Bingeable: The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping

Photo courtesy of Netflix
TEEN TORTURE: Netlfix’s new docuseries, The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping, examines the mistreatment of students at The Academy at Ivy Ridge, purportedly a therapeutic school for troubled teens.

Masked as schools with a focus on “healing troubled teens,” Ivy Ridge and its sister schools run by the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (known as WWASP) aren’t out to help teenagers become better people, they’re out to manipulate parents into spending incredible amounts of money and suppressing their captives until they break. 

Filmmaker Katherine Kubler is herself a survivor of Ivy Ridge, and this three-part docuseries seems to be a tool for her in her journey not just toward healing herself, but in also making her family understand the horror of what she went through under the guise of their helping her. Kubler brings together a group of survivors who venture back to Ivy Ridge—now defunct and abandoned. 

The series explores the cult-like mentality that parents are manipulated into, the horror of the students’ everyday lives, the people who’ve gotten rich off the “troubled teen” industry, and the origin behind how it became such a lucrative and unregulated business that preys on desperate families. (Thanks a lot, Nancy Reagan!) As someone who knows people who have been locked into these systems, I found it hit on authentic survivor trauma. (three 61- to 66-min. episodes)

—Anna Starkey

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