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Programs for Troubled Teens

There are many types of programs for troubled teens. This article will compare some of the pros and cons of several types of teen treatment programs such as, specialty boarding schools, boot camps, residential treatment centers, and wilderness programs for troubled teens.


Many programs exist to help teens and families seeking change. Local and low cost opportunities may be found in counseling and mental health centers. Intensive programs for families seeking immediate intervention include specialty boarding schools and treatment centers with programs tailored to meet the needs of your youth.

Types of Teen Treatment Programs

Sending your teen away for treatment may be a hard decision to make, but there are several different options available out there. Some teen treatment programs are short term running anywhere form 2-8 weeks and other teen treatment programs are long term and continue as needed. Of course, the costs associated with these teen treatment programs vary depending upon the length of time and the amount of therapy that is provided or required.

Talk to your teen's doctor or mental health professional and discuss which type of treatment would be best suited for their individual needs.

Wilderness Treatment Programs

These short-term programs for teens involve outdoor activities such as camping and hiking in rugged environments. Nature is considered to be the real teacher in this type of treatment method. Some wilderness programs for teens do involve therapy and are named Therapeutic Wilderness Programs. These programs are a good stepping-stone before sending your teen to a long-term type of treatment.

  • Can run roughly 4-8 weeks 
  • No academics involved 
  • Keeps the teen away from any outside influences that may be affecting him/her 
  • Good for teens struggling with ADD/ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Behavior, and/or substance abuse
  • Emphasize positive behavior change
  • Teach respect, self-discipline, self-esteem, self-confidence, group participation and responsibility
  • Cost anywhere from $4,000-$9,000 month

Boot Camps

Another short term treatment option for troubled teens are boot camps. This type of treatment involves high intensity, military style discipline. Some of these boot camps for teens are state run as a substitute for juvenile jail and other boot camps for teens are privately operated. 

  • Run for 2-6 weeks 
  • For teens with harder-core problems such as violence or delinquency 
  • No therapy or academics involved 
  • Average around $300 per day

Residential Treatment Centers (RTC)

Residential Treatment Centers can be both a short or long term option depending upon the program. They involve therapy, education and activities in a 24-hour safe environment. 

  • Year round 
  • Individualized therapy based on your teen's problem 
  • Have licensed doctors on staff at all times 
  • Good for teens suffering from depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, adoption issues, or teens who run away or are suicidal. 
  • Group activities help with self-esteem and interaction 
  • Costs range from $4000-$8000 per month 
  • Some are licensed by JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization). Because they are licensed by this organization, it may be easier to get some benefits from your insurance carrier.

Specialty Boarding Schools

Specialty boarding schools, are a long-term option for your troubled teen. These types of boarding schools specifically allow teens with behavior, emotional, and educational problems. They provide a behavior modification or character building program along with both education and activities. 

  • Year round 
  • Individualized behavior modification 
  • Some schools offer therapy and have therapists on hand either daily or a few days a week (will effect the cost). 
  • Good for teens suffering from ADD/ADHD, substance abuse, learning disabilities, school problems, weight problems, adoption issues or teens who run away. 
  • Costs average from $2000-$7500 per month

Providers of all these various teen treatment programs will differ in their treatment philosophies. Before sending your teen to one, it's best to research the boarding school thoroughly before committing to the program. If possible, try to find some references that you can check with as well. The more knowledgeable you are about the options out there, the more comfortable you will be.


  1. bootcampsfortroubledteens.com
  2. teenboardingschools.com
  3. wilderness-programs-info.com

Related Article: Components of Effective Youth Programs >>

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