If you're considering sending your son to a therapeutic boarding school, you probably have lots of questions running around in your head. How can you compare schools to each other? Look for these five critical components and judge each school or program by how well they live up to your ideal standards.
1. Therapy Programs
The number one reason you're considering a therapeutic school over other types of private boarding schools is for the mental health of your child. Whether he has a behavioral issue or some other type of disorder, investigate the type of psychological help the school provides. How often do the kids receive therapy? What type of therapy is it? For example, do they put the boys into "talk" therapy, "experiential" therapy, or antagonistic methods like boot camp. What type of lifestyle will your teen have while he's in residence? Is family encouraged to join in therapy during their visits?
2. Antagonistic vs. Empathetic Treatment
Studies have shown that antagonistic treatment strategies like boot camps and extreme wilderness trips do not work as well for troubled youth as empathetic treatment strategies. Empathetic treatment encourages the teen to think about how his family and others feel about his behavior. It creates an environment where teenagers gain more understanding about others through their interactions with fellow students and staff without the harsh, ongoing, and intense conflict found in antagonistic treatment strategies.
Make sure the boarding schools you're considering have staff who specialize in the kind of treatment your son needs. What types of licenses do the therapists hold -- not just levels like Masters or Doctoral degrees, but also their subject focus? What are their behavioral or psychological specialities and do they mesh with your son's needs? Look for licenses and specialities like Marriage and Family Therapy, Family Science, Human Development, Psychology, and Social Work. Also check how many years of experience the top members of the staff have accumulated.
4. Academic Standards
Since your teen will also be receiving his education from the school, consider carefully the academic standards of the teaching staff. If your child has learning disabilities or other disorders, like ADHD, make sure the teaching staff have the experience and certifications required to help him achieve his academic goals. If one of your teen's goals is to go to college, research what the school's success rates are for graduates getting into college.
Physical activities and other recreation are important for a teen's success at a therapeutic boarding school so that the kids can burn off extra energy that they might otherwise use negatively. It's important that your son has options to choose from that he will enjoy participating in. For example, does the school have basketball, softball, or weightlifting? What about offsite activities like movies? Does the school integrate physical activity into daily life? What other types of activities do they offer and how risky might they be for your child?
Now think about your teen's life after he leaves the boarding school. Does the school offer family therapy and family visits so that all of you can learn and practice the skills you'll need when your son comes home? Recovery from addictions can be uniquely challenging for teens so the school should arm you well in anticipation of his graduation. Be sure to research thoroughly what the school's transition plan for a child like yours will be and how much support you'll receive.