When to Seek Residential Treatment for Your Teen

by Polaris Teen Center | Sep 5, 2018 | Mental Health, Parenting Tips, Resources, Treatment


Los Angeles Teen Treatment

Residential treatment centers provide individualized mental and behavioral health care for youth struggling with a variety of issues and struggles. Residential treatment often addresses the following:

  • Trauma and abuse
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Eating disorder(s)
  • Personality and mental disorders
  • Low self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Problems with peers
  • Substance abuse
  • Criminal or violent behavior(s)
  • Other behavioral issues

Even if you know your teen struggles with some of these things, it can still be extremely difficult for parents to be certain their teenage son or daughter is in need of a higher level of care.  But there are clear indicators that can be helpful in determining when residential treatment is the appropriate choice.

  1. Habitual relapse – if your child continues to struggle to remain sober, and has had several failed attempts at sobriety, this is a likely indicator a higher level of treatment, such as a residential program is needed.
  2. Inadequate support – parents can be a great support to teens who struggle with substance abuse and/or mental health issues.  Yet, parents are not trained mental health professionals, and cannot always be with their children. If this is the support your child is needing, a residential option could be an appropriate solution.
  3. Dual diagnosis – if your child is struggling with both mental health issues and substance abuse, then you are likely seeing a wide array of symptoms displayed.  Even for the most seasoned counselor or therapist, teenagers with dual diagnoses can be some of the hardest to treat. Thus, a more intensive program with a wide range of medical and mental health professionals might be needed.
  4. Lack of success in outpatient programs – if your teenager has tried outpatient programs (intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, etc.) and continues to struggle with difficult symptoms of mental health and/or substance abuse, then it might be time to consider a higher level of care.
  5. Safety – are there safety concerns connected to your child’s behavior? Has he or she been hospitalized as a result of threats of violence against him/herself? If your teenager has verbalized suicidal or self-harm thoughts, or if his or her behavior has been escalating, it is time to take action and make a change.  Safety is the most important thing, and for some teens, the best way to ensure their safety is through facility, where they can be monitored 24/7.
  6. Professional recommendation – if your teenager sees a counselor or a therapist, or if his or her school counselor have made specific recommendations regarding intervention or placement, this should absolutely be considered.

Not all teens in need of treatment will display the above-mentioned things.  But that is not to say there are not other, less obvious signs that could indicate your child may need a higher level of care. Some of these include:

  • Problems at school – dropping grades, truancy, or excessive tardiness; getting into trouble at school (i.e. – having disciplinary action(s) taken against him or her).
  • Behavior changes – this could be things such as physical fighting, running away from home, expressing the desire to cause harm to others, and/or unusual interest in weapons.  Also, if there have been legal concerns connected to your teen’s behavior, this may be an indicator of a more significant problem.
  • Severe mood changes – extreme sadness, anger outburst, or sudden disinterest in things (displayed at home and/or school) could indicate your teen is struggling significantly.
  • Secretiveness – if your teen suddenly begins to keep information from you or behave in “sneaky” ways, he or she may be trying to hide a more severe issue.

These signs can often help parents in making the decision to take the next step and identify treatment options for their teen.  However, for many parents, their teen’s situation may not be quite as obvious. This can make the decision to intervene much more difficult.  Answering a few questions could help you to determine the true need of your child. First, list the behaviors you are concerned about regarding your teenager (in order of priority).  This may include things such as defiance, academic decline, not following curfew or doing household chores, withdrawal from friends and/or family, etc. Then answer these questions:

  1. How does your teen respond to or explain the behavior(s) listed?  Does the explanation make logical sense? Is he or she able to take responsibility, or is the blame placed on someone/something else?  Is your teen open to working towards changing the behavior/situation and finding a solution?
  2. How often have the problematic behaviors listed above been discussed? How have you (the parent) attempted to intervene (i.e. – family meetings, school meetings, discussion with mental health professional, etc.)?
  3. Have you (the parent) enabled your teenager’s behavior in any way?  This might be through paying for damage or court fees, excusing your child’s school absences, or making excuses for his or her behavior.  Although you may have had the best intentions, many parents fail to recognize how they are enabling their child to avoid accountability and/or consequences.
  4. What is the level of tolerance for this behavior?  How will you (the parent) know when things have gone “too far?”  (i.e. – someone being physically harmed, expelled, arrested, etc.).  This question can help you gain more clarity on the situation, and begin to recognize your boundaries.
  5. Are both parents on the “same page” regarding the teens behavior(s)?  Whether married, separated, or divorced, it is so important for parents to be a united front when addressing a teenagers mental and behavioral health needs.

It can be a difficult decision to send your teen to a residential program, but it is important to remember it will, in the end, benefit your child and promote his or her overall health and well-being.  Many parents may feel like sending their child to a residential center is a punishment, when really it is an opportunity. In a residential setting, your teen will be challenged to face his or her core issues that are driving the unhealthy behavior(s), all within a safe and supportive environment. Identifying the core issues can then help your child understand his or her behavior and responses, and begin to make positive changes.  These types of programs also teach your teen how to cope with difficult emotions and situations.

Many parents are hesitant to send their child away to treatment due to worries regarding the child’s education.  At a residential program, teens will continually maintain schoolwork, and in many cases, improve academic performance. The best treatment centers have teachers and tutors on staff as well.  In addition to the academic and therapeutic benefits, your child will also have the opportunity to grow his or her support network and build upon social skill. The peers he or she will meet in treatment can provide a sense of connection and understanding, and in many cases, the bonds formed in treatment are carried on into their lives back home.

If you think your teen may be struggling with a mental health or substance abuse disorder, contact Polaris Teen Center at 844-836-0222 to find out more about treatment options and programs.

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Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).