In this extended interview, hear Caroline Cole and Rebecca Mellinger, hosts of “Trapped in Treatment,” go into more detail about how their podcast exposes the troubled teen industry, the influence of their executive producer Paris Hilton, and how communities can support young people.
The idea for this podcast was sparked when Caroline and Rebecca accompanied Paris to a rally in Utah for survivors of the Provo Canyon School, a so-called mental health treatment school/facility for troubled teens that Paris attended. While these sorts of “troubled teen” facilities have been around since the 1960s, Senators and advocates have been trying to shed light on the abuses that they and others have suffered inside. The release of Paris’ 2020 documentary This Is Paris truly shifted the tides when Paris opened up about the PTSD she suffered from the four different “troubled teen” boarding schools she attended in her youth.
Along with Paris, Caroline and Rebecca realized that this is a pervasive issue that “Trapped In Treatment” would not only expose to the public, but give other survivors of these schools a platform to share their stories.
Alesha asks the two how parents are convinced to send their children to these schools and what they are told happens inside their walls. Caroline explains that with a lack of regulations, extreme marketing techniques, and lots and lots of lies and deception, parents don’t believe their children about what’s happening, and children are told to not even bother trying to accuse the schools of wrongdoing.
Caroline also went to a behavior modification boarding school and says it took her 15 years for her to be able to talk about her experiences. She now works to advocate and create new policies to support the people who suffered in these schools while her family still struggles to own their involvement.
Alesha shares that she was a victim of sexual abuse as a child and understands that re-entering society and learning to trust even your parents again can be a challenge. Caroline concurs, also speaking about the struggle of re-assimilating into society once she returned from nearly two and a half years in that boarding school. She speaks about both rejoining into her family, trusting them again, and attending a regular school and applying for colleges.
Dax, who is a father to two kids, asks Caroline what resources parents should reach out to if their child is struggling. Caroline says that her nonprofit organization, UnSilenced, works to de-pathologize adolescence and help children stay in their communities and not have parents feel like they have to ship them off for whatever reason. UnSilenced is an incredible resource.
Rebecca says that this is especially difficult when we as a society are told to always trust the medical professionals we engage with. She says that parents need to do their research; it is an easy Google search to see that these schools, like Provo Canyon, are now widely considered dangerous.
While Paris Hilton’s name is obviously a huge draw to this podcast, Dax asks what else she is doing behind the scenes. Rebecca says that Paris is truly leading this charge, and it’s easy to see how dedicated and empathetic she is when she hears other victims’ stories. Rebecca works with Paris on a daily basis as they advocate for state-wide policy changes and begin a federal campaign called the Accountability for Congregate Care Act. She is dedicated to keeping these children in these facilities safe, providing resources to parents, and letting lawmakers know about the decisions that they are making. Paris also interviewed other people who attended Provo Canyon School, and those interviews will be in later episodes of “Trapped In Treatment.”