Top Questions to Ask Before Deciding on Residential Treatment

The decision to send your child to a specialized educational environment such as a wilderness based program, therapeutic boarding school, or residential treatment center (RTC) should not be taken lightly. The cost is considerable, and the window of opportunity to change your child’s behavior before long-term habits are formed is small. Due to the considerable expense and importance of this decision, parents are urged to consider factors that might constitute the best fit for their child. While this is certainly not an all-inclusive list, below are some topic areas to consider:

Licensing and Accreditation

One important question is to determine if the facility you are looking at is both licensed and accredited. Without accreditation and licensing, a family cannot be assured of the quality of hiring, the quality of facilities, and the care that is provided.  Licensing and accrediting bodies have standards and qualifications facilities must meet every single day.

Treatment Model and Scope

Once you have determined the facility you are looking at is licensed and accredited, you should then determine if the program is well suited for the individual needs of your child.

Top Treatment and Scope Questions:

  1. What is the age range of the clients you accept?
  2. Do you also accept clients that have a much different issues set than my child, such as individuals with drug or alcohol problems, intellectual disabilities, etc?
  3. Will my child be exposed to higher level issues than she is dealing with? How can I be assured my child will not just learn worse habits being at your facility?

Ultimately, the more dialed-in a program is to a specific population, the better the outcomes are for that specific group. As you can imagine, a 12-year-old girl generally has a much different issue set than with a 16-year-old girl. Similarly, research has shown that issues such as ADHD or opposition and defiance are commonly exhibited much differently in adolescent boys than adolescent girls. Therefore, the more diversity in a facility’s population set participating in treatment together, the more diluted the treatment tends to be.

Hours of Weekly Therapeutic Contact

While most programs offer 1-hour individual and 2-hours group therapy or more, often the benefit of residential treatment happens in the milieu when conflicts arise. For example, children with impulsive behaviors and ADHD are best redirected and taught coping skills in the moment- not later in the week when the conflict situation has long passed. Many kids with ADHD are very bright and can tell you exactly what they should do when faced with a problem. However, in order to create new habits you really have to intervene in the moment to create new knee-jerk responses to stress.

Parents should ask, “Does this program have therapists available for activities, schooling, and weekends?” All are important factors in your decision making process.

Therapist's Training

There are many approaches to therapy, each with its own focus and limitations. A therapist who is 100% focused on one particular methodology may see all of their clients in a very narrow scope. Peer-reviewed scientific research into effective strategies for residential treatment centers has demonstrated that multi-modal treatment, or providing multiple strategies and opportunity's for learning, is by far the most effective approach.

Proximity to Home

Research has demonstrated that family involvement is critical to positive treatment outcomes. For longer duration programs, having a close proximity to the home is beneficial for attendance at family workshops, visitation, and face-to-face family therapy sessions.

If you have additional questions about treatment options please don’t hesitate to call me directly at 813-454-1050.