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What to Look for When Choosing Residential Treatment Centers or Therapeutic Schools


For years, parents have been sending out-of-control teens to residential treatment centers and therapeutic schools for help. Dr. Phil says while most are great programs, it's possible to have a bad apple in the bunch.

Dr. Phil provides the following tips to make sure you’re choosing the best program possible:

  • Contact state regulatory agency to review all licenses and complaints
    “See what the history is of that facility,” he says.
  • Review credentials of all staff and faculty
  • Review and understand therapeutic philosophy
    “This can vary. It can be behavioral modification. It can be a wildlife program, and it can be a wilderness program” he says. “Find out what that’s all about.”
  • Insist on interviewing past attendees
    “You want to choose who they are [as a program],” he says.
  • Insist on 100 percent transparency, including unscheduled visits, even if there is a “no contact” period
    “It is not unusual for folks to say, ‘Look, during the first days of adjustment here, we want family to step back and allow the child to adjust to the program.’ That’s OK for a short period of time, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t come there — even if the child doesn’t see you,” he adds.
  • Insist on free flow of correspondence from your child
    “You should insist on the right to make unscheduled, unannounced visits to the program to see what’s going on.”
  • Monitor, monitor, monitor
    “Stay on the [facility's] site. See what’s going on. Know what’s happening,” he says.
  • You can delegate certain functions, but you cannot abdicate your role as a parent
    “You can say, ‘OK, you guys are going to provide these functions,’” Dr. Phil explains, but he adds, “You’re still the parent. You still need to be involved in every way.”
  • Keep your kids in programs in the United States
    “You know what the regulations are here, and you don’t want to put them somewhere that you can’t get [to in a timely manner],” he says. “We have programs here that I have confidence in.”

Dr. Phil says that there are no perfect programs, and there are no programs that are a perfect fit. “Some fit for some [teens], and some would not fit for another family,” he says. “Just remember, transparency is the key.”

For more teen resources, visit our Dr. Phil Help Resources.