Finding the right treatment program is critical to the success of your teen’s recovery. For severe cases of defiance, drug use, or behavior disorders we recommend gathering resources and meeting with your local therapist. Gather as much information as possible using the web, friends, family, or church groups. We’ve never heard that any one was too prepared. Read on to learn more about what questions to ask and information to research to find the best treatment program for your struggling teen.
Through the process of gathering information please keep in mind that there is no such thing as a quick fix to these problems. Your teen’s behavior problems didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be fixed overnight. Some residential treatment centers or teen help boarding schools have average stay lengths of 12 months or more. This ensures a lasting change in the troubled teen behavior, not just a temporary fix that will only last until the teen gets back into his/her regular environment.
There are several things to keep in mind if you are considering teen help schools or treatment centers:
- Will the school or program provide my teen the proper therapy, if needed? If your teen is already meeting with a therapists you may want his/her therapist to talk with the potential therapist to make sure he/she will be able to help your teen with the specific issues that are going on. Along with this, find out how long the therapist has been practicing, what type of training/education, and other qualifications the therapist has to help troubled youth and if possible have your teen meet with the therapist to ensure that they are a good fit. The success of the therapy can be influenced by the kind of rapport the therapist and patient are able to establish.
- Is the teen help treatment center licensed (specialty boarding schools are typically not required to hold licensing as they don’t provide therapy)? Making sure they are licensed tells you that they are meeting certain established guidelines for acceptable discipline and treatment of your teen. There are many horror stories of teen treatment programs that have reportedly abused teens in their programs. Find out as much information as possible about how long they have been in business, how many complaints of abuse have been reported, etc. Check to see if the business is licensed through the state or Department of Health and Human Services. Find out about living conditions, diet and nutrition, and the environment they will be exposed to. There are several independent, non-profit organizations that do accreditation for mental health programs and providers, some of these include: the Joint Commission (JACHO), the Council on Accreditation (COA), and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Check with these organizations to see if the teen help programs you are interested in are listed with them.
- Does the treatment program or specialty school have an aftercare/follow up program? If so, for how long after successful completion? Finding a program that will help your teen transition back to his/her home, school, and regular environment is a big part of preventing relapse. For many teens it is easy to make big changes in a controlled environment but when they go back to the same setting and friends they were around before it is hard for them to maintain those changes. Some programs offer services to help the teen make that transition without falling back into old habits and problems.
- Is the staff properly licensed/trained? We talked about this a little before regarding therapy but it is a good idea to know what kind of emergency medical training the staff has, what kind of teaching credentials the educators have, and what kind of background checks are done on all employees of the facility to ensure they are not hiring people with a history of violence and/or abuse. You need to know that your teen will be protected and helped in a safe environment.
- It is always recommended to walk through the teen help facility before placement. If you can’t do it – try to send someone in your place. If you are able to tour the facility, visit as many areas as possible. See where the teens sleep, eat, spend their free time. Even tour the kitchen facility to make sure it is clean, well stocked, and suitable for the number of people housed at the facility. Check out the shower facilities to make sure they are clean and provide adequate safety and privacy. Find out how bullying is prevented and handled – on the occasion that it does occur.
- Once you find a facility that you feel is a good choice for you and your teen, always ask for references from other parents who have made the same decision. Find out the pros and cons. How long their teen was there, how long the teen has been out of the program, and how successful they felt the recovery was. Ask about any complaints they, or their teen, have about how he/she was treated and the overall success of the program. You may also want to find out what type of communication you will have with your teen while in the program. Will you be allowed to see or talk to your teen? What about email, texting, regular mail, or other forms of communication. It is comforting to be able to talk to your teen from time to time to make sure their basic needs are being met and that they are not being mistreated. Remember, they may not be “happy” but as long as they are not being mistreated, they are likely doing okay. Making hard chances is bound to cause some discomfort and unhappiness but there is no excuse for abuse. Also find out if there were any promises made that did not happen, make sure the program is offering what they say they are.
- Does the teen help school or treatment center have verified statistics showing that they are experienced in helping troubled teens? Don’t just take their word for it. Find out about outside 3rd party services that have reviewed the program and verified the success stories. It is easy to make up statistics or fake testimonials that sound good but having the facts to support those statistics is another thing.
As you can see, finding the right treatment program for your troubled teen is not a quick, simple process. It is going to take some time and research. But remember you are investing a lot of money and making a life-changing decision that can have life-long effects for your teen. Simply choosing the one treatment program closest to home or cheapest in price is not likely to provide the best results. Having done all the research and checking will help you rest assured that you have made the right choice even when your teen is saying he/she hates you and you have ruined his/her life. When you are confident in the choice you make you will have the strength to endure the hard times knowing the end result will be worth it!