How to Find Teen Help In a Mental Health Crisis

It is crushing for parents that 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 good kids, smart, athletic, outgoing – now they are underachieving, defiant, disrespectful, depressed, changing friends, withdrawn, vaping, using drugs/drinking, dropping out of their favorite activities – some are refusing to attend school.

What are local resources for teenage mental health?


Before deciding making the leap into a therapeutic boarding school, parents should exhaust their local resources first.

-Therapy. In some cases, their teen refuses to attend, or has stopped engaging with the therapist. Outpatient treatment typically fails.

School. The school counselor has attempted to work with your teen, however now your school setting is no longer working. Your teen may be facing suspension or possibly expulsion.

Short-term hospital stay was not successful. In many situations, the hospital stay may stabilize the behavior temporarily, but it’s not long-lasting changes.

-Relative. Sometimes a family will call on a relative for the troubled teen to move in with, however in most cases this is usually a band-aid.

When local options have failed, and it has escalated to more than typical teenage behavior, the parent has lost control and authority over their teen – it’s now time to consider residential treatment.

3 Steps to find safe and qualified teen help in a mental health crisis

1. Longevity. Although you might be starting this journey, therapeutic boarding schools and schools for troubled teens have been around for a long time.

Not only do you want a school that has a good reputation, when you find one that has had years (decades) of experience — and bonus points for low staff turn-over, this could be a good contender.

Have you selected a program that’s been around awhile, however started reading some frightening websites, horror stories of the troubled teen industry or negative reviews? It’s time to learn how to decipher the misinformation online. Keep in mind, not every program is right for every family — this is why you need to take the time to interview the director (not sales people) to be sure the program is a fit for your individual needs.

Good therapeutic boarding schools still need vetting:

-Call the local sheriff’s office. Ask how many times they are called to the school for incidents.  Ask if they would place their own child there.

-Is there pending litigation? Ask the program director about it. Not all litigation is about neglect or abuse, in some cases it is financial. It could be a contractual disagreement.

-Licensing. Confirm that the program is in good standing with the department of licensing of the state in which they reside.

Although they have been around a long time, you need to always review number two.

2. Staff. These are the people that make the school a success! Review the credentials of the owner and director.

It is important to interview the director and ask them — “What is it about your school that changes lives?” They should be able to give you a well-rounded 10-15-minute detailed conversation about how the components of their program will empower your teen in a positive direction.

Be sure the therapists are licensed and it is bonus points if they have experience working with troubled teens. If you are using your medical insurance, you need to confirm the therapists are licensed or it is likely your benefits won’t cover it.

Academically, what are the teacher’s qualifications and always confirm your teen’s academic transcripts will be accredited and transferrable.

Digging deeper:  Who will your teen be with — the house parents?  How do they vet their daily staff?

More questions to ask:

-How does staff discipline students if they act out?
-Do they have criminal background checks on all their staff?
-What is the staff to student ratio?
-Can they meet your teen’s academic needs? (Especially if they have learning differences or an IEP in place).

3. Parents. Yes, you! Before you started on this journey, there were literally hundreds of thousands of us before you. Many within the past 12 months — and you want to talk to them.

Parents and parent references are the heart and soul of programs. You (mom and dad) need just as much support as your teen does. This experience is overwhelming. Only those that have walked in your shoes can understand how big of a decision this is — and how safety is a priority.

Prior selecting or enrolling in a program, ask the admissions director for parents to speak with — here are some questions to ask to help give you an idea of what a therapeutic school entail:

-Why did they select this program?
-Were they happy with the program?
-Were they satisfied with the therapists?
-How was the communication with the parents?
-How did their teen succeed academically?
-Did they have family therapy at the program?
-Did they visit the program before placing their teen?
-How is their teen doing today? Do they consider it successful?
-What was their teen’s best and worst part of the program?
-Did they provide transitional support after their teen graduated?
-Would they recommend the program to a friend or family?
-Did they feel their teen was safe?

A key question parents should ask is, if they could change one thing about the program to improve it, what would that be? It gives you room to find out a bit of negative. Usually not enough to change your mind but helps you to go in — eyes wide open.

* Programs may have you complete an application or a short version of an application before giving you parent references. This assures them that you are a fit for their school and are considering placement. It doesn’t mean you’re going to enroll in the program; however, it provides security for everyone involved when giving out personal information of families.

For programs that will use the excuse that it violates their HIPAA policy, it’s just that, an excuse. With HIPAA, you can have exception with the parent’s permission to be a reference.  Most all of these programs you are interviewing operate in accordance to HIPAA — again, get parent references and if they don’t want to give them, it might be best to move on.

Parenting difficult teenagers is not easy — which makes choosing right therapeutic boarding school so important. You are your child’s advocate, with knowledge and understanding, there are safe and qualied therapeutic boarding schools to help you.

Also read:

5 Benefits of Therapeutic Boarding Schools

 3 Reasons for Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Where Can I Send My Troubled Teenager

Help Your Teens With

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Many parents are at their wit’s end with the challenges of raising teenagers. If you are considering residential therapy, contact us for a free consultation.

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