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What are Therapeutic Boarding Schools? What You Need to Know Before Sending Your Teen

If you’re a parent considering therapeutic boarding school (TBS) for your child, it is essential to have accurate information regarding the purpose of TBS, as well as what you can expect from treatment. Keep reading to find answers to common questions about therapeutic boarding schools for teens.


Therapeutic Boarding School FAQs for Parents and Families

As you dive into these questions, it is important to remember that therapeutic boarding schools vary depending on the state and licensing requirements. When a treatment program says they are a “Therapeutic Boarding School,” it might be because they are accredited through the Joint Commission, or it might be how the program differentiates itself in the marketplace.

The below information is generalized to give you a better idea of whether or not TBS is the right avenue to pursue. However, because not all states require such programs to be licensed–and licensing requirements vary by state–it is imperative to research treatment options, ask questions, and thoroughly vet a program before sending your child.


What are Therapeutic Boarding Schools?

Therapeutic boarding schools are specialized residential treatment programs that provide academic and clinical services to children and adolescents with emotional, behavioral, and psychiatric disorders. These schools typically focus on intellectual and academic development while the student receives physical, emotional, behavioral, familial, and social support through individual and group therapy, family counseling, and recreation therapy.

Therapeutic boarding schools can be located in suburban or rural areas and are a common next step in treatment plans for teens who complete a wilderness therapy program or short-term residential treatment program. A common level of support includes the following:

  • Psychiatrist: Contracted, not always part of the treatment team
  • Registered Nurse: Possible
  • Length of Stay: 9-15 months
  • Insurance Reimbursement: Varies
  • School District Funding: Varies
  • Average Caseload for Licensed Therapist: 6-10+
  • Max Enrollment: 25-60
  • Group/Individual/Family/ Experiential Therapy Hours per Week: 4-6+ (and structured home visits)
  • Clients Come into Treatment From: Assessment programs, such as wilderness therapy, intensive outpatient programs, or partial hospitalization programs
  • Clients Graduate To: Home, traditional day or boarding schools (with support), or additional lower-level treatment placements
  • Clients with Emotional or Physical Behavior Necessitating Direct Oversight/Intervention: Few, if any
  • Diploma Granting: Yes
  • Staff to Student Ratio: 1:6 or more
  • Cost: $9,000+ per month

You can learn about the difference between therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment centers for more information.*


What is the Purpose of Therapeutic Boarding Schools?

The purpose of therapeutic boarding schools is to provide a structured and supportive environment for teenagers who are struggling with emotional, social, educational, or behavioral issues. These schools typically offer a combination of academic and counseling services and often have a low student-to-teacher ratio to ensure each student gets the attention and support they need.

Therapeutic boarding schools can benefit teenagers who need help getting their lives back on track. In addition to providing academic and counseling services, these schools also teach important life skills like time management and conflict resolution. As a result, graduates of therapeutic boarding schools are often better equipped to deal with the challenges of adulthood. If you are considering a therapeutic boarding school for your teenager, it is important to research several schools to find one that is right for your family.


Are Therapeutic Boarding Schools Effective?

Multiple studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of residential treatment programs, including therapeutic boarding schools. Results demonstrate that participating youth experience significant improvements during treatment and well after. In one study, over 80% of youth fell into the “severe” range of behavioral and psychological functioning during admissions into a treatment program. At the end of the program, that percentage decreased by 60%. The effectiveness of these programs varies by student, but many find them helpful.


Are Therapeutic Boarding Schools Good for Learning Disabilities?

If your teen has learning disabilities or is on the autism spectrum, it’s essential to find a therapeutic boarding school with specialized treatment programs, such as executive functioning skill building, to support your child. It’s also important to know whether the TBS has a special educator on staff and can implement an IEP. Learn about “learning difference” boarding schools and three proven approaches for students with learning disabilities. And browse a list of the therapeutic boarding schools for youth on the autism spectrum here.


Why Do Parents Send Their Teens to Therapeutic Boarding Schools?

Many teens struggle to a degree that can not be managed in a home setting. Some of the behaviors might be experimenting with drugs or alcohol, engaging in risky behaviors, or becoming withdrawn and sullen (sometimes anxiety, depression, or undiagnosed struggles). Local therapists and school supports evade assisting the teen (and family) to work through the underlying issues. When local interventions and family systems are unsuccessful, these problems can quickly spiral out of control. In some cases, parents/families may feel they have no choice but to seek a treatment plan that may involve a therapeutic boarding school.

These schools provide a structured environment where teens can receive the licensed counseling and support they need to get back on track. In addition, they can also receive a quality education and rebuild confidence in a safer therapeutic community. For many parents, therapeutic boarding schools offer the best hope for their teen’s future and rebuilding and restructuring of the family system.

If you are concerned about your child, talk to a professional about whether or not a therapeutic boarding school is the right treatment option. Or contact the admissions team to discuss your teen’s medical needs and wants to ensure there is a match.


>Are Therapeutic Boarding Schools Psychologically Damaging?

Each child is unique and will respond differently to different types of treatment. Many teens experience positive benefits from attending TBS. However, choosing the right program is essential for your teen to get the most out of their time at a therapeutic boarding school.


How to Find the Right Therapeutic Boarding School for Your Teen

Use our directory to start your search for therapeutic boarding schools that can support your child educationally and psychologically. The advertisers on this website are required to answer questions about ownership, treatment approaches, and various facts which no other online directory requires of their advertisers. You can also review a list of top questions to ask the admissions department before enrolling in a program.

Find a teen therapeutic boarding school program today!


Note to parents in crisis:
* Most states do not have accreditation for a Therapeutic Boarding School. When you are in search of one, recognize that this can be more of a marketing search term than an accreditation from a state. National accrediting bodies do have different accreditations for Therapeutic Boarding Schools. The key to all of this information is that parents in a crisis make sure they are going to a school that does not have state and/or national accreditation. This does not mean that a problem can not occur; what it does mean is that the boarding school allows third parties to come on the campus AND receives feedback from third parties.

There are 10 different types of “boarding schools.


About the Author
Jenney Wilder, M.S.Ed launched All Kinds of Therapy in 2015, as the only independent online directory for the Family Choice Behavioral Healthcare Industry. With an impressive case of ADHD and her starter career in the 90’s in Silicon Valley, the dream for creating a website with features like side-by-side comparison and an integrated newsletter was born. Jenney stopped counting treatment centers and all types of schools that she has visited when she hit 500 many years ago.