“Tough Love” Exposed
In 2006, addiction journalist Maia Szalavitz published Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids–a well-researched and well-written review on harm in the name of help within youth boot camps, teen rehab, and other ‘get tough’ programs for children and adolescents. Maia’s book exposed the underbelly of social policies and clinical interventions gone haywire under the influences of ideological excess and personal/corporate profiteering. Help at Any Cost revealed the youth side of a larger story of abuses within closed therapeutic systems–abuses earlier revealed in such books as Mitchell, Ofshe, and Mitchell’s The Light on Synanon (1982) and Janzen’s The Rise and Fall of Synanon (2001).
What have been missing in these valuable exposés are the collective voices of those who were thrust into these systems, often with the best intentions by parents, caregivers, and social authorities. That vacuum has been filled by recent survivor accounts such as Cyndy Drew Etler’s Straightling: A Memoir and Cindy Art’s Trapped in Paradise: A Memoir, the proliferation of survivor websites (e.g., http://survivingstraightinc.com/ and http://www.fixmykidthemovie.com/reconnect.cfm), and a just-released new book by Marcus Chatfield entitled Institutionalized Persuasion that offers the most detailed account and analysis to date of the practices used within Straight, Inc. and its progeny of similar programs.
Readers of this site will recall the interview with Marcus Chatfield I first posted in 2011. His Institutionalized Persuasion offers a sweeping research review and an insider’s perspective on the methods used in Straight Incorporated and numerous other youth rehabilitation programs. Anyone working with youth and their families has a clinical and ethical responsibility to read and reflect on these stories. Doing so is a first step in a process of collective amends through which we as a professional field can expose and expiate past sins, inventory and banish residual programs and practices reflecting such abuses, and commit ourselves and future generations to the mantra, “Never again!”
Thanks Marcus, we needed this. To order Institutionalized Persuasion, click here.