A gripping chronicle of psychological manipulation and abuse at a “therapeutic” boarding school for troubled teens, and how one young woman fought to heal in the aftermath.
At fifteen, Elizabeth Gilpin was an honor student, a state-ranked swimmer and a rising soccer star, but behind closed doors her undiagnosed depression was wreaking havoc on her life. Growing angrier by the day, she began skipping practices and drinking to excess. At a loss, her parents turned to an educational consultant who suggested Elizabeth be enrolled in a behavioral modification program. That recommendation would change her life forever.
The nightmare began when she was abducted from her bed in the middle of the night by hired professionals and dropped off deep in the woods of Appalachia. Living with no real shelter was only the beginning of her ordeal: she was strip-searched, force-fed, her name was changed to a number and every moment was a test of physical survival.
After three brutal months, Elizabeth was transferred to a boarding school in Southern Virginia that in reality functioned more like a prison. Its curriculum revolved around a perverse form of group therapy where students were psychologically abused and humiliated. Finally, at seventeen, Elizabeth convinced them she was rehabilitated enough to “graduate” and was released.
In this eye-opening and unflinching book, Elizabeth recalls the horrors she endured, the friends she lost to suicide and addiction, and—years later—how she was finally able to pick up the pieces of her life and reclaim her identity.
Actor and producer Gilpin debuts with a searing indictment of the billion-dollar "Troubled Teen Industry" and the boarding school that upended her life. She relates how in high school, she was a successful student who also battled depression and rage. After months of clashing with her parents, she was taken to an "educational consultant" who recommended she be sent to a behavioral modification program. Following the program's protocol, professional escorts pulled 15-year-old Gilpin from her bed one night and took her deep into the Appalachian Mountains, where she was forced to live in the wilderness and partake in humiliating group therapy sessions. Three months later, she was sent to Carlbrook, a boarding school in Virginia that touted a therapeutic curriculum but in reality applied a shame-based "one-size-fits-all treatment plan" to students who suffered from everything from opioid addiction to "playing too many video games." Gilpin is a captivating writer, made even more impressive by the fact that her formal education at Carlbrook wasn't just abysmal, but involved psychological torture such as having a flashlight beam shot into her eyes nightly as she attempted to sleep until she graduated at age 17. By confronting the ugliness of a system that almost killed her, Gilpin emerges victorious in a narrative that radiates with humanity. This unflinching account is impossible to put down.