Therapeutic Boarding Schools: Does My Teen Need One?

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Order Wit’s End today.

After the tragic events of Sandy Hook Elementary the world sits in a state of horror and mourns for the children and heroes we lost.

The questions linger, could this have been prevented?  Is it about gun control?  Is it about mental health?

Working with parents of at-risk teens on a weekly basis, I know firsthand that families are at their wit’s end searching for help.  Some are literally scared of their own child.  Some are scared of what they read online about residential treatment centers.  I don’t blame them – I was once a victim of this industry myself, which is why I am a Parent Advocate today.  I have made it my mission to help parents find safe and quality residential therapy for their struggling teens.

Let’s discuss if your teens does need residential care also know as therapeutic boarding schools?

How to know when it is time for Residential Therapy:

  • You have read and re-read most parenting books and behavioral strategy — removing privileges, instilling consequences that are being broken,  to behavioral contracts to one-on-one behavioral support in the home — and your teen still doesn’t get better.
  • Your child had been given numerous psychiatric diagnoses, none of which totally fit. He/she has been on different medications, but none result in long-term changes.
  • Your house is a war zone every day. Your child is routinely explosive and scares younger siblings and you. You are exhausted and the stress of managing daily crises is taking a toll on your marriage, your job, your personal life and you  have reached your wit’s end.
  • Your child has been expelled from school (or on the verge of  being expelled), is addicted to video games, using drugs or alcohol, and has had multiple run-ins with the law.
  • Your child engages in self-injury, threatens to hurt others or kill himself.
  • Your child has had a psychiatric hospitalization.
  • You have finally exhausted all your local resources.  This is not an easy decision and one that comes out of love.  It is time to give your son or daughter a second opportunity for a bright future – finding a residential therapy setting for 6-10 months out of their lifetime is a small price to pay considering the alternative road they are on.

How Residential Therapy can help when nothing else does:

  • RTC (residential treatment center) or TBS (therapeutic boarding school) focus on helping the child take personal accountability. Through intensive individual, group and family therapy, residential staff work on shifting the child from blaming others for his problems to acknowledging that he is where he is because he made poor choices.
  • RTC or TBS remove your child from their negative environment.  Whether is a contentious home situation or a negative peer group, it is an opportunity to be in an objective placement to open up and speak freely to others that may have his/her same feelings.
  • RTC or TBS have level systems so children learn the consequences of their actions. If they make poor choices or don’t do their levels work, they don’t gain privileges. The levels system incentivizes children to change their behavior.
  • RTC or TBS provide structure and containment that is impossible to achieve at home. Most RTC or TBS are in remote areas where there is nowhere to run. Therapists, behavioral staff and a levels program provide intensive scaffolding to support the child as he learns coping skills that he can then use to regulate himself. When a child can utilize coping skills, he feels in control and begins to make better choices.
  • RTC or TBS are particularly skilled at helping parents recognize the ways they are unwittingly colluding with their child’s behavior, and learn tools to change their own behaviors. Parent workshops and family therapy (usually via phone and visits) are essential for the child to return home successfully.
  • When selecting an RTC or TBS, it is important for a parent to find one that has accredited academics, qualified therapists and enrichment programs.  This is part of doing your due diligence when researching for programs for your teenager.

My book, Wit’s End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen (HCI), outline a complete detailed list for parents that are seeking help.  Starting with local resources to deciding if you need an RTC or a TBS and the differences.

For more assistance, please contact us at www.helpyourteens.com.  We offer a free consultation as well helpful hints and tips on our website for finding programs and schools.

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Teen Help: Helping Parents Find Help for their Struggling Teen

Don't be a parent in denial, be proactive.

Don’t be a parent in denial, be proactive.

With the tragedy of Newtown, CT we are faced with so many unanswered questions.

The grief of the loss of life is unimaginable – when you look at the age of the children and their protectors that died doing what they were trained to do, it is simply unconscionable that anyone could do such a heinous act.

We are hearing issues of gun control combined with mental health.  At the end of the day, like teenagers using illegal drugs (and adults for that matter) if someone is determined to find a gun and shoot people, they will.

The fact is we need to get people the help they need before they get to the point of wanting to seek out guns for killing – or drugs for getting high.

Though that is an extreme example, many parents are seeking help for their struggling teen.  They are at their wit’s end.  They feel like they are hostage in their own home.  After exhausting all their local resources they realize that residential treatment is their last resort – but how can they send their child away?

The real question is, how can you not?  How can you not get your teen the help they need?  In many cases your teen does need to be removed from their environment to be able to start recovery.  Being around their negative peer group and sometimes ever around their family (and this is not a personal reflection on you) but the state of mind your child is in, can bring contention that they are not able to move forward.

So what can you do?  You get online and the confusion is overwhelming with websites promising all sorts of things – marketing people scaring you into the urgency of placing asap or else….. Sticker shock of the price of getting help! Don’t get scammed – it did happen to me – I created my organization so it wouldn’t happen to other parents.

There is help for everyone.  If you don’t have insurance for mental help, and even with insurance, there are programs that can help.  You will have to dig harder to find them.

Obviously if you are able to go into a program you can finance there are more options, but in a time in our economy when things are not financially great, not everyone falls into this category.  This doesn’t mean you can’t find help.

I encourage you to visit my website – www.helpyourteens.com for more information on residential therapy.  Never give up – be proactive.  Now, more than ever, is a reality that parents need to get their troubled teens the help they need.

Teen Help Programs: Sorting through the Confusion of the Internet

School will be ending and summer is fast approaching.

Sending a child to a residential program/school is a major decision. It is not one to be taken lightly or to be decided on overnight.

Usually a teen’s behavior has been slowly escalating and a parent knows that deep down things are not getting better.  As much as you hope and pray that things will change, this is only typical teen behavior, sometimes it just isn’t.

With drug use and substance abuse rising – more dangerous and deadly ingredients being used, such as spice and inhalants, parents have reason to be concerned.  It isn’t your marijuana of generations prior – it is so much worse and in many cases – addictive and deadly.

If you have reached your wit’s end and now surfing the Internet for help, remember, anyone can build a website.  Anyone can put up nice pictures and create great content.  You need to do your due diligence.

Years ago I struggled with my own teenager.  I was at my wit’s end.  I didn’t realize what a big business this “teen help industry” was.  Yes, my child needed help, but what we received was anything but that.  My story is a cautionary tale – not one to scare you into not using a program, however on the contrary, you have to get your child help, but you have to do your research in getting them the right help.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Your child is not for sale, try to avoid those marketing arms selling you a list of programs that are not in the best interest of your child’s individual needs.
  • Always speak with an owner or director – Someone that has a vested in your teen’s recovery.  Their reputation is on the line.
  • Wilderness and other short term programs are usually nothing more than a band-aid that will fall off as quickly as the program lasted.  They are expensive camping trips and in most cases the Wilderness program will tell you at about 4 weeks that your teen will need to continue on to a longer term program.  What? Yes, now you go back to the research board and worse than that, your teen will be deflated when he finds out he/she isn’t coming home in 6-9 weeks as they were lead to believe – and they will be starting all over again with a new therapist – new schedule – and new setting.  Don’t get caught up in this “shuffle.”  Start and finish with the same school/program.
  • The average stay should be about 6-9-12 months, depending on your teen.  Anything less is probably non-effective.  Anything more, you may be creating abandonment issues in my opinion.
  • Do you really need an Educational Consultant?  Absolutely not.  You are the parent and no one knows your teen better than you do – with a few tips, you will be able to make some sound choices.

For more helpful hint and tips, please contact www.HelpYourTeens.com for a free consultation. After the ordeal I went through, I created this advocacy organization to help educate parents on finding safe and quality programs.

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Family conflict: When parents and teens are at battle at home

Family conflict can be stressful on everyone.

Raising teens today can be contentious and get your blood pressure boiling.  The lack of respect towards parents and most authority is very disturbing in today’s society.  I often say the sense of entitlement issue can be a large cause of today’s defiant teens.  Either way, parents are struggling with kids that are literally holding parents hostage in their own homes.

Are you looking for residential therapy for your at-risk teenager?

Are they a good teen making bad choices?  You don’t want to place them in a school or program that has a hard-cord element, a type of teen that will actually create more negative issues.

After all, your teen is highly intelligent, was once a rising athlete, interested in sports, music or other clubs at school or even in your community.  Now they are hanging out with less than desirable peers and have become someone you don’t even recognize.

You hop on the Internet, as most 2012 parents do and start typing in all sort of key words – and before you know it – you are bombarded with all sorts of programs and schools and “sales reps” that seem to have answers – or so you think.

This is when you need to step back and understand that YES, you do need help, you do need an intervention and you do need to remove your teen from their environment enable to get them the help they need.  Let’s face it, therapy isn’t working anymore – if you can even get them to attend.

My mantra has been – learn from my mistakes when I wen through this.  Read – www.aparentstruestory.com – and you will see you need to take your time.  It is not to scare you – it is to educate you.


Here are a few tips to remember:

  • Look for programs that are not attached to “sales reps”.  You want to speak directly to an owner or director.  Someone that has a vested interest in your teen.  Someone that their reputation will be reflected on your child’s success (or lack of).  Someone who you can hold accountable through the duration of your teen’s stay.
  • Look for the ACE factor.  A=Academics – Always ask for a copy of their accreditation for education – be sure it is transferable back to where you live.  C=Clinical – Be sure the clinical staff is credentialed. E=Enrichment programs – These are critical to be sure your teen is stimulated in a positive direction to want to make better choices.  This isn’t about breaking your child down, it is about building them up.
  • Ask for parent references of parents with the same gender and age of your own teenager.  Also take it a step further.  Ask for families that are in your same geographical area.  This way maybe you will be able to meet with them and possibly even the graduate of the program you are considering.
  • Keep in mind – Short term programs – short term results.  Don’t get sucked into them.

I have many more tips and offer free parent consultation at www.HelpYourTeens.com.

Don’t reach your wit’s end and make a rash decision – made an education choice…. Be an educated parent – this a major emotional and financial decision.

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Wilderness Programs: Short Term Program, Very Short Term Results

Wilderness Programs: Think Twice

For the many people that know me, they know I don’t believe in Wilderness programs, nor do I advocate for short term programs.  This doesn’t mean there aren’t reputable Wilderness programs in our country.  There are, however chances are very good, after your teen attends one – within the first 30 days, the program will tell you it is likely you will need to go on to a residential therapy program.  Which means….

  • More money
  • Another trip
  • Another therapist
  • Another schedule
  • Etc….

Back to the first one – the costs are exuberant for Wilderness, and to combine it with another at least $50K for a boarding school is simply out of the equation for many families.

I am writing this information today for two reasons.  One, I have received several calls this week alone by parents that fell for the Wilderness road.  Now they are out of money and need  a program, but the funding is no where to be found.  What do you do?  Their teen is back to the streets – smoking the dope and failing in school. (Let’s also remember most Wilderness programs don’t offer academics).

One thing these at-risk teens need is consistency.  Usually for the past several months, even years they have been spiraling out of control, driving down a negative path with a negative peer group.

Going to Wilderness is a great experience – they get to vent to their counselor, talk about their feelings and dig deep inside.  They even get a new appreciation of sleeping in their bed or a bed.  They are also knowing that once they just get through these next 6-8-10 weeks – they are home free.

Now, you tell them they are not home free – they are going to the “next step” – a longer term program.  Now they have to get over the disappointment, anger, resentment and most of all, they have to start all over again with a new therapist – a new staff and a new setting.  Sigh…..

Of course this is the case for the families that can afford that next step.  If they can’t – some will be facing a probation officer or public defender within a few months.  Solid changes and “lasting” changes cannot be made within 6-8-10 weeks.

This is way an average successful program is 6-9-12 months (not weeks).  On the same note, you don’t want programs that are taking your teen completely out of the family for more than 18-24 months – that is not emotionally healthy.  It can contribute to abandonment issues -which can backfire.

Do you want to learn more?  Visit www.HelpYourTeens.com and find out about resources and options for troubled teens.

Are Wilderness program worth it?  It is my opinion of after a decade of talking with thousands of family – no, they simply are not worth it.  That doesn’t mean families they aren’t useful to some people, but from the many I have spoken with – they do have good experiences however know that it is step they didn’t really need.  Of course, we all are different.

Teen Help Programs for Troubled Teens: Parents Hit Internet Confusion

You have resolved yourself to the fact that you can no longer control your teen’s behavior as they are spiraling out-of-control.  Where did that cute little child go?

Actually, they are still there, but deeply buried under the layers of peer pressure, society, technology, divorces, and life in general.  Life is not perfect, however with teens (although they believe they are nearly adults) they are not mature enough to understand that divorce isn’t their fault, a parent losing a job isn’t their fault, a death is not their fault, being bullied isn’t their fault – and before you know it, they have baggage that would outweigh even adults.

Now you get online – where can I find help!  I am at my wit’s end!!!!

You start to see all these websites, clearing houses, marketing arms, toll free numbers etc… Then just when you think you found a program that can help, you find some very harsh website of disgruntled parents and other kids that attended that program.

Don’t panic. Look at the sources -is it a reliable source?  Is it a legal case?  Or simply people that have too much time on their hands, have a vengeance after a school  or program and can’t move on with life.  Unless you see some legal cases to substantiate these claims – chances are very good that their sole motive is to prevent others from getting help and slam programs.

It is a fact – just about every school or program in our country (and probably others) have the “good, bad and ugly” about them. You are not in business for years and won’t have clients that are not happy with your services.  This is why it is so critical parents do their research.

As a victim of this myself, I have won two jury trials – I have proved that my issues as being a disgruntled parent were justified in a court of law -and that these malicious websites are nothing but a way to deter parents from believing my story or getting my help.  I always tell parents, I am either famous or infamous – depending on the website you find – but in  reality – I have taken it to the justice system and proved that I was being stalked, harassed and worse because the program my daughter was abused at simply wants me gone.

Want to know more – visit www.helpyourteens.com and read Wit’s End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out of Control Teen.

Parents Universal Resource Experts – Sue Scheff: Do Reform Schools Still Exist?

How many times have we heard a child, usually a troubled teen, will be sent to “reform school?”  What exactly is a reform school?  Are they still running?  Did they ever truly reform a child?

Years ago this expression of “reform school” was used as a threat and in some cases carried out by parents.  Today we have learned (or hopefully have learned) that beating a child into submission rarely changes them for the better.  This is strictly hypothetically speaking, not literally beating, however making the conditions extremely unbearable.

Programs such as “boot camps” can, in my opinion and what I have discovered, can actually build more anger and resentment within a child.  That anger and resentment can be targeted at the person that sent them there: The parent.

If you find you are having difficulties with your teenager, and have discovered it has escalated to a point where you can no longer live with it, consider options that can help your teen, not harm him/her.  After exhausting all your local resources such as school counselors, therapists, support groups, even out-patient programs, it may be time to consider residential therapy. 

I am not sure reform schools even exist anymore, but I know some people still refer to residential therapy as a reform school.  A true residential therapy program, whether it is an Emotional Growth School, Therapeutic Boarding School or Residential Treatment Center should not employ the harsh and punitive treatment we have see in movies such as Sleepers or sadly seen in the news about some boot camps and teen help programs.

Learn more about locating safe alternatives from my own experiences, A Parent’s True Story, which is also included in my book, Wit’s End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-Of-Control-Teen

Keep in mind, Military Schools are not equipped to handle teens with behavioral issues.  They offer structure, but usually are not able to handle a teen that is escalating out of control.

Remember, don’t be a parent in denial, get your teen help if they need it.  It is a parent’s responsibility.  It is not about “shipping” a teen off – it is about giving him/her a second chance at a healthy and bright future. 

Learn from my experiences, gain from my knowledge.

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