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Mental Health Rehabilitation: The Role of Residential Treatment for Teens

Residential Treatment for Teens

Updated on September 25, 2023

Understanding the Options for Mental Health Rehabilitation for Teens

When teens experience ongoing mental health problems that outpatient programs cannot resolve, parents may need to consider a more intense mental health rehabilitation program for their teen.

A residential treatment center for teenagers suffering from major depression, substance abuse disorder, behavioral disorders, and co-occurring disorders provides the kind of therapeutic, structured environment in which they can begin to heal and flourish into productive young adults.

Kids entering residential treatment centers typically remain in the center for several months, participating in group and individual therapy, counseling, educational classes, and holistic activities.

The ultimate objective of residential treatment programs is to accurately diagnose the teen, administer evidence-based therapy to the teen, and resolve deep-seated emotional problems that are contributing to the child’s emotional pain.

Making the Decision: How to Know When Your Teen Needs Residential Mental Health Care

Instead of thinking that a residential mental health rehabilitation center is the “last resort,” parents should think about the options they have previously used to help their children, such as adolescent psychology, counseling, outpatient treatment, and medication management.

When parents have exhausted all these options and nothing has worked, the best option remaining is residential treatment.

Key Warning Signs: When Your Teen Urgently Needs Residential Intervention

Red-flag warnings that indicate a teen is in immediate need of a supervised, curative environment provided by a residential treatment center include:

      • Behaviors that pose a danger to themselves and/or to others (self-harm, eating disorders, aggressiveness/violence towards others, suicidal thoughts/attempts)

      • Frequently running away from home

      • Refusing to attend school/being expelled from school

      • Engaging in risky behaviors (promiscuity, using drugs and alcohol, criminal activity)

      • Repeated encounters with law enforcement

    Co-occurring disorders among teens almost always involve substance abuse and mental illness. Anxiety, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and conduct disorder are the predominant co-occurring mental disorders diagnosed in teens receiving treatment in residential treatment centers.

    When parents reach the difficult juncture of deciding to send their troubled child to a 24/7 treatment center, they may feel like they haven’t done enough to help their child.

    After months or perhaps years of enduring constant stress, worry, and fear about the future of their teen, parents should understand that they have done everything possible and that keeping their teen safe and protected in an exceptionally therapeutic environment is the best decision they will ever make concerning the well-being of their child.

    Understanding a parent's uncertainty about teen residential treatment centers

    Understanding a Parent’s Heartache and Uncertainty

    Navigating the turbulent waters of teen angst and emotional disturbances is neither easy nor a simple journey where you can clearly see all of the gotchas! 

    It’s more like being on a small boat in an unpredictable ocean, where, at one moment, the waters are calm and inviting, and in the next, extreme waves threaten to swallow you. Every time your teen lashes out, skips school, or retreats into their shell, it feels like a massive wave crashing down, making you question where things went wrong.

    The Guilt: Sadly, most parents in these situations struggle with the constant, gnawing feeling that maybe they did something wrong. “Did I not give them enough attention?” “Was I too strict or too lenient?” These questions haunt our quiet moments and keep us up at night. 

    The Confusion: The truth is that every child is unique, and so is their pain. Getting to the root cause of their emotional and behavioral struggles feels like deciphering a code. It’s even more complicated when your teen cannot tell you what or why they feel as they do. 

    The Fear: Perhaps the most palpable of all is the fear. Fear for your teen’s future, their safety, and overall well-being. When they stay out late, when they don’t answer your texts or calls, when you find substances in their room — it sends a chill down your spine. 

    The looming question that keeps you up at night is, “What if the worst happens? What if we can’t come back from what they do next? 

    When you feel any of these emotions, it is time to recognize that it is time to find a viable solution. 

    Considering residential treatment centers for teens, it’s not giving up on your child but instead embracing a helping hand in steering them toward a brighter, healthier future. 

    Remember, you do not need to do this alone. Seeking help is a testament to your undying love and commitment to your child’s well-being.

    Paying for Mental Health Care: How to Afford Teen Residential Treatment

    Wondering how to pay for your teen’s mental health rehabilitation should not worry parents. With so many payment options available, parents can rest assured that utilizing one or more of the following payment plans will allow their teen to get the help they need.

        • Employer-provided Health Insurance

      Contact the human resources department and ask if coverage includes mental health treatment for children. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act years ago, many health insurance companies are required to cover some or all outpatient and residential treatment for covered children of employees with company health insurance.

          • Contact the Center’s Admission Team

        The majority of teen residential treatment centers have payment plans that do not require parents to pay the total amount upfront. When insurance covers a portion of the treatment, a payment plan can typically be entered into to cover the remaining amount.

            • Take Out a Personal or Equity Loan

          If possible, parents may be able to receive a personal or home equity loan to pay for part or all of their teen’s treatment at a residential center.

              • Augmenting Insurance or Payment Plans with a Credit Card

            Since interest rates on credit card balances are high, using a credit card should be considered when only a small amount is needed to finish paying for treatment.


            Brandon Success Story - Residential Treatment Center

            A Success Story: How a Residential Treatment Center Transformed Brandon’s Outlook on Life

            By the time he was 14, Brandon had tried heroin, stolen his mother’s car and wrecked it, been suspended from school for fighting, and been diagnosed with conduct disorder. 

            Brandon’s parents divorced when he was 7 years old. His mother tried helping Brandon by sending him to psychologists, counselors, and even a youth camp. Finally, Brandon’s counselor suggested sending him to a residential treatment facility.

            “I hated myself, my mother, my father, and anybody who tried to tell me what to do,” Brandon explained. “I had never really come to terms with my father abandoning us. I thought he left because I was always misbehaving.

            I also blamed my mother for not being around; she was always focused on her career, or so I thought. I was just a mess when I arrived at the treatment center”.

            Brandon said all he thought about was escaping the treatment center when he initially arrived. “Something about the nonjudgmental support and one-on-one attention I was getting from the staff made me start feeling something other than anger and resentment again.

            Much to my surprise, I started participating in group therapy, listening to other kids like me talking about feelings that I thought nobody had but me! Being with kids who could understand exactly what I was going through made it easier to open up to my counselor. It was such a big relief to know that I wasn’t alone anymore.”

            After four months at the center, Brandon understood that what he previously believed about his father abandoning him was a misperception and the underlying cause of his rage. He also viewed his mother in a completely different light.

            “I now realize my mother is trying her best to give me the best life and that it is not her fault my father left. I don’t feel the resentment I once felt towards her. I love my mom, and I plan on helping her more than I used to, like doing chores and staying out of trouble. I didn’t like myself when I did things that upset her.

            I felt bad when I stole her car, but I did it anyway. With the help of the residential treatment center, I’ve got a whole new outlook on my life.”

            A longitudinal study found that 81% of the participants, who were once admitted to residential treatment centers during their adolescence due to behavioral and emotional challenges, were leading productive lives in their late 20s. This included being employed, continuing with their education, or caring for a family.

            Ramsay, S., Rofey, D. L., Blatt, S. J., & Parrish, B. P. (2008). A longitudinal investigation of the impact of treatment on adolescents with severe emotional disorders: A 20-year follow-up study. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 45(3), 328.

            Infographic: Timeline for Parents Considering Residential Treatment for Teens

            Mental Health Rehabilitation: The Role of Residential Treatment for Teens Troubled Teens

            Note: Every teen is unique, and the progression or presence of symptoms can vary widely. Always consult with mental health professionals to make informed decisions tailored to your teen’s specific needs.


            Are you ready to transform your teen’s life? Discover how a residential treatment center can provide the help they truly need. Ready to take the next step? Fill out our form now and let’s begin this journey together!

            Speak to an expert about Mental Health Rehabilitation: The Role of Residential Treatment for Teens 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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