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Residential Treatment Centers: A Complete Guide For Parents

In this day and age there are so many things going on that pull teenagers in a million different ways during the most vulnerable time of their lives. Because the teenage years are the main time when identity is formed and thought patterns become increasingly concrete, it is of utmost importance that teenagers are pointed in the right direction. In this time of their lives they are making many choices as they learn to be independent, and they will make some mistakes. When mistakes are repeated, more intensive intervention may be required in order for the teenagers to be set up for success in their families, careers and all future relationships. 

Residential treatment centers are an option for families that have an adolescent who is struggling and needs help.

What Are Residential Treatment Centers?

Residential Treatment Centers are inpatient facilities designed specifically to help individuals struggling with emotional and/or behavioral issues. When people go to residential treatment, they live at the program itself in a home-like environment. The reason for this is because residential treatment is a more intensive form of therapy so that those who stay there can get a lot of work done on themselves in the shortest amount of time possible. Another purpose of the live-in style of therapy is to allow the residents to get away from their normal everyday life and focus on the things they need to improve.

Most Residential treatment centers offer a variety of therapeutic treatment options, an academic program, and a team of expert therapists fully equipped with the knowledge and tools to help individuals and their families work through their struggles. 

Some residential treatment centers are geared towards helping individuals in a specific age group, gender or a specific set of emotional and behavioral difficulties. Most residential treatment centers offer programming specialized in treating specific diagnoses.

Types of Treatment Offered at Residential Treatment Centers

Individual Therapy – Individual Therapy is just how it sounds, therapy between just the therapist and the client. During individual therapy the primary therapist has a couple of options: they can use the time to listen to the individual and walk them through the experiences and emotions of the past week, they can use the time to challenge the individual to dig deeper and process their thought processes, and they can review therapeutic assignments and assign new ones. Therapists use a variety of different methods that include CBT, DBT, Motivational Interviewing, Brainspotting, EMDR, etc. 

Family Therapy – Family Therapy is extremely important because the family is perhaps the most vital social group in any individual’s life. While an individual is at a residential treatment center, it is important that the family system is evaluated and challenged as well. Often, problems in the individual arise from problems in the family and it is important that those problems are resolved. Also, when an individual leaves residential treatment to go home their support system will be their family so it is important that the relationships in the family are strengthened and maintained while an individual is in residential treatment. 

Group Therapy – This is an important part of residential treatment. The goals of group therapy are to challenge the individual even more and to involve others in the process as well. Sometimes we cannot see things that are blatantly clear to others, so group therapy provides an opportunity for the individual to receive feedback from one another and to see things from a new perspective. Group therapy also provides an opportunity for each individual to learn and understand what it means to be part of a community. They begin to see how their actions influence others and they begin to build that sense of community. 

Other types of treatment include Equine-Assisted Therapy, Experiential Therapy, Outdoor/Adventure Therapy, etc.

Who Needs Residential Treatment?

Residential treatment centers may treat individuals based on age groups, diagnoses, and gender. Some are geared towards younger children, and others are designed specifically to suit the needs of older teens, both teenage girls and boys. Most help adolescents struggling with emotional and behavioral issues.

Parents may consider residential treatment if their child exhibits some of the following symptoms:

  • Defiance
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Retreat to technology
  • Overuse/Misuse of technology
  • School avoidance/Consistent truancy
  • Decrease in communication
  • Loss of interest in activities they used to love
  • Trauma-related issues
  • Obsessive/Compulsive Behaviors
  • Self-medicating through substance use
  • Manipulative behaviors
  • Having experienced grief and loss
  • Having experienced major life changes
  • Anger management issues
  • Trouble focusing
Who Needs Residential Treatment?

There are instances when parents feel like nothing is working. They may have tried everything from grounding their children to implementing consequences that they thought to be fair, and still nothing seems to stick. In some cases, their children end up in psychiatric hospitals and they are put in a position to decide what is best for their child because the child’s life is no longer healthy. This couple’s kid meets the criteria for contemplating residential therapy.

For more help in deciding what is best for your child, contact our Admissions Team, who are experienced in helping families find what is best for their child.

What Other Options Are There?

There are many different options for parents who are looking for help for their child. Some programs are designed to supplement everyday life while others are designed to structure each hour of the day for the individual. Each serve a specific purpose based on the needs of the individual. In addition to residential treatment, there are therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness therapy programs, psychiatric hospitals, short-term drug rehabs, intensive outpatient programs, and outpatient therapy/counseling. 

Treatment Levels of Care

A Brief Explanation of Options

Home Life: Home Life is the regular life. Living at home, going to school, hanging out with friends, etc.

Outpatient Therapy/Counseling: Outpatient therapy is when an individual meets with a trained therapist individually or in a group setting a few times a week. 

Intensive Outpatient Programs: Intensive outpatient programs are usually places where individuals go for the day, and then return home at night. 

Therapeutic Boarding Schools: Therapeutic boarding schools (TBSs) are long-term programs that are mainly focused on school while creating a therapeutic environment. The number of clients assigned to each therapist is higher, there aren’t as many hours dedicated to therapy each week as compared to other types of programs, and TBSs tend to enroll kids with fewer behavioral problems because they are designed to be less restrictive. 

Wilderness Therapy Programs: Wilderness therapy programs take kids out of their normal environment and put them into the wilderness with trained staff. They hike almost every day, have individual and group therapy with trained therapists, and have a lot of time to think and enjoy the world around them. 

Psychiatric Hospitals: Psychiatric hospitals are short-term and intensive. They are for individuals that need immediate help and a lot of supervision. Psychiatric hospitals are designed to keep people who feel out of control safe while creating an environment where they can work on themselves. 

Short-Term Drug Rehabs: Short-term drug rehabs are designed for individuals who need immediate and intensive help to get away, and heal, from their drug abuse. Drug rehabs are usually heavily therapeutic with little focus on other things, such as school. 

Why Choose Residential Treatment?

Residential treatment centers fall between wilderness therapy programs and therapeutic boarding schools on the spectrum of treatment programs. While therapeutic programs focus on school and have some therapeutic support, residential treatment centers focus on therapy while continuing their clients education as well. Wilderness therapy programs often take kids that need a higher level of treatment, so when those kids leave treatment they will mostly likely need to spend time in a residential treatment center before going home in order to practice what they learned and solidify any changes that they have made so far. 

For more information on what is the best option for your son send us an email to [email protected] or give us a call today. 

Residential treatment centers offer the following benefits:

    • 24/7 Care: Residential treatment provides care 24/7. Staff are available all hours of the day and they help clients get the best care possible. Because the students are constantly taken care of, staff are able to recognize what triggers each one has, and that helps the primary therapist tailor treatment to best suit their needs. 
    • Personalized therapeutic plans: At many residential treatment centers, the therapeutic, academic, and residential teams cater specifically to the needs of each individual student.
    • Expert staff: Residential treatment centers employ therapeutic staff that have special training helping teens struggling with specific diagnoses and behaviors. Therapeutic staff may have Master’s level degrees or even PhDs in their field, which ensures the best care possible for your child.
    • Safe, secure facilities: Residential treatment centers offer very safe campuses for your child to work through whatever they are struggling with.
    • Accredited Academic Programs: Some residential treatment centers offer accredited academic programs which ensure that your child will not fall behind in school while they are getting help for their struggles.
    • Therapeutic Focus: Unlike therapeutic boarding schools who focus on schooling with therapy on the side, residential programs place therapy first, with school on the side. 

Residential Treatment Outcomes

Problem Severity

There have been a couple of studies done on the effectiveness of residential treatment centers. One article presents the ratings of the severity of the presenting problems from the perspective of many youth and their parents before treatment, at discharge from the program, and 3, 6, and 12 months post-treatment. This was done to show not only the effectiveness of treatment while at the RTC itself but also the longevity of the results. This data are shown on the graph to the right:

Problem Severity Graph

Psychological and Behavioral Functioning

Another thing to look for when considering the effectiveness of residential treatment is the client’s level of functioning, both behavioral and psychological. When they enter treatment, one or both of these areas of functioning are considered to be in the “clinical” range. The hope is that by the end of treatment these levels of functioning return to “normal”. The same article presented that the adolescents functioning improved while in treatment and that the gains were maintained a year later. See the graph to the right:

Psychological and Behavioral Functioning

Youth Functioning Within the Family

One of the main reasons youth get sent to a therapeutic program is because of their inability to to function within the home. They might struggle following rules, getting along with siblings and/or parents, and being a healthy part of the family in general. One study surveyed the parents and students about the quality of relationships and the youth’s general functioning within the home at the youth’s admission to the program, at discharge and at 12 months post-treatment. The findings of the study showed that both the youth and the parents reported the youth’s functioning within the family to increase significantly while at treatment and that those results were consistent a year after treatment.

Graph of Youth Functioning Within the Home

The Importance of Family Involvement

When problems in the family arise, more often than not it is due to a group effort. It’s not common that a single person is responsible for what is happening within the family. That being said, sometimes one of the individuals needs to be placed somewhere for a period of time in order to allow the family system to be able to take a deep breath and analyze everyone’s part in the problematic situation. So when an adolescent is sent to a residential treatment center or any other type of program it is important that each member in the family takes the initiative to look at themselves and see how they may have contributed to the problems that caused one of their family members to have to be sent somewhere other than home.

Family with Teen Boy

How Does the Family Stay Involved?

Most programs have set up ways for the family to be actively involved in the treatment process. That can take many forms, some examples are: family workshops, short-term family visits close to the facility, longer-term home visits, family therapy zoom calls, parent coaching, etc. Sometimes, the primary therapists invite the parents to participate in similar therapeutic assignments that have been given to their children in treatment. Whatever the program provides in order to facilitate family involvement, it is important that the family takes whatever chance they get to show their child that is in treatment that they want to be part of the process.

What Makes Ashcreek Academy One of The Top Residential Treatment Centers?

Ashcreek Academy is a treatment center that offers a unique therapeutic experience which incorporates trauma-informed care, experiential therapy, individualized care, a skilled clinical team, and an accredited academic program. Ashcreek Academy offers a secure environment that many parents expect from a residential treatment center, and is determined to help every individual and family that comes into contact with them.

Ashcreek residential treatment center in Utah

What Sets Ashcreek Apart:

    • A program specifically designed to suit the needs of young men: Every aspect of the program caters to the specific needs of boys in adolescence. There is a large difference between the needs and wants of teenage boys and teenage girls. That’s why we’ve designed our program around helping teen boys specifically in order to best meet their mental health and social needs.
    • Trauma-informed care: Being sent to a residential treatment center can be very stressful for a teenager. In order to avoid further trauma occurring in the lives of their clients, Ashcreek employs a model of therapy that is trauma-informed in order to protect the boys that come into their care.
    • Individualized care: Ashcreek Academy focuses on the quality of the therapy provided, not just the quantity of clients that they can take. Many programs are based on large campuses in order to fit more clients into their program. Ashcreek, on the other hand, keeps the number of clients low in order to be better able to cater the treatment to each individual’s needs. This is because Ashcreek knows that each family is different and has different needs.
    • Skilled, experienced clinical team: The therapists work alongside our students in daily activities, which allows them to design individualized therapeutic plans that help each individual student heal and grow. Students meet once a week with their therapist for an individual session, and once a week for a family therapy session. These weekly family therapy sessions take place to repair family relationships and encourage growth. Visit our Clinical Team page to get an idea of who will be helping your child.
    • Accredited academics: When students are not participating in our wide array of treatment options, they are at school working hard on improving their work ethic and grades. All credits earned at Ashcreek Academy are completely transferable to traditional schools after your son has completed our program. For more information, visit our Academics page.
    • Teaching respect and responsibility: Throughout a boy’s time at Ashcreek Academy, every aspect of the experience improves their sense of responsibility and their respect for others around them. Every day, Ashcreek Academy students work alongside boys their own age and form close bonds with them. Students at Ashcreek also learn what healthy, respectful relationships look like as they build relationships with our residential staff who hold them to high standards of respect and responsibility. 
    • Experiential therapy: At Ashcreek, the students don’t just sit around the house all day every day. Those at Ashcreek know that the boys in their care need to get out of the house not only to get their energy out, but they to learn more about themselves through experiencing. Learning out of books is very helpful; however, experiential therapy provides a unique environment where the boys are able to dig deep and learn things about themselves that they would not have been able to otherwise. Learn more on our Experiential Therapy page.

For More Information on Residential Treatment Centers…


Psychology Today


All Kinds Of Therapy


For Help Call: (435) 215-0500 Kris Archer- Director of Admissions/ Outreach
In the next 24 hours a member of our team will reach out to you. We want to know more about what you are struggling with and help you determine if our program is a good fit.

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