Therapeutic Boarding School for At Risk Youth

Can Therapeutic Boarding School Be the Lifeline Your At-risk Youth Needs?

A few years ago, when a kid seemed to be veering off course, or even in danger of going off the rails, there wasn’t much to offer beyond traditional methods of counseling and therapy.

Today, therapeutic boarding schools have emerged as a beacon of hope, transforming lives of at-risk youth. They bridge the gap between traditional education and mental health support, bringing positive change that redefines the futures of countless youngsters.

Let’s delve deeper into the world of therapeutic boarding schools and the extraordinary impact they have on at-risk youth.


What Type of Boarding School is a Therapeutic Boarding School?

Therapeutic boarding schools are schools for at risk youth who are failing academically because of emotional and mental health issues. The majority of accredited therapeutic boarding schools are designed to specifically address the needs of teenage girls and teenage boys rather than children under 13 years of age.

Parents typically decide to send their teen to a therapeutic boarding school when they have exhausted all other options–counseling, disciplinary actions, medications, and outpatient services.

School psychologists and counselors working with parents to help a troubled teen may be the first to recommend teen boarding schools that offer individualized academic and treatment programs for teens struggling with behavioral problems.

What are the Benefits of Therapeutic Boarding Schools?

Therapeutic boarding schools specialize in managing particular challenges exclusive to adolescents. For example, a teen diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and depression could attend a boarding school for anxiety and depression. A teenager diagnosed with ADHD can attend a boarding school that primarily helps kids with ADHD or ADD.

Once enrolled in a therapeutic boarding school, teens live at the school 24/7 with other teens experiencing similar troubles at school and home. This type of boarding school also has onsite doctors, psychologists, family therapy interventionists, and counselors who regularly meet with students as part of their treatment program.

A variety of peer-involved activities are also provided to help improve the teen’s ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings, learn how to get along with others, and increase their sense of self-esteem and self-worth. In many ways, therapeutic boarding schools are emotional growth schools that nurture and cultivate the full potential of troubled youth.

Another advantage of teen boarding schools is that teens live on campus with their teachers, counselors, and therapists. This means students have prompt access to professional educational and emotional support when they need it the most. In fact, individual therapy sessions are as much a part of the therapeutic boarding school experience as academics.

How are Therapeutic Boarding Schools Different from Traditional Boarding Schools?

A traditional boarding school offers academic classes only. It does not provide residential treatment programs for teens with emotional or behavioral disorders. Instead, a boarding school is a private, expensive type of school that may accept only boys or only girls into their programs.

In addition, kids attending a traditional boarding school return home for the summer and are generally free to do what they want outside of classes. Some non-therapeutic boarding schools offer special programs for children who show exceptional skills in mathematics, physics, or other academic subjects.

Challenges Faced by At Risk Youth

Teens who thrive from receiving the benefits of therapeutic boarding schools share a set of common risk factors that include but are not limited to:

  • Violence in the home
  • Child neglect/abuse
  • Being sexually abused
  • Having divorced parents
  • Dealing with consistent poverty, frequent evictions, and changing schools
  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Peer rejection
  • Living in high-crime areas and/or areas where drug and alcohol abuse is prevalent

These risk factors are also associated with teens developing one or more of the following behavioral and emotional disorders:

  • Conduct disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Generalized anxiety
  • Major depressive disorder/suicidal ideation
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder

Deciding to send your teen to a therapeutic boarding school is not counterintuitive to your genuine desire to help your child. Instead, schools for at risk youth are carefully conceived to provide evidence-based treatment methods and structured academic programs that a troubled teen needs to flourish at home and as an adult later in life.

Success Stories

Teenage Addiction

Pat and Healther’s daughter had overdosed several times in the past. Frightened and bewildered because nothing they were doing seemed to make a difference to their daughter’s drug addiction, Pat and Heather sought professional help.

They decided to send her to a mental health facility but their daughter overdosed again within one week of coming home. Now frantic to find a treatment program that would save their daughter’s life, Pat and Heather contacted a therapeutic boarding school. The school accepted her and their daughter was enrolled in the school as soon as possible.

Today, Pat and Heather are happy to report their daughter has a dramatically different outlook on her life. She no longer abuses drugs and now understands the importance of getting an education and staying sober. They also attribute group therapy sessions to making such an improvement in their daughter’s transformation and making her realize other teens feel just the way she feels.

Sabina’s Daughter

At 12 years of age, Sabina’s daughter was severely depressed, frequently thought about suicide, and engaged in self-harming behavior. For three years, Sabina put her daughter through long and short-term outpatient treatment programs and even had her hospitalized.

Sabina compared these programs to simply “putting a bandage on each emergency situation”. Sabina found out that short-term programs didn’t allow enough time for staff to develop a trusting relationship with her daughter. In addition, neither kind of outpatient treatment included academics, in which Sabina’s daughter was rapidly falling behind.

Fortunately, Sabina learned about the benefits of therapeutic boarding schools and began researching them online. She found one that specialized in teens with severe depression and began the admissions process immediately.

Two years later, Sabina’s daughter is doing well in school, no longer thinks about suicide or harming herself, and has several close friends at school. Sabina says that she will forever be so grateful to the therapeutic boarding school for saving her daughter’s life.

Are There Any Potential Drawbacks to a Therapeutic Boarding School?

For most parents, the biggest disadvantage to a therapeutic boarding school is the cost. However, everything is included in the cost–education, therapy, room and board, meals, health exams, and extracurricular activities. There is also the fact that the teen will likely be hundreds of miles from their family, perhaps for the first time in their life. Parents and their teens may find it difficult to adjust to communicating by video chat only for up to six months or more. 

The social stigma of needing to send a child to a therapeutic boarding school is another drawback that sometimes stops parents from doing something that will help their child. Nonetheless, by the time a parent has exhausted all their treatment options and their teen is not getting better, the threat of being criticized and stigmatized by their community should be rejected and ignored. A troubled teen’s well-being is much more important than what others think of a parent’s decision to get the best help available for their child.

What Parents Need to Know

While most everyone has heard the horror stories of the troubled teen industry in the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000, most programs then were focused on behavior and used boot camp practices. These residential programs weren’t licensed or accredited and had a high-staff turnover. These programs were harmful and caused devastating trauma.

Our advice today is that if a program is focused on behavior and lacks qualified clinical staff in-house to oversee the teen’s progress, do not consider it. Instead, look for qualified treatment facilities that offer a combination of academics and treatment. The best choice for your child is a program focusing on the whole person.

This life-changing decision can impact your child’s academic, emotional growth, and mental well-being. The therapeutic program you choose to help your teen will make a difference in your child’s readiness to face their future and thrive.

Need Guidance Finding the Right Help For Your At-Risk Teen?

Our network of at risk youth programs can help you. Please know you are not alone in your struggle to get the kind of specialized treatment your teen desperately needs.

Contact us today to discuss your circumstances and to receive the guidance you have been searching for regarding treatment options for your teen. We can provide the resources and recommendations you need to point your teen on the right life path and give you peace of mind knowing your teen is in the best of hands.

Whether your child would benefit from attending a therapeutic boarding school for anxiety and depression, ADHD/ADD, substance abuse, or other mental health issues, our staff is well-equipped with the insight and knowledge essential for helping you decide what is best for your child.

Choosing a Therapeutic Boarding School for Your At-Risk Teen (Infographic)

Is a therapeutic boarding school the lifeline your at-risk youth needs? If your child is struggling with mental health or academic issues, a therapeutic boarding school can provide support, structure, crucial mental health treatment, and support to aid in their growth and development. This infographic details eight important factors to help you choose the best therapeutic program for your son or daughter.

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