If You're A Survivor Of The "Troubled Teen" Industry, Tell Us Your Story

·2 min read

More than 50,000 teens in the U.S are sent away by their parents or guardians to "behavioral modification" centers each year. Many of these centers claim to help children, usually aged 12–18, with a range of issues such as trauma, depression, or disobedient behavior. But in many of these cases, the children going into these programs find themselves isolated, traumatized, and are even subject to abuse.

A girl sits on the couch with her legs pulled up to her chest with one arm wrapped around her knees and the other pressed into a fist against her mouth as she turns to look out the window

These centers are known by a range of names, including Wilderness Therapy, behavior boot camp, or therapeutic boarding schools.

Fizkes / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Because this is unfortunately common and invisible, we'd like to raise awareness for the "troubled teen" industry. If you're a survivor of a "behavioral modification" center, and if you feel comfortable doing so, please share your story with us.

Many survivors, now young adults, are using TikTok to share their experiences, like Daniel Stearns (@danielthemammal). Daniel shared his story about being in wilderness therapy when he was 15 years old:

These videos use the hashtag #ISeeYouSurvivor.

In the video, Daniel describes being legally kidnapped by program officials with the consent of his parents before being brought to a wilderness therapy program, where he was forced to live in the woods. While under the care of an organization that had convinced his parents that he was thriving in the program, Daniel suffered from dehydration and malnourishment.

Screengrabs of Daniel from his TikTok video

He goes on to talk about watching his peers in the program try to escape by attempting suicide or trying to run away. Though he initially expected to spend only three months in a behavior modification program, Daniel did not return home until a year and a half after he first began the program. He describes this as a common occurrence in many survivors' experiences.

Daniel Stearns / Via tiktok.com

When sharing your story, you could talk about your life before you were sent to the center and why you were sent to one.

Hands place a black suitcase into the open trunk of a car
Helivideo / Getty Images/iStockphoto

What sort of behavioral modification program did you attend? Maybe it advertised itself as wilderness therapy, a boarding school, or a boot camp?

A bed sits in a student dormitory with a chair beside it near a desk with a lamp on top of the desk
Catherine Mcqueen / Getty Images

What was your experience like, and what has your life been like since you left?

A fire pit in the wilderness
Janiecbros / Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you've been sent to a "behavioral modification" center, please share your experiences and what you want people to know in the comments below. If you prefer to tell your story anonymously, please submit it in this anonymous form. Your story could be featured in an upcoming BuzzFeed Community post and shed light on this industry.

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