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What is a Group Home and Is it Right for Treating Mental Illness in Teens? 

group homes for juvenile delinquents

The teenage years are difficult, for adolescents and parents alike. As their bodies go through significant changes (emotionally and physically), teenagers can be moody, rebellious, impulsive, withdrawn, and resistant all at the same time. They may act out, break rules, and prioritize their time with friends over their time with parents. This is normal. However, some teenagers may break the boundaries further, showcasing troubling behaviors like violence, substance abuse, self-harm, and skipping school. When signs of troubled waters occur, many parents will start looking for places that can help. 

Parents seeking places to send their son or daughter may come across group homes for teens who are struggling with delinquency. You may be here now wondering what a group home is, and whether it’s the best fit for your struggling teen. In this article, we explore the prospect of group homes for teens and young adults who are showcasing signs of behavioral and mental health problems. Further, we assess alternative options for ensuring each teen’s success.  

What is a Group Home for Teens and Young Adults? 

Group homes offer a residential model of care for people with complex health needs. These group homes offer therapy, support, and 24-hour supervision to a small group of residents, all while taking place in a family-like setting. In fact, group homes are often situated in neighborhoods and look like regular homes. 

There are various types of group homes available. There are group homes for aging adults who need 24-hour care, as well as for people who are facing disability and need round-the-clock assistance. There are also group homes for teens and young adults who are facing mental health and behavioral health issues. Group homes are also available for teens who cannot live with their families, perhaps due to financial hardship, substance abuse, or other reasons. 

What happens in a group home will vary depending on the specific population it serves. For example, some group homes will have routine medication administration and therapy. Others may have time set aside for academic sessions, job training, drug testing, and counseling. Residents in these homes receive necessary services, but are also able to carry out a typical lifestyle. 

Group homes for teenagers and adolescents with mental and behavioral health problems may involve: 

  • Constant monitoring of a resident’s daily activities 
  • Regular drug testing 
  • Any necessary medication disposal 
  • Mental health counseling 
  • Encouraging teens to develop skills like cooking and cleaning 
  • Ensuring teens fulfill obligations, like attending school 
  • Ensuring rules are followed, and consequences are enacted for breaking the rules 

Some group homes may offer specialized services to help residents with: 

  • Substance abuse 
  • Autism 
  • Anger management 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Depression and anxiety 

In group homes, teenagers can still carry out their typical daily activities. For example, they may attend public school. However, the group home staff will stay in touch with teachers, and closely monitor teens’ academic performance and behavioral progress in school. In addition to this, teenagers are encouraged to fulfill chores around the home, such as cleaning, preparing meals, and making their beds. In group homes, teens can typically still find time for recreational fun or time with friends. However, there are strict rules in place and some of these “fun” hours must be earned through positive behaviors. 

The goal of group homes is to provide residents with a sense of home and family, as well as a sense of independence, all while ensuring their health and safety. A trained staff provides oversight for residents in need, helps them develop healthy habits, and eventually works to reintegrate them back into their homes or communities. 

For teens and young adults, for example, group homes provide structure and safety in combination with therapeutic oversight. They are typically short-term solutions that help teens transition back into home life, with more independence and awareness. In fact, some group homes serve as a transitional housing option for teenagers who are leaving a psychiatric treatment facility or a juvenile detention facility, but need more time in a supervised setting before returning home or living on their own. This is a similar concept to a “halfway” house. 

Who Can Benefit from a Group Home? 

Group homes are good options for people who need support in their daily living activities, or who may benefit from watchful care in a supervised home setting. This may include people with disability, developmental delays, medical conditions, and behavioral disorders. 

As noted above, this may be a good option for teenagers who are transitioning out of juvenile detention and who may need more time to re-establish life skills and re-focus on their goals. Group homes may also be a good fit for teenagers or young adults who are transitioning out of drug treatment or mental health treatment, and require a safe place to live. 

Are Group Homes Good for Teens with Mental Illness? 

Many parents seeking help for their teens wonder if a group home will be effective in treating mental illness. Will the counseling and therapy offered in a group home setting be enough to help overcome disorders like depression and anxiety? While services vary by group home, and specialized group homes do exist, group homes are typically not a replacement for mental health treatment. They are more transitional, to help ease the mid-way point between treatment and life ahead. 

Mental illnesses are complex conditions that typically require specialized, integrated care in a dedicated mental health facility. These facilities are equipped with specially trained clinicians, therapists, and support staff who understand the various symptoms and treatments for disorders like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and more.  

Residential mental health treatment facilities are recommended for teens and young adults who are struggling with mental illness. These facilities offer some of the benefits of a group home setting, as well as the clinical aspect that is so needed in early mental health treatment. 

Evaluating Group Home Alternatives: Residential Mental Health Treatment 

If you are a parent and wondering how to help your “troubled” teen, you may be considering a group home. Your teen may be exhibiting signs of violent behavior, substance abuse, recklessness, lack of motivation or care, depression, anxiety, extreme moodiness, or withdrawal from family and friends. These are just some of the many signs that can indicate troubled teen behavior, but they could also indicate a deeper-seated mental health problem. 

As much as a group home may seem like an easy choice for teens who need to get away, and who need a structured living environment, it is important to consider your child’s deeper needs. Is he or she: 

  • Exhibiting extreme mood swings? 
  • Showing aggressive or violent behavior? 
  • Threatening or attempting acts of self-harm? 
  • Having trouble establishing relationships with others? 
  • Having trouble getting out of bed in the morning? 
  • Skipping or dropping out of school, or failing their classes? 
  • Showing a lack of care in once-loved activities or friend groups? 
  • Participating in risky activities, such as drug and alcohol use? 
  • Showing excessive worry or fear, that’s keeping them up at night? 

While these are signs of troubled teen behavior, they are also signs of mental health disorders. And if there is a chance your teen is facing a mental health problem, residential treatment is recommended. A residential mental health treatment center can provide teens with a safe, drug-free, structured environment where they can fully focus on their healing. For a period of time – anywhere between 90 and 300 days – a teen can fully focus on therapy, counseling, building life skills, managing their disorder, and establishing healthy relationships with peers. Teens in mental health treatment centers do not go about traditional daily living, but instead are given the opportunity to spend time re-establishing productive, healthy, independent lives where they feel happy and gratified.  

Residential mental health treatment facilities offer teens and young adults: 

  • Therapeutic sessions, based on evidence-based treatment and therapy 
  • 24/7 clinical support with counselors and medical professionals 
  • A safe, secure, and comfortable environment with round-the-clock supervision 
  • An environment set away from pressures, including drugs and alcohol 
  • Engaging, recreational, and holistic activities that are conducive to improving mental health, like yoga, art classes, sports leagues, and hiking 
  • Academic counseling and support for teens in school 
  • A sober and supportive community of other teens and young adults in recovery 

So, is mental health treatment or a group home right for your teen? Contact Turnbridge for a professional evaluation, and to learn about the different options for your family. Call 877-581-1793 to learn more, or explore our adolescent programs online.