Differences In Therapeutic Boarding Schools & Residential Treatment Programs

If you are just beginning your journey of getting professional help for your troubled teen, you are probably being introduced to a lot of new vocabulary that can be confusing and overwhelming. When it comes to long-term treatment options, you’re probably hearing “therapeutic boarding school” and “residential treatment center” quite a bit. Won’t somebody break down the differences between them for you? You bet we will!

How Are They Similar?

Therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment centers are similar in many ways. The are both options for treating teens with a range of issues, from ADD/ADHD, depression and anxiety to substance abuse, eating disorders and anger issues. Both therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment centers have fully licensed and trained staff members who specialize in adolescent issues, therapy and recovery.

Both facilities provide long-term lodging for teens so they can benefit from support and counseling over time, which is proven to result in more permanent changes. Both facilities provide therapy and both use use recreation as a way to help teens set and achieve goals, develop new skills, and engage in new challenges and relationships.

Therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment centers are both viable options that might be right for you and your teen, depending on the unique circumstances.

How Are They Different?

Therapeutic boarding schools differ from residential treatment centers in several ways. For therapeutic boarding schools, the emphasis is on school and staying caught up to grade level. Therapy is important as well but the emphasis on education is part of the healing and recovery process.

Therapeutic boarding schools may also offer vocational training and even college prep courses. These facilities also expect students to stay longer than a residential treatment center, often as long as a school year or two. Finally, therapeutic boarding schools typically house a larger number of student residents, much like a traditional boarding school might.

Residential treatment centers focus more on treatment and therapy than academics. While many treatment centers do provide academic help, they are generally not staffed with teachers or accredited in any way. Recreation, recovery and rest are key components of these facilities. A teen’s stay at a residential treatment center is generally shorter than at a therapeutic boarding school as well. Finally, the number of residents is much smaller than the schools have.


The difference between therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment centers are enough that you should really get some expert advice on which kind of facility is best for your troubled teen. When your teen is in the appropriate facility, great things will start to happen and the peace and  healing you’ve been longing for will finally begin.

For guidance on choosing the treatment facility for your family, please contact us at Help Your Teen Now.

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