Therapeutic Boarding Schools for Troubled Children

Therapeutic boarding schools are designed to treat students struggling with behavioral issues by using instructional and therapeutic techniques designed to foster good decision-making, responsibility and pro-social behavior, according to the National Association of Therapeutic Boarding Schools. Therapeutic boarding schools are not "brat camp," nor are they reform schools or military schools. Rather, these schools treat teens and preteens whose behavioral issues have escalated beyond what the parents feel they're capable of treating at home.

Structured Setting

Many therapeutic boarding schools require incoming students to earn privileges and trust by demonstrating appropriate, cooperative behavior. Privileges can range from being allowed computer or phone access to more responsible roles such as mentoring other students. Even after earning privileges, therapeutic boarding schools rarely offer unsupervised free time -- students usually have choices among a limited number of activities. Depending on the school, students who fail to participate or report for school or activities might receive a negative consequence.

The Staff

Staff members at most therapeutic boarding schools include trained staff and teachers and licensed therapists and counselors. Staff are expected to follow the Guidelines and Practice of Behavioral Management as outlined by the National Association of Therapeutic Boarding Schools. According to these guidelines, staff should foster pro-social behavior while actively de-escalating angry children by remaining calm and consistent. This isn't boot camp -- yelling or demeaning students isn't allowed.

Therapeutic Component

Because behavior often stems from deeper emotional and psychological issues, therapeutic boarding schools typically require group therapy, possibly individual therapy, and in some cases, family therapy. Therapy and counseling are essential elements of promoting long-term emotional growth and health, according to the National Association of Therapeutic Boarding School Principles of Good Practice. In some schools, the type of therapy a student receives depends on her incoming behavioral status and issues reported by her parents.

Specific Consequences

Specific consequences are clearly outlined for misbehavior such as punching a wall or stealing. Therapeutic boarding schools clearly outline these behaviors and their subsequent consequences to all new students. While consequences might include extra chores or a loss of privileges, they should never include deprivation of nourishing food, physically striking a student or any other potentially injurious acts, according to the National Association of Therapeutic Boarding Schools.