Your child needs help. You’ve tried everything and you have reached the end of your rope. You feel lost for new solutions to try. You feel as though things have gotten so difficult to navigate with your child that you feel your family must have been cursed to live like this forever. You wonder what possibly could have gone wrong to bring this turmoil on your family. You just want so desperately to seeyour child happy, content, and safe and to watch them reach their full potential and succeed in obtaining everything they desire in life. Right now, you feel so defeated that you wonder if success will ever be possible for your child. You know in your heart that if they continue on the self-destructive path they are on right now, they'll miss out on every chance they're given to succeed.
One day you are contacted by an educational consultant or maybe you get referred to a “boarding school for troubled teens” or a "therapeutic wilderness adventure camp". They promise to fix all of your problems. They promise that they will take this heavy burden off your plate.
I was “that" teenager.
Those schools fixed none of us. Over 300 of us are dead, countless numbers have been in and out of prison, a good portion of us no longer talk to our parents. If we do, it is an irreparably fractured semblace of what it was before the Troubled Teen Industry. This industry is a scam that preys on desperate parents such as yourself. It’s easy to fall for.
I am a mother of two. My oldest is a teenager himself now. I want my children to be the best versions of themselves possible. But I would never let anyone hurt them the way this industry hurt me.
Being a Troubled Teen Industry survivor means that you'll always be a member of a club nobody ever wants to be a part of, and they don't even know it. We will never be able to go back to being the people we were before the TTI, and our families have been forever fractured irreparably. The Troubled Teen Industry may seem like that light in the darkness that you are so desperate to find, but once you get close enough, it plunges you into a darkness so thick you'll never be able find light again. You are promised results that are nothing but an optical illusion of elaborate falsifications that masterfully blind you from seeing the nightmare hidden behind their carefully crafted facade until it is far too late. When you finally see what damage this industry has done to your family, those responsible are so far in the distance that you question whether they were even there in the first place.
I will attempt to use this letter to show you the deepest, most stripped down layers of the darkness that is the Troubled Teen Industry. I will provide you with a visualization of the inevitable future your child will face if you choose to make them a lifetime member of this loathsome club TTI survivors are forced into the moment we are dragged from our beds by strangers or we arrive at one of these programs.
Please allow yourself to openly digest and honestly consider the things I am going to say. I am only doing this intense emotional labor to 1) help you understand what this industry is all about and how thoroughly dangerous every aspect of it is, and 2) to protect a child, maybe your child, from the unimaginable horror and torture that myself and countless other survivors have been forced to endure. TTI survivors spend our whole lives chasing the illusion of healing. The vast majority never even get a glimpse of it. I merely ask you to respect the emotional labor I have done here by actively reading and seriously considering what I have to say. Most in your position are good but desperate parents who just want to see your children feel better. That is the ONLY reason I am willing to show the emotional vulnerability that I think you need to see to truly understand the soul deep and permanent damage this industry causes, and to find the drive and motivation required to protect your child from these places at all costs. I am giving you this raw glimpse into this nightmare because I respect you as a parent and I respect your capability to receive and contemplate this information in the best interest of your child’s physical safety and emotional wellbeing, and to keep your family intact.
I have heard phrases both identical to and with similar intent as the following spoken by parents like yourself:
“Psychological abuse from my child”
"Psychological warfare within my family”
"I have CPTSD from my child”
"Held hostage in my own home”
You have likely experienced some of these feelings. Think of how those things make you feel, inside and out. I want you to remember those feelings. Keep them easily accessible and give them some consideration after each paragraph you read.
Now imagine you’re a 14-year-old boy. A 16-year-old girl. You are still a child.
You feel like nothing in your life is within your control and you’re constantly in a state of crisis and survival. You are physically incapable of putting energy into anything that is less necessary than your basic survival, and that includes emotional survival. You feel intense and constant panic. You feel unheard, unsupported, and unwanted by the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally. You also lack any semblance of self-awareness or life experience that might guide you in managing and processing your emotions, which by the way, are also being affected by your new and raging hormones, a biological and physiological process that you have absolutely no control over or responsibility for.
Your parents are so fed up with your trauma responses (because that’s what all of this behavior is, developing maladaptive behavior patterns as a way to cope with and protect yourself from your already existing trauma), that instead of supporting and loving you unconditionally, they choose anger and punishment and blame as their instinctual response to the behavior that you have developed to keep yourself safe. If you have them, they have made it blatantly clear, without even saying anything, that they have prioritized your siblings’ general comfort over your need for protection and security within the family.
Now imagine that, with all the pain, and panic, and isolation inside you, your parents choose to have you excommunicated from your family, your community, your support group, your peers, and your mentors.
One day, without any expectation or awareness, you are confronted by a couple strangers who remove you from your parents’ presence before informing you that you are going with them. You are threatened with two alternatives: you can go with them calmly and silently, while following every instruction thoroughly and immediately as it is given. Or you can “go the hard way”. This is usually communicated with a shake of a pair of handcuffs and a malicious grin. Any interpretation of even a slight movement that might indicate a hint of resistance or noncompliance results in rough and immediate restraint.
These complete strangers who even your parents have never met before then proceed to aggressively drag you from your home, your sanctuary, your safe place. Everything you have ever known is now a hazy thumbnail in a rearview mirror. Alongside these people you DO NOT KNOW, who have just entered your home, threatened you, and kidnapped you, you are taken to an airport and put onto a plane. No one has given you any explanation of what is happening or where you’re being taken.
If you thought you felt panicked and out of control before, this experience intensifies those feelings exponentially. Your body begins to generate powerful physiological responses to this all-consuming stress and panic. Your legs get weak, your hands shake, you begin to sweat. You start to feel like no matter how hard you try, you can’t fill your lungs more than halfway. You get dizzy and your vision blurs. You become hyper vigilant and hyper aware. To protect you from the physiological symptoms, your brain releases chemicals that numb the fear. You dissociate.
Even if you aren’t legally (with your parents’ signatures and well wishes) kidnapped and trafficked into the Troubled Teen Industry, you will experience these same feelings upon your arrival at your program. The only difference is that your parents are the ones transporting you hundreds of miles from home then abandoning you without explanation before driving away as you scream for help from the depths of your soul towards the vague shape of the car speeding away, distorted by your uncontrollable tears of panic and terror. This is the moment you learn exactly what defines the Troubled Teen Industry.
Now I want you to pull out those feelings I told you to keep accessible earlier. I’ll need you to take those emotions and amplify them by 10,000. Then add them to those feelings of utter panic, terror, and shock that your hypothetical self is feeling right now.
“Psychological abuse” is not a dramatized metaphor in the Troubled Teen Industry. It is a rule. A standard. An expectation. Legitimate and definitive psychological abuse by the very definition of the term is the cornerstone of the TTI that is holding the entire disgusting, abominable operation together. This aggressive mental torture is applied before you even arrive at your program. The disgraceful practice of forcefully expelling a child from their families, keeping them entirely oblivious to the trauma that is about to happen to them, and proclaiming that “this is for your own good” or “this place will help you get better” while throwing them into a nightmare hellscape to be shattered in every sense of the word is the very embodiment of psychological abuse. And at this point, the experience is still a blissful paradise compared to the complete and thorough destruction you will suffer in the months and years to come.
When you say “hostages in your own home”, you are making a mockery of the paralyzing terror literal hostages feel and the soul shattering damage caused when a child is held captive and forced to face agonizing physical and emotional anguish for months, sometimes even years, without respite while being conditioned to believe that their fate is their fault, they have earned this horrific torture by allowing their trauma responses to be activated, and if it hadn’t been for the admirable actions and unwavering selflessness of the program and their parents, they would inevitably be dead in an alley somewhere, undoubtedly due to their own intentional failure to make the right decisions.
The various treatments imposed on kids by the TTI identically match each and every one of the torture techniques and practices defined in Biderman’s Chart of Coercion, a document constructed in 1956 by Albert Biderman as an instruction manual for the United States Military to maximize the physical and psychological effects of actual, definitive, and openly admitted torture strategies when used against verified PRISONERS OF WAR. The most blatant difference is that the TTI applies it to CHILDREN who have already been severely traumatized, and pretend that it will magically heal their existing trauma, not grown men who, by being in the military, voluntarily or otherwise, have at least the most basic understanding and expectation that there is the potential they may be captured as prisoners of war and that psychological torture is guaranteed if they are.
The last phrase mentioned is CPTSD. Since I escaped from the TTI I have encountered and interacted with COUNTLESS people with all forms of trauma, including multiple traumas, and mild to severe mental illness. There is no form of traumatic experience that I have come across that is as absolutely, brutally, and so uniquely devastating as the trauma from the TTI. This isn’t to minimize or invalidate anyone’s trauma in any way. With any other form of trauma, I have witnessed the competency and adeptness of survivors to process and overcome their trauma, sometimes requiring some help, but their instinctual ability to heal is still intact.
That is not something that the vast majority of TTI survivors have unless they have worked for it tirelessly with every ounce of their being over years and even decades. We rarely seek, let alone accept, professional help because when we do, those professionals are all but guaranteed to immediately and aggressively gaslight us. We make the incredibly terrifying choice to finally let our guard down and begin to admit to ourselves that what was done to us was undeniable abuse enough to even seek help. Identically to the TTI, we are again abused by those who are obligated, professionally required, to provide help and do no harm. These professionals support and admire TTI programs. Mental health professionals are one of the strongest catalysts in funneling children into the industry. And when we mention that we survived a TTI program, the unwaveringly predictable response is almost identical to the same deception and gaslighting our parents used to prepare us for the abuse we were blindsided with once we arrived at our programs.
“It can’t have been that bad, that would be illegal.”
“You’re embellishing and over exaggerating, these places help kids, not hurt them.”
“Well, if you had just behaved in the first place and shown a little gratitude for everything your parents did for you, then you wouldn’t have ended up there.”
“You are a pathological liar, it is physically impossible that you were abused there.”
"I can't help you until you admit that all this abuse talk is just an invention of your imagination."
And these are words spoken to patients and clients by the professionals we’re expected to blindly trust to help us heal from that utterly devastating injury inflicted on us in our programs. These are the same words that are violently screamed into our faces numerous times each day like clockwork. We are dangerously abused into believing in our souls that we earned this legally acceptable and justified form of torture. We are deeply convinced that we are permanently shattered without any hope of even basic repair and are worthy of ejection from society. We are told that the programs are generously doing us a favor by taking us in because everyone else in the world has given up on us, and rightfully so. We are brainwashed into believing appalling and disgusting things about ourselves that stick with us for the rest of our lives. We are told that death is the only fate available to us, but the programs have so selflessly offered themselves as our only saving grace. Our only chance to continue living was the program. We owe our lives and futures to these saviors and we are obligated to live every day with unwavering devotion and gratitude to the places that magically transformed us and gave us our only opportunity at life. When we leave our programs, we are paralyzed with terror and anguish and brainwashed into thorough dysfunction in every sense of the word. Our "troubled" label ensures that we will be blacklisted from society, convicted and sentenced to the threatening, darkened blanket of stigma that will closely stalk us every minute of our remaining existance. No amount of time or effort will be strong enough to lift the heavy shroud of shame and disgrace we've been trapped under by the Troubled Teen Industry.
Everyone has that little voice in the back of their minds that tries to make us doubt ourselves. For most people, they can counteract those whispers by just telling themselves the opposite. Those whispers are rare, few and far between, and easy to dissipate with logic, common sense, security, and self-confidence. For TTI survivors, those voices are not whispers. They are screamed into our brains with deafening force whenever there is a silent pause in our minds. They are fully operating at maximum capacity almost every moment of our lives. For me personally, I STILL clearly and accurately hear the voices of the program staff who abused me when my thoughts berate and condemn my every attempt to quiet them. I am exhausted by the relentless and deliberate effort it takes to maintain my unstable awareness that the beliefs infused into me by the Troubled Teen Industry are just the embodiment of their manipulation, exploitation, domineering control, devastating humiliation, malevolent deprivation and isolation of the children they have agreed, promised, and guaranteed parents and families to shield from harm.
December 22, 2023 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the day I got sent away and my life was irrevocably damaged. TWENTY YEARS I have been tortured by the trauma I received in the TTI. You know something really unsettling? I have now lived longer with this fragmented existence than I have with the naive ignorance of all things TTI. I have more experience fighting the demons that were thrust on me as a welcome gift I was not permitted to deny by the TTI twenty years ago than I do actually LIVING my life without their presence. I am much more proficient at
finding contentment under the dark cloud that has shadowed me for decades than I am at allowing myself even short glimpses of the sun. The last time I let myself innocently trust the light, it turned out to be this impenetrable darkness I live with parading as a hypnotizing, glittering brilliance that promised to rescue me from the distress I already felt.
My memories and night terrors about the TTI are so much more vivid than any other memory in my mind. Yes, it has been two decades and I still have regular, though not as frequent, night terrors that instantly and violently teleport me right back into my programs. I am forced to relive my deepest trauma in full and overwhelming detail each and every time. I have worked so incredibly hard at learning to soothe my extensive array of trauma responses and triggers. But I still feel like, if I turn around, the trauma I expect to be miles away is still silently hovering over my shoulder.
Parents and families casually use the phrases I mentioned way back in the beginning, while at the very same moment, there are children living the torture of each one of those to the worst possible extreme. I am not trying to minimize your feelings either. I encourage you to allow yourself to really lean into those feelings and feel them as deeply as you can. Then I request that you honestly consider how each of those would feel if they were turned up beyond the limit of tolerance.
If you read this using the advice I gave at the beginning to at least give me the opportunity to give you an honest and raw idea of what it is like to live as a TTI survivor, then you should be ready to hear this:
If the feelings that you have that contributed to your choice to use those phrases were amplified far beyond your realm of tolerance, would you survive it? Do you think your child could? Would you ever forgive yourself if you made the choice that condemned them to live with the trauma of a TTI survivor?
I chose to share this complete deconstruction of my trauma with you because it is so acutely critical for you, and any prospective TTI parent, to deeply understand the potentially life-threatening implications, impacts, and outcomes these programs administer to children who are simply struggling to process prior trauma and significant life and body changes and are trying to do it without guidance or support. I shared this because, before you make a decision that will immediately and permanently damage the relationship you have with your child beyond repair, and will unfairly sentence them to an incredibly more difficult and painful life, I think you deserve a fully honest, open, and exposed view of just exactly what you and your child will likely face if you allow yourself to believe the reprehensible deception and fabrication these programs are experts at distributing with the intention of taking advantage of desperate, anguished parents who are willing to pay any price for the promised full improvement of their child’s mental health.
I feel like it’s my responsibility as a survivor to share this information with parents so they’re able to see through the tactics programs use just so they can rob you blind. The people running these places are the unsurpassable experts of manipulation and exploitation. They have proven their proficiency and malicious willingness to convince deeply loving parents to sign over their actual, living children by promising impossibly unattainable results. They have to be the BEST at what they do to be able to abduct a child from their own parents by obtaining full and complete permission from the parents themselves. The severe abuse and neglect is hidden behind a curtain called therapy and treatment and survivors are doing everything they can to pull the curtain back and expose every inch of what is so incredibly wrong with the TTI once and for all.
I desperately hope that after reading this you have the knowledge and understanding you need in order to make the absolute best, safest, and most supportive decision for your child and your family. You absolutely cannot allow these places to defraud you of your own child. I trust that you will find what is right for your child and family in your heart. I would not wish the life of a TTI survivor on even the absolute worst person on earth. Not one single child could ever do something so bad, or hurtful, or embarrassing that they deserve this life.