How Residential Treatment Centers Can Help Teens

5 min read
Anastasia Shuraeva/Pexel

Source: Anastasia Shuraeva/Pexel

It is crushing for parents who are dealing with a teen struggling with behavioral issues that are beyond their control and they have exhausted their local options for help.

For many, these are (were) good kids — smart, athletic, outgoing — but now they are underachieving, defiant, disrespectful, depressed, changing friends, withdrawn, vaping, using drugs/drinking, or dropping out of their favorite activities. Some are refusing to attend school.

Excessive time on phones and other screens, many experts believe, contributes to youth mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, anger, rage, poor school performance, changing eating habits, and disrupted sleep patterns. The Surgeon General’s Advisory on young people and social media was mindful and needed, but may have come too late for this generation of youth and parents. Many of these families are desperately searching for help. As Pew research shows, mental health is a major concern for parents of teenagers today.

Finding help

No one ever wants to believe they will have to decide on a therapeutic boarding school for a troubled teen — especially their own. It is a major decision, emotionally and financially, and one not to be taken lightly. It should only be considered well after you have exhausted all your local resources.

Usually, the teenager shut down in therapy, their school setting wasn’t working, outpatient treatment failed, and possibly a short-term hospital stay was unsuccessful, since it doesn’t provide long-lasting behavioral changes.

5 Benefits of Residential Treatment Centers

1. Decompression. Removing your teenager from their home environment, including their peers but especially their devices, into an emotionally supportive atmosphere, helps them to start focusing on themselves to improve their mental health. They are now in a setting with trained staff, activities (enrichment programs), and therapy designed to encourage change and build self-worth.

Decompressing and disconnecting from the negativity of their old lives (as well as technology) can give a teen an opportunity for the kind of true and deep change required to turn their life around.

2. Stability. A positive, safe, and consistent environment replaces the toxic environment they are leaving. They will not have access to drugs or alcohol or social media.

The negative peer influences are now cut off. If they have been struggling academically, often this new environment is where they will begin to thrive again – in many cases, a teen will even be able to catch up academically. Some surpass where they would have been.

Once a teen gets on a healthy schedule, they can start feeling good about themselves again, and they can bring this back home with them.

3. Calm. In many situations, a teen is coming from a home where there was family conflict, discord, and dysfunction. Removed from these destructive cycles, things are deliberately slowed down and can now begin to include mediated conversations, letter exchanges, and intermittent visits — as well are family workshops.

This completely changes a dynamic and stops parents and teens from engaging in the same ineffective communication patterns. It’s as if a pause button is pushed, allowing teens eventually to move away from their rigid perspectives and look at their relationships from a new and clearer vantage point.

The truth is that no one enjoys living in a home that feels like a battleground. As both parties start experiencing this new calmness, the goal is for it to continue in the future — as everyone works together for the same purpose.

4. Change. A quality therapeutic boarding school for teens is designed to enhance the likelihood and the speed of change. These schools help young people look at their choices, their personal limitations, and the outcomes of the strategies they’ve been using, and to recognize their contributions to their problems and unhappiness.

The foundation of boarding schools are environments based on the creation of a safe, relationally warm place where a teen is protected from self-destructive behavior, unburdened from the stresses of life, and immersed in a relational climate that invites introspection.

5. Family workshops. Parent education and involvement in the treatment process is essential. It can be easy to point the finger at the teenager but remember that just sending your teen away without addressing underlying issues as a family will not resolve anything. Everyone must be on board.

Being involved in your teen’s program from home is imperative. From reading the books that are assigned to you to attending workshops, your teen needs to know you are dedicated to the program and to working toward your teen’s success in recovery and healing. Parent workshops benefit the entire family. From helping you with communication skills with not only your teen, but with other family members as well, these workshops can also help you design and create house rules and consequences.

Choosing the right residential treatment center can take time and diligence. You are always your child’s advocate in knowing what is best for them and your family. Finding a safe and quality program that meets your needs is always a priority.

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