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Therapeutic Boarding School

What is a therapeutic boarding school?

A therapeutic school is a type of alternative school that specialized in educating and helping troubled teenagers and young adults. 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. There are both therapeutic boarding schools, which have intensive residential programs, as well as therapeutic day schools, at which students remain at home outside of the school day. Want to learn more about these unique schools and see if it might be right for your child?

Why Do Students Attend Therapeutic 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 Disorder, depression 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.

What Do Therapeutic Programs Offer?

Therapeutic 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, either at the school (in the case of residential or boarding schools and programs) or outside of school (at day schools).

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

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.

Will My Child Fall Behind Academically?

This is a common concern, and the majority of therapeutic programs not only work on behavior, mental issues, and severe learning challenges but also aim to help students attain their highest educational potential. Many students in these programs have been unsuccessful in mainstream educational settings, even if they are bright. Therapeutic schools try to help students develop better psychological and academic strategies so that they can achieve results in line with their potential.

Many schools continue to offer or arrange help for students even once they return to mainstream settings so that they can make a good transition back to their usual environments. However, some students may benefit from repeating a grade in the traditional environment. Taking on a rigorous course load in the first year back in a mainstream classroom is not always be the best avenue for success. An extra year of study, allowing a student to ease into the mainstream environment may be the best way to ensure success.

Contribution by: Blythe Grossberg

What is the difference between an TBS and an RTC and 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, music, arts, sports – something your child is passionate about).

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

Contact us for information on therapeutic boarding schools around the country.

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