Elk River Teen Treatment Program

Residential Treatment Centers

How to select the best residential treatment center for you and your child

Choosing a Residential Treatment Center

September 06, 2016

All teens experience growing pains when it comes to their emotional and behaviors health, and often it is necessary for a counselor, doctor, or other professional to provide additional guidance. But for young people with serious emotional and behavioral challenges, intensive and twenty-four hour treatment may become necessary. When a child or teen is at serious risk and/or still struggles with their mental or behavioral health after other interventions, residential treatment programs can provide the needed care and attention.

When you start searching for a residential treatment center, some obvious concerns will arise. Naturally, parents will want a fully accredited program with licensed and trained staff. But how do you know whether a program is prepared to meet the unique needs of your child? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Some programs might be tailored to treat mental health problems, like a residential treatment center for depression or eating disorders, and other might focus on substance use or behavioral problems. 

There are, however, core components of a residential treatment program that are essential when you are evaluating the best program for your child. These include a thorough assessment process, an individualized treatment plan, psychotherapy and psychiatric care, family involvement, and safety planning.


Core Components of Residential Treatment Centers

Thorough Assessment – A quality youth residential treatment center isn’t just trying to fill space. It assesses young people to ensure that the program is the best fit for them, and to ensure that staff and parents have an accurate picture of the child’s history, current needs, risks, and future goals. This assessment should evaluate a young person’s physical, emotional, and behavioral health, as well their educational needs and activities they enjoy. Assessments also consider how a child’s cultural and spiritual identities play a role in their treatment. 

Person-Centered Treatment Plan – Residential treatment centers for mental health are most effective when they take your child’s assessment, their goals, and your concerns and combine them into an individualized treatment plan. This plan considers how they can consider these needs with your child’s strengths to create goals that are measurable and attainable. A treatment plan also takes into consideration a child’s inevitable transition back to life at home and how to facilitate this process.  

Coordinated Care – Your child’s treatment should include individual therapy and group therapy by licensed and skilled mental health professionals. Staff should have specialized training regarding your child’s diagnosis or identified problems. Residents should also receive care from a child or adolescent psychiatrist and have access to medical care as well should they need immediate attention. All staff should work from the treatment plan and consult with each other on your child’s progress regularly. 

Safety Considerations – When choosing a residential program, have staff verify that when your child presents behavioral challenges, the treatment team will not resort to physical punishment or intimidation. If they are at risk for self-harm, suicide, or other injury to self or others, there should be a safety plan in place to protect your child, deescalate the crisis, and keep you informed. 

Family Involvement – Residential treatment is only temporary, so an effective program understands that a child’s emotional and behavioral health depends on involved and informed family members. Good programs provide family therapy options, educate family members, and encourage communication with parents. Many programs also have aftercare follow-up to sustain the skills and progress a child takes from the program.


Important Questions to Ask About Residential Treatment 

If you’re not sure where get started, here are some beginning questions you can ask. 

  1. Is the program accredited? Is it licensed for residential treatment, and are individual staff members licensed? 
  2. Can you contact any people who participated in the program? What were their experiences? Is there a Facebook or social media group sharing input? 
  3. Are their local mental health professionals in your community who recommend this program? 
  4. Has the program ever been investigated by state or national authorities? What were the results? 
  5. Is the program qualified to meet your child’s individual needs? 
  6. If your child takes medication, does the program insure proper medication management and psychiatric consultation? 
  7. Is there a plan in place for you to communicate with your child and monitor their progress? 
  8. Does the program avoid using physical punishment, intimidation, or manipulation of youths? 
  9. Does the program have a safety plan to ensure the protection of your child? 
  10. Does a program recognize your child’s strengths and provide opportunities for social and spiritual growth? Are you looking for a Christian residential treatment center, a treatment center for another religion, or a secular one? 

If you feel overwhelmed by these questions, talk to professionals who work with you and your child. Chances are they have experience evaluating residential programs, and they have the knowledge needed to help translate the required staff credentials and treatment options that are best for your child. 

Also, never be afraid to ask your son or daughter about their fears and concerns about residential treatment as well as their hopes and needs. Simple questions such as, “What kind of program would help you feel more in control of your life?” or “What treatment wouldn’t feel like a waste of time?” can provide you with valuable information. Including them in the process can also empower your child or teen to take responsibility for their own recovery and growth. 

Rather than seeing residential treatment centers as a last resort, consider how it can be a first step that’s tailored to your child’s unique behavioral and emotional needs. When you take the time to ask the right questions and recruit the right assistance, you’re taking an important step in helping your child live their best life.