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.