When Should I Enroll My Teen into a Residential Treatment Center?

If your teen has behavioral, emotional, or psychological problems, you have probably tried a number of things to help them - therapy, stricter discipline, or sending them to a different school. But at some point, the best thing that parents can do to help their teens is to turn them over to the care of professionals by placing them in a residential treatment center. How do you know when you’ve reached that point?


Your teen has become increasingly aggressive, threatening, or violent toward you, family members, or others. Parents and siblings should not live in fear of a violent teen. You need to remove a violent teen from the home for your own safety and for the safety of any other family member.

Talk of Suicide

Your teen talks about the benefits of suicide or threatens to commit suicide. Teens do not threaten suicide to get attention. If they are talking about it, then they are thinking about it, and they are likely to attempt it, especially if they already show signs of depression. Other signs of self-harm include self-cutting and self-mutilation. Parents need to act immediately to protect their teens from harming themselves.

Substance Abuse

Your teen is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Teens benefit from being away from the influence of peers, and the habits and triggers that led to their addictions. In a residential treatment center, teens will not have access to these substances, and they will learn strategies to overcome their addictions.

Extreme Changes in Moods and Behaviors

Your teen has extreme and continued changes in their normal behavior patterns. They may show signs of severe depression or anxiety, or have wild mood swings, and outbursts of explosive anger. Or they may become withdrawn, evasive, and secretive. They may change their sleeping patterns, sleeping much more, or hardly sleeping at all. Or they may change their eating habits.

Behavior toward Family

Your teen becomes hateful toward you and other members of the family. They are uncaring and even cruel to siblings and pets. They damage the possessions of others in the home, or they steal money and valuable possessions.

They become increasingly rebellious, belligerent, defiant, disrespectful, argumentative, and refuse to follow family rules. They lie to you constantly. They run away from home. Your home and family are constantly in turmoil because of their behavior.

Changes in Friends

Your teen may start hanging out with new friends, who are considerably different from their old friends, and seem to have a negative influence on how your teen behaves, dresses, and even talks. They start to get into trouble with these new friends.


Your teen is failing in their classes, skipping school, and has been in trouble for fighting at school. They have been suspended several times or expelled from school.

Risky Behaviors

Your teen engages in dangerous behaviors such as unsafe driving, using drugs, unprotected sex, carrying weapons, or hanging out with gangs.

You Know It’s Time

If your teen is violent, addicted to drugs, or talking of suicide, these are reasons alone for placing them in a residential treatment center, where the can be constantly monitored and kept safe. If you observe a combination of the other problematic behaviors, and they continue to get worse, it is an indication that your teen requires more help than you can provide at home.

Choosing a Residential Treatment Center

Once you have decided that it is time to place your teen in a residential treatment center, you will then have to decide which is the best place for your teen.


Look for a center that offers comprehensive therapy. This should include regular individual therapy for your teen to help them with their specific issues. The center should also offer family therapy, during visits and online, and group therapy. These help your teen to develop better relationships with family members and peers.


You will also want to look into the academic program.. There should be an accredited program with experienced teachers who can help your teen with any specific subjects or learning difficulties, and allow them to earn credits for graduation.

Other Considerations

Ask about the staff. There should be at least one medical doctor on staff, as well as mental health professionals, and qualified teachers. The staff should be trained and experienced in working with teens.

You’ll also want to ask about the center’s rules for residents, how they handle discipline, how often families can visit, and what enrichment activities they offer.

Prepare Your Teen

Make sure that you talk to your teen about their placement at a residential treatment center. They may be resistant or angry, but reassure them that this is the best option to get them the help they need. Tell them that you still love them, and you are not punishing them or abandoning them by sending them away. You are giving your help and support by providing them with the professional care they need to get their lives back on track.

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