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"The troubled-teen industry, with its scaremongering and claims of miraculous changes in behavior through harsh discipline, has existed in one form or another for decades, despite a dearth of evidence supporting its methods. And the boot camps, rehabs, emotional growth boarding schools and wilderness programs, that make up this industry are even now finding new customers. Maia Szalavitz's Help at Any Cost is the first in-depth investigation of these tough love programs and their practices, starting with their roots in the cult sixties drug rehabilitation program, Synanon, which remains the model for many of today's adult and teen drug programs.This book tracks the rise of Straight, Inc., which received Nancy Reagan's seal of approval in the eighties and its spin-offs, explores the ensuing growth of boot camps and wilderness programs, and features an in-depth investigation of one of the dominant chains of the the 90s and 00s, the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASP), which is linked with sites still operating today. Szalavitz uncovers disturbing findings about these programs' methods, including accounts of physical and verbal abuse, and presents us with moving, often horrifying, first-person testimony of kids who made it through-as well as stories of those who didn't survive. The book also contains a thoughtfully compiled guide for parents, which details effective treatment alternatives."

"Thrown into a agonizing existence by the family who adopted her, Sabrina Young recounts 17 years of abuse, torture and mistreatment full of racial slurs and bias because of the color of her skin and her defiance towards the rules of the church they followed. Brazen, brave and strong, Dear Renisha recounts Sabrina’s experience within the troubled teen industry through her letters to her sister and her magnificent drawings. Sabrina’s thoughts and imagery capture her dignity and beauty against the backdrop of betrayal within the family and church.

Dear Renisha is filled with the trauma that comes from the betrayal of those who promised to protect and love. It stands proudly among other survivor stories and reminds us why torture will never be treatment. Full of the wisdom that comes from healing after great trauma, Sabrina reminds us why she rightly calls herself a survivor of the troubled teen industry."

"Liz Ianelli, known around the world as Survivor993, spent years at the Family Foundation—labeled an “institution for troubled teens.” The children who went through The Family School like her were good people. They had potential and dreams, but they came out with lifelong trauma: anxious, angry, paranoid, self-hating and in pain. Most of them have suffered lives of hardship, unable to integrate back into society. Hundreds have died, mostly by overdose and suicide.

I See You, Survivor is about what really happened at The Facility and what continues to happen at thousands of facilities like it. Beyond the trauma, this book is about triumph, resilience, and an effort to help others, and it conveys Liz’s critical message for every survivor she sees:"

"By the time she was a teenager, Alison Weaver had found escape in alcohol, marijuana, and late-night abandon. But when her exasperated parents had her shipped away—in handcuffs—to the cultish Cascade School, everything changed. Within the surreal isolation of the school's mountain campus, she left her old self behind, warping into a brainwashed model of Cascade's mottos and ideals. Graduation two years later left her unprepared for the harshness of the real world—and she soon fell back into a mind-numbing wash of drugs. Stumbling into freefall in New York's East Village in the 1990s, Weaver's life began a downward spiral marked by needles and late-night parties, mingled with fears of HIV and death. Ultimately, faced with the reality of her rapidly escalating self-destruction, Weaver was forced to face her inner darkness head on.

Gone to the Crazies proves the age-old adage: You can't come clean until you've hit rock bottom. By turns wry, heartbreaking, and emotionally intense, Alison Weaver's mesmerizing debut fascinates with its vivid depiction of the bonds between family and friends, and the thoughtful exploration of what it means to fight for identity and equilibrium."

"At 15, Elizabeth Gilpin was an honor student, a state-ranked swimmer, and a rising soccer star, but behind closed doors, her undiagnosed depression was wreaking havoc on her life. Growing angrier by the day, she began skipping practices and drinking to excess. At a loss, her parents turned to an educational consultant who suggested Elizabeth be enrolled in a behavioral modification program. That recommendation would change her life forever.

The nightmare began when she was abducted from her bed in the middle of the night by hired professionals and dropped off deep in the woods of Appalachia. Living with no real shelter was only the beginning of her ordeal: She was strip-searched, force-fed, her name was changed to a number, and every moment was a test of physical survival.

After three brutal months, Elizabeth was transferred to a boarding school in Southern Virginia that in reality functioned more like a prison. Its curriculum revolved around a perverse form of group therapy where students were psychologically abused and humiliated. Finally, at 17, Elizabeth convinced them she was rehabilitated enough to “graduate” and was released.

In this eye-opening and unflinching book, Elizabeth recalls the horrors she endured, the friends she lost to suicide and addiction, and - years later - how she was finally able to pick up the pieces of her life and reclaim her identity."

"Zack Bonnie was fourteen when his parents sent him to a "Troubled Teen" facility. The author takes readers there, in a thrilling psychological read. Sequestered where bizarre cult-like techniques become the norm, see for yourself exactly what the controversy is about. Should we mold a child's behavior using the tools of brainwashing? With coarse, brutal dialog and authentic source materials, this nonfiction memoir, the first in a series, exposes the secrets and tells it all.

Dead, Insane, or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir is named for the range of options open to the author at 14, if he ran away from the cult his parents inadvertently inducted him into. This is the first time he has told his story. And it’s a doozy. Too many people can relate to this account, unfortunately. Although Rocky Mountain Academy has closed its doors, several hundred residential teen-treatment programs, religious reeducation camps, and places that commit spiritual assassination still operate without oversight in the United States."

"As Overwritten begins, the bounty hunter and an armed sheriff escort Zack back to Rocky Mountain Academy, six weeks after his escape. This time, Zack changes his tactics and stops overtly opposing the authoritarian program. Some kids crumble under the pressure. Others become “look-goods” who’ll do anything for approval. And young Zack may be kidding himself that he can remain immune to the coercive persuasion and thought control that permeate the place. With coarse, brutal dialog and authentic source materials, book two in this nonfiction memoir series takes the reader deeper into the vortex."

"She never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, or a stoner, like they told her she was. She was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. Anybody could see that, except her mother. And the Straightlings. At 13, Cyndy ran away from her violent home. She was homeless for a month, which wasn’t all bad…but before she could even learn how to smoke pot right, her mother had her locked up in Straight Inc, a warehouse full of teen savages. On the outside, Straight was a drug rehab. On the inside, it was—it was something else."

"I never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, or a stoner, like they told me I was. I was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. I was a wannabe in a Levi's jean jacket. Anybody could see that. Except my mother. And the staff at Straight.

I was thirteen when I ran away from my abusive home. After a month in a shelter for kids--the best month of my childhood--my mother heard about Princess Di and First Lady Nancy Reagan's visit to this place that was working miracles with troubled teens. Straight Inc., it was called.

Straight described itself as a drug rehab, a "direction for youth." Strictly false advertising. An accurate description came from the ACLU, which called it "A concentration camp for throwaway teens." Inside the windowless warehouse, Straight used bizarre and intimidating methods to "treat" us; to turn us into the type of kids our parents wanted. The Dead Inside takes readers behind Straight's closed doors, illustrating why the program was eventually investigated, sued, and closed down for abusing children."

"I never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, or a stoner, like they told me I was. I was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. I was a wannabe in a Levi's jean jacket. Anybody could see that. Except my mother. And the staff at Straight.

I was thirteen when I ran away from my abusive home. After a month in a shelter for kids--the best month of my childhood--my mother heard about Princess Di and First Lady Nancy Reagan's visit to this place that was working miracles with troubled teens. Straight Inc., it was called.

Straight described itself as a drug rehab, a "direction for youth." Strictly false advertising. An accurate description came from the ACLU, which called it "A concentration camp for throwaway teens." Inside the windowless warehouse, Straight used bizarre and intimidating methods to "treat" us; to turn us into the type of kids our parents wanted. The Dead Inside takes readers behind Straight's closed doors, illustrating why the program was eventually investigated, sued, and closed down for abusing children."

The companion to The Dead Inside

"When Alex Cooper was fifteen years old, life was pretty ordinary in her sleepy suburban town and nice Mormon family. But something was gnawing at her that made her feel different. These feelings exploded when she met Yvette, a girl who made Alex feel alive in a new way, and with whom Alex would quickly fall in love.

Alex knew she was holding a secret that could shatter her family, her church community, and her life. Yet when this secret couldn’t be hidden any longer, she told her parents that she was gay, and the nightmare began. She was driven from her home in Southern California to Utah, where, against her will, her parents handed her over to fellow Mormons who promised to save Alex from her homosexuality.

For eight harrowing months, Alex was held captive in an unlicensed “residential treatment program” modeled on the many “therapeutic” boot camps scattered across Utah. Alex was physically and verbally abused, and many days she was forced to stand facing a wall wearing a heavy backpack full of rocks. Her captors used faith to punish and terrorize her. With the help of a dedicated legal team in Salt Lake City, Alex eventually escaped and made legal history in Utah by winning the right to live under the law’s protection as an openly gay teenager."

"Memoir of the life of a 'student' of the WWASP run Tranquility Bay and Spring Creek Lodge Programs. Imagine what it would be like being taken from your home in the middle of the night by complete strangers? 'Trapped in Paradise: A Memoir' details the history of a troubled teen and her inner-struggle of being held against her will in the controversial Jamaica facility, with little contact to the outside world.

The story details the life of the troubled teen prior to being sent overseas to a controversial reform school for two years. The book has a great depiction of what it is like for a child to grow up with physical abuse, in a family whom also struggled to deal with mental illness. Particularly, obsessive compulsive hoarding addiction, anxiety and severe depression. While a majority of the subject matter of this book describes the experience of a teenager living in a very strict and confined environment of a program which targeted parents of troubled teens, it also greatly describes the strained family relationship of the struggling family.

The tactics of WWASP programs are highly controversial. Several methods used on children were similar to those which are used on prisoners of war. Children are stripped of their identity, have little to no choices to make in their daily lives, and are broken down mentally to the point of where they have little choice but to comply. Systematic propaganda and coercive persuasion are the main tools used on these teenagers (mainly American) to facilitate change in the subjects way of thinking and behavior. The reader will get an accurate depiction of what the experience of living under these conditions was like for the teen, without dramatization or embellishment.

While there is opinion communicated in the book, the author wanted to leave the content as objective as possible, as to give the reader the ability to form their own opinion on the subject matter. The Troubled Teen Industry is still largely unregulated. One of the main purposes of the Author writing this book was not only to let the thousands of others whom have gone through these sorts of 'programs' to know they aren't alone, but to also shed light onto important children rights issues, which have largely been overlooked."

"In the middle of the night, they are vanished.

Each year thousands of young adults deemed out of control―suffering from depression, addiction, anxiety, and rage―are carted off against their will to remote wilderness programs and treatment facilities across the country. Desperate parents of these “troubled teens” fear it’s their only option. The private, largely unregulated behavioral boot camps break their children down, a damnation the children suffer forever.

Acclaimed journalist Kenneth R. Rosen knows firsthand the brutal emotional, physical, and sexual abuse carried out at these programs. He lived it. In Troubled, Rosen unspools the stories of four graduates on their own scarred journeys through the programs into adulthood. Based on three years of reporting and more than one hundred interviews with other clients, their parents, psychologists, and health-care professionals, Troubled combines harrowing storytelling with investigative journalism to expose the disturbing truth about the massively profitable, sometimes fatal, grossly unchecked redirection industry.

Not without hope, Troubled ultimately delivers an emotional, crucial tapestry of coming of age, neglect, exploitation, trauma, and fraught redemption."

"When Doctor M. Scott Peck suggested Elan to my parents I was skeptical because the first program he sent me to was a drug program, and I had never done drugs. He said it wasn't, and that Elan treated teens with emotional problems. He told me that Elan had psychiatrists and counselors, and activities, so I agreed to go. What I witnessed was unbelievable. Elan was an insane asylum, run by the inmates, and Joe Ricci was God. For more than thirty years I told people I had been in prison, rather than the truth of what happened there. After you read this book you will understand why."

"Haywood Robinson was just seventeen when she was sent to a behavioral modification program in Montana-a horrible and painful experience. This raw and emotional memoir chronicles Haywood's struggles with mental illness and her lack of a diagnosis until her thirties. It fearlessly tells of her experiences with toxic relationships, abortion, love addiction, eating disorders, and attempted suicides, and outlines her difficult climb back out of the darkness toward recovery.

She wants readers to truly understand the agony of mental illness and the many difficulties people with mental illness go through every day of their lives. She hopes parents who read this book will consider dealing compassionately with their child's mental illness rather than resorting to a program that uses attack therapy and brainwashing...because those experiences usually do far more harm than good. Lastly, she wants people like herself to know they are not alone. That their feelings are valid and they are important."

"Hollywood Park, Mikel Jollett’s remarkable memoir, opens in an experimental commune in California, which later morphed into the Church of Synanon, one of the country’s most infamous and dangerous cults. Per the leader’s mandate, all children, including Jollett and his older brother, were separated from their parents when they were six months old, and handed over to the cult’s “School.” After spending years in what was essentially an orphanage, Mikel escaped the cult one morning with his mother and older brother. But in many ways, life outside Synanon was even harder and more erratic.

In his raw, poetic and powerful voice, Jollett portrays a childhood filled with abject poverty, trauma, emotional abuse, delinquency and the lure of drugs and alcohol. Raised by a clinically depressed mother, tormented by his angry older brother, subjected to the unpredictability of troubled step-fathers and longing for contact with his father, a former heroin addict and ex-con, Jollett slowly, often painfully, builds a life that leads him to Stanford University and, eventually, to finding his voice as a writer and musician.

Hollywood Park is told at first through the limited perspective of a child, and then broadens as Jollett begins to understand the world around him. Although Mikel Jollett’s story is filled with heartbreak, it is ultimately an unforgettable portrayal of love at its fiercest and most loyal."

the drifter chronicles book one

"In 1999, Greg Cayea was sent to Hidden Lake Academy: the most infamous juvenile institution in America touting itself as a "therapeutic boarding school." The school has since been shut down for the tragic maltreatment of troubled youth, but before that... it was a dark place to be. No Direction Home tells the story of the series of events that landed Greg there, what it was like, and how he adventurously escaped. It starts on the first day of middle school in an upscale neighborhood in Long Island, New York. Greg was labeled the biggest piece of shit in sixth grade because of a few unfortunate circumstances, and there seemed to be no hope for redemption. Then one day everything changed, but it was a bit too late. Greg was on a crusade for vengeance.

What ensues is a chain reaction of escapades, filled with theft, drug addiction, prostitution, suspension, and eventually, permanent relocation to residential rehabs across the country. Still, nothing could calm him down. He was a bit too off the hinges by then for rehabilitation, and after a scuffle with anti-Semitic cohorts at an inpatient rehab and a daring escape with a girl "too good to be true," he's scooped up and transferred to Hidden Lake Academy, a fucked up place tucked in the obscurity of the Appalachian Mountains. From that point on, all bets are off and there is one mission, and one mission only: get out. His attempted escape morphs into a chaotic tale of homelessness, bad crowds, rancid romance, and bravery in all the wrong places, but one thing is for sure... Greg will never be the same. The question is, will he ever find his way home?"

the drifter chronicles book two

"In the late winter of 2001, seventeen-year-old Greg Cayea was on the run after just escaping from Hidden Lake Academy: the most infamous therapeutic boarding school in America. Debauchery tells the story of how he survived on his own, and the tale of how he and his girlfriend dodged the law, hopped Greyhound buses and drove across many state lines in search of the perfect hideout. It starts on I-95 as they drive furiously to Florida, but there’s no easy way to make money or find shelter, and so starts a chain reaction of ludicrous events to keep them afloat, from shady street hustles to criminal enterprises to risky relationships… Anything to keep their identities incognito.

But things take a dramatic turn when Greg’s addictive aspirations to attain international fame completely overhaul his life. His obsession for stardom compromises everything he has and takes him on a wild ride to New York filled with rancid romance, drugged-out flophouses, theatrical benders, small-town jails, and corrupt judicial systems desperate to lock him up. And just as his new life seems to takes form, a completely new set of challenges emerge and he must make a dangerous decision that’ll last forever. There’s never a dull moment along the adventure and enough absurdity for a lifetime. One thing is for sure: the humorous narration and delusional ambitions of the author make all the chaos worthwhile. The question is, will he come of age safely, or wind up in prison?"

the drifter chronicles book three

"In 2005, twenty-one-year-old Greg Cayea was on an ambitious sprint to become a Hollywood mogul... Only thing is it's hard to tell whether his actions move him in the direction of his dreams, or prolong a manic episode teetering on the brink of self-annihilation. Then there’s the drug business… A bunch of wild encounters with an eclectic clientele of elite drug buyers, a stepping-stone occupation till Greg attains world domination, filled with plot twists and riveting dialogue. Nothing was gonna stop him from rising to the stardom he envisioned.

Well, nothing but his overly obsessive enthusiasm for success, which brought him from one shady endeavor to the next. From scammy play festivals to money-laundering schemes to rigged game shows and comedy festivals to shooting a film that gets him thrown in jail on the border of Mexico; all his maniacal plans seem to lead to bigger chaos (or possibly success?). All his romantic relationships sour into tragedies. His family remains estranged, and then the unthinkable happens—The Final Debacle.

A tale of over-ambition, shady entrepreneurial endeavors, drug trafficking, alcoholism, sex addiction, and overcoming insurmountable obstacles. The question is, can Greg walk away from his fixation with fame and somehow find meaning in a “normal life”?"

"I wrote this book in an effort to understand my place in a watershed moment: the technology renaissance, the age of influencers. I also wrote this book so that the world could know who I am today. I focused on key aspects of my life that led to what I am most proud of--how my power was taken away from me and how I took it back, how I built a thriving business, a marriage and a family.

There are so many young women who need to hear this story. I don’t want them to learn from my mistakes; I want them to stop hating themselves for their own mistakes. I want them to laugh and cry and embrace every aspect of who they are with fearlessness and pride. We all have our own brand of intelligence, and, girl, fuck fitting in." -Paris Hilton

"At the age of 16, Jeneen Miller was prosecuted without a fair trial for telling a family-kept secret about a wrongdoing that was perpetrated by the hands of her uncle. After bravely coming forth to her family, they were not open to the truth. Jeneen's justifiable rage was wrongfully mistaken by her parents when they assumed she was experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

In 1988, Jeneen's parents used trickery to achieve the ultimate betrayal. Instead of the therapy they promised Jeneen, they turned her over to a prison camp in spite of her self-discipline, excellent academics and responsible behavior. Trapped in Ramona, California without any communication, she was completely cut off from her soul mate. Letters, phone calls and visitors were forbidden. Pastors and staff justified their actions of isolation as a means of extinguishing the evil out of her and other inmates.

This tough love program persecuted girls in the name of God while denying their constitutional rights. While going through this so-called war behind the gates of hell, the only person who kept her grounded was her one true love, Drake McCallister.

This is an account of Jeneen's battle to redeem herself after being abused by her family and Victory Christian Academy. Unfortunately, the horrific reality is that these programs still exist today."

"For Julia Scheeres and her adopted brother David, "Jesus Land" stretched from their parents' fundamentalist home, past the hostilities of high school, and deep into a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic. For these two teenagers - brother and sister, black and white - the 1980's were a trial by fire.

In this memoir, Scheeres takes us from the familiar Midwest, a land of cottonwood trees and trailer parks, to a place beyond her imagining. At home, the Scheeres kids must endure the usual trials of adolescence - high-school hormones, incessant bullying, and the deep-seated restlessness of social misfits everywhere - under the shadow of virulent racism neither knows how to contend with. When they start to crack (or fight back), they are packed off to Escuela Caribe.

This brutal, prison-like "Christian boot camp" demands that its inhabitants repent for their sins - sins that few of them are aware of having committed. Julia and David's determination to make it though with heart and soul intact is told here with immediacy, candor, sparkling humor, and not an ounce of malice. Jesus Land is, on every page, a keenly moving ode to the sustaining power of love, and rebellion, and the dream of a perfect family."

"A true story about a boy who attended the abusive and corrupt Bethel Boys Academy. The story is captivating and heart breaking. It gives you a good inside look at what really goes on in the troubled teen industry. At times it will make you laugh and at times you will cry. Many Magazines and TV programs have reported on this school including Barbra Walters in 20/20.

Author Allen Knoll tells his captivating story of surviving an incredibly abusive school that hid behind religion. He walks you through his experience and it's as if you are at the school itself. Allen Knoll was just 10 years old and you can feel every emotion as you read through this incredible story."

Fall of the guardians by vanessa white

"Have you ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors when a “difficult” teen gets sent away?

Based on real-life events from the 1990’s, this book tells the harrowing story of Vanessa, who at age 13, was one of those kids. She was ripped away from everything she knew and sent away to an abusive military boarding school for girls run by a religious cult that promised to fix these so-called “troubled teens”. Like most Troubled Teen Industry survivors, Vanessa and her surrogate four-year-old little sister, Jess, experienced unspeakable horrors no human should ever have to endure. But unlike most, they were able to do things no one else could. Along her way, Vanessa found family. She was the catalyst for the formation of the Guardians, a special unit in her program tasked with making the girls human again. With the help of her new family and friends, Vanessa came of age while making a real difference to hundreds of other girls in an impossible situation, that is, until it all came crashing down, as the Guardians fell. Find out what it took for them to survive their time in this cult, their successes and failures, how they finally escaped, and what came next, including a 2022 update on what happened to the girls and staff she wrote about over the ensuing years.

This powerful and heart-wrenching book is a must read for anyone who has ever been or known a “difficult” teen, anyone who attended a Troubled Teen program, and especially for any parent that has sent away a difficult child or is thinking that sending their child away is the best or only option."