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Parent’s Concerns About Boarding School Restrictions And Abuse

For parents of a teen with behavioral and emotional issues, one tried and true option is to enroll the child in a therapeutic boarding school – one preferably with good facilities, expert clinicians and counselors, and strong academics.

A therapeutic boarding school can provide the “structure” that can help see a troubled teen through an especially difficult phase.  Also, the school’s therapeutic environment can help a struggling teen bring their identity into focus where previously there had been self-doubt, anxiety, and in some instances, a profound state of isolation and alienation.

There is considerable data showing that therapeutic boarding schools are effective and produce the desired result – a happier, better-adjusted teen, one better able to manage and meet life’s challenges.

In researching therapeutic boarding schools, parents will want to check that basic requirements are met. Does a given school have a track record of successful treatment for troubled teens?  Does it offer a safe and secure environment?   Is it academically well rated?  Are the facilities (dormitory and cafeteria service) up to snuff?  Are the school’s clinicians and other professional staff appropriately trained and accredited?

There is a wealth of online resources available to parents whereby they can assess therapeutic boarding schools.  And various national or multi-state education associations offer guidance and ratings – The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) and the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC) – to name two.

Sending a child off to school – any boarding school – is a big step.  If a teen is troubled, it can literally be a life-saving move.  However, parents often feel anxious about the decision for a variety of reasons.  After all, it’s a course of action that will, for a time, impose some (often necessary) “space” between a child and his or her home, school and community.  One particular assurance sought by parents as they conduct their school search, is that the environment be structured, certainly,but at the same time not be overly restrictive – and above all – not abusive.

While abusive treatment of children at therapeutic boarding schools has been documented, cases of actual maltreatment in these settings are rare.

Parents, understandably concerned about the care of their children, can allay their fears in several ways.

First of all, they must realize that the time when troubled children were routinely labeled “delinquent” or “deviant” – and who were punished by being sent“reform school” – is now gone.  Furthermore, nowadays the therapeutic boarding school is an evolved educational and clinical entity, one that frequently blends variety of up-to-the-minute psychotherapy and counseling regimens with outdoor activity (i.e., mountain hikes, horseback riding) and strong academics.

Of course the quality of therapeutic boarding schools does vary.   Highly structured and “disciplined” may be desired traits in a school for troubled teens; unduly coercive (read “abusive”) is not. The line between these extremes, while obvious in theory is not always followed in practice. However, with some due diligence – a bit of research of school offerings, a review of expert and parent testimonials, as well as a check of state licenses and accreditation – parents can allay their concerns and be assured that the decision to send their troubled teen off to a therapeutic boarding school, will in fact yield the transformative experience for their child that they hope for and rightly expect.

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