Good teens making bad choices. It can be very common.
“Does my teen need residential therapy? Isn’t this a drastic step? How will I know if we are at the point of placing our child at a therapeutic boarding school or residential treatment center?” – Anonymous parent
As I share with parents, residential therapy is a major decision not to be taken lightly. It’s not about teaching your child a lesson, it’s not about punishing your teen or scaring them straight — residential therapy is a huge financial and emotional decision that is made after you have exhausted all your local resources.
Residential therapy is a choice made out of love to give your child a second chance at a bright future.
Usually a parent has reached their wit’s end; they have been to local therapy, some have even tried having their teen stay with a relative. Some have been through extensive out-patient programs but it isn’t until you remove (residential therapy) the teen from their environment that they will be able to heal and gain an objective view on what is the root of the issues.
In the majority of families that contact us, these are not bad kids, these are kids that come from good families – raised with morals and taught right from wrong, however making very bad decisions. Whether they have fallen into a negative peer group or struggling with self-worth issues, they are definitely going down a dark path that needs to be addressed.
In many situations we see today’s teen as the spoiled rotten brat syndrome. Don’t be ashamed of that – that is our culture today. It’s not about being right or wrong, but that’s how parents of this generation have raised their kids — they get just about anything they want without earning it. This leads to generation entitlement teenager.
When they feel they are being boxed in or suddenly things aren’t as easy as they used to be, as middle school and high school can tend to become more difficult to fit in, rebellion and defiance (in combination with puberty) can strike.
This behavior can escalate into not only a nasty attitude, but soon you watch their grades declining (underachieving), maybe they quit (or asked to leave) their once-favorite sport, and suddenly you discover they are using (or experimenting with) illegal substances and drinking. The spiral continues.
Their outbursts at home and anger towards the parents become unbearable. Worse some teens will get into trouble with the law, maybe shoplifting things they can well-afford to purchase.
Parents soon feel hostage in their own home. No one is immune to this.
How To Know When It’s Time to Try Residential Therapy
- You have read most parenting books and behavioral strategy — removing privileges, instilling consequences that are being broken, to behavioral contracts to one-on-one behavioral support in the home — and your teen still doesn’t get better.
- Your child had been given numerous psychiatric diagnoses, none of which totally fit. He/she has been on different medications, but none result in long-term changes.
- Your house is a war zone every day. Your child is routinely explosive and scares younger siblings and you. You are exhausted and the stress of managing daily crises is taking a toll on your marriage, your job, your personal life and you have reached your wit’s end.
- Your child has been expelled from school (or on the verge of being expelled), is addicted to video games, using drugs or alcohol, and has had multiple run-ins with the law.
- Your child engages in self-injury, threatens to hurt others or kill himself.
- Your child has had a psychiatric hospitalization.
- You have finally exhausted all your local resources. This is not an easy decision and one that comes out of love. It is time to give your son or daughter a second opportunity for a bright future – finding a residential therapy setting for 6-10 months out of their lifetime is a small price to pay considering the alternative road they are on.
How Residential Treatment (RTC) or Therapeutic Boarding Schools (TBS) Helps, When Nothing Else Does
- RTC or TBS focus on helping the child take personal accountability. Through intensive individual, group and family therapy, residential staff work on shifting the child from blaming others for his problems to acknowledging that he is where he is because he made poor choices.
- RTC or TBS remove your child from their negative environment. Whether is a contentious home situation or a negative peer group, it is an opportunity to be in an objective placement to open up and speak freely to others that may have his/her same feelings.
- RTC or TBS have level systems so children learn the consequences of their actions. If they make poor choices or don’t do their levels work, they don’t gain privileges. The levels system incentivizes children to change their behavior.
- RTC or TBS provide structure and containment that is impossible to achieve at home. Most RTC or TBS are in remote areas where there is nowhere to run. Therapists, behavioral staff and a levels program provide intensive scaffolding to support the child as he learns coping skills that he can then use to regulate himself. When a child can utilize coping skills, he feels in control and begins to make better choices.
- RTC or TBS are particularly skilled at helping parents recognize the ways they are unwittingly colluding with their child’s behavior, and learn tools to change their own behaviors. Parent workshops and family therapy (usually via phone and visits) are essential for the child to return home successfully.
- When selecting an RTC or TBS, it is important for a parent to find one that has accredited academics, qualified therapists and enrichment programs. This is part of doing your due diligence when researching for programs for your teenager.
The hardest part is finding the right program/school for your teenager. There are many choices in our country. Take your time (within reason) and do your due diligence. We offer helpful advice and questions to ask schools and programs on our site. Be sure the program is licensed, accredited and has enrichment programs to stimulate your child in a positive direction.
There are also red flags, when programs frequently have to change their name, sometimes the Christian programs don’t have to meet the regulations as traditional TBS or RTC, it’s all about doing your research. We aren’t purchasing a car – we securing your child’s emotional growth.
Since 2001 we have assisted many families with their troubled teens in the Portland, ME area.
If you feel you are ready to consider residential therapy, please contact us for a free consultation. I have walked in your shoes over a decade ago. Although we had a bad experience, I believe there are many good programs – it’s all about educating you to learn to find what is best for your family.
Learn from my mistakes – gain from my knowledge. – Sue Scheff
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