Tips for Finding the Best Residential Treatment Facilities for Adolescents


There are a lot of choices and considerations when it comes to picking the best residential treatment program for your teen and personal situation. Making such an important decision can be overwhelming for the entire family. 

A teen residential treatment center provides mental health care for youth that are struggling with problems such as substance abuse or other behavioral issues. The centers typically require the teen to reside at the treatment facility during the program. The average length of stay in a treatment facility is usually 30 days. As a minimum, residential treatment programs offer 24-hour supervision, intensive individual and group therapy, activities, social skills coaching, and sometimes educational or vocational training. 

What to look for in a center

Since a treatment center is a healthcare facility, you should make certain that the program and institution are accredited and that the professionals administering the programs are licensed, competent, professional, and qualified mental health practitioners. If there is a facility director, check his or her credentials and professional history. Do your homework, and learn as much as possible about the facility and treatment programs before committing. 

What are the reasons individuals go to residential treatment?

Sometimes, a teen’s condition reaches such an acute point where it needs immediate and drastic action. This can mean 24-hour observation, or even medical or psychological evaluation because of the chance of self-harm. In less severe cases, parents look to residential teen treatment centers to help with a number of different types of mental health issues. These include substance abuse, eating disorders, bipolar, depression, anxiety, sexual disorders, and post-traumatic stress from childhood sexual abuse or other trauma. 

Treating a variety of issues means that treatment centers will have different therapeutic methods. Some centers will be locked down and movement is restricted and time is very structured. This is commonly the case when dealing with substance abuse cases. In other instances, there is more of an open and relaxed environment with fewer restrictions.

Choosing Residential Over Other Types

There may be a question as to whether residential, which is sometimes referred to as in-patient treatment is the best choice over other types. There are a number of considerations. First, a residential center is a more comfortable and conducive environment to work through behavioral issues and it’s a controlled environment where residents can be kept in an emotionally and physically safe place while working through their problems. 

By being removed from every-day life, residents are also removed from every-day stress. This stress often exacerbates the very problems the individuals are striving to overcome. Being in a residential center allows them, instead, to concentrate on the treatment program necessary for successful healing and recovery. 

Uninterrupted treatment for a 30-day program has proven to be more effective than an outpatient program where patients go home each night and report daily for counseling. This is especially true when dealing with those who require detoxification resulting from substance abuse. In Sharon Levy’s and Janet William’s article titled Substance Use Screen, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment, research is presented that says only 10% of teens needed substance abuse treatment actually receive it, and the majority of those are actually referred by the criminal justice system. 


The cost of residential treatment varies significantly based on numerous variables, including the size and type of facility. Some centers customize treatment plans which are unique to the individual, which would drive customized pricing as well. Some, but not all, insurance companies will cover a portion of residential mental healthcare. This is something that has to be dealt with on a case by case basis and should be investigated as part of responsible due diligence.

Different Treatment Methodologies

As with all mental and behavioral health issues, there are several schools of thought and approaches to the proper methods of treatment. Some programs are more client-centered which concentrate on one-on-one therapy, and others are oriented toward group therapy. 

Some residential treatments also will include therapeutic activities such as art and equine and less conventional types of therapy. One center, Polaris Teen residential programs for youth, even has an evidence-based approach that is very much oriented toward the individual as programs are uniquely tailored to the personality of the teen. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach. They believe in integrating family into the recovery and healing process as it is often the genesis of many emotional issues. Polaris believes that by restoring hope they eliminate the fear and confusion felt by many vulnerable, troubled teens. Hope gives them the strength and courage to begin and continue their recovery journey and opens their minds to a new and healthy reality.