Where Can I Send My Out-of-Control Teenager? 5 Best Options

As your teenager comes into their own and starts trying to assert their independence over you, you may find yourself butting heads with your teen more than before. Your teenager may become moodier, experiment with different fashions, pull away from family, test your rules, and push their curfew; all of which are typical of teenagers.

When these typical teenage behaviors escalate into violence, bullying, engaging in harmful behavior, experimenting with substances, or hanging out with dangerous people, it becomes time to investigate, intervene, and get help for your teenager.

When it comes to intervention, try sticking to treatment options such as psychotherapy and behavioral programs at home first before moving on to more drastic measures which may include residential treatments, therapeutic boarding schools, and boot camps – all of which have different programs which will cater to different teenager’s needs.

At this point, exploring the intervention options for your seemingly out-of-control teenager can be overwhelming. This article will explain some of the options you have for your child to help you decide on the best option for your teen.  

Where Can I Send My Out-of-Control Teenager?

  1. Therapy

teen therapist

Therapy with a licensed provider gives your teen the space and the support they need to work out their problems, explore their thoughts and feelings, as well as point out destructive behavior. A therapist will then work with your teen to figure out treatments and techniques that will help them better understand and cope with their emotions.

Therapy may also help rule out or find any underlying problems that may be causing your teen to act out. Traumatic events including death, illness, abuse and even divorce may incite behavioral problems in teenagers. Mental health issues such as ADHD, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder may be mistakenly interpreted as mere acting out.

Family therapy can help you and your teen work out differences under the guidance of an objective third party. If you are having difficulty communicating with your child, family therapy helps build avenues to effective communication.

  1. Residential Therapy

Residential therapy or live-in programs provide extensive therapy for teens who experience behavioral and mental issues, substance abuse, and eating disorders. By providing a respite from daily stress and triggers, residential therapy centers may give your teen the space they need to work on themselves.

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Residential therapy programs can be short-term 30-day programs or longer treatment periods of up to a year. Regardless of the program length, residential therapy is commonly followed by regular outpatient therapy with a licensed provider after residential treatment ends.

Most residential therapy programs involve several types of therapy, mainly individual, group, family and experiential therapy.

Types of Therapy at a Residential Center

  • Individual Therapy

One-on-one therapy allows your teen to explore their emotions and express problems they are experiencing in a comfortable and confidential environment. Individual therapy can also help out-of-control teenagers find structure and stability in their daily routine.

  • Group Therapy

Group therapy with a small group of their peers in the presence of a therapist gives   your teen a chance to hear from people who are experiencing the same issues as they are. Group discussions also serve as an opportunity for gaining perspective and constructive criticism.

  • Family Therapy

Family therapy allows you to take part in finding solutions to the issues your teen faces. With family therapy, you will also be guided on how you can help your teen keep up with their progress after the program ends.

  • Experiential Therapy

Experiential therapy is a type of ‘body and mind’ therapy commonly used in conjunction with talk therapy. Depending on the type of facility, experiential therapy could involve sports, outdoor activities like hiking and camping, working with animals, and creative activities such as writing and craftsmanship.

Some residential therapy programs also incorporate academic instruction. Whether or not your teen will receive academic instruction while in residential therapy depends on the structure of the programs offered as well as the length of your teen’s stay.

  1. Wilderness Programs

Wilderness therapy programs involve trained field staff and therapists taking small groups into the outdoors. It takes advantage of the outdoor setting and unfamiliar environment to combine one-on-one therapy, group therapy, and experiential therapy, while also teaching teens some self-sustaining skills such as cooking.

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Wilderness therapy also encourages socialization and communication, as participants will have to combine their efforts to build fires, cook their food, and pitch tents.

Because of the lack of digital distractions and triggers in wilderness therapy, teens are naturally encouraged to confront their emotions and thoughts with the help of a therapist who then helps them find ways healthy coping mechanisms and come out with a much more positive outlook.

  1. Therapeutic Schools

group counseling teen

A therapeutic school offers alternative academic programs that focus on helping out-of-control teenagers with behavioral, emotional, or academic issues. In addition to academic training, therapeutic school students receive psychological support and counseling. These schools are often gender-specific and emphasize strict routines to provide teens with structure. 

Therapeutic day schools allow their students to stay at home outside of school hours. Therapeutic boarding schools on the other hand remove students from outside influences and stressors in order to provide more intensive rehabilitation, often for teens who struggle with substance use or pose dangers to their family members.

Therapeutic school programs also cater to teens who fall behind or have difficulty keeping up in traditional school settings. Academic programs at therapeutic schools are usually tailored to an individual or a specific group’s needs. Because of this, therapeutic schools are often long-term programs lasting a whole school year.

  1. Boot Camp

Boot camps are based on a military model and maintain military-style rules and discipline. They are good options for teens who need rigid structure and academic training but are not meant for teens who struggle with behavioral and emotional issues. They often also require participants to engage in high levels of physical activity.

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Boot camps have gained a controversial reputation due to their use of intimidation tactics, fear, and corporal punishment. When these elements are lost outside of the program, boot camps prove unsuccessful in modifying behavior.

If you feel like sending your teen to a boot camp has become your only choice, take time to do research while looking for one. Find a reputable program that uses positive discipline and consequences to reinforce good behavior, as opposed to corporal punishment.

The Takeaway

When out-of-control teenagers need more help than what parents and therapists can offer at home, it comes time to look into residential treatment options.  

Residential therapy offers ‘in-patient’ style programs that incorporate individual, group, family and experiential therapy. Residential therapy centers remove negative outside influence and stress to allow teens to focus on becoming better. Programs can last anywhere from 30 days to a year.

Wilderness programs teach teens self-sustaining skills in addition to therapy and rehabilitation. They also encourage healthy communication and socialization with peers through outdoor activities.

Therapeutic schools are either residential or day programs that help teens with behavioral and emotional issues. In addition to academic support, students at therapeutic schools receive individual and group therapy with professionals. They also tailor their academic programs to help teens who fall behind in traditional schooling.

Boot camps stick to a military model to help teens who need rigid structure and tougher discipline. Boot camps are good options for those who prefer strict academic and physical training but are often not meant for out-of-control teenagers who struggle with emotional, academic, and substance use issues.  

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