Alternative Christian Boarding Schools for Your Teen

Alternative Christian Boarding Schools for Troubled Teens


Are you struggling with your teen and considering an alternative option such as a therapeutic boarding school with a Christian component?


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These troubles can range from behavioral and emotional challenges, to cognitive learning challenges that can’t be properly addressed in a traditional school environment.


In addition to offering classes, these schools typically provide psychological counseling and are often involved with the students on a very deep level to help rehabilitate them and restore their mental, physical, and emotional health.


Why Do Students Attend Therapeutic Boarding Schools?


Students often attend therapeutic schools because they have psychological issues to work on, including substance abuse or emotional and behavioral needs. Students sometimes have to attend residential programs or therapeutic boarding schools in order to have a completely drug-free environment removed from negative influences at home. Other students who attend therapeutic schools have psychiatric diagnoses or learning issues such as oppositional defiant disorderdepression or other mood disorders, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD or ADD, or learning disabilities.


Other students in therapeutic schools are attempting to understand difficult life situations and need stricter environments and healthier strategies for doing so. Most students who attend therapeutic schools have faced academic failure in mainstream educational settings and need strategies to help them succeed.


Some students in therapeutic boarding schools need to be removed from their home environment, in which they are out-of-control and/or aggressive. Most students who attend residential therapy are in high school, but some schools accept them slightly younger as well as there are young adult programs.

What Do Christian Therapeutic Programs Offer?


Therapeutic boarding programs offer students an academic program that also includes psychological counseling. The teachers at these types of programs are generally well versed in psychology, and the programs are typically overseen by a psychologist or other mental health professional. Students in these programs usually attend therapy regularly – as well as group therapy.


Students who need a more intensive program with support that extends beyond the typical school day tend to choose therapeutic boarding programs, and their average stay in these programs is 9-12 months. Students in residential and boarding programs often undergo individual and group counseling as part of the program, and the programs are very structured.


The goal of therapeutic boarding schools is to rehabilitate the student and make them healthy emotionally. This this end, many therapeutic boarding schools offer additional therapies such as: animal-assisted therapy, art therapy, music therapy or horticultural therapy. These are all beneficial for helping teens learn coping skills for life.

Christian therapeutic boarding school will have a spiritually component, but is always first and foremost a clinical program with accredited academics and credentialed staff.


We caution families that consider strictly religious programs that are not regulated and typically don’t maintain the licenses or accreditations needed to run a school or program to help troubled youth. There have many investigate news reports about these.


What Is a TBS?


TBS is an acronym that refers to a Therapeutic Boarding School, an educational institution that not only serves a therapeutic role, but also has a residential program. For students whose home lives may not be conducive to healing or for whom round the clock monitoring and support is required, a residential program might be most beneficial. Many residential programs are located in rural areas in which students have access to nature. Some programs also include a twelve-step program to deal with addiction.


Sources: Blythe Grossberg

Difference between an TBS and an RTC: What does my teen need?


The short answer is: it depends on the state and how the state licenses residential programming.  There is no national standard and each of our fifty states have the responsibility to set their own licensure requirements for private-pay residential programming; many states divide up the enforcement between numerous governmental departments and some states do not even regulate private-pay residential care. The scope and specifics of state regulations vary greatly, and some states do not require independent licensure at all.


What these programs all have in common is that they are all addressing physical, emotional, behavioral, familial, social, and intellectual/academic development; it is how that is addressed which differentiates between the TBS or RTC.


RTC’s typically have more clinical care than a TBS, however we have also seen emotional growth programs that have a strong clinical foundation. We suggest you interview the program/school that you believe best fits your teen’s emotional needs (as well as what you can financially afford).


We also remind parents not to limit their search by proximity to their home. What’s most important is the best program for their emotional wellness, with the reminder that this is only a small part of their entire life. Also note that parents will be visiting usually bi-monthly – it’s not like a traditional boarding school where you are there every weekend or he/she is coming home regularly. It’s important to allow the program to do their work.


If you are determined to keep them close to home, keep in mind, this can also increase their flight plan in that program since they are familiar with that area.


We always remind parents to search for the following:


  • Accredited academics
  • Credentialed clinical support
  • Enrichment programs (such as animal assisted therapy, musicarts, sports – something your child is passionate about).


Is a TBS right for your teen? Some questions to ask yourself.

Does your teen need residential treatment?

Why does residential treatment work when home therapy has failed? Learn more.

Contact us for information on therapeutic boarding schools around the country and ways to research them.