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How and When to Choose a Residential Treatment Center for Your Troubled Teen: A Parent’s Journey

How and When to Choose a Residential Treatment Center for Your Troubled Teen

Updated on October 6, 2023

A residential treatment center for troubled teens can help a troubled adolescent get a derailed life back on the right track, but, the journey is just as much about the parents. As parents, our children are our hopes and dreams for the future. We pour the things into them we believe will create a functional, successful, and happy adult. Therefore, as a parent, when you see your child making big mistakes and poor decisions that can set them on a path of destruction, it can be devastatingly terrifying. Nevertheless, opting for formal treatment can be such an emotional challenge. 

How do you know it is time to make this life-changing decision for your child, for yourself as parents, or for the family? Here’s a look at some of the things to consider when in crisis with your teenager, and what other parent journeys have looked like. 

The Breaking Point: When You Know It’s Time 

Most parents who come to the conclusion it is time to make some serious decisions will tell you that there was some signifying point with their child when they knew something had to change. Typically, a culmination of events will lead to this point, and there may be a long period of time where things with the teen in crisis are gradually escalating. 

Parents of Andy, Mike and Jennifer said: 

“It was a crisis every day, and that’s pretty much how it was every day.”

At their lowest point, CPS had been called in to investigate them because of their child’s behavior. This was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and when the parents realized they couldn’t go on trying to fix the situation on their own. 

For the parents of another troubled teen, Kelly, they had also experienced the gradual escalation of behavioral issues over a period of a few years. According to Kelly’s mother: 

“She was in complete crisis. To her, it was a safety issue. She might not be alive. Basically, every night we never knew if she’d be home in the morning.”

For some parents, the breaking point is not necessarily something the child does, but something they are feeling. For example, if it gets to a point where there seems to be no hope for the future for the teen or if the everyday worry and stress consumes so much of everyday life that it is impossible to keep going in the same fashion.

Challenges Parents Face About Making the Final Decision 

dealing with teen

Even though a residential treatment center for troubled teens can be one of the best decisions ever made, the decision rarely comes easily. Parents often face a lot of emotions and challenges, such as: 

  • Shame for not being able to “fix” issues with the teen on their own 
  • Guilt associated with perceived parenting mistakes or missteps 
  • Fear of being judged by family and friends for not being able to handle the teen alone 

Fear of being judged can be a major stumbling block. Kevin and Diane, the parents of one troubled teen who eventually entered a program said:

“…That was the biggest challenge for me. We got so much flack from our family and other people—that we somehow had blown it or were passing the buck, so to speak, and letting somebody else deal with it.”  

It can be tough to step out of these personal struggles long enough to see the value in choosing a residential treatment center for troubled teens. However, for most parents, things eventually come to a head and the personal challenges seem insignificant to what could happen if something doesn’t change. 

How to Choose the Best Residential Treatment Center 

You have a lot of residential treatment center options when your teen is in crisis and you realize something has to change. From locked-down treatment programs to short-term residential programs and long-term educational settings, it can be difficult to know where to turn. Pair that with the idea of sending your teen to a place you don’t know with people you don’t know and choosing the right residential program gets even harder. 

It’s good to talk to several places, find out what they offer, and get to know what teens benefit most from their programs. Most residential treatment centers allow prospective parents to come to the treatment center, take a tour, and talk to people there about what to expect or what it’s like. 

For many parents, it is talking to the other students that helps them make the decision about the place that is best for their own child. 

Mike and Jennifer said after a visit to Turning Winds, a specialized residential treatment center for troubled teens: 

“What changed my mind, it was not so much the facility, but getting to talk with the other students … that’s what impressed me most about this program. You could talk to them … and you could see the difference. This was a good program and it works.”

Final Thoughts: Crisis Can Be a Signal for Change

The journey to a residential treatment program can be tough for the child and the parents. But, rest assured, making this decision can prove to be the turning point that saves a life, saves your family. Mike and Jennifer said after their son had spent time in a program:

“…Now I have hope that the very least he will be a functioning part of society.” 

Even teens who get into these programs have a lot of positive insight to offer. Nate offered this bit of advice for parents:

“It may be the hardest decision ever. Do it. It will help your children greatly. Sooner or later, your children will see this as an opportunity instead of a punishment.”

And, once-troubled teen Kelly offers this on making the decision about residential treatment: 

“Think about if you love your kid—what you want to see your kid doing in five or ten years …  this is the rest of their life that is at stake right now.”

Do you need help finding a residential treatment center for troubled teens? We understand this is a difficult decision for your family. Choosing a troubled teen residential treatment program is confusing and it is helpful to speak to someone who can help you understand your options.

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