Log in

What is a Residential Treatment Center for Youth?

If your child is displaying severe mental or behavioral health issues, you may consider investing in residential treatment. But what is a residential treatment facility for youth, and is it the right next step in your teen’s path to healing? Learn how these centers work to help troubled youth and make the best decision for your child’s health.

What is a Residential Treatment Facility for Youth?

A residential treatment facility is a live-in mental health service for children and adolescents. Treatment facilities provide a safe and structured environment where young people can receive intensive therapeutic care. Treatment centers are typically the next step for youth who haven’t responded to outpatient treatments or need additional support following inpatient psychiatric care. These facilities are staffed by mental health professionals who provide individualized treatment and assistance.

Residential treatment can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months and include individual, group, and family therapy. In addition, programs may offer therapeutic activities and programming, such as anger management, stress reduction, and conflict resolution, to promote healing and growth. Residential treatment centers for youth help adolescents develop the skills and coping mechanisms they need to lead healthy and successful lives. If you are considering residential treatment for your child, it is essential to find a center specializing in their most prominent issues. With the right help, your child can begin to heal and build a foundation for a bright future.

When to Choose Residential Treatment Centers for Troubled Youth?

It’s not always easy to know when it’s time to seek professional help for a troubled teen. However, some signs may indicate that a residential treatment center could be the best option. If your teen is…

  • Engaging in self-harm
  • Showing signs of an eating disorder
  • Using drugs or alcohol
  • Exhibiting signs of depression or anxiety
  • Presenting safety concerns for themselves or others

… it may be time to seek help from a qualified professional.

Residential treatment centers for troubled youth can provide teens with the structure and support they need to overcome these challenges. In addition, these programs can help families heal and develop stronger relationships. If you’re unsure whether residential treatment is the right option for your family, consider consulting a qualified mental health professional to discuss your options. 

The 4 Levels of Residential Treatment Centers for Youth

There are four levels of care offered at residential treatment centers, which vary in intensity, security, and length of stay.

1. Low-Intensity, Short-Term Treatment

Level 1 residential treatment centers for youth are designed for teens “graduating” from a higher level or new teens needing mental and behavioral stabilization. These short-term programs offer teens structure, routine, and group and individual counseling and activities.

Examples of Level 1 Residential Treatment Centers Include:

2. Increased Security and Longer-Term Treatment

Level 2 residential treatment centers for youth offer longer-term treatment and more intense individual and group therapy. This level also provides more security for teens who tend to run away, break the rules, or abuse drugs or alcohol. Level 2 programs offer 24/7 emergency watch, although staff typically sleep at night.

Examples of Level 2 Residential Treatment Centers Include:

  • Eating Disorder Treatment
  • High-Intensity Therapeutic Boarding Schools (some states call these residential treatment centers)
  • Attachment Disorder Treatment

3. Long-Term Treatment with 24/7 Security

Level 3 residential treatment centers for youth provide 24/7 security with staff awake during the night and a smaller staff-to-client ratio during the day. Teens have less freedom and more supervision. This level is designed to help highly defiant teens or those exhibiting self-harming or out-of-control behaviors. Individual counseling is prioritized to help teens learn to navigate anger, conflict, and antisocial tendencies effectively.

Examples of Level 3 Residential Treatment Centers Include:

  • Behavioral Treatment Centers
  • Mental Health Treatment Centers for Suicidal Teens
  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment

4. High-Intensity, Immersive Mental and Behavioral Treatment

Level 4 residential treatment centers for youth offer the highest level of security, supervision, and individual therapy. Trained professionals work with teens that pose a safety concern to themselves or others. This level resembles a mental health hospital and prioritizes keeping teens safe by helping to modify violent and self-destructive thoughts and behaviors.

Examples of Level 4 Residential Treatment Centers Include:

  • High-Intensity Behavioral Treatment Centers
  • High-Intensity Mental Health Treatment Centers for Suicidal and/or Violent Teens

Teens in higher levels can “graduate” into lower levels. Conversely, teens in lower levels may need to move into a center with more security and programs to get the help they need.

Choosing the Right Treatment Center for Your Child

As a parent, deciding to send your child to a treatment center can be difficult. You want to ensure they will get the best possible care, and you may feel overwhelmed by all the options. Here are a few steps to take when considering sending your child to a residential treatment center for troubled youth.

First, consult your child’s medical team. They may be able to provide you with some recommendations based on your child’s specific needs. They can also give you a more detailed diagnosis of your child’s mental health challenges. That way, you can find a program specializing in those areas.

Next, take some time to do your own research and call to ask questions. Read reviews of different youth residential treatment centers, and narrow down your options based on location, services, and cost.

Finally, trust your gut. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, take time to visit each center in person. This will give you a better sense of which staff members and facilities best fit your child.

Deciding to send your child to a treatment center is never easy. However, by thoroughly considering your options, you can be confident you are making the best choice for your family. Find a center for your teen today.


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. She was the sponsoring author of the only Economic Impact Study of the Family Choice Behavioral Healthcare Industry, which revealed the only true financial figures about this industry (in Utah). Jenney has a Masters in Special Education from Bank Street College (NY) and a Bachelors of Arts focused on History from Wheaton College (MA).