Maia Szalavitz is a journalist and author who specializes in mental health coverage, with a particular focus on addictions, drug policy, neuroscience and media criticism of reporting on these issues. Her personal experience as a former cocaine and heroin addict—and her extensive knowledge of the scientific literature on addictions and drug policy—brings a unique perspective to her work.
Her most recent book, co-written with leading child trauma expert Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD, is The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing (Basic, 2007). The book explores how trauma affects the developing brain and why love is the most important ingredient in recovery.
She is also the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006). It serves as the first book-length expose of widespread abuse in largely unregulated teen “tough love” programs and boot camps. Szalavitz's work has helped spur increased activism and legislative attention to the plight of thousands of teens held in these programs.
She is co-author, with Dr. Joseph Volpicelli, M.D., Ph.D. of the University of Pennsylvania, of Recovery Options: The Complete Guide: How You and Your Loved Ones Can Understand and Treat Alcohol and Other Drug Problems (John S. Wiley, 2000). This is the first evidence-based consumer guide to addiction treatment; most other books on this subject press a particular approach to addiction and recovery (usually 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous) rather than looking at the data. It also includes both positive and negative perspectives from addicts on treatment.
She has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Elle, Newsday, New York Magazine, New Scientist, Newsweek, Salon, Redbook, O: the Oprah Magazine, the New York Daily News, the Village Voice,Brill’s Content, Cerebrum and other major publications. She has appeared on Oprah, CNN, MSNBC and NPR.
Maia Szalavitz has also worked in television-- first as Associate Producer and then Segment Producer for PBS's "Charlie Rose", then on several documentaries including a Barbara Walters' AIDS special for ABC and as Series Researcher and Associate Producer for the PBS documentary series, "Moyers on Addiction: Close to Home".
She was the 2004 recipient of the American Psychological Association’s Addiction Division Award for “Outstanding Contributions to Advancing the Understanding of Addictions” and the 2005 recipient of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Edward M. Brecher Award for Achievement in Journalism.
She studied as an undergraduate at Columbia University and received her B.A., cum laude, in psychology from Brooklyn College.