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Residential Treatment Programs

When someone needs consistently high levels of psychiatric, counseling, milieu, recreation and other specialized therapies, they often benefit from time in a residential treatment center (RTC). Here there is 24/7 wake staff, close medical and medication monitoring, heavy family work, a low staff-to-client ratio, and lots of structure. Treatment-resistant teens and young adults often can do well in this setting because containment and a rewards-driven behavioral levels system are basic to the philosophy of the milieu.

As in all long-term treatment models for teens, school can take up part of every day at an RTC. Here, however, academics always are subordinate to each child's emotional and behavioral treatment goals. Therapeutic protocols are far more important than academic achievement in the 4 - 12 months average length of stay. This also is reflected in the cost of sending a child to an RTC: they usually are more expensive than the less clinically intense emotional growth or therapeutic boarding schools. There is typically no academic component in young adult programs, although some specialize in pursuing college studies part-time.

There are many distinct types of RTC’s. While all are designed to deal with serious emotional distress and/or acting out, some are more behavioral than others; some emphasize a positive peer culture over individual treatment; some are large and have an institutional feel while others are intimate and more relationship-based; some even build their treatment around a physical activity (equine, karate, endurance sports, etc.) or a very narrow counseling approach (DBT, EMDR, CBT, etc.).


And, as in all therapeutic settings, the experience, insights, intellect and commitment of staff ultimately determine the effectiveness of each program. Picking the right RTC for your child demands the highest quality of input from everyone involved with the case as well as the most up-to-date information available on all the programmatic options.

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