Therapeutic Programs for Teens
Therapeutic Programs for Teens

Therapeutic Programs for Teens

Therapeutic Help for Troubled Teens

For the past years, various programs for troubled teens have emerged. There are already more than 140 troubled teen programs and schools all over the US, according to the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs.

The total number of troubled teen programs is now closer to 300 as claimed by educational consultants. Because of the increasing number of programs for troubled teens, parents are left with the dilemma of what school or program they should choose for their problem teens.

"What are the Troubled Teen Programs?"

Naturally, it is ideal to consider the type of program best suited to your teen's needs to guarantee a positive change in their behavior. There are programs which emphasize a particular field such as with a military, religious or of therapeutic component.

The best-troubled teen programs are licensed by their State and accredited by the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP)

Once parents understand their troubled teen is heading in the wrong direction, important decisions must be made in a timely manner. Depending on the severity of your child's problems, there is an intervention available that can work.

You may want to take our Troubled Teen test. Click here to determine the severity of your troubled teen's problems. Below are a few possible options for helping your youth. The options near the top of this list should be considered for adolescents with fairly minor problems and the options at the bottom are more appropriate for helping troubled teens facing major issues and challenges.


In addition to these options, we have compiled a wide range of other troubled teen programs and schools for troubled teens that may be more appropriate for your teen, such as therapeutic boarding schools, Christian boarding schools, boot camps, wilderness programs, Christian programs and many others. To learn more about these services, please select a program from the menu on the left.

If you would like to speak with a professional representative who can answer your questions and guide you in the right direction, please select Get Help from the menu at the top of this page and fill out our online form.

Troubled teens need guidance and encouragement to make the right decisions in life. My Troubled Teen is available to provide you the parent with the resources you need to make a difference in your troubled teen's life. Although it may seem like there is a long difficult road ahead, we believe there is always hope when it comes to defiant, addicted and/or troubled teens.

Since every child is different and comes from a unique background and upbringing, it is best to take your time and research the best possible program for your teen. While one teen may need a boot camp to get him/her back on track, another might respond better by attending a Christian counseling center. Choose from transitional programs, family-style programs, troubled teen schools, emotional growth programs, therapy for troubled teens, and much more.

Social and Emotional Development for Your Troubled Teenage Girl

Aside from the capacity to express their thoughts and ideas through verbal and written communication, one of the hallmarks of growing up children is their ability to identify, understand, and manage their emotions in positive ways.

This includes understanding that acting out of their emotions can have direct and indirect consequences affecting not only themselves but others as well and that no one but themselves are ultimately responsible for their actions. Once teens have mastered these skills, they will have the confidence to take on adult roles.

They will have the mental and emotional conditioning to take on life's challenges without being consumed by emotions. They will have the capacity to restrain or delay impulsive reactions to powerful, intense emotions. These emotional proficiencies are collectively referred to as emotional self-efficacy.

For troubled teenage girls, which according to the National Institute of Mental Health have higher prevalence of social and emotional disorders compared to boys, their lack of emotional self efficacy will interfere with their capacity to fulfill the three crucial life goals that are determined during adolescence: breaking away from parents, finding one's life work, and finding a life partner.

Thus, the failure for a teen girl, or any teenager for that matter, to develop emotional self-efficacy can have lifelong consequences.

According to Ida Rose Florez, Ph.D., assistant professor of early childhood education at Arizona State University, teachers play a vital role in helping teenagers develop foundational social and emotional self-efficacy. It is through identifying the teenager's development needs and planning the kinds of modeling, hints, and cues to continue his or her development, giving/arranging and planning enough opportunities in everyday experiences for self-regulation lessons, withdrawing direct support as teenagers begin to demonstrate new skills, and continuous monitoring of the teen's activities to ensure that lessons are applied in everyday experiences.

It is through identifying the teenager's development needs and planning the kinds of modeling, hints, and cues to continue his or her development, giving/arranging and planning enough opportunities in everyday experiences for self-regulation lessons, withdrawing direct support as teenagers begin to demonstrate new skills, and continuous monitoring of the teen's activities to ensure that lessons are applied in everyday experiences.

Programs that Help Troubled Teens Develop Self-efficacy

Fortunately, there are programs designed to help troubled teens develop self-efficacy. A foremost example is therapeutic boarding schools where teenage girls live in a structured and supervised environment where there is an abundance of opportunities for developing social and emotional skills. 

Programs that are community-based and adopted from the therapeutic community model are found to be most effective in providing intervention and treatment to children suffering from social and emotional disorders. These programs for troubled teens are usually long term, with participative, group based treatment approach.

Some important things to consider when deciding on a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens are the accreditations or certification it has, certified and qualified staff that puts the needs of the patient at the forefront, a good teacher to student ratio, and a financial plan that is affordable.

Although no therapeutic boarding schools for troubled teens are alike, some schools for troubled teens have a broader offering, with additional self-enrichment programs, also offered, such as life skills training, spiritual programs, and social events programs, as well as academic programs such as college preparatory, distance learning, etc. Some programs for troubled teens offer music and art classes that complement therapy and rehabilitation as a way to provide patients a creative outlet for stress management and enjoyment.

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Therapeutic Program Options for Troubled Teens

"How does a parent know their teenager is struggling and is need of high-level therapeutic intervention?"

Today's teenagers usually find themselves in a whirlwind of change as they go through a challenging stage of life, both physically and socially. Some teens will figure out a way to stay focused and remain on the "right course" while others might experience a lot of difficulties that will leave them struggling in this sometimes bewildering stage of life.

Normally, teens are known to experiment and push their boundaries. Out of control teens will continuously try to break every rule or boundary and usually won’t show remorse for their own actions.

Parents may ask, what causes their teens to behave like that? There may be a number of factors and reasons that may have pushed a teen to become the person that they are. In some cases, the factors can be contributed to the environment and the people surrounding them.

At times, even the parents are somewhat responsible for their teen’s behavior. Factors like the constant family conflicts, the teen's constant witnessing of violent behaviors at home and parents who often paid less attention to their kids may have triggered these teens to behave that way.

In addition to that, there might be a family history of mental disorder, rejection or bad influences from peers, the traumatic experiences during their early childhood, death or illness in the family are also some possible reasons for the unwanted behavior in teens.

Be on The Lookout for the Signs and Symptoms

Here are indicators that your teens might be heading in the wrong direction:

  • Displaying an out of control or threatening behavior whenever your teens relate to other people, animals, or even belongings.
  • To a greater extent your teen has become dishonest, disrespectful, and disobedient.
  • Your teen constantly rebels and does not care about the consequences of their actions.
  • Refuses to follow anything you say or anything you tell your teens to do.
  • Your teen’s behavior has put themselves and your family in constant fear and stress at home or in high risk of danger.
  • Your teen refuses to join or do anything with the family, to the point that they would already display a growing hatred towards them.
  • When your teens are influenced by their peer’s destructive attitude and behavior making it difficult for you to keep them away from the lifestyle that these peers would teach your teens.

Also, there might be drastic changes in their typical normal behavior, such as:

1. depression
2. anxiety
3. slipping grades
4. aggression
5. loving what they used to hate or hating what they used to love
6. avoiding friends and family to spend too much "alone" time or always wanting to be with peers and avoiding home
7. sleeping too long or too little
8. insufficient motivation

If your teen shows direct or hidden threats of suicide, displays signs of cutting or self-mutilation and drug use, constant risk-taking, and obvious sexual lewdness, then your child needs professional therapeutic help. Furthermore, if your teen excessively eats or abruptly stops eating, has gained or lost a noticeable amount of weight, your child is crying out for help. 

Other important Signs and Symptoms Indicating that your Child Needs Immediate Help!

  • Ignores Personal Hygiene and Stops Caring About Studying or School
  • Seems to have lost their conscience and moral boundaries
  • Your teen displays obvious unconcern for the time, possession and feelings of the other members of the family as they consider themselves the family’s center and priority
  • The constant counseling does little or no positive improvements to your teens
  • When your teens have exhibited some or most of these signs, then it might be high time to consider professional help for your teens before things will get out of hand.

Don't wait for these kinds of problems to get worse with time. Troubled teens who have displayed extreme negative behaviors often becomes difficult to manage so the additional help may be necessary to guide your teens on the right path again.

Camps for Troubled Teens

Although there are also a lot of troubled teen programs to offer here; parents may opt for residential treatment programs, therapeutic programs, boarding schools, wilderness programs, christian programs, and college preparatory schools.

It is important however for parents to have a complete understanding of what their teens are going through before even deciding on an appropriate program that matches each child's needs. Below you will find a few of the different types of programs for troubled teens 

Various Treatment Programs for Out-of-Control Teenagers

There is nothing scarier for a parent than living with a teen that is out of control. Troubled teens can not only hurt themselves but sometimes they can tear apart the entire family. Once normal and content, your teen may now be abusing drugs or alcohol, lying, stealing, cutting or engaging in other destructive or disturbing behavior.

1. Your teen refuses to abide by anything you say or request, and his or her resulting behaviors put your teen or your family in danger or high risk leading to constant fear or stress in the home.

2. Your teen is displaying behavior that is a marked change from what has been normal (sleeping little or too long, forgetfulness, lack of motivation, aggression, depression, anxiety, grades slipping, hating what they once loved or loving what they once hated, always wanting to be with friends or away from home, or avoiding friends altogether and spending too much time alone).

3. Your teen has become increasingly disrespectful, dishonest, disobedient and openly displays rebellion, no longer veiling his or her feelings or caring about the consequences.

4. There is a blatant ignorance or profound rebellion toward the boundaries, Belief System or rules of the home. This can be shown in passive aggressiveness or open defiance that is unusually excessive for your teen.

5. There are outright or veiled threats of suicide, or self-mutilation/cutting, excessive risk-taking, dangerous drug use or blatant sexual promiscuity--seemingly a loss of a conscience or moral compass.

If you're not sure whether your child is ready for therapeutic programs such as Christian youth programs and wilderness programs, you should have no problem finding less restrictive therapeutic care through a local therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

Instead of ignoring the warning signs, it is important to accept the reality of the situation and send your child to a therapeutic program such as camps for troubled teens, Christian youth programs or wilderness programs.

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Therapeutic Program Types

Therapeutic Ranches - Typically, Therapeutic Ranches serve girls and boys age 18-25. Therapeutic ranch programs provide residential services, boarding, individual and group counseling, family counseling, substance abuse counseling, and equine therapy. Therapeutic services include substance abuse treatment for dual diagnosis (co-occurring disorders), educational delay, and other developmental differences.

Therapeutic ranch programs offer academic-based therapeutic services in a ranch setting and typically serve children with moderate to severe behavior and emotional problems. Therapeutic ranches are short-term programs, lasting 90 to 120 Days. Therapeutic Ranches address the student's biological, psychological, educational, social and spiritual needs.

Residential Treatment Programs - A Residential treatment program is a community-based therapeutic setting that offers professional clinical counseling and therapeutic intervention, including drug and alcohol addictions treatment. Residential treatment programs emphasize emotional intelligence development to address the child's emotional immaturity issues.

Life coaching and life skills are taught to help students learn to trust and respect others, overcome poor peer and family relational problems, and Residential treatment programs serve boys and girls age 5-18 years old. Residential treatment programs are typically accredited through the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) or CARF.

Christian Programs, Specialty Boarding Schools, and Wilderness Programs

Christian treatment programs - Christian treatment provides children with therapeutic care in a safe Christ-centered supportive program that encourages teens to develop their emotional health, academic prowess, and social/life skills.

Christ-centered program are committed to inspire young men and women to succeed in the academics, be responsible members of the society and develop a sense of personal integrity through the teachings of the Bible as their foundation of character, faith as well as their morals.

Treatment is provided by professional clinicians able to address depression, hyperactivity attention deficit, selfish and irresponsible behavior, and lack of motivation. When troubled teens become personally responsible and accountable to others they can be restored as "overcomes."

Therapeutic College Preparatory boarding schools for struggling teens - College preparatory programs provide therapeutic treatment (substance abuse counseling, drug addiction treatment, individual therapy and group counseling, advanced academics, and social skills development.

Wilderness Programs - Wilderness programs are therapy-based treatment programs utilizing the inherent value of the wilderness to out perform many other types of troubled teen therapeutic programs.

Wilderness programs are best known for helping troubled at-risk youths to learn responsibility, self-discipline, and the importance of accepting the consequences of their actions. The top wilderness programs place a heavy emphasis on leadership development skills and intellectual enhancement.

The wilderness experience the ideal treatment for struggling teens because in the wilderness there is less distractions, less negative influences from negative peers, less distraction from technology (social media and smartphones). These programs reconnect students with themselves in order to view life in a much better perspective.

By removing the troubled teen from his/her familiar stomping grounds (negative environment) they are taken way out of their comfort zone. The wilderness component presents a positive spin on treatment, therapy, and learning new life skills.

Specialty Therapeutic Programs for Troubled Teens

Ecopsychology – This takes psychotherapy out of a clinical setting and puts it out in the open field of the wilderness. It explores the connection between man and nature and the beneficial effects of living in a natural setting. Ecopsychology maintains that connecting with nature has beneficial effects on the human psyche.

Adventure Therapy – Many wilderness therapy programs use adventure therapy (often in a group setting) in order to inspire behavior modification. Nature is therapeutic, but certain activities are done while enjoying nature can be both therapeutic and instructional.

Outdoor challenges have long been a major component of wilderness therapy programs and have yielded many good results for troubled teens.

Expressive Therapy – Many wilderness programs use expressive therapy to help young people find more constructive ways to express their thoughts and feelings. Expressive therapy may include art or music therapy.

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Tips for Parents: Top 5 Benefits of Camps for Troubled Youth

Parents worry that teens will spend all their time playing video games, retreating into their shells, or spending time with bad company. For teens who are struggling with substances, idle time can mean that they will have more opportunities to indulge in their vices, especially since there are usually no responsible adults to monitor them unlike in school.

For teens who have emotional or behavioral problems, summer vacations can make it harder for them to reintegrate back to society after summer’s over. More often than not, they’ll just spend their time playing video games and this has a negative effect on their emotional well-being.

Benefits of Camps for Troubled Youth

Fortunately, most parents and teens agree that summer camp may be a better alternative than staying home for the rest of the summer vacation. Here are a few benefits that summer camp can give both parents and young people:

Less stress – When troubled teens are sent to summer camp, a significant amount of stress is removed from the house. Teens aren’t up in arms towards their parents, and parents aren’t always stressing out over what their teens did during the day.

Parents are also less worried about their teens and are more able to share positive experiences with their teens. Many troubled teens are under a lot of stress among their peers and summer camp can offer them the appropriate respite from this.

Counseling and Guidance – Camps for troubled youths often include individual and group therapy. This is extremely beneficial to make sure that teens will continue moving forward with their recovery rather than go through regression during summer.

These camps don’t just occupy the time of troubled teens with random activities. The activities are planned out not just to provide entertainment but also will be helpful in developing social and life skills that troubled teens need to learn.

Learn Independence – As well-meaning as parents are, there are times when teens need to learn independence and how to manage it. In camps for troubled teens, young people can enjoy independence and learn how to use this productively.

Learn Interdependence – While camps have activities that teach independence and individual accountability, there are also many activities that are geared towards teaching troubled teens positive interaction with other people. Needless to say, positive social skills isn’t usually the strong point of struggling teens, and summer camps can help them discover and develop this skill.

Develop self-esteem – Attending summer camp allows young people to put some distance between them and their perceived troubles. They can gain a little perspective while developing self-confidence and renewing their sense of self-worth.

Many young people have fond memories of the time they spent in summer camp. For troubled teens, it’s not just about having fun. It’s also about gaining emotional stability and a renewed hope for the future. It’s about seeing themselves set goals and achieve those goals.

Struggling teens come away with valuable lessons from these camps. For parents, it’s worth their while looking into these for their teens.

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Reintegrate Back into the Community After Treatment

Successful programs take into account the time when a teenager completes her rehabilitation and prepares to return to her community. In order to produce a complete and convincing recovery, intervention programs must offer a "transition phase" wherein teenagers are prepared emotionally, behaviorally, and academically for transition back into their own community.

Usually, these take form into life skills and leadership classes, i.e. how to communicate with peers better, lessons in choosing friends, or even regular extracurricular activities and regular off campus activities. Guided career interest counseling are also part of the reintegration process, and in most cases among the most crucial in the intervention process.

Inarguably, the aftercare component of an intervention program is an essential aspect for maintaining positive change over the long run. It is the final decisive step in a continuum of care needed to a successful recovery.

Generally, therapeutic boarding schools offer significant aftercare programs designed to provide continuing support in the form of planned activities such as alumni, family and community gatherings, or regular house visits and counseling sessions.

Academic Component Ensures The Teen is not Left Behind Academically

Since therapeutic boarding school programs run for a year, they offer an educational component in their program, which can be a high school program, or a college distance learning program. When choosing a therapeutic boarding school, make sure that your choice is accredited by any of these six accrediting commissions, or either of the following:

  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Northwest Accreditation Commission
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Good therapeutic programs offer a high school diploma based on credits earned. Some offer additional academic services such as college preparatory, CLEP preparatory and testing, etc.

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