Teenage Residential Treatment Center

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 behavioral 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 24 hour treatment may become necessary.

Parents should first try Individual counseling, outpatient and possibly intensive outpatient therapy. If these interventions fail or when a teen is exhibiting risky behaviors, residential treatment programs can provide the needed care and attention they need to get back on track.

When searching for a residential treatment center, some obvious concerns will arise. Naturally, parents will want a fully accredited program with licensed mental health professionals and trained support staff. But how do you know if 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 another 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. Assessments also consider how a child’s cultural and spiritual identity plays 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 your child’s strengths to create goals that are measurable and attainable. A treatment plan also takes into consideration a child’s inevitable transition home and how to best 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. Your child should be under the care of a child and adolescent psychiatrist. They should have access to medical care as well. 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, verify that if 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, de-escalate 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 to start, we've compiled some beginning questions for you to ask:

  1. Is the program accredited? Is it licensed for adolescent residential treatment, and are members of the Treatment Team licensed?
  2. May I contact other families who participated in the program?
  3. Are there mental health professionals in your community who recommend this program?
  4. Has the program ever been investigated by state or national authorities? If so, what were the results?
  5. Is the program qualified to meet my child’s individual needs?
  6. If a child takes medication, does the program insure proper medication management and psychiatric consultation?
  7. Is there a plan in place for me to communicate with my child and monitor their progress?
  8. Does the program avoid using physical punishment, intimidation, or manipulation?
  9. Does the program have a safety plan to ensure the protection of my child?
  10. Does a program recognize my child’s strengths and provide opportunities for social and spiritual growth?
  11. Is the program a faith-based residential treatment center or a secular one?

If you feel overwhelmed by these questions, there are professionals who 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 is most important to you in a residential treatment program?" 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.