Finding the best adolescent residential treatment center for at risk youth

Finding the Best Adolescent Residential Treatment Center for Your At Risk Youth

When you know your teen is at risk due to mental health or behavioral issues, a residential treatment center can be a saving grace. These facilities offer different therapeutic options and have many program modalities to address problems. However, choosing the right facility or program is a must to help your teen navigate back to the right path.

If you are in the process of researching available options for your teen, learning about the different residential programs available is a good first step. Each program can have its advantages to consider, and not every type of residential option will work best for every child. Find out more about residential treatment center options, who needs residential treatment, and more below.

What Is a Residential Treatment Center for Teens?

A residential treatment center for teens is a facility that provides structured care 24/7 for an at-risk adolescent. These programs are designed to provide comprehensive care outside the home environment, where they are supervised by trained professionals.

Depending on the type of residential treatment, therapeutic care may also be provided. These residential programs are specifically for teens that have serious behavior and/or emotional problems or need a specific level of targeted therapeutic support.

Is an Adolescent Residential Rehabilitation Center Right for Your Teen?

Making the decision to seek residential treatment for a teen that is at risk is never easy. Parents often struggle with feeling like they should be able to “fix” the child on their own or feeling emotional about program placement. However, there are many situations in which opting for a residential treatment program is either most appropriate or completely necessary to protect the child and the child’s future.

Residential treatment is usually sought after other attempts to help the adolescent have failed. For example, a teen with anxiety or behavior issues may have tried medication, therapy visits, or even an intensive day-treatment program to no avail. A few reasons a teen may need a longer-term residential program include the teen:

  • Is at risk of self-harm or suicide
  • Is at risk of harming others
  • Has taken part in dangerous or illegal behaviors
  • Is struggling with substance abuse
  • Has been diagnosed with severe mental health challenges, such as depression or anxiety 
  • Portrays behavioral issues, such as emotional outbursts or violent or aggressive tendencies
  • Takes part in devious sexual activities, such as promiscuity or sexual abuse
  • Is struggling to thrive at school due to behavior or mental health issues or a learning disability


Each teen can have their own collection of needs that need to be addressed. Therefore, it is important to work with a professional who understands the different levels of therapy a teen may need and what type of residential treatment center will be the most fitting.

Get more advice about parenting an at-risk youth and recognizing an at-risk youth.

What Types of Residential Treatment Centers Are Available for At-Risk Youth?

Residential Treatment Facilities for Teens

A residential treatment facility (RTF) offers around-the-clock supervision and care for teens with certain mental health or behavioral issues. The RTF offers structured daily schedules, different levels of therapy, and intensive mental health care during treatment.

RTF programs can be focused on a specific mental health or behavioral disorder, such as a residential treatment facility for depression or an eating disorder. However, many also offer dual-diagnosis programs that can handle concurring issues at once.

The RTF is a secure environment that does not allow the teen to come and go freely from the facility. Additionally, amenities and accommodations can vary.

Program durations can range from short-term (less than 30 days) to long-term (anywhere from 1 to 12 months), depending on program specifics and the needs of the child. Residential treatment is often covered in part by medical insurance, including state-funded programs if the child has a diagnosed mental health condition and other methods have proved ineffective.

Learn more about residential treatment centers for teens.

Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Therapeutic boarding schools are educational facilities that provide a live-in environment for teens with behavior issues or learning disabilities. Program methodologies and options can vary significantly depending on the program.

However, the typical goal with these programs is to create a supportive, therapeutic environment where teens can focus on education and thrive. In addition to the educational curriculum, therapeutic boarding schools offer therapeutic care and different types of therapy to students.

Because therapeutic boarding schools are primarily centered around education, these programs may not be covered by insurance. Therefore, private funding is usually required, and costs can range from $250 to $1000 plus per day.

The duration of a program usually follows what would be expected with a private school. Therefore, those enrolled in therapeutic boarding school spend full semesters at the facility.

Find out more about therapeutic boarding schools for teens.

Residential Drug Rehabilitation Programs for Teens

Designed for teens struggling with substance abuse disorder, residential drug rehabilitation programs offer intensive therapy for teens during addiction recovery.

These programs are reserved for adolescents only, which commonly need unique levels of support or therapy during recovery. Additionally, a residential substance abuse program for teens may consist of medical supervision in addition to therapeutic support.

Due to the medical need for substance abuse rehabilitation, drug treatment programs are usually covered by medical insurance. The duration of treatment can vary from a few weeks for a short detox program to several months for a more serious situation.

Learn more about residential treatment for substance abuse.

Government-Funded Residential Treatment Centers

Most often directed and licensed by local family and child service departments, government-funded residential treatment centers (RTCs) are usually reserved for adolescents with extreme behavioral issues.

These programs include those often labeled as “Juvenile Detention” centers because they are a common solution for teens that have committed a crime or faced legal trouble. However, other types of government-funded programs may be available from state to state.

Learn more about government-funded residential treatment for teens.

Specialized Residential Treatment Centers for Behavior Therapy

Some residential treatment centers focus on providing structured care to cater to individuals with specific behavioral issues. For example, adolescents that have taken part in deviant sexual behavior or have issues with emotional regulation may be treated.

These programs are explicitly built around the typical needs of teens that struggle with the specific issue. For example, a program may rely heavily on cognitive behavioral therapy for adolescents who struggle with emotion regulation or angry outbursts.

Find out more about residential treatment for youth with behavioral problems.

Wilderness Therapy Programs for Teens

Wilderness therapy is a more controversial type of residential treatment for teens.

These programs immerse adolescents in an outdoor setting for a period of time where they are exposed to daily therapeutic activities, team exercises, and a different kind of life than the norm. These programs tend to be short-term, usually lasting between 30 and 90 days, and are not typically covered by insurance.

Learn more about the pros and cons of wilderness therapy for teens with ADHD.

How to Get Your Teen into a Residential Treatment Center?

Before choosing a residential treatment center for your teen, consider speaking with a family counselor or advocate that can guide you through the process.

These professionals can supply a wealth of informative information about program availability, payment options, insurance coverage, and more. You will likely be provided with a list of options to consider, and the details associated with each RTC to guide your decision.

Once you have picked a place for treatment, you will begin working directly with the admissions team at the facility. They will work with you to plan for getting your child into the program, make payment arrangements, and learn about what to expect throughout treatment.

While the transition process can be emotionally trying, many parents find a sense of relief once their child is in a program and they begin to see improvement.

Find out what parents can expect during a teen crisis intervention.

What Is Residential Treatment Like for Teens?

Teens in residential treatment programs typically follow a regimented schedule in a secure location. Teens will follow a schedule daily for everything from wake-up time to appointed times for therapeutic activities.

Supervision is present around the clock, and teens are not able to leave without parental or staff supervision. The teen may have a private room, a shared room, or possibly even a private cottage or living unit in some high-end facilities. Other elements may include:

  • Group or one-on-one therapy sessions
  • Parent or family visits or allowed phone calls if the program permits
  • Skill-building activities or program opportunities
  • Socialization with other students or patients
  • Community outings with supervision when circumstances allow
  • Scheduled meals in a communal dining area

Are You Struggling to Find a Residential Treatment Center for Your Teen?

When you know your child needs residential treatment, the decision can come with a lot of emotions. At Risk Youth Programs is here to help you navigate through the choices to determine what program will work best. Reach out to speak with an expert to discuss your teen’s needs and programs that can work best.

Speak to an expert about Finding the Best Adolescent Residential Treatment Center For Your At Risk Youth and how it may help your child.

Connect with an Admissions Counselor who specializes in Finding the Best Adolescent Residential Treatment Center For Your At Risk Youth to help your teen begin their recovery today.

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