Residential Therapeutic Schools Improve Teen Behavior, Confidence, Study Says

About 97 percent of teens who attend a private residential therapeutic school show improvement in behavior, communication, confidence, and any emotional problems they were experiencing, according to a study of nine private schools.

The study, conducted by independent research company Canyon Research & Consulting Inc., involved 993 students ages 13 to 18 who attended schools operated by Aspen Education Group between August 2003 and January 2006. Regardless of age, sex, or the reason for treatment, most teens showed a significant improvement between the time they entered treatment and the time they were discharged.

“The analyses suggested that adolescent problems improved significantly during private residential treatment,” said Ellen Behrens, PhD, and Kristin Satterfield, B.S., authors of the study.

Why Residential Therapeutic Schools?

Teens often enter residential therapeutic schools such as those run by Aspen to address problems that include disruptive behaviors, mood disorders, and substance abuse problems. Nearly 85 percent of the teens surveyed were treated for at least one of those issues. Most of them had received some type of outpatient treatment before entering a residential school.

If your teen is experiencing any of these problems, a residential therapeutic school may be just what is needed. The schools provide a structured setting in which your teen can work through any underlying issues and take on more adult responsibilities. Teens also attend accredited classes so they don’t fall behind in their schoolwork and acquire increasing responsibilities and privileges.

Outcomes of Residential Therapeutic Schools

When they enter treatment, it is common for teens to be aggressive, disregard rules and withdraws. At a residential therapeutic school, teens can address these and other issues through individual, group, and family therapy.

By the time teens complete their stay at a residential therapeutic school, the study shows that they improve in the following areas:

  • Normal emotional issues, behaving like any typical teenager
  • Confidence to resist peer pressure and other outside influences
  • Much more cooperative
  • Decrease in negative behaviors
  • Improved communication
  • Better compliance with rules
  • Improved family relationships

These improvements were realized regardless of a student’s age, gender, ethnicity, number and type of problems, prior treatment, length of stay or discharge status.

Finding a Residential Therapeutic School

The decision to enroll your teen in a residential therapeutic school is likely to be difficult for you. You may feel like it means that you have given up on your teen. But just the opposite is true – by enrolling your teen in such a school, you are giving them the best chance to overcome any addiction or behavioral or mood disorder. Just make sure you pick a school, such as those run by Aspen Education Group, that has trained staff and is accredited.

Finding the best residential therapeutic school for your teen means doing your homework. Research the services offered, educational environment, extracurricular activities, and treatments available. If possible, make site visits to the schools you are interested in to get a feel for the campus and the staff.

Residential treatment can last six months to two years, depending on the need of your teen. Most schools have a strong family component so that you are involved in your teen’s recovery and experience.

Though enrolling your teen in a residential therapeutic may be intimidating at first, the benefits your teen will realize from being in a therapeutic, educational environment will let you know your decision was a good one.


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