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Therapeutic Boarding Schools vs. Residential Treatment for Teens: What is the Difference? 

best therapeutic boarding schools in connecticut

It’s not easy being a teenager, and it’s also not easy being a parent to one. During this stage in life, teenagers are navigating physical changes, emotional rollercoasters, as well as rapid, yet remarkable changes within their brain chemistry. As such, teens are more likely to take risks, act out, resist orders, change friends, pursue relationships, and push for more independence in their day-to-day life. This is all normal behavior, and important in helping teenagers make their way towards adulthood. However, typical teen behavior should not be mistaken for what might be more troubling behavior, like substance abuse, violence, legal issues, and severe disrespect or defiance. These warrant a parent’s concern.

If your son or daughter is displaying signs of troubled teen behavior, you may be seeking professional help. Your teen may be skipping school, getting in fights, or drinking and using drugs. Or, perhaps your teen is facing behavioral, academic, and potentially psychological challenges that are only worsening at home. Though circumstances vary, it is for these reasons that many parents consider a therapeutic boarding school.

What is a Therapeutic Boarding School?

A therapeutic boarding school (TBS) is a type of institution that specializes in helping and educating troubled teenagers and young adults. These institutions are both academic and rehabilitative, providing classroom instruction as well as clinical counseling. This integrated structure is designed to help teens restore their mental health and reach their academic potential. 

Therapeutic boarding schools are residential, meaning young people live at the facility while they complete their education and receive therapy. Classes and counseling are provided in a structured setting, to help bring control and routine back to each teen’s life.

Therapeutic boarding schools are often a chosen course for teenagers who are struggling with behavioral issues, social problems, emotional challenges, and learning difficulties that cannot be addressed in the traditional school environment. According to Dr. Blythe Grossberg, a recognized author in the education space, “Most students who attend therapeutic schools have faced academic failure in mainstream educational settings and need strategies to help them succeed.” 

Commonly, the students attending therapeutic boarding schools did not experience failure because of their level of intelligence. Rather, they struggled academically because of the behavioral, emotional, and mental challenges that got in the way of their success. Therapeutic boarding schools are designed to help students overcome obstacles, establish a sense of well-being, and develop strategies for learning and long-term success. 

Therapeutic Boarding Schools vs. Residential Rehab for Teens

When researching options for “troubled” and “out-of-control” teenagers, parents often arrive at two options: a residential drug rehab program or a therapeutic boarding school. While these two types of programs have a lot in common, they are also very different in their approach and services. Therefore, it is important to do your research before making the best choice for your teen.

As you can gather, therapeutic boarding schools are highly focused on the academic success of teenagers. They are primarily educational environments, but do offer a range of mental health services to help teenagers struggling. 

Alternatively, residential teen treatment is highly focused on healing. These programs are designed for adolescents who are struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues, or a combination of the two, and who require professional help. Some drug treatment centers, such as Turnbridge, do offer academic support services to help teens continue their education. However, the primary focus of this type of program is treating the substance use and mental health disorders that are disruptive to teens’ daily life.

Both therapeutic boarding schools and residential rehab programs provide teens with an array of professional services, carried out by licensed and trained clinicians. Each type of program provides a safe and structured place for teens to live, with 24/7 staff and supervision. Both therapeutic boarding schools and teen rehab centers can help address adolescents’ struggles with mental health, substance use, and academics, as well as general issues with impulse control, coping skills, and self-esteem. However, the distinction between the two programs comes down to their main goal:

  • Therapeutic boarding schools are designed to give every teen the opportunity to learn, thrive, and find academic success. Part of this journey is to make them feel safe, supported, and healthy in the process, which is where the behavioral and mental health services come into play.
  • Residential treatment programs are designed to provide intensive care and support for young people struggling with emotional, mental, and behavioral issues. The ultimate goal of these programs is to help adolescents and young adults discover a healthy life in which they can thrive without relying on drugs or alcohol. The clinicians in a residential teen rehab create individualized treatment plans that empower teens to live sober, teach teens how to cope with mental struggles, and develop skills to live productive, healthy lives.

Is a Therapeutic Boarding School or Teen Treatment Program Right for You?

A therapeutic boarding school is a great option for teenagers who are not well-equipped to success in a traditional school environment. These teens would, instead, benefit from a structured routine, 24/7 supervision, and mental health support while they complete their academic journey.

A residential treatment center is recommended for adolescents and young adults who could benefit from a safe, drug-free environment where they can focus on their healing. In a residential rehab program, teens can participate in a range of therapies and therapeutic exercises, in efforts to combat struggles with substance abuse and mental health. Residential treatment for youth does not solely enact clinical counseling methods, but also fun, engaging, therapeutic activities like sports leagues, yoga workshops, music sessions, art classes, group outings, nature hikes, and more. These all come together to help adolescents and young adults feel inspired and engaged in the treatment process.

If your teen is struggling with substance use and/or a mental health disorder, and healing is your priority, it is recommended that you pursue a residential treatment program for your teen. Substance use and mental health treatment, in an inpatient setting, will provide your teen with the tools, support, and resources he or she needs to take on mainstream life, substance-free. This is fundamental to finding success in school, and in life. 

Turnbridge is a recognized, residential treatment center for youth struggling with substance use and other mental health disorders. We can help your teen arrive at the exceptional life beyond treatment, and overcome the obstacles standing in his or her way—whether that be due to depression, anxiety, a behavioral disorder, or substance abuse. For those who have completed therapeutic boarding school but are seeking help for continuing treatment, we also have an extended care program for teens and young adults. Contact us confidentially at 877-581-1793 to learn more about our programs.