The idea that punishment can be therapeutic is not unique to the Rotenberg Center. In fact, this notion is widespread among the hundreds of “emotional growth boarding schools,” wilderness camps, and “tough love” antidrug programs that make up the billion-dollar teen residential treatment industry. No fewer than 50 programs (though not the Rotenberg Center) can trace their treatment philosophy, directly or indirectly, to an antidrug cult called Synanon.
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Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids Maia Szalavitz Riverhead / 326 pages / $25.95 Maia Szalavitz’s brisk investigation of America’s so-called “tough love” treatment programs, which bill themselves as the last hope for out-of-control, drug-taking teens, would be the stuff of a bad TV movie if it weren’t so smart, well-researched and evenhanded. The title alone evokes alarm: Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids. There’s an entire industry that thrives on whipping uncooperative teenagers into shape? The notoriously unregulated billion-dollar business – comprising tough-love wilderness programs,