Help at Any Cost: How the
Troubled-Teen Industry
Cons Parents and Hurts Kids

A Book By Maia Szalavitz
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Critical Reviews & Media Mentions

"...this book, filled with first-person accounts, should be required reading in Parenting 101."

--Publishers Weekly / Arts / Books
Arrested Development
Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids. By Maia Szalavitz. Riverhead Books. 320 pages. $25.95.
Nell Bernstein
March/April 2006 Issue

"Teenagers: They're not what they used to be. They're less violent than they were a decade or so ago and less liable to act up at school or try to harm themselves. They're also less likely to use drugs, get pregnant, or climb behind the wheel drunk and drive into a tree. But no amount of happy stats can counter the popular image of the teenage superpredatoror the notion that each generation is worse than the one before.

"Our determination to distrust our own children shows up on every page of Maia Szalavitz's Help at Any Cost, a compendium of nightmares drawn from the history of an industry that claims to rehabilitate wayward youth via 'tough love' techniques such as forced marches, solitary confinement, food and sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, 'stress positions,' and other methods now associated with Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Marketed variously as boot camps, behavior-modification programs, and 'therapeutic' boarding schoolsand scattered across the globethe troubled-teen industry claims to cure everything from back talk to addiction, despite the complete lack of evidence that it works and the mounting evidence of the harm it inflicts, from post-traumatic stress to more than a dozen deaths."


San Diego Union Tribune
Prisoners of war
Reviewed by Mark Sauer, Union-Tribune staff writer
February 19, 2006
"Parents have tried confrontation, punishment. Nothing has worked. Or maybe the parents are just looking for some 'preventive medicine' to keep their kids from falling victim to the risks of adolescence.

"They hear about a 'tough-love' camp where kids are straightened out through severe discipline and peer pressure. Though the price is steep, the programis advertised as a lifeline of hope for desperate parents who are convinced that drastic measures are necessary.

"The trouble is there is no evidence it works. And many residential tough-love programs have disturbing histories of physical abuse and even deaths, according to author Maia Szalavitz. ..."


Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families

Inside the "Troubled-Teen Industry"
Book review by Steve Weinberg
Published Jan. 17, 2006

"Szalavitz is a talented, relentless investigator. Her outrage surfaces frequently as children die, as once loving families are atomized, and as troubled-teen industry entrepreneurs escape criminal prosecution and use legal maneuvering to prevail in civil court lawsuits. ..."


The business of tough love
Special to Newsday. Karen Karbo is the author of "The Stuff of Life," a memoir about the last year of her father's life. (This review also ran in the Baltomore Sun, Sunday Feb 19th)

February 12, 2006

"Why doesn't the bad press, the occasional harrowing death of a child, ugly court trials and law suits, and the fact that the Justice Department has come out against youth boot camps, work their marketplace magic and create less demand? Szalavitz is at her best explaining the odd wrinkles in the human psyche that account for desperate parents paying through the nose for strangers to treat their children worse than death-row inmates, and the way in which survivors of horrific ordeals tend to value the experience merely because they survived it. Her evidence is clear that the incarcerated teens are brainwashed, but so are their parents, who come to believe that their last recourse is a tough love program, without which their child will die."

Publishers Weekly
Family & Relationships | Life Stages - Teenagers; Psychology | Psychology & Psychiatry Profession - General; Psychology | Psychopathology - Addiction
Reviewed 2006-01-02
"This important book takes the troubled-teens industry to task, exposing the "extremely harsh, perhaps even brutal tactics [companies use to] keep [kids] in line." For $2,000 a month and more, a program will take an oppositional teen to a lockdown facility or a wilderness boot camp for however long it takes to break him or her. ..."

Szalavitz, Maia. Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids. Feb. 2006. 320p. Riverhead, $25.95 (1-59448-910-6). 362.74.

The tough-love tactics that have been lauded for turning around troubled teens are rife with abuse and prey on parents in this era of hyperparenting, Szalavitz concludes, after an in-depth investigation into several prominent programs. In separate sections of the book, she focuses on Straight Incorporated, based on the Synanon substance-abuse program; the North Star wilderness boot camp; the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs, six programs operating in four states and two countries; and the KIDS program, which provoked a lawsuit by a young woman held for 13 years."

Media Mentions

London Guardian
Train them like rats
Boot camps for badly behaved teenagers are mistaking conformity for emotional growth
Cherry Potter
Wednesday February 22, 2006

"More than two dozen teens have died while in such programmes. In Mexico three member schools of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools were closed for abuse and human-rights violations. An official who raided a boot camp in Costa Rica said: "We don't even allow that kind of punishment for prison inmates."

"Maia Szalavitz, the author of Help At Any Cost, has researched the kids who get sent to these places. Many have mental illnesses and a history of trauma and abuse. The last thing they need is more experience of powerlessness, humiliation and pain. But no specialist psychiatric diagnosis is required for admission."

No More Nightmares at Tranquility Bay?
By John Gorenfeld,
Posted on January 23, 2006, Printed on February 2, 2006

"From the Czech Republic to Costa Rica and Mexico, cops have seized American overseers for caging or mistreating American teens at harsh "boot camps" run under foreign flags to escape U.S. law.

"But here at home, the companies that ship teenagers to remote reform schools can freely go about their business in many states. You can dial 1-800-355-TEEN to reach the sales staff of Teen Help, LLC, who can arrange for your child to be spirited away. They might put you in touch with "escorts," guys who can pull up to your driveway in a van and transport even the most defiant child to the airport. The next destination is up to you: a "tough love" school here in the 50 states, like Majestic Ranch in Utah or Spring Creek Lodge Academy in Montana?"

Copyright 2005 Maia Szalavitz. All rights reserved..
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