Sovereign Health - White River Academy in Delta, UT

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Treatment Effectiveness
Accommodations & Amenities
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275 West 100 South
Delta UT 84624

Sovereign Health - White River Academy Philosophy

Based in Delta, Utah, White River Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for boys ages 12 through 17. The facility provides substance abuse and behavioral health treatment, along with a unique, sound and accredited educational experience. Emphasis is placed on responsibility and healthy lifestyle choices, and gives troubled boys the opportunity to become self-aware, find direction, learn how to resolve emotional pain and be of service to others. Through personal growth and hands-on experience — including adventure-based outdoor activities — students are challenged to move away from harmful behaviors and become men of integrity and character.

Areas of Specialization

  • Equine Therapy
    A form of animal therapy, equine therapy involves visiting, working with and sometimes riding horses as a way to create a metaphoric relationship that leads to life-altering insights.

  • Residential Treatment
    Residential treatment programs provide housing (food and meals) in addition to treatment for substance abuse. Some facilities offer only short-term residential treatment, some offer only long-term treatment and others offer both, ranging from a few days to many months, based on patient needs.

Facility Highlights

Intercultural Exchange

Opportunity to Learn a New Language

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Meet the Staff

Justin Nielson

Program Administrator

Photo of Justin Nielson

Justin Nielson was one of the founders when White River Academy was established in July 2002 and currently serves as a member of the board of directors. As school administrator, he is committed and responsible for fostering the tone of the Academy by making insightful decisions which impact parents, staff members, and students in positive ways. Justin Nielson was instrumental in developing the Academy’s standards, goals, policies and procedures as found in the Academy’s Mission Statement. He greatly enjoys working with people and has been very supportive of all the staff members, including counselors, shift managers, staff members and teachers.

Daniel Sanderson

Clinical Psychologist

Photo of Daniel Sanderson

Sanderson is a clinical psychologist with an e-therapy and private practice at the Therapy Associates Group of St. George, Utah. He’s also a skilled forensic and neuro-psychologist with a particular passion for psychological assessment and evaluations as they pertain to assisting in intervention and treatment. Sanderson has provided counseling, treatment and therapy for children, adolescents, adults, couples and families for more than 25 years. He is known for his developmental, experiential approach to treatment and his unconventional therapeutic sessions; successful interventions and disruptions. Sanderson has extensive experience in treating attention deficit disorder; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and personality disorders. In addition, Sanderson has treated substance abuse and addiction, process addictions, drug and alcohol addiction; eating disorders and sexual disorders. Sanderson has worked with split & blended families; adoption and international adoptions as well as treating reactive attachment disorder. 360 Guide

Review by Contributors


Located in the mountainous Great Basin region of Utah, Sovereign Health’s White River Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for boys ages 12 to 17. The facility offers long-term treatment (at least one year) for substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders. Medically monitored detox services are not available on-site.


White River Academy offers rolling enrollment, which enables boys to enter any time of the year, though they need to be referred by their parent or guardian. When new clients arrive, they undergo an orientation that covers rules and expectations, as well as meet their two assigned student mentors.

The program combines 12-step principles and positive peer culture with evidence-based practices, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Clients have a tightly structured weekly schedule , which includes individual and group therapy, customized academic curriculum, 12-step meetings, community service, recreational activities, equine training, recreational therapy, art therapy, and daily chores.

Family participation is highly encouraged and includes therapy, education, and a weekend-long quarterly family program.


White River Academy is accredited as an educational institution and approved to teach grades nine through 12 in Utah. The treatment team includes master’s level therapists, a clinical psychologist, and classroom instructors.


Set in a former hospital, White River Academy houses 36 clients in simple, shared bedrooms. Students must wear school uniforms. The campus includes a school, rock climbing area, and horseback riding stables.


At time of writing, two parents provided with polarized feedback, with one being highly positive and the other extremely negative. The most recent reviewer praised the staff and program: “I am writing this today as my son will be 4 years sober this weekend and has grown into a wonderful happy adult that has his whole future ahead of him due to the fact that White River saved his life and ours.” This loved one added: “i can never say enough about the doctor and the therapy our son received” and “If i had to do this all over again I would look no further than White River.”

The other parent, who rated treatment effectiveness, accommodations and amenities, and meals and nutrition only one out of five stars, felt differently: “White River Academy does not deserve to be called a school at all.” This reviewer claimed the facility’s informational materials do not give the correct impression: “Don't bring or have your child transfered to White RIVER Academy in Delta Utah. Do your research, visit the facility. Their is no horses, barns, no river, just an old small building they try to call a scool.”

On, White River Academy earned an average of three out of five stars from six reviews to date.[1] Three are positive; the other three are negative. Two of the favorable reviews are from the same loved one, which brings the total down to five unique reviews. The reviewers are polarized on the quality of the education program and staff. Chris, a five-star reviewer, wrote: “White River is a great place to send your son... they are an accredited school, and students get a structured life along with a great education” and added: “They are a great school and will treat you and your son with the utmost respect and care.”

An anonymous reviewer agreed the teachers were great: “My son had an excellent time at the academy. Before he went, he wouldn't even study or go to class… Not only did he get to complete a lot of classes, he wants to go to college now” and concluded: “Great school with a lot of people who really care about the students and their lives.”

The others on disagreed. One anonymous, one-star reviewer wrote: “I'll say they had some caring people, but I don't know who is running the school that their academics were so poor.” Reviewer Nathan wrote that the facility, “does a sub standard job attempting to rehabilitate children. The facilities are bare, cramped, and staff is degrading.”


According to the website, Sovereign Health accepts most private insurance plans, including Aetna, Anthem, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Financial assistance is available to clients who qualify.


Published on November 2017

User Reviews

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I happen to stumble across the review that was posted and thought that i needed to write one that reflects our experience. I am writing this today as my son will be 4 years sober this weekend and has grown into a wonderful happy adult that has his whole future ahead of him due to the fact that White River saved his life and ours. It is not an easy choice to send your child away - we had ours transported - which is one of the hardest things i ever have done - but on that night we said ENOUGH - he went to White River and in only 7 weeks after we arrived at parents weekend greeted by some of the kindest staff i have ever met. Our son in that short time had a smile on his face and started to look like himself again. White River is not easy on these young men but face it if you are even looking at a theraputic boarding school it is not because your child is being the best he can be but more he is at the worst you would have ever thought. The program is tough - it should be - he learnt how to put others first - how to love himself again- how to have relationships with his family - My son spent 18 months there and it was an incrediable journey. This program works if not only the individual there is working but if the whole family is involved. He did hundreds of hours of community service which forever changed the way he looked at life. We had sad moments and tough moments but you have those with any teenager. The staff was great - our parent liason still holds a special place in my heart - and i can never say enough about the doctor and the therapy our son recieved. Please do not judge this place from the previous review - ask for names of parents to call to speak to them yourself. If i had to do this all over again I would look no further than White River.

  • Treatment Effectiveness
  • Accommodations & Amenities
  • Meals & Nutrition
White River Academy does not deserve to be called a school at all. The Web site tells us parents that it is a therapeutic caring place for young boys to become men. $7000 a month is tuition a month. The hand book states that that their hair will be assessed and may get a haircut, however they leave the part out that they will have their head shaved , and this will happen, every 4 weeks. The video's that they email to u as parents are to view. They tell us to ignore our children's cry to be rescued, and to ignore the fact that they feed these growing teenage boys, food that is unhealthy. Parents are a asured, that their teen age boy is being fed healthy, nutritious meals. Well I challenge you to go spend a Saturday at white River Academy. Ask to see the boys beds, and to see the kitchen. Have a meal from the kitchen. The boys beds are roll aways. Theses boys are also hoping they don't have to go to the restroom in the middle of the night. Because they are not allowed to ask to use the restroom until after 1AM. And the staff can and will say no if they fill like it. These growing boys are forced to eat every last slimy bit of food on their plates, 3 times a day. If they don't they are punished. This punishment is sitting in front of a room, that they call a class room, but is more of a group holding cell. On some days the staff makes the boys just sit in the class rooms, all day hours on end, not allowed to talk , not allowed to laugh , make facial expressions, or even pass notes to each other. They sit and some may have a book, others pencil and paper, but no talking. They raise their hand to talk, to use the restroom, and to walk more then 10 feet. They have black lines drawn on the floor in the hall ways about every 10 feet. The boys must stop at the lines, raise there hands and ask permission to walk bye. The staff is not in uniform, they do not have name tags o... I fear fore these boys still in this facility. There are many other programs and bording facilities out their. Don't bring or have your child transfered to White RIVER Academy in Delta Utah. Do your research, visit the facility. Their is no horses, barns, no river, just an old small building they try to call a scool.

Official Facility Response

Thank you for posting your concerns. We are sorry to hear about your situation. At Sovereign Health, we offer world-class facilities to best support our patients. Our well-trained and fully staffed kitchen provides a wide variety of meals each day. Our patients are fed based on a dietary-balanced guideline and a dietician-approved program. Our staff is highly trained and understands the best treatment for all patients who are in our care and our academic program is rigorous too. The care and concern we have for the patients is evident each moment while they are attending White River Academy. We are always open to how our facility can improve and welcome your comments. Thank you, Sovereign Health - WRA Disclaimer: Sovereign Health values our patients’ and their families’ privacy. Due to HIPAA compliance, we are unable to address this review with any further specificity.

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