and groups are continuously formed to meet the needs of all students. Parents find the program benefits their child in numerous ways and communication among family members improves. Many find it is the solution they have been searching for to help their child when talk therapy has failed. 

Adolescents participating in the program attend school daily to work on academics progress and take part in other therapy sessions individually and as groups. A treatment team works with each patient to determine which therapies will be of most help to them, and this team consists of nurses, therapists, a case manager, department directors, the program director, and a psychiatrist. Artistic and/or academic teachers and direct care shift supervisors also offer input into the treatment of each patient. 


“Lava Height Academy strives to provide a holistic, integrated, multi-faceted approach to treatment of adolescents. Troubled teens learn to come to a healthy and acceptable resolution with regards to their identity. In addition, they obtain the tools needed to deal with conflicts, both internal and external, which arise when one tries to hide their true identity. Students learn to connect with others in a healthy way, while remaining true to themselves, and the results are amazing,” Michales declares.


Lava Heights Academy takes its inspiration from the spirit of Tuscan artistry, and students live in a contained environment which works to nurture their soul. Safety and health remain top priorities at all times and students spend the majority of their time in secure dorms, rehearsal rooms, classrooms, and more. The beauty of the campus and its functionality combine to provide a safe environment where children can grow and thrive, while healing through the arts.


Kathy Michaels
Toquerville, UT, 84774
(435) 635-0300