Project Type

URC Presentation

College or School


Class Year




Faculty Research Advisor

Robert Eckstein


In 2021, I received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) to study the effects of the system I lived in from ages 13 to 16: the troubled teen industry. The troubled teen industry (TTI) consists of thousands of underregulated residential youth treatment facilities. These treatment facilities operate on a for-profit basis and trace their origins back to the 1958 cult Synanon. Many cases of abuse have been reported about these facilities, including deaths. Adolescents are sent into the TTI for anything from truancy to depression to drug addiction. My research focused on gaining first-hand insight into people’s experiences surrounding one such treatment facility, through interviews with nineteen former residents. This oral history begins by discussing participants’ experiences prior to treatment at the facility, including their experiences at other facilities. Next are their experiences at this facility, including abuse and neglect, discrimination, the use of cult tactics, and the exacerbation of their symptoms. Finally, I discuss their transitions back to life after the TTI, the influences of the TTI on their relationships, and the things that have helped them heal.