There’s No Place Like Home, But…

The best place to treat adolescents with mental health or addiction problems is in an intensive home or community-based setting, where it is safe, the environment is the least restrictive, and all needed services are provided wrap-around style. So says the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Intensive care typically refers to continuous professional treatment, using special medical equipment or pharmacological remedies, regardless whether it is provided on an out or inpatient basis.

However, for adolescents when they have severe or urgent-need psychiatric conditions, they will be better served in a residential treatment facility. They can get the intensive help they need for their serious emotional and behavioral problems, as well as the constant professional supervision and monitoring they will need to get the traction they will need to make sure they are on the road to recovery. Such placement would involve urgent care or hospitalization.1

Adolescents who have not responded favorably to outpatient treatment efforts, who have educational needs that cannot be met in less restrictive settings, or who require urgent intensive psychiatric care, an inpatient residential treatment program, center or facility is just what the doctor ordered…literally because that’s what it would take.

Ok, But How Do You Know If It’s a Good Residential Treatment Facility?

Many parents with struggling adolescents want to know for themselves how they can be certain of what separates the good from the bad when it comes to residential treatment facilities, but, figuring out which is best can be more than challenging. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommend the following for evaluating the best from the rest:

  • Find those programs that are licensed to provide care.
  • Check online about families’ and youths’ experiences with the program, and if possible, speak to a family whose child completed the program.
  • Seek out programs that are close to home and allow communication with family and loved ones.
  • Be sure that the residential program has a method of maintaining safe behaviors, promoting positive behaviors, and preventing aggression.
  • Look for programs experienced in helping youth with similar issues and similar age groups.
  • Ask questions of the staff at the program. If the staff is unable to answer your questions, they should refer you to someone at the program who can.
  • Ask the therapist or psychiatrist who works with your child in your community for his or her view on potential programs.

Here’s What Experts Say to Look For In a Good Residential Treatment Facility

The best of the best residential treatment facilities provide the following:

  • A comprehensive evaluation to assess emotional, behavioral, medical, educational, and social needs, and support these needs safely.
  • An Individualized Treatment Plan that puts into place interventions that help the child or adolescent attain needed goals.
  • A mixture of both individual and group therapy.
  • Psychiatric care coordinated by a child and adolescent psychiatrist or psychiatric prescriber.
  • Involvement of the child’s family or support system.
  • Nonviolent and predictable ways to help youth with emotional and behavioral issues.

It’s Good for Dealing with Addiction Too

Studies have demonstrated that, of the various types of treatment programs, residential treatment was one of the most likely to result in higher rates of continued recovery from addiction.2

While most severe or long-term instances of addiction frequently require residential care, however, as suggested above, not all residential programs are the same, and a person struggling with drug or alcohol addiction may not know what the ideal residential treatment program looks like. The same approach and principals apply. You have to do your due diligence to find the “just right” facility for your teen.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a combination of medically supported treatments and various types of therapy make up the approach that is most likely to do the trick.

The key components to a successful stint in residential treatment for addiction must include:

  • Medically supported detox and withdrawal, if needed
  • Medically supported maintenance care, if needed
  • Individual therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Family or couples counseling
  • Building skills and tools that are necessary for life post-treatment
  • And follow-up care after the formalized program ends2

ODD: A Guide for Families by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

1 “Residential Treatment Programs,” American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2016.
2 “The Components of the Best Residential Drug Treatment Programs,” American Addiction Centers.

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