Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Therapeutic boarding schools may be a good alternative to military schools, for girls who are in need of treatment for emotional and behavioral issues. Therapeutic boarding schools are designed to provide an education while also treating struggling teens.

Boarding schools are schools at which young people stay during the school year, receiving room and board as well as education either for five days of the week, returning home for weekends, or for at a semester at a time, with the occasional holiday. Therapeutic boarding schools are boarding schools in which an academic program is combined with treatment to address a number of situations including emotional and behavioral issues, generally for that period of at least a year. Note that military schools are not a type of therapeutic boarding school. Military schools deliver an academic program, often of high caliber, in a setting with military elements, often including a JROTC program, and with a focus on high ideals and leadership. Military schools are not equipped to work with students needing the types of intensive therapy offered in therapeutic boarding schools. To understand more about what therapeutic boarding schools have to offer, read on.

Why a Therapeutic Boarding School May Benefit a Struggling Teen

It is the nature of boarding school to provide a break from the old and new opportunities. When a teen is working to overcome temptations, break with a bad crowd, or recovering from any type of abuse, being out of the situation that is tempting, away from the wrong company, and free from fear of meeting a (former) abuser can be an essential element of recovery. For a teen who has made some bad decisions or choices or behaved in ways that don’t make him or her proud, being with people who don’t know and free of reminders of his or her past failings can make a new start much easier.

All teen boarding schools allow a teen to spend a substantial amount of time in a new situation with a concerted focus on his or her future. If the teen is having trouble dealing with a parental divorce, hanging out with a problematic crowd, or bored in school, the change of scene and culture may be therapeutic in an of themselves. But when these possible benefits are combined with an evidence-based course of therapy, it’s even better. According to the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP), therapeutic boarding schools should have an accredited academic program and a licensed clinical practice, a well-trained staff, clear philosophy, and a history of successful completion of its program.

Choosing a Therapeutic Boarding School

Not all therapeutic boarding schools are alike and not many take all comers. Most have a specialization, whether it’s treating one gender, treating clients of a specific age range, treating clients who are struggling with a specific set of teen issues, or sticking a particular program philosophy. The school will be helpful in letting you know if your child fits their criteria in terms of age and what his or her issues are - but only as long as questions the school asks are answered honestly. For other matters, such as whether one philosophy or another and one academic program or another is a better or worse match for a child, the parent and child will likely be good judges.

Therapeutic boarding schools treat children from age five through the teen years. Some have separate, but coexisting, programs for young adults. There are programs for boys only, girls only, and mixed gender. Some programs accept boys and girls but treat them on completely separate campuses. Some programs specialize in creating a family atmosphere and have a limited number of participants at any given time, while others are larger and describe their philosophy as Christian-based, 12-step, based on the Life Phase Model©, relying on “back to basics,” or tied into experiential learning. If a child has special classroom needs, either because he or she is gifted or because he or she has learning disabilities, given the duration of the treatment, it is well worth looking into the academic program thoroughly, especially for a high school-aged child whose academic performance may affect college admissions.

Be aware that not every program that says that it can help your child is qualified to do so. The NATSAP website search

 is a good place to search for a therapeutic boarding schools. You are advised to use the links to visit the websites of schools you are interested in, as well as call and visit, if possible, before sending your child there.


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