Schools & Programs


Types of Programs

Each child is unique with different needs and concerns.

The types of programs are described below along with the typical length of stay.

  • Wilderness
  • Therapeutic Boarding Schools
  • Residential Drug & Alcohol
  • Residential Treatment Center


Wilderness Therapy Programs

  • Nurturing, structured programs designed to create a safe place for a student to develop personal and interpersonal skills.  
  • Important:  wilderness therapy programs are not punitive boot camps. They are clinically sophisticated, caring, and compassionate, with PhD and Masters level clinicians.
  • They typically offer some combination of expedition plus clinical treatment, including immediate and on-going counseling by the clinical staff.  
  • A high quality wilderness therapy program teaches accountability, self-reliance, increased self awareness, and self acceptance.

Length of stay: typically 2-3 months

Therapeutic Residential Programs

Therapeutic Boarding Schools

  • Place primary emphasis on academics.
  • Generally supportive, yet highly structured environments.
  • They focus on helping teens gain communication skills to better manage the issues they struggle with, whether personal, emotional, or family related.
  • Many of these schools have developed creative learning environments to enhance the learning process.
  • Many offer team sports and other extra curricular activities.
  • In addition to classroom activities psychotherapy is usually offered and counseling groups are conducted regularly.
  • Focus on character development, self-awareness, and appropriate socialization as teens move into young adulthood.
  • An emphasis on accountability, self-acceptance, emotional transparency and improved self esteem are the focus of cathartic workshops, group treatment, and positive peer interaction.
  • Typically highly structured, emotional growth schools emphasize group therapy, and might augment the experience by individual therapy, which may combine some of the elements and activities of other treatment models.
  • Students typically advance though the program stages with their peer group, which consists of 8 to 12 students who serve as “family away from home” for the student.

Students who have done a significant amount of their own work in therapy and who are self motivated are good candidates to be successful in this type of setting.

Length of stay: typically 12-18 months

Family Style Residential Programs

  • Recreate a home-like environment
  • Typically admit no more than a dozen adolescents at one time.
  • Along with the nurturing setting – and the opportunity to be away from family and peer pressure at home—teens usually progress to attending school in the local community and are expected to participate in outdoor activities including recreational camping, farming or ranching.
  • In many home-based programs, teens are also encouraged to do volunteer work and to choose an extra-curricular activity to engage in through their school, such as athletics or a club.
  • Some family-style programs are a good deal of clinical work, while others are more focused on "working hard and playing hard."

Length of stay: typically 12-18 months

Transitional Independent Living Programs

  • The goal is helping older teens and young adults (ages 18-24 in most cases) individuate from their families and integrate successfully into the larger community
  • Combine home-like living with supportive activities.
  • Young adults receive counseling and mentorship
  • Opportunities to attend community colleges or vocational schools, participate in volunteer activities, or intern or work for local businesses.
  • Some programs model themselves after home-based residential programs as they facilitate the transition to independence.
  • They teach life skills such as time-and money-management, employment skills, and interpersonal effectiveness.
  • Twelve-step-based transitional living programs have been around for years, but more recently this model has also been applied to young adults who do not have the skills to transition into adulthood.

Length of stay: typically 6-12 months

Residental Drug and Alcohol Programs

  • There are several different types of programs, with varying levels of structure and support. 
  • Some use the proven principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or SMART Recovery as the framework for their treatment model.

Length of stay: typically 6-12 months

Residental Treatment Centers

  • Designed for adolescents with more severe emotional issues who present with a good deal of clinical complexity
  • Highly structured and adult-monitored programs usually (but not always) in secured or locked facilities.
  • RTCs focus to varying degrees on behavioral support, but often have a traditional medical component, with medication management and medical monitoring available on site.
  • Often accredited by the Joint Commission or the accreditation of Health care Organizations of the Council on Accreditation.
  • Because they provide medical management, their costs are sometimes covered by health insurance.
  • More recently, long-term treatment centers that are based in large home-like settings have become a trend. These programs can deal with a clinically complex dually-diagnosed adolescent, without a pathologizing or institutional feeling.

Length of stay: typically 6-12 months