Residential Treatment Options: A Basic Overview

Often Educational Consultants are asked to link families to the best residential treatment option.  Parents sometimes look for "boot camps" or "military schools" not knowing that there are better choices for children with oppositional behavior and emotional problems.

Generally, boot camps and military schools do not provide treatment from licensed, credentialed therapists.  While a punitive approach to oppositional behavior may feel right for some parents, I strongly caution against this option for most, if not all families I have helped link to services.

If you are interested in a non-Florida based program I am happy to refer you to an educational consultant who specializes in your geographic area.

Below is a graph outlining basic residential treatment options.  Please feel free to call me at 813-454-1050 if you have any questions about the treatment options that exist for your child.

It should also be noted that I omitted some treatment options for simplification.  These are:

1. Inpatient psychiatric hospitalization, which today is mainly done for stabilization and detoxification.

2. Wilderness therapy programs, which can have a variety of applications but is most commonly done before admission to a therapeutic boarding school.

3. Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP's) which can be effective in very specific situations.

Intervention Levels

Please click on the graphic above to view.

Level I: Outpatient Therapy (individual or group counseling, 1 or 2 hours per week).

  • Effective for people that want to change.
  • Effective for people that realize they are responsible for their life circumstances (they don’t exclusively blame others).
  • Slowest progress of all treatment methods- in 6 months’ time with 1 session per week, your child will have received just 24 hours of treatment.
  • Ineffective for any individual forced to participate, regardless of the qualifications and expertize of the therapist.


Level II: Medication Management Alone

  • Varying levels of success depending on issue and medication prescribed.
  • In general, more effective if used in combination with individual therapy.
  • If not combined with instruction on coping skills and interpersonal therapy, child is likely to go back to previous behaviors when medication is stopped.


Level III: Outpatient Therapy and Medication Therapy Combined

  • Generally more effective than outpatient therapy and medications management done alone.
  • Individual needs to be receptive to insight oriented interventions, and accept that they have contributed to their current situation.
  • If child is unwilling to participate meaningfully in the therapeutic component, gains will be similar to medication therapy alone.


Level IV: Residential Setting at Therapeutic Boarding Schools

  • Combines individual and group interventions in addition to other treatment modalities such as milieu therapy, equine therapy, and recreational therapy. Medical interventions available when appropriate.
  • Students benefit from peer feedback and opportunities to practice social skills, positive coping mechanisms, and have opportunities to practice and learn setting healthy personal boundaries with the oversight of licensed professionals.
  • For students chronically making the same mistakes over and over, accurate feedback from staff and program participants can be given on their distorted perceptions.
  • Program staff can provide corrective experiences, creating opportunities to build self-esteem.
  • Coping skills can be taught, practiced, and incorporated into daily routines.
  • Designed for “soft population”- students that are struggling with emotional or behavioral issues, relationships, anxiety or depression that are performing under their potential.


Level V: Residential Setting at Residential Treatment Centers (RTC’s)

  • Similar to Therapeutic Boarding Schools with a focus on higher level of acuity.
  • Intensive psychiatric oversight with frequent medication management and adjustment as appropriate.
  • Psychiatrist is able to gather more accurate information on how the student’s moods and behaviors are effected by the medications administered by meeting regularly with teachers, counselors, and milieu staff that the child is involved with.
  • Unlike Therapeutic Boarding Schools RTC programs offer services to provide a higher level of safety for program participants.