Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Help at Any Cost

Help at Any Cost

4.6 6
by Maia Szalavitz

The troubled-teen industry, with its scaremongering and claims of miraculous changes in behavior through harsh discipline, has existed in one form or another for decades, despite a dearth of evidence supporting its methods. And the growing number of programs that make up this industry are today finding more customers than ever.

Maia Szalavitz's Help at Any


The troubled-teen industry, with its scaremongering and claims of miraculous changes in behavior through harsh discipline, has existed in one form or another for decades, despite a dearth of evidence supporting its methods. And the growing number of programs that make up this industry are today finding more customers than ever.

Maia Szalavitz's Help at Any Cost is the first in-depth investigation of this industry and its practices, starting with its roots in the cultlike sixties rehabilitation program Synanon and Large Group Awareness Training organizations likeest in the seventies; continuing with Straight, Inc., which received Nancy Reagan's seal of approval in the eighties; and culminating with a look at the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs-the leading force in the industry today-which has begun setting up shop in foreign countries to avoid regulation. Szalavitz uncovers disturbing findings about these programs' methods, including allegation of physical and verbal abuse, and presents us with moving, often horrifying, first-person accounts of kids who made it through-as well as stories of those who didn't survive. The book also contains a thoughtfully compiled guide for parents, which details effective treatment alternatives.

Weaving careful reporting with astute analysis, Maia Szalavitz has written an important and timely survey that will change the way we look at rebellious teens-and the people to whom we entrust them. Help at Any Cost is a vital resource with an urgent message that will draw attention to a compelling issue long overlooked.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. Parents pay more than an Ivy League tuition for their children to undergo some "out-of-line" punishments (use of "stress positions," brainwashing, etc.), and, says Szalavitz, there's no evidence that these facilities cure anything. Indeed, many teens suffer post-traumatic stress disorders for years; some actually die in these facilities. Szalavitz, a freelance journalist and senior fellow at Stats.org, has written a courageous-if horrifying-study of the tough-love industry, focusing on four key players: Straight Incorporated, North Star Expeditions, the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and the KIDS program. These hugely profitable businesses are largely unregulated by legal, medical or ethical codes, avoiding accountability for failure by blaming the victim. With a useful appendix discussing when and how to get responsible help for a troubled teen, this book, filled with first-person accounts, should be required reading in Parenting 101. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Szalavitz (senior fellow, stats.org; coauthor, Recovery Options: The Complete Guide) has conducted the first in-depth investigation of the multibillion-dollar teen rehabilitation industry, and her conclusions are chilling. Over the last 40 years, thousands of unruly, disobedient teens have been enrolled (many against their will) in programs promising behavior reform. Often these are wilderness-style boot camps with punishments banned even by the Geneva Conventions-e.g., beatings, food deprivation, and extended isolation. But because the federal government does not regulate these centers and states have little or no oversight, teens' stories of abuse and maltreatment cannot legally be investigated. Szalavitz focuses on four programs or types: Straight Inc., a Reagan-initiated antidrug program; wilderness programs generally; the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs; and a copycat of Straight called KIDS. Relying in part on first-person accounts from teens enrolled in these programs, the author argues that there is no evidence that any of them work and warns that they are dangerous and deceptive. For parents, she includes chapters on better alternatives to tough-love programs. This book is excellent owing to its whistle-blowing approach: it exposes an unregulated industry and alerts adults to the severe harm inflicted by these "schools." Highly recommended for public libraries.-Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA Travel & Geography Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.88(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Maia Szalavitz is the coauthor, with Joseph Volpicelli, M.D., of Recovery Options: The Complete Guide and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, New York, O: The Oprah Magazine, Salon, New Scientist, and the Village Voice, among other publications. A former producer for Charlie Rose and researcher for Bill Moyers, Szalavitz is a senior fellow at stats.org, a media watchdog group that investigates the coverage of science and statistics.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Help at Any Cost 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a long overdue exposé of a business that has for too long been all but ignored by serious journalists. For many years the only book describing the horrors of this industry was An American Gulag by Alexia Parks. It has recently been joined by Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres. Both these books are personal accounts and, though valuable in their own right, they do not address the crucial issues of how these facilities are allowed to exist and why their proprietors are not in jail. Ms Szalavitz's book goes beyond the who and the what and delves into the how and the why. She charts the rise of the 'Tough Love' philosophy and she examines the forces that drive this billion-dollar-a-year industry: a culture of zero tolerance, journalistic panic-mongering, the demonization of youth and the support of politicians, who recognize a bandwagon when they see one and many of whom stand to benefit financially from the industry. In chronicling such a large industry with so many skeletons in its closet (all too often literally) she has obviously had difficulty finding space in a reasonably sized book and has had to confine herself to some of the more notable examples, namely Straight, North Star and WWASP. This short list to some extent obscures the enormous amount of research she has undertaken, a task that included interviewing over a hundred survivors and their parents personally. Looking through the list of acknowledgements I recognize the names of numerous people whose stories never made it into the final text. Nevertheless, although she concentrates on a handful of organizations, many others are discussed to some extent. Indeed, it is difficult to write about North Star without mentioning Challenger Foundation, its predecessor, and the notorious Steve Cartisano. Likewise, it is impossible to write a meaningful history of Straight without mentioning its predecessors, Synanon and the Seed, and its many successors. Indeed, the author was present at the Lulu Corter trial and she gives a first-hand account of the way the methods of KIDS of New Jersey, a Straight descendant, were finally exposed in court. The book has been criticized for focussing on events that occurred long ago but in order to understand how this industry works one must know something of its history. And it should not be assumed that the same thing does not happen today. Many of those who were employed by North Star are still working in the industry. Straight is dead but its many successors are still operating using exactly the same methods. WWASP, meanwhile, continues to open facilities faster than the authorities can close them down. As a senior fellow at stats.org specializing in health and science issues Ms Szalavitz is no stranger to digging up the truth behind the headlines. Readers of her columns will be familiar with the way she has covered issues that other writers either ignore or misrepresent. Her meticulous research and cogent analysis place her head and shoulders above the multitude of journalists who are content merely to follow the flock. This thought-provoking book should be a 'must-read' for every parent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am in the middle of reading this book, and and am amazed and chilled at the stories I am reading. I have always known there were problems and as a mother of a 14 year old son who is being sent to a program by the juvinile justice system I am scared to death. I believe more judges, probation officers and case workers need to read this before making decisions of sending someone's child to these types of places. It is a must read for everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Maia Szalavits has consistently written top notch, incredibly thoughtful commentary on treatment issues. But this just takes the cake. In this book, she tells several stories that very well represent what I like to call the TOUGHLOVE Hategroup or Troubled Parent industry. This has been done before, and occasionally done very well. What makes this book so well worth reading and giving is how she manages to tell of an horrific and ongoing American tragedy, pulling no punches and yet she is graceful, respectful and fair to all subjects and, especially, all readers. As I devoured each chapter, a single refrain kept running through my mind 'I know the pieces fit, cause I watched them fall away...' I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in this industry. Even better? Send one to your school guidance office, your juvenile justice court, your library, your Rotary club or, if you have survived one of these programs, to that friend or loved one who wnats to, but just can't seem to understand.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this riviting book. Maia interviewed our family and many other families while doing research for this book. She has told our story accurately and has postulated questions that are important for our society to answer about what we will and won't allow to happen to our youth, even if they misbehave. Whether you agree with the books conclusions or not, the stories she tells are real. We know many of the people she talks about. These things are happening today, and we need to look at it, be aware and have a voice in the future of our youth. I would not say that this is an unbaised report, but it is well documented and the conclusions are valid and supportable. Maia takes a stand, without apologies. But, she arrived at that stand after much objective research.