In the past few years, hundreds of "tough love" behavior-modification programs including boot camps, wilderness programs, and "therapeutic" and "emotional growth" boarding schools have been created for American teens in the United States and abroad. One group of facilities operated by the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP) has a current enrollment of more then 2,000 adolescents.
In his litigation on behalf of former patients of a predecessor of these programs, Straight/Kids, Philip Elberg concluded that their ability to retain patients in what amounted to a private jail was in large part due to the ability of the program operators to lure parents of adolescents into a cultic environment in which their concern about their children caused them to abandon their ability to think critically in favor of "working their own program," and trusting its operators to do what was right despite clear evidence that the program was a fraud and their children were being harmed.
At this program, Mr. Elberg and Maia Szalavitz, the author of a recently published book entitled Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead Books, 2006), will discuss the history of these facilities and how one of them, WWASP, has utilized Large Group Awareness Training Sessions to trick parents into believing that their child's survival depends on their absolute faith in the word of the WWASP staff and in disbelieving what they are told by their children and even what they see with their eyes.
The talk will focus on how, by using manipulative and coercive techniques, the tough-love salespeople have created a growth industry without any scientific or therapeutic basis.