Types of Therapy Used In Troubled Teen Programs

Is your teen going into a seemingly downward spiral? Is he getting into trouble with authorities? Are there indications that he has substance abuse issues? Does he have serious anger management problems? It may be time to seek professional help or enroll in a troubled teen program.

These types of programs can include teen wilderness camps, military-style boot camps and troubled teen residential programs. Each program has a specific set of benefits and treatment modalities. It will be helpful to examine the various treatment programs and the types of therapy they use. This can help you decide which program best suits your teen’s needs.

Here are some of the types of therapy used:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

With some programs, there is a resident therapist that does regular one-on-one sessions with the teen. The goal is to help the teen talk about himself and his issues and to examine the root of his behavior – his thinking and feelings. The therapist helps the teen thresh out negative thinking patterns and how he can deal with them in an effective manner. Ultimately, the teen will have an increased awareness of his behavior, how he can respond with healthy thoughts and consequently, healthy behaviors.

Wilderness Therapy

The great outdoors can be a tool for self-awareness and healing. The wilderness is uncontrollable, and thus, the teen cannot manipulate it to suit his wants. By providing well thought-out activities, a program can harness the outdoors to challenge a teen, help him see that choices have natural consequences and that one has to take personal responsibility for his choices. The outdoors also provides a change from the teen’s environment, which can be marked by a lack of discipline, an unhealthy eating and sleeping schedule, peer pressure and family conflicts.

Bootcamp Training

This mimics the training regimen of the military, where the teens are placed in a closely monitored environment, which features military exercises and demanding physical training. The goal is to instill discipline and respect for authority, particularly for defiant and disrespectful teens.

Occupational Therapy

This provides the teen with basic life skills training. In learning and mastering everyday skills, the goal of this type of therapy is to prepare the teen for his future life, as well as to give him a sense of responsibility. Occupational therapy is usually offered by residential teen programs as part of their roster of therapies to help prepare a troubled teen for his transition into the “real world.”

Educational Therapy

This is particularly helpful for teens for learning disabilities who need specialized intervention. This aims to determine the teen’s unique learning challenges so that an individualized program can be designed to suit the teen’s learning needs.

Animal-assisted therapy

Caring for and being with animals can be therapeutic. This type of therapy is aimed towards teens who have problems with self-confidence, respect for authority, interpersonal relationships, anger management or issues with abuse. The objective is to foster a bond with the animals he is caring for and in that way start the process of learning to trust, value and respect others. As the teen works with the animals, he can help develop self-esteem, self-awareness, relaxation techniques and self-confidence.

Recreational therapy

This provides creative and physical channels for a troubled teen to express themselves and help them thresh out their internal struggles. This can come in the form of sports, visual arts (i.e. painting, sculpture), literary arts (i.e. writing poems or songs) or performance arts (i.e. dance or drama).


There are certain cases where medication is needed as part of a treatment program. This is especially true for those who are suffering from severe anxiety or depression. The hope is that the medications will ultimately be removed, as the teen gets equipped with the skills he needs to cope with his issues.

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