Happy family


Seeking an Alternative School for Your “Troubled” Teen? What Parents Should Know 

alternative schools for behavior problems

Parents often consider alternative schools for teens who have not been successful in the traditional school environment. These teenagers may need extra attention, support, guidance, and monitoring in their learning journeys—and, unfortunately, not all public schools can meet their needs. If you are a parent of a teenager who seems “troubled” in their current school, you may be seeking alternative options. Alternative schools for teenagers may offer special education programs, behavioral therapies, and one-on-one mentoring options. However, alternative schools are not right for everyone. 

While some teenagers can benefit from alternative education pathways, other adolescents might benefit from a treatment program that is tailored to their needs. As a parent, it is important to evaluate your teenager’s mental and behavioral health first, to understand the best possible next step. What is the root of your child’s troubles in school? Are your teen’s negative behavioral issues indicative of a mental health disorder, or something else? 

What Defines a Troubled Teenager? 

“Troubled teenager” is a term that is often used for adolescents exhibiting negative behaviors. For example, parents will describe a troubled teen as one who is demonstrating severe mood swings, defiance and disrespect, as well as violent behaviors. Troubled teenagers may also be experiencing declines in school performance, getting in trouble with the law, or abusing drugs and alcohol. These are just some of the many signs of a troubled teen. 

While the phrase “troubled teenager” is commonly used by parents and society alike, it is not an accurate description of the young people struggling. Typically, teenagers are “troubled” because they are experiencing deep-seated mental health issues that are causing them to behave a certain way. For example, many young people try to treat their symptoms of depression or anxiety with substance use. They may defy the law or the rules because they do not know how to cope effectively. Some teens who are struggling in school are unable to concentrate due to a mental health disorder. Some are battling to fit in or develop relationships, due to deep-rooted trauma or anxiety. 

If you feel your teenager is troubled with issues related to their mental health or behavioral health, the best thing you can do is to seek treatment or alternative programs that will set them up for success—a program that is entirely tailored to their physical, psychological, behavioral, and social needs. 

What Are the Options for Troubled Teenagers? 

Therapeutic Boarding School: 

A therapeutic boarding school is a residential, academic facility for teenagers who are facing behavioral conduct problems or learning difficulties in a traditional school environment. These facilities combine rehabilitation and education, offering teenagers clinical counseling along with classroom experiences. 

In a therapeutic boarding school, teenagers live at the institution in which they are completing classes and receiving therapy. Therefore, they benefit from constant monitoring and support during their time in school. Therapeutic boarding schools are an alternative schooling option for teenagers who can benefit from a structured environment, with routine, discipline, and a focus on academic success. 

However, they are not right for everyone. Some teenagers can benefit from dedicated mental health treatment, in order to address the root cause of their troubles. 

Residential Mental Health Treatment: 

Residential treatment programs are the best option for teenagers who are struggling with emotional, mental, and behavioral disorders. Like therapeutic boarding schools, teenagers live at the facility in which they are receiving treatment. However, residential mental health treatment centers prioritize the health and well-being of teenagers first and foremost. While academics play a role in the treatment process, these programs work to get to the root of a teenager’s troubles. This is done through a variety of therapies chosen for, and tailored to, each resident’s needs. These programs take into consideration a teenager’s mental health struggles, as well as their social capacity, physical health, histories of trauma, previous substance use, legal troubles, academic pursuits, age, gender, and more—in order to get a full understanding of their situation and develop a treatment plan. 

Too often, mental health issues lead to difficulties in school, disruptions in a career trajectory, and troubles in one’s life. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, mental health problems often lead to issues with students’ motivation, concentration, accountability, mental ability, and energy levels. Depression and anxiety also can lead to low grade point averages and dropping out of school. 

For this reason, it is important to address mental health troubles in teenagers as soon as they arise. Mental health problems typically begin during adolescence, with 75 percent of disorders occurring by age 24. If you suspect your teenager is struggling with deeper mental health issues, which are causing them to act out, defy the rules, and behave negatively, it is important to seek the proper help. 

Attending mental health treatment does not mean that a teenager has to put their life on hold. It is possible to continue one’s vocational or academic pursuits while in treatment. For example, at Turnbridge, adolescents have access to academic counseling services, in which they can: 

  • Address issues of school avoidance 
  • Manage school transcripts  
  • Receive tutoring and mentoring services 
  • Complete assignments or course requirements 
  • Prepare for high school graduation 
  • Apply to college 

Adolescents who are enrolled in Turnbridge’s residential treatment program can still continue, advance through, and graduate from their schools. They do not need an alternative school for their behavioral problems, but rather, a treatment program that addresses their struggles will supporting them through their academic journey. Turnbridge stays in touch with each client’s home school, allowing them to continue earning credits and finding consistency in their academic journey. This eases the transition from treatment back to the classroom. 

Are You Interested in an Alternative School for Your Teen? 

In a recent study conducted by the Center of Disease Control (CDC), it was found that 1 in 6 students had enough behavioral or emotional symptoms to be diagnosed with a childhood mental disorder. Further, among high school students, new CDC data shows that 1 in every 3 students is facing mental health problems since the pandemic. Of these disorders, anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are of the most common.  

If you are concerned about your teen in school, you are not alone. 

As a parent, it is important to openly communicate with your teen and get to the root of their issues. By talking to your teenager, you can establish the best possible next steps. Research alternative school options for your teenager, as well as mental health treatment. Talk to your clinician about your options if you have any questions about your teen’s current needs. 

If you need guidance, you can always contact Turnbridge for support. Turnbridge is a mental health and substance use treatment facility for adolescents struggling with mental, behavioral, and addiction disorders. We are here for you. Contact 877-581-1793 to learn more.