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Should I Send My Troubled Teen to Boarding School?

Should I send my troubled teen to boarding school

Updated on February 20, 2021

Over the years, boarding schools for troubled teens have been the all-out saving grace for many kids and the worried parents trying to help them. Equipped with the structured environment a defiant teen needs, professionals with the proper experience, and more, these schools provide a guided path toward healthy change. Nevertheless, parents face a lot of emotional challenges when it comes to knowing when it’s time for out-of-home options. 

Some of the challenges come from unfamiliarity with the programs available, how they work, and the advantages of therapeutic boarding schools. Here is a look at some of the different types of boarding schools for troubled teens, the pros and cons of each, and why they can work. 

Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Therapeutic boarding schools are designed to immerse a troubled teen in an alternative, educational setting where the child also has access to therapy and resources they need. These schools tend to have stellar academic programs centrally focused on the individual’s strengths and areas of interest. However, beyond the curriculum, students take part in an array of other programs, both elective and required. These programs can be geared toward overcoming behavioral issues, developing coping skills, and more. 


  • Offers a structured educational environment perfect for teens who struggle in normal school settings 

  • Can be either co-ed in nature or designed for single-sex students 

  • Eliminates triggers that can be a problem in typical home environments 


  • Not all therapeutic boarding schools for teens are equipped to handle specific issues, such as addiction 

  • May not be wholly covered by health insurance 

  • Programs involve may be a longer-term commitments (i.e. full academic school year)

Why Therapeutic Boarding Schools Work: Therapeutic boarding schools for troubled teens can be effective because the teen is in a disciplined educational setting where they also have access to therapeutic programs. The student-to-teacher ratio is often smaller, so more focus is granted on the teen’s personal strengths and weaknesses. 

Residential Treatment Programs

Residential treatment programs for teens are specifically designed to provide therapeutic recovery for teens with substance abuse problems or specific mental health challenges. Teens lack the same psychological maturity as adults, which means the recovery process for known mental health issues is highly unique and must be handled carefully. These programs can involve varying stay durations depending on the complexity of the problem and the needs of the child.


  • A highly effective option for teens with specific problems, such as addiction, eating disorders, or otherwise

  • Programs often involve family therapy to some degree to health the whole situation 

  • Often covered by health insurance 

  • Can be a more short-term solution for a teen with more acute problems 


  • Residential treatment programs for teens do not always focus highly on academics 

  • May not be geared toward all angles of troubled teen behavior 

  • Not as prevalent as boarding schools; can be located further from home

Why Residential Drug Treatment for Teens Work: These programs can work because it gives a troubled teen direct access to the type of therapy they need in a structured environment. For example, a teen with a substance abuse problem would have access to drug counseling, group therapy, and health care related to the problem.

Wilderness or Alternative-Setting Therapy Programs 

Wilderness or alternative-setting therapy programs immerse a teen in a new setting, oftentimes nature, a farm or ranch, or some type of unique atmosphere. These programs focus on pulling the teen out of their everyday circumstances, away from their social circles, and in a place where new perspectives can be easier to see. 


  • Can be short-term in nature but long-term programs are also available 

  • Gives the teen the opportunity to exist in a new, challenging type of environment Eliminates usual social strain that can trigger unwanted behaviors 

  • Some programs are only available seasonally 

  • Some programs may not offer or focus on academic structure 

  • Not usually covered by health insurance

Why Wilderness or Alternative-Setting Therapy Programs Work: Therapeutic programs in alternative settings give teens a totally new experience beyond usual life circumstances. Teens are faced with challenges that they must overcome with their own developed skills or face both direct and indirect consequences. For example, in wilderness therapy camp, a teen that refused to cook their own food, wouldn’t eat. 

Finding Help When You Know Help Is the Right Choice

As a parent of a troubled teen, misguided objections, worries, and doubts can override your ability to make the best decision. However, the more you learn about the programs available, their effectiveness, and how many success stories there are, making the choice for a boarding school for your troubled teen can be easier. Consider taking an assessment test to determine if your teen needs help.  

Speak to an expert about Should I Send My Troubled Teen to Boarding School? and your teenager.

Connect with an Admissions Counselor who specializes in "comorbidity, mental health treatment" to help your teen begin their recovery today.

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