Troubled Teen Industry: Where Helping Kids Includes Rape, Abuse & Starvation

shutterstock_36423124Some teenagers have emotional problems. Eating disorders, depression, psychological problems, drug problems. More frequently, when a parent of a troubled teen has tried numerous ways in order to get their kids help, either through therapy or family counselors or medication, and none of these tactics are providing helpful for their teen or the behavior, parents can then have them kidnapped in the middle of the night and sent off to a “rehabilitation” facility, a “tough-love” camp where their teen will be “scared straight” into changing their behavior. At the very least, these programs have been shown not to be very effective when it comes to changing a kid’s behavior. At the very worst, time spent in these facilities results in post-traumatic stress disorder, a lifetime of anxiety attacks, more severe drug use, and sometimes death.

There is a television show aired on Lifetime entitled “Teen Trouble” where host, Josh Shipp, who has no credentials in psychology or addiction treatment works with a team of unnamed “experts” on showing teens the ramifications continuing embarking on whatever behavior is seen as detrimental  to their particular situation. The teens are not treated for their drug use, chemical dependency or depression, Teen Trouble instead relies on scare  inducing fear through confrontation,and showing the teens the consequences of their actions, whether these be homelessness, disfigurement or death. From


In one episode, for example, a girl is forced to lie down in a coffin and touch dead bodies; in another, a boy is put in casts and a wheelchair.  A third episode includes a “make over” where a teen girl’s face appears covered with scabs and sores; another sees a young woman spend a winter night on the streets with the homeless. Afterward, many of the teens are sent to tough wilderness or “emotional growth” boarding schools.

There are over one thousand of these “boarding schools” in the US alone.  They are easily recognizable by their code names: therapeutic boarding school, wilderness program, juvenile boot camp, behavior modification program, or residential treatment center. They range in type from large prison-like facilities to secluded cabins in the woods. Parents pay around $50,000 a year in order for their kids to be “rehabilitated” by hard labor, isolation, military-style drills and worse. From

The Workouts usually took three hours, though any defiance or lagging by one person would earn punishment for the whole group. I was told of one workout that lasted for over 7 hours.

During the rest of the week, we went on hikes or did forced labor on the ranch. If someone was still being defiant they had to shovel piles of horse manure (wearing their own shoes of course) or made to dig 2′x 6′ x 6′ hole in the ground or fill another hole up.


And another account:

That continued until a couple of weeks later, when I went to one of my counseling sessions. On the first night, I had been ordered to strip down, but it seemed really odd to me when my counselor told me to strip down to the waist. I didn’t fight it though for fear of being sent back in the program and/or corporally punished. My counselor then started fondling my breasts as I sat and watched in horror, but I was too afraid to complain.

This continued into a cycle of sexual molestation and/or powertripping by this particular counselor. I tried eventually to complain, but was only told that ‘I didn’t have Jesus in my heart’ and then paddled.


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  • Hope

    I don’t have much to say about these “schools,” other than OMG how horrible!!! But I will say, if you have a teen, or any family member who is a drug user to not give up. Drug abuse runs in my family, and most of those were addicted are now living clean, meaningful, and happy lives. And I don’t think any of them were helped by the same program. Keep trying different rehabs, different therapies, and don’t give up! There is more help out there, and there is always hope.

  • Matt

    The stories about traumatic experiences in these various institutions are very similar to each other. I suspect that working in this field attracts a certain type of predator. I was in a religious boys school in the early to mid 90′s which I would have been there much longer but the state raided the school. We were beat, underfed, forced manual labor, no structured education, molested, forced to stand in waist deep sewage, locked in a closet for over a month, I could go on and on. The director conditioned the parents to not believe the kids so even when I returned home my parents minimized my trauma.

    It wasn’t until 15 years after the school that I realized I needed help. I ended up being diagnosed with PTSD and saw a therapist at least once a week for over two years. My relationship with my parents is always fragile and I feel that many opportunities were stolen from me. I truly would have been better off in a prison. What I went through I wouldn’t wish on an enemy. The scary thing is I was better off than most of my peers that were there. Some committed suicide, I’m sure a few are lifers in prison, most have issues holding down a job or any meaningful relationships.

    If you’re a parent with a troubled teen please, please research your options. No one will ever care for or love your child like you can.

  • Emmali Lucia

    Reading that memorial page… What the hell happened on November 24th 1980? Vision Quest is apparently still in business, also. Which is horrifying, but maybe they’ve changed since the last death in 1996?

    Although, I’m going to keep an eye out for any children who have “Run Away and were never found” from Vision Quest.

  • TheHappyPappy

    I’m currently reading a book on FASD called “Broken Angels.” The author points out that children with FASD will often act out and have behavioral problems because of the central nervous system damage caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. These are young people who will never fully understand cause and effect, who often appear to lack both compassion and remorse, and who are incapable of learning from either their mistakes or a reward-punishment discipline system. They have special needs and will always need supervision, regardless of age or intelligence (and yes, some of them have very high IQs). Sadly, these kids are often not properly diagnosed and parents/teacher/authorities regard them as lazy, stupid and willfully disobedient. Because they’re not aware of the child’s irreversible brain damage they don’t understand that the child is not capable of learning the lesson they’re trying to teach, anymore than a person with severe Down Syndrome could learn calculus.

    Sending one of these children to a place like the ones you describe will be disastrous. It’s cruel and unusual punishment under any circumstances, but especially for someone who has behavioral problems whose root cause is brain damage. Some of the classmates Matt mentions, who “committed suicide… are lifers in prison [and/or] have issues holding down a job or any meaningful relationships.” may be just such people. Certainly that will be the outcome for the majority of FASD youth who are not diagnosed and treated very early in life.

    Remember ladies, NO amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. And please don’t reply by saying “my/my sister’s/friend’s/cousin’s baby was born perfectly healthy, and she drank during pregnancy!” The CNS damage caused by prenatal alcohol exposure usually doesn’t become apparent until the child is school age. Many children with Alcohol Related Neuro-developmental Disorder (the milder form of FASD) appear very healthy at birth and during the infant/toddler/preschool years. It’s later in life, when they start being given greater freedom and more complex tasks that problems will start to crop up. Play it safe! Plan your pregnancies and abstain completely!

    • Blooming_Babies

      Amazing how all those babies born during a time when women didn’t abstain, or born in a country where women don’t abstain we’re not affected in greater numbers.

      Magical thinking and fear based propaganda won’t solve this problem… Sorry.

  • Amy Everpean

    I think its so great that they have programs out there to help teens who are struggling. I recently sent my child to a boarding school that specialized in helping them, and it was seriously the best thing for them. Thanks to everyone out there who helps teens that are struggling.

  • Lisa Cash Hanson

    This breaks my heart. I have not seen the show and it sounds awful.

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