When Should We Consider a Residential Program?

Selecting a residential program can be daunting, exciting, scary, nerve-wracking, upsetting, freeing, the list goes on. How do you know if a residential program could be right for you and your teen?

What is a Residential Program?

Residential programs are live-in facilities that a teen stays at for a specific period of time. The amount of time a teen needs may be decided based on a school year, the summer season, on the teen’s experience themselves, the structure of the program or until the teen no longer needs it. Be sure to ask any residential program about the structure, timelines of others in the program and expected lengths. These programs can address a range of challenging behaviors. Some address just one issue, others can manage many.

What behaviors are you experiencing at home or school?

Residential programs tend to specialize in certain areas. Some focus on addiction, others trauma, and still others on disabilities and diagnoses. Think about the safety of your teen, your family and others around your teen. If you feel like living in the current situation is not safe and your teen is not growing, a residential program should be considered. If your teen is OK, but you think that a program away from home will introduce new skills and be a better fit for his learning, be sure to review the available options. If the transition and change in schedule from the school-year to the summer has been problematic, consider a summer residential program. Anxiety can thrive in times of unstructured activities and changed schedules. Consistency is often a great way to minimize challenging behaviors.

Have you tried other options, with less than ideal results?

Families have often tried other approaches to treatment prior to considering a residential placement. For some teens, a residential program can act as a last-chance approach. But that is not the only case! So many residential programs are focused on growth, academic coaching, providing interesting and enriching experiences and developing authentic relationships. Residential programs are not meant to be punitive, but rather enriching and inspiring.

What does your teen need from a program?

Would your teen benefit from a change of environment? Some space away from the regular routine? Does consistency and clear expectations show a change in the challenging behaviors? Could your teen use more enrichment activities or a place to spend the summer? Any of these questions can help guide you to determine if a residential program is a good fit for your teen in their current situation.

How can I find a Residential Program?

Programs go by many names: Therapeutic Boarding Schools, Teen Wilderness Programs, Emotional Growth Academies, Troubled Teen Programs, Teen Residential Services, and many more. You can locate programs from Internet searches, by asking current medical professionals and by asking others in your community. It can be helpful to review the programs in your area first, so consider searching by your state. Some teens grow when they are farther from certain temptations. Think about your teen and where he or she is likely to thrive, then consider a state with those resources.

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