My troubled teen is driving us crazy — so do I find a quality and safe therapeutic boarding school?
One search online for “therapeutic boarding schools” yields over 3 million results — how do you determine what is right for your teen and family? Parenting a difficult teen can be more than challenging, it can drive you mad and the entire household becomes a warzone.
You reach a point where you have exhausted your skills as a parent — no matter how hard you try, your teenager becomes more rebellious and defiant than the day before.
-Do you feel like you’re walking on eggshells around your teenager?
-Do you avoid coming home for fear of the next explosion?
-Is your teen completely disrespectful of your home values or property?
-Is your teen completely disregarding your house rules and boundaries?
-Does your teen stay in their room on their devices all-day? Video-gaming?
-Does your teen push your limits and create havoc for the family?
-Do you suspect your teen is using substances? Vaping, drugs or drinking?
-Dealing with ADHD, ODD, RAD or Bipolar behavior issues?
-Do they struggle with entitlement issues?
Discipline isn’t working. Therapy once a week, typically won’t give you long lasting behavioral changes. The school setting isn’t working. Has an outpatient treatment program failed? Short-term hospital stay was unsuccessful? Now you need places to send a troubled teen.
Where can I send an out-of-control teenager?
If you are like most parents, you jumped online to be bombarded with many websites that only made this task more confusing — there are literally hundreds of places to send troubled teens — according to the internet, but how do you know what is right for your teen and family?
How to choose the right boarding school for my troubled teen:
1. Money. It does start here, because for many, it’s the reality of life. No matter what your income status, there is help for your teenager — this is information about searching for schools and programs within your financial limits.
Many of these websites are you glancing at don’t give you tuition costs. Some are third-party sites, hoping you will bite so they can acquire your email or phone number and send you lists of programs they are affiliated with — financially. This is not in the best interest of your child, so it’s best to be very careful as you put your information online.
The average tuition starts at $8000 monthly and up. The duration of most programs for young people (12-17) years of age is 6-9-12 months, depending on your child’s needs. Shorter term programs (such as wilderness) will likely give you short-term results. This money can be better spent on a long term program with long lasting behavioral changes.
Contact your insurance provider. Most PPO’s will provide out-of-network allowances. This helps pay for a portion of these programs. Most of these programs will run a courtesy verification of benefits (VOB) for you. This gives you a strong determination of what will be covered. If you have HMO, state (Medicaid) or Tricare — they typically require you to stay in-network. Contact them directly and ask them for in-network providers. You will have better financial coverage by doing this.
Review our financial page for more options.
2. A.C.E. Since 2001, we’ve have educated families about schools for troubled teens. Where to send your out-of-control teen is based on what we have developed as the A.C.E. factor:
A. Accredited academics. Whatever school/program you are interviewing, be sure they are accredited academically. Many of these teens entering these programs are typically very smart students yet underachieving in school. It’s important they continue their education. Although we share with parents that their emotional growth is primary in these schools, academics is still important. You can ask to see a copy of their accreditation.
C. Credentialed clinical team. Placing a distressed young teenager into a therapeutic boarding school is hard for the entire family, although therapy typically didn’t work at home, when placed into a new environment, removed from the stressors and triggers of home (as well as peer influences and devices) — the student is able to focus on themselves through both individual and group therapy. Check the credentials of the clinical team, this is also imperative if you are using your insurance. If they are not credentialed, insurance likely won’t cover it.
E. Enrichment programs. These programs are so important to help troubled teens. Enrichment programs are designed to stimulate your child in a positive direction, build self-worth to make better choices and develop coping skills. All of these extra behavior therapy programs can help teens that struggle with anger, rage, depression, anxiety and stress.
Examples of enrichment programs:
–Animal Assisted Therapy
–Horticultural (Gardening) Therapy
Read the 5 Benefits of Boarding Schools.
3. Location. Almost every parent has the same response, they want a program close to home. It’s probably one of the most common mistakes a family can make in selecting the right therapeutic boarding school for your troubled teen.
This is a major emotional (and sometimes) financial decision — in our decades of experience, we urge parents to choose a program that fits your child’s needs (emotionally, physically and academically), rather than geographically. Of course this is within reason. Since the pandemic, it’s understandable that some don’t want to travel to the other side of the country, however you can be more reasonable when it comes to choosing residential treatment. It’s always wise to find a program outside of your state — without going to the other side of the country.
This helps remove your teen’s temptation to runaway since they are less familiar with the area. We’ve seen parents choose local programs or places their family is familiar with — the teen will run, and this sets their progress back. When this happens, it prolongs their stay at the school and you have to hit the reset button again. There are no winners.
If you’re concerned about family therapy, you will have virtual sessions and parenting workshops which are typically every other month or every 90 days. Check with the program.
Finally, when you did your online search you may have stumbled on sites gave gave you pause. You thought you found a program — until you read some troubling reviews or fearmongering websites about the troubled teen industry. Take a moment to learn how to analyze the troubled teen industry negative reviews. Of course, there are always some programs to be cautious of — read A Parent’s True Story.
Read: How to Choose a Therapeutic Boarding School.
Read: Why Behavior Modification Treatment Works.
Read: 5 Benefits of Therapeutic Boarding Schools.