Residential Treatment Centers

Residential Treatment Centers

What is a Residential Treatment Center?

Residential treatment centers for troubled teens are similar to Specialty Boarding Schools, except they include individual and group therapy. Being residential means the teens reside at the center, typically 6 – 18 months. Most residential treatment centers include a full academic program so teens can continue their education while at the center, however; education is secondary to maintaining emotional and behavioral health. They differ from Specialty Boarding Schools as they have therapist on staff and don’t usually need to contract outside services to provide individual and group therapy.

Which teens are appropriate for Residential Treatment Centers?

Residential treatment centers are long term, typically 6 – 18 months. They are most appropriate for teens that need long term help for serious issues like Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Depression, Bipolar disorder, as well as some personality disorders. Candidates for a residential treatment center would include teens that have been abusing drugs or alcohol, getting into a lot of trouble at school, or have other emotional or behavioral problems. Teens who have been to other ‘quick fix’ type programs or treatment centers and have returned to the old behaviors need more long-term help and can benefit greatly from the environment of a residential treatment center. Teens with suicidal ideation or severe depression would also benefit from a residential treatment center.

Which teens are not appropriate for Residential Treatment Centers?

Residential treatment centers may not be appropriate for teens that have only moderate problems. Teens that only need a ‘quick fix’ may not need a long-term program. A teen that is getting into mild trouble at school or has just started talking negatively may not need a residential treatment center. If problems are just beginning a family should consider local help and solutions that are not as drastic as sending the teen to a center for several months. Talking with professional counselors in your area can help you determine what kinds of treatment options are best for the teen issues and problems your family is dealing with. Some teens do very well with outpatient programs that allow them to live at home and continue to attend their regular school.

Why Residential Treatment Centers are appropriate for Behavior Modification?

Because residential treatment centers are long term and include therapy, they give the teen enough time to make lasting changes. Residential treatment centers include therapy and are able to spend the time working with the teens to delve deep into the causes of the emotional and behavioral problems the trouble teen may have and to introduce them to a new environment that will, over time, adapt their thinking and the way they process their environment to help them make better decisions in the future. Because the poor behavior was often exacerbated by environmental factors that contributed to their problems, it may be required that their previous living conditions change once they leave the residential treatment center to prevent relapse. Some residential treatment centers are available for many issues including: abuse, drug and alcohol use, behavior issues etc.

How much does a Residential Treatment Center cost?

Teen Treatment Centers are more expensive than Specialty Boarding Schools because they include therapy. The costs range between $4,000 to $11,000 a month. Some expenses for the therapy may be paid by health insurance. Check with your health insurance company before assuming they will pay for any of the costs of a residential treatment center.

It is important to note that residential treatment centers are not always drug treatment centers – you should look into drug rehab facilities if you are looking for drug treatment.

What to ask before choosing a Residential Treatment Center

Because not all treatment centers are created equal, it is important to do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions before selecting a program for your teen. The following is a general list and it is not mean to be fully inclusive but will give you an idea of the type of questions to ask and research.

  • Is the center licensed by the state and what specifically is the center licensed for: metal/behavioral health, rehabilitation, education, etc.?
  • What academic curriculum is available, if any? How much priority is place on education? Do all participants participate in an educational program?
  • Does the residential treatment center have accreditation? There are several independent, non-profit organizations that provide accreditation for these programs and you can check with them to find out more about a specific centers accreditation: Joint Commission (JACHO), Council on Accreditation (COA), and Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).
  • What credentials do your directors and staff have? Ask about degrees, experience, endorsements, and references.
  •  How much experience does the staff have? Have they worked at other residential treatment centers? What type of issues are they trained to deal with? Do they have CPR and other emergency training?
  • What type of pre-assessment screening is done? How familiar do you become with individuals and their problems before accepting them into the program?
  • Does each person have an individualized program and how often is the program assessed?
  • How is discipline handled? What happens in case of an emergency?
  • How often can you communicate with your teen? How is success defined/determined? Is there any kind of refund policy if the program is not completed and/or is unsuccessful?

If you have specific concerns for your teen, be sure and find out ahead of time how the center will handle the situation or issues you are wondering about. Check  with the US Government Accountability Office to see if any complaints have been filed with the center and what the outcome was.

Boot Camps

Brat Camps

The term brat camps is pejorative, condemning either the organizations themselves or the children who are sent there. When referring to a child, it is a disdainful term that blames the child for whatever the issues may be. When referring to an organization that purports to help children, it does not bespeak a professional, licensed and accredited institution, but one at which preteens and teens are treated punitively, without a research-based approach or certified staff overseeing the program.

The term brat camp gained popularity through a reality television show that is no longer produced. On it, teens were treated for a range of different issues, some of which-like ADHD and mood disorders-lead to behaviors that it seems only someone without a true understanding of the condition would callbratty or treat by sending a child to a place with a shape-up-or-ship-out attitude. Other teens were sent to the so-called “brat camps” for issues such as defiance, problems with school, substance abuse, violence, and lying.

In fact, the programs at which the teens on this show were treated aren’t brat camps by any stretch of the imagination and does these organizations a disservice. The truth is that the Turnabout Ranch, Aspen Achievement Academy, and RedCliff Ascent-all in Utah-and the ANASAZI Foundation in Arizona, are all members of NATSAP (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs), which only accepts licensed and accredited member organizations and holds them to a set of Ethical Principles and Principles of Good Practice. Calling such organizations brat camps is absurd.

The ANASAZI Foundation addresses the brat camp label head-on, stating on their website that the organization “does not consider itself a brat camp. There are no “brats” or “bad kids” at ANASAZI. We help children and young adults (and their caring families) who in some cases have made bad choices.“

Reasons Not To Send Your Child to a Brat Camp

Now let’s summarize the reasons why you should not consider a brat camp if you have a child who needs outside assistance with an issue.

• A brat camp, by its very name, starts off with a lack of respect for the people it is supposed to help. How can a young person be properly diagnosed and treated, assisted to become more mature, and accept guidance and counseling and mentoring from people who reveal before they’ve even met him or her that they have no respect for your child?

• Children who need help need the guidance and insight of people who have been trained and who make decisions on how to proceed based on that training, on research, and on experience. This means that therapists and teachers should be licensed, that the clinical and educational programs should be accredited by a legitimate and well-respected accreditation institution and/or by the state in which it operates, and that the program philosophy should be sound, based on, for example, 12 Step or Christian principles or some other research-based program.

• Punitive institutions, which organizations that disdain their patients tend to be, have been shown to be unsuccessful in long-term results. This means that the whatever issue or issues your child faces will not be well-addressed, and you will be out thousands of dollars for nothing positive.

• Especially for patients with a mental health issue like a mood disorder or a learning disability like ADHD, for whom punishment cannot possibly change their underlying condition, this is a poor choice. Beyond that, for all types of issues, a disrespectful atmosphere and punishment-ridden environment may make things worse instead of better.

• If the underlying cause of the child’s behavior issues is caused by the actions of others, such as physical abuse, incest, or bullying, then the child is only the identified patient: the whole family or whomever is inflicting the abuse needs treatment and sending the child anywhere, even to a reputable, well-run program may not even be able to assist the child properly.

Other Options to Consider

Have an expert, such as your child’s pediatrician, provide a diagnosis if one is possible. Look for a therapeutic environment that advertises itself as dealing specifically with whatever issues have been identified by the expert.

The program should explain its philosophy and approach, identify its credentials and the qualifications of its staff, and provide an overview of the types of issues the staff are qualified to deal with.

Either use a member organization, such as NATSAP (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs), or get a recommendation from the expert, or work with a consultant from an organization like IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) to find an appropriate fit, or-if you do the search yourself-check the program’s credentials before doing anything else.

Once you’ve established that the program might possibly be a good fit, scour their website and look for other information about them to confirm that they provide good results for children with issues like those that face your child.

Programs For Troubled Teens

Wilderness Programs

What is a Wilderness Program?

Wilderness programs are more specifically called Outdoor Therapy Wilderness programs, schools or camps. Which describes just about what they do. They provide therapy in a outdoor camp setting. Usually campers do a lot of walking or hiking and have evening group therapy sessions. Teens get to ‘rough it’ for a month or more. Wilderness programs are not typically accredited schools, but sometimes they can issue credit for physical education. Wilderness programs recently became popular because of the TV show Brat Camp.

Which teens are appropriate for Wilderness Programs?

Wilderness Programs are short term, typically 30-90 days. Most include therapy, so are good for the teen that needs a ‘quick fix’. A teen that is getting into mild trouble at school or has just started talking negatively could benefit from a wilderness program.

Which teens are NOT appropriate for Wilderness Programs?

Wilderness programs are not appropriate for teens who need long term help. This would include teens who have been abusing drugs or alcohol, getting into a lot of trouble at school, or have other emotional or behavioral problems. Teens who have been to other ‘quick fix’ type programs and have returned to the old behaviors need more long term help.

Why are Wilderness Programs not appropriate for Behavior Modification?

Because Wilderness Programs are short term, they do not give the teen enough time to make any lasting changes. Although most wilderness programs include therapy, they are not able to spend the time working with the teens to delve deep into the causes of the problems of the teen who is having emotional and behavioral problems.

How much does a Wilderness Program cost?

Wilderness programs are very expensive because they include therapy and are short term. Wilderness programs feel they can charge more because they are shorter in length and parents are willing to pay more for the therapy. The costs range between $13,000 to $30,000 for the 30-90 day stay.