Residential Treatment Centers

Treatment Center Basics

Treatment center for teens has both a general and a specific meaning. Learn more about the meaning of treatment center for teens and what kinds of services it can provide by reading this article.

The Two Meanings of Treatment Center for Teens

People use the term treatment center for teens in a loose and generic way for any larger staffed facility, exclusively for teens, that teens may go to in order to receive therapy or medical attention. In other words, it is simply a place where teens, and only teens, receive some sort of treatment.

In the term residential treatment center for teens, however, a more specific meaning is evoked. In the technical language that describes places in which teens may receive therapies, counseling, and treatment as residential clients, a residential treatment center is distinct from other types of facilities, like small residential programs, wilderness programs, outdoor therapeutic programs, emotional growth boarding schools, personal growth boarding schools, therapeutic boarding schools, and transitional living centers. As distinct from these, a residential treatment center for teens refers to a place with a higher degree of medical treatment available. While not a hospital, a residential treatment center will have staff responsible for managing medication and monitoring medical conditions. Unlike the other types of teen residential programs, residential treatment centers for teens are equipped to handle teens with more serious behavioral and psychological issues.

This does not mean that all treatment centers for teens are the same. Some focus on maintaining a small, intimate, family-style setting; others employ a wilderness program; some focus on eating disorders. All may be boys only, girls only, or coeducational, and coeducational facilities may work with boys and girls together, or have separate campuses. Treatment centers also differ in their locations/settings; though many tend to be rural and/or natural, some are located on a ranch, for example, while Tamarack Center, for example, while in a quiet setting, is minutes from both downtown Spokane and Spokane International Airport.

According to the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP), these programs are likely to have been accredited by The Joint Commission (TJC), formerly the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).

Finding a Treatment Center for Teens

NATSAP and TJC are both good starting points for locating treatment centers for teens.

-At the NATSAP site, go to the search facility and in the drop-down menu for ‘Program Type,’ select ‘Residential Treatment Center.’ Enter any other criteria you would like to use to filter, such as an age range, a particular state, or choice of gender (Girls Only, Boys Only, or Coeducational), or leave all these as set to view the full list of over 180 NATSAP member organizations in this category.

-At the TJC site, go to the search tool and search by the name of the organization you want to check, ZIP code, state, or city to begin your search.


Boarding Schools

Boarding School Basics

Boarding schools for troubled teens have a dual mission: to educate teens while assisting them with whatever’s troubling them through counseling, therapy, and other means. This article explains more about therapeutic boarding schools.

Basics of Boarding Schools for Troubled Teens

Boarding schools for troubled teens may go by several names: emotional growth boarding schools, therapeutic boarding schools, or personal development boarding schools, for example. Teens who attend these schools receive treatment integrated with education, so the treatment program, education program, healthcare staff, and educators should all be licensed and/or accredited by state, regional, or national and reputable organizations. In some cases, the boarding school may be authorized to grant a high school diploma.

Boarding schools for troubled teens may be coeducational, all-boys, or all-girls. Some coeducational boarding schools have separate campuses for boys and girls. All such boarding schools have very specific designations for the ages they treat. Some treat preadolescents, as well as adolescents; some treat only a specific subsection of teenagers (e.g., 14 to 18); some have a separate young adult program that accepts young people into their twenties; and some require a specific age upon admission/enrollment.

Teens enrolled in one of these facilities may be treated to a wide variety of problems. These include poor school performance, learning disabilities, issues with social relationships, family problems, physical disabilities, and emotional and behavioral issues. Various boarding schools for troubled teens practice different treatment protocols based on different philosophies. Treatment at a boarding school for troubled teens may last from one to two years.

Because different program philosophies and approaches may be better suited to different individuals and because the treatment is often of such long duration, it is essential to the outcome that a good match be made between the teen and the boarding school. The programs make headway provide different guidelines for living (12-Step, Christian, secular community responsibility) and involve teens in widely different activities while striving to meet their goals. Some have an extensive array of sports and intramural opportunities, while some claim to have elite-level academic programs.

For example, New Leaf Academy of Oregon, a girls-only program for girls who must be 10 through 14 when they enroll, involves a 4-H connection and engages each of the girls in caring for a bunny and showing it at the local county fair. The In Balance Ranch Academy, on the other hand, offers 12-Step based therapy to boys 13 to 17.5 years in a ranch setting where a college preparatory curriculum is combined with equine-assisted therapy, a wilderness program, experiential working, and job training. Wellspring Academy, a specialty coeducational boarding academy for teens aged 13 to 18 who struggle with weight issues, uses diet and activity management and cognitive and to help students with weight loss while also providing an accelerated academic program. Clearly these programs are not interchangeable and their suitability for a particular child must be considered.


Residential Treatment Centers

Finding a Residential Treatment Center

The term “Residential Treatment Centers” covers a wide variety of places that people go to and stay at while receiving therapeutic treatment for some condition or issue. In the case of teens, they may also receive schooling. This article explains more.

What Is a Residential Treatment Center for Teens?

Residential Treatment Centers has two definitions. In one case, it is a very broad term and covers a variety of institutions at which teens may reside while receiving treatment. Those that treat teens often limit their population to that age group or-if they treat multiple age groups-separate the teens from younger and/or older clients. But the specific use of the term Residential Treatment Center is more specific.

Places where teens can go and reside while being treated include emotional growth and therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness programs and outdoor therapeutic programs, and small residential programs. Residential Treatment Centers is another type of treatment, a category along with the five just named. Each has its special focus. The mission of residential treatment centers is to treat teens with psychological and behavior issues that are serious, in a highly structured environment where both medication management and monitoring by health care professionals is available. Individual and group therapy are available, and recreation and education are provided as well. It is desirable that they be accredited by The Joint Commission (TJC), previously known as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) or other, similar organizations.

Types of Residential Treatment Centers for Teens

Even though they have a similar purpose, Residential Treatment Centers for teens can have distinct admissions criteria and be guided by different therapeutic approaches. For example, Gray Wolf Ranch, a boys-only facility for young men aged 14 to 25, includes a day school program and provides transitional living for young men who are in the early stages of recovery from addiction. Its approach is based on the 12-Step principles and philosophy. Turn-About Ranch, on the other hand, is a coeducational program for teens 13 to 17 having issues with defiance, and enlists them in running a working ranch with an approach based on Christian values.

Pros and Cons of Residential Treatment Centers for Teens

The key to a successful residential treatment experience for a teen is a) only considering and choosing licensed and certified centers with an exemplary history to ensure that your teen is safe and well cared for and b) making a good match between the teen and the treatment facility and their approach. Teens with issues that the RTC is not equipped to deal may have less successful treatment experiences. Different treatment centers either welcome or prohibit family contact, and either approach may or may not be suitable. If there are triggers, temptations, or other issues in the teens environment, school, or home life, if these are not addressed along with the teen’s individual issues, even the best program may seem to be unsuccessful.

Finding Residential Treatment Centers for Teens

The Joint Commission offers a search for programs that it licenses and/or certifies here:

The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs both includes a search function and also lists the accrediting and/or licensing agencies and the professional affiliations for each school, which gives other points to begin a search.


Military Schools

Military Schools

What are Military Schools?

Military schools are very structured schools. Typically they have a regular school year with summer vacation. Students or Cadets can be boarded or some military schools offer a Day Student discount for those that just attend the school during the day. There are many single sex military schools for boys and there are just a few military schools for girls.

Who are appropriate candidates for Military Schools?

Military schools are good for those students who do not have any major behavioral issues, but just require more structure in their lives. Military schools usually have entrance exams where students must pass with an average to above average academic background.

Who are not appropriate candidates for Military Schools?

Military schools typically have a low tolerance for students with behavioral issues such as: disrespect for people in authority, low school attendance, poor grades, etc. They do not work for students who have emotional or behavioral problems including, ADD/ADHD, clinical depression, and ODD.

Why aren’t Military Schools appropriate for behavior modification?

Military schools do not provide an in-school treatment program as a general rule. These services might be contracted through a private practice while your teen is at a military school, but the schools aren’t equipped for teens with emotional or behavior problems. Military schools don’t have a solid follow-up program and support system needed for troubled teens and their parents. Programs of a confrontational nature have been proven to create more problems for troubled teens.

How much does it cost to attend a Military School?

Most military school cost about $3,000 to $5,000 per month for a nine-month period. Most require the entire nine-month tuition up-front. Some will break the full tuition up into 2-4 payments. Uniforms and other costs are an additional cost of about $1,000 to $4,000 that is required to be paid up-front with the tuition.

Boot Camps

Boot Camps

What are Teen Boot Camps?

There are several kinds of boot camps out there. There are boot camps for learning, for example, the Disney Boot Camp or the Astronaut Boot Camp. There are adult boot camps for losing weight. We are going to discuss the troubled teen boot camps. These juvenile boot camps usually have a military type structure with a lot of screaming from big men with of marching and exercising. This appeals to a lot of parents with troubled teens because they have done a lot of screaming at their teen and it doesn’t seem to work, so they think that someone bigger and meaner looking will force their teen to straighten up.

Who are appropriate teens for Boot Camps?

Boot Camps for teens are short term, typically 30 days. Teens who are looking to get a good exercise program going during the summer may benefit from a boot camp. Teens who do not have any emotional or behavioral problems, but are just sluffing off a little in school and just need a little wake up call, may benefit from a juvenile boot camp.

Who are not appropriate teens for Juvenile Boot Camps?

Since the juvenile boot camps are usually a hostile environment, a teen who is hostile will only learn that that the louder you scream, the more action you will get. Boot Camps are not designed to deal with the emotional side of teens and their behavior problems.

Why are Boot Camps not appropriate for Behavior Modification?

Teen Boot Camps are short term and do not provide treatment. Because they are short term and because of the environment, you may not even be able to contract with outside private services to work with your teen with emotional and behavioral problems. Thirty days is not long enough to make lasting changes. Boot Camps do not have long-term follow up nor support that is needed for troubled teens and parents.

How much do Teen Boot Camps cost?

Boot Camps for teens tend to charge more then a typical Behavior Modification School because they are only 30 days so they feel that parents are willing to pay more for one month then they are for several months over a year. Boot Camps cost between $5,000 and $10,000 for the 30 day stay.

Private Schools

Private Schools

What are Private Schools?

Private Schools (Independent Schools) are schools that are not run by or funded by federal, state, or local governments. Most private schools are “day” school (see Boarding Schools for residential private schools). They are typically divided into to “types” of schools such as – religious or sectarian, military, performing arts, trade or vocational and more. Private schools are K-12 but some offer higher education classes.

Which teens are appropriate for Private Schools?

Teens who desire to study a particular field or faith that is not offered in a public school setting would be appropriate for a private school. Teens who work better in a smaller classroom with more one-on-one attention tend to work better in a private school setting.

Which teens are NOT appropriate for Private Schools?

Private schools do not tolerate disrespectful, out of control teens. Teens that have emotional and/or behavioral problems or a past of emotional and/or behavioral problems do not get accepted into most private schools or if the behavior becomes evident after a teen is enrolled, the teen is usually expelled.

Why are Private Schools not appropriate for Behavior Modification?

Private schools do not offer therapy or treatment for troubled teen behavior. A troubled teen exhibiting emotional and/or behavioral problems needs to receive treatment. Private schools are not equipped to handle teens who have addiction issues, emotional and/or behavioral problems, and disrespectful attitudes. And in some cases, private schools can help to promote the undesired behavior by being in a more influential setting.

How much does a Private School cost?

Private School tuition ranges from $20,000 to $40,000 for the 9 month school year. Some private schools offer scholarships or work programs that will reduce or completely pay the tuition.

Boot Camps

Teen Summer Camps

What are Teen Summer Camps?

Teen Summer Camps are typically very short term programs where teens go to do fun arts and crafts, sing campfire songs, and  sleep in tents or cabins in the wilderness. There are three major categories of camps. Day Camps – where a teen would go for the day do arts and craft or sports and go home at the end of the day. Residential Camps – where a teen boards at the camp and usually sleeps in tents or cabins. Travel programs – where a teen will travel to different locations.

Not all teen summer camps are “camping” or in the wilderness, however. There are many other types of camps that teens are involved in during the summer. Some are sports related like a football, cheerleading, basketball, or volleyball, among others. But there are also academic camps for those with a particular interest in a specific area like: science, robotics, leadership, art, math, business, or other academic areas. There are other types of special interest camps like community service groups, military kids groups, weight loss camps, or adventure camps. And even travel groups that spend a few days, sometimes a week or move, traveling to specific historical or special interest sites. As you can see, the possibilities are endless for teen summer camps.

Which teens are appropriate for Summer Camps?

Teen summer camps are appropriate for teens (boy or girl) who want to spend a week or two doing fun arts and crafts, learn new sports such as how to ride a horse, or spend time with others their age learning more about a particular topic that interests them. The teen will need to be mature enough to listen to, follow directions of, and show respect for those in charge for the camp. The teen needs to be mature and respectful to other people and their property and must be okay with spending time away from their regular environment and people they are used to associating with. Even though some camps may include siblings or friends, they will likely have times that they are not all together. Most teen summer camp programs will have specific criteria that each individual must meet to be considered for the program.

Which teens are NOT appropriate for Teen Summer Camps?

Teen summer camps and summer programs typically last only a week or two. Although they may remove a teen who is struggling with emotional and behavioral problems from his or her environment, a week or two is not long enough to make lasting changes that will continue once the teen returns to his regular environment. Teen summer camps are not for troubled teens or teens looking for recovery from an addiction, unless that is specifically what the camp is for, but those are generally more of a treatment center than a camp. Teen summer camps typically do not offer any therapy or treatment for teens who are struggling with drug and/or alcohol abuse. Teens who “act out” or misbehave are typically sent home immediately. Teens that will not follow rules and continually defy authority will not do well at a teen summer camp.

Why are Teen Summer Camps not appropriate for Behavior Modification?

Teen Summer Camps for boys and girls do not last long enough to make any long lasting changes in a teen who is struggling with emotional and behavioral problems. Summer camps usually will not tolerate any teen that is out of control, caught smoking, having inappropriate relations with other campers, or demonstrating inappropriate behavior. Teens involved in any such acitivities will be sent home immediately. A summer camp is a place for like minded individuals to get together and learn about a common topic of interest, interact with others of similar interests, and participate in activities related to the topic of the camp.

How much does a Teen Summer Camps cost?

Teen summer camps can range from being free to over $10,000. Check for local programs in our area and ask about scholarships or financial aid because a lot of them will get grants based on the number of individuals requesting and using financial aid.