“I must say that on our last visit […] Wow! My son is now coming back to who he was. Yes, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel; it is still out of reach, but I can see it, and I know that he can too.”
This is of the testimonials that we received from a parent who had a troubled teen in need of structure and guidance. Through Help Your Teen Now, the parents helped their teen get the help they needed.
The intention of this article is to help you determine the difference between therapy, wilderness programs, and boot camps and why residential treatment centers are often the best option for troubled teens. As you’ll learn later in this article, residential treatment centers combine various therapies and offer a great deal of support and structure to teens.
Options available for your teen: therapy, boot camps, and wilderness programs
Having a teen who’s acting out, angry, or struggling with a mental illness or substance abuse is challenging. To help you understand the difference between traditional one-on-one therapy/ family therapy, boot camps, and wilderness programs from residential treatment programs we’ve broken them down below. By going over the differences, you’ll understand what your troubled teen needs to progress.
If you have a troubled teen, then the first recommendation you’ll most often get is therapy or family therapy.
Benefits of individual or family therapy:
- Your teen can talk to a mental health professional about issues in their lives and process these issues with that professional. They also learn skills that they can use in their daily lives.
- If you engage in family therapy, the family as a whole benefits. Family therapy is excellent because the roots of certain problems can be addressed. For example, suppose a teen struggles with substance abuse. In that case, a family therapist can help the family address things like setting boundaries and making sure that the parents know behaviors that can enable substance abuse. Family therapy is important because ideas and behaviors are often learned within a specific environment like the home.
That being said, some gaps are left unaddressed in family therapy that a residential treatment center can address:
- While individual or family therapy can provide some of the tools to develop healthier thought patterns and behaviors, it can’t offer the same accountability level that a residential or therapeutic treatment center can. For example, at a residential treatment center, your troubled teen would have an entire team of fully-licensed professionals helping and holding them accountable.
- There is more structure offered at residential treatment centers. Therapy may not work if teens and their families don’t practice the skills that they’ve learned. At a residential treatment center, your teen learns skills and engages in daily activities where these skills are practiced. For example, a therapist can teach your teen that journaling is a good way of coping with stress. Still, a residential treatment center would have time allocated during the day for journaling.
Boot camps are programs where troubled teens can stay at a specific location for a set period. They can also be programs where teens come back home to their parents at the end of the day.
Boot camps have the following benefits:
- Boot camps can temporarily address specific issues such as substance abuse, mental health, physical health, and learning disabilities. Bootcamps are often designed to target certain issues.
- Boot camps offer more accountability. Your teen will have someone that monitors their progress.
- Boot camps offer structure. Your teen will have a daily routine that they follow to learn the skills they need to succeed and lead a happier and healthier life.
Boot camps, however, have certain limitations.
- Boot camps aren’t as prevalent nowadays due to being dangerous to youth. According to a survey done by the United States Government Accountability Office, boot camps have sometimes resulted in the abuse and death of troubled teens.
- Boot camps are a temporary solution to a deeply rooted issue that a teen is struggling with. Having a program that only lasts for a few weeks or months can’t truly change behavior or help manage an illness or disorder.
- Boot camps can be stressful for teens who need to gradually work on a specific behavior or learn to manage an illness or disorder. Teens are still developing and may sometimes be resistant to change. Having a slower-paced lifestyle (like those offered at a residential treatment center) can help them not feel stressed and afraid.
Finally, another option that families have is sending their children to a wilderness therapy program. Students attending a boarding program at these schools focus on nature, meditation, and physical activity.
The pros of these types of wilderness programs are:
- They focus on the skills and environments troubled teens need. Sometimes, teens can feel overwhelmed by the pressures of daily life. Wilderness programs take these pressures and make them easier to manage. For example, at a wilderness program, your teen learns how to be independent and self-sufficiency by engaging in outdoor activities like kayaking and yoga.
- Many researchers often point to nature as a healing source in itself. Wilderness therapies often combine western and eastern medicine to help troubled teens with mental health disorders and substance abuse issues.
However, wilderness programs also have their downsides.
- For teens struggling with mental health and substance abuse disorders, changing the environment alone can’t “do the trick.” Instead, they’ll need a holistic approach that combines aspects like medication, talk-therapies, and daily physical and mindfulness-based activities. The assumption behind wilderness therapy is the environment in which behaviors are learned is often the problem; however, this isn’t always the case. Think of teens who grow up in loving environments where they have had supportive family and friends but still struggle with depression and anxiety.
Residential Treatment Centers: get everything you and your child need
Residential treatment centers are boarding schools where troubled teens can get the help and structure that they need. These centers sometimes target specific issues such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. However, many centers focus on broad issues like mental health and substance abuse. At these centers, they have specialists who target various issues that a teen might be struggling with.
The benefits of residential treatment centers include:
- Like wilderness therapy programs, they address the environment in which behaviors are born by acknowledging that the environment has a huge role in a teen’s behavior. Unlike wilderness therapy programs, teens are placed in an environment where their daily lives outside of these boarding schools are mimicked. For example, your teen wouldn’t be living in a forest or the mountains but would sometimes live in a city or suburb and learn the skills it takes to live in these environments.
- Residential treatment centers offer structure and accountability. A team of mental health professionals and teaching staff help teens with both their academic and personal goals.
- Residential treatment programs focus on wellbeing as a whole. Rather than just focusing on either mental health or academics, residential treatment programs focus on your troubled teen as a whole.
The downside of residential treatment centers
The main downside to residential treatment centers is that you don’t get to see your teen!
As a parent, you’re aware that helping your teen also requires you to provide a supportive environment and structure that can help them thrive. Giving your child the best academic and mental health support that they can get will be more helpful than simply focusing on the time that you spend with them. Spending time with them is excellent, but doing the best you can to support their academic and mental health journey is also important.
Reach out to us today to get the help that your troubled teen needs. At Help Your Teen Now, we can help your family find a program that’s right for your teen.