Choosing a Troubled Teen Program for Your Child
A teen’s journey to adulthood will undoubtedly be eventful in terms of the
struggles, power plays and emotional skirmishes. For some, the teen finally
transitions into adulthood and these struggles are things of the past. Sadly,
for others, the journey is more challenging. This is especially true if the teen
has more than the fair share of teenage angst and rebellious behavior and has
instead manifested himself as a troubled teen rather than a typical teen.
As a parent, your job is to guide your child to effectively navigate the
teenage years. For troubled teens, this may involve more than just your own
efforts towards discipline. It may require enrolling your teen in a troubled
teen residential program. This will help prevent your child from getting into a
destructive downward spiral and become a productive, happy and well-balanced
individual. The goal of enrolling in a program is to help your child learn to
recognize issues that lead to destructive behavior. As a program builds the
teen’s self and other-awareness, the goal is that he eventually learns to direct
all that energy into something positive and productive.
It is important to note, though, that not all troubled teen programs are the
same. You will need to carefully evaluate several factors to choose the right
one that will effectively meet your child’s needs.
– Carefully determine what your child needs. Remember, your child is the
focus of this whole exercise. Ask, what troubled teen behavior does your child
exhibit and what may be the underlying cause of the behavior. Some behavior may
include involvement with gangs or peers that exert a strong negative influence
on him, substance abuse, extreme withdrawal from social and family situations,
violent acts, sexual promiscuity, or involvement in the occult. Be a student of
your child – so that you have deeper insights on what he needs and how he will
respond to a certain treatment program. However, you also need to understand
that you may not be equipped to perform the evaluation yourself and may need an
unbiased third party to do it. There are programs and centers that have the
tests that can help identify your child’s needs in terms of the type of
– Match your child’s needs with the treatment program that addresses these
needs. Each treatment center will have their own area of expertise and treatment
philosophy so it is important to find a match between what your child needs and
how a program will effectively meet these. It really depends on your child’s
issue – whether this is substance abuse, depression or body image issues.
Carefully check the treatment modalities being used by the center and how
effective these treatment strategies are towards intervention and treatment.
– Check the center’s reputation and qualifications. Here are some questions
to ask: What accreditation or license does the center have? Who runs the center?
What are their qualifications? Do the staff also hold licenses, based on state
law requirements? What kind of reputation does the center have? How many teens
do they currently have in the program? You should also try to talk to other
parents whose children were enrolled in a program or center you are
– List down qualities you would like the center to have. What does the
troubled teen residential program have to offer? Some important factors to
consider include: presence and quality of therapy, the type of therapy provided,
the level of structure and/or freedom for the child’s environment and activity,
safety, strategies for release, quality of care and quality of life. Another
important thing to consider would be the presence of a support and aftercare
program, which help minimize the possibility a relapse.
– Know what the treatment requires. This does not just refer to the fees, but
also the admission criteria as well as how you will be able to keep track of
your teen’s progress. How frequent are progress reports, as well as allowed or
scheduled visits? Some programs may require you to comply with a “no-contact”
period. Even if this is the case, ask whether you can make unscheduled visits to
see how your child does.
– Take a look at the center’s facilities and available services. Arrange for
a visit, if applicable. Check if there are medical personnel included in the
staff and the availability of emergency-response equipment. If you are
considering a teen wilderness program, check to see how near the hospital is
from the training site, what emergency precautions the center has and whether
the staff has certification or training in the outdoor activities they will be
leading, as well as on First Aid care.