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Alternative Programs for Troubled Teens from Wilderness Camps to Military Schools
There are various alternative programs available to parents in need of help with troubled teens.
Military Schools provide much needed structure to teens lacking stability and routine. The emphasis in military schools is on discipline and respect, as well as being accountable for your actions. Teens are placed in a regimented environment where they can establish a routine and learn the value of teamwork and personal responsibility while also continuing their education. Military schools can help teens boost their confidence, but for teens who have issues with authority, adjustment to the program can be difficult.
Wilderness Camps are becoming increasingly popular with parents. Troubled teens are sent to an outdoor program where they'll literally camp outside for the duration of the program. They learn to prepare their own meals over a fire started without matches. And they have no contact with family or friends. They spend the majority of the time outside "roughing it" in the wild while learning to rely on their fellow teens. It's a great way to build teamwork, as well as enjoy an outdoor adventure. Teens also build confidence learning new survival skills. One of the drawbacks of these programs, however, is that they're not everywhere. Depending on where you live, your teen might have to travel out of state for the program you selected. Additionally, there is not necessarily an academic component to wilderness programs.
Boot Camps provide an extremely intense "shock" treatment approach to confronting defiant attitudes and behaviors in troubled teens. There is a strong physical component to boot camp programs so teens might get in shape both physically and mentally. Boot camps are run in a militaristic manner, much like a regular boot camp meant to break down individuals and erase bad attitudes before building them back up with a more positive perspective. Teens who have issues with authority tend to be extremely resistant to boot camp programs initially, but for those who get on board, they ultimately come away with a new-found respect for authority. These programs tend to be relatively short-term, lasting anywhere from one to four weeks, and results are not always long lasting.
Therapeutic Boarding Schools are similar to regular boarding schools in that the teens do reside there, much like a college setting. However, some of the objectives differ from a traditional boarding school. While there is still an academic component, programs and activities are specifically designed to address troubling behaviors and attitudes. Teens might participate in both individual and group therapy sessions, for instance. One drawback of boarding school programs is that teens are away from their families for a semester or full school year and don't get the chance to "test" themselves in the real world while they are confined to the boarding school environment.
Residential Treatment Centers or Inpatient Programs often target substance abuse issues or mental health concerns. Teens reside at a treatment facility where they can receive help in a structured environment. They typically participate in therapy, counseling, and group activities as part of their treatment. A portion of the day is typically devoted to education so that teens don't fall completely behind while in the program, which can last for several months. These programs work well for teens who are receptive to treatment for substance abuse and/or mental health problems. Unfortunately, these programs are not always the best option for teens with other concerns, such as issues with authority or who are in trouble with the law.
As a former teacher to at-risk students in an alternative classroom setting, I've seen students participate in a few of these programs over the years. In my observations, residential treatment centers and wilderness programs tend to be utilized by parents and guardians most often. In general, when it comes to any of these programs targeting at-risk teens there are mixed results. There is always some degree of resistance upon initially entering a program, but many teens eventually come around and cooperate at some point even if they do not completely embrace the program. Immediately upon completion of a program, many teens experience somewhat of a "honeymoon period" in which they feel very positive about the program. They usually come across as much more calm, stable, and personable. However, in many cases this new-found positivism is short lived and teens often return to their original behavior or mindset at some point. But that doesn't mean this regression will persist forever as many teens mature beyond the behaviors and attitudes that caused their parents/guardians to admit them to such a program in the first place.
At-Risk.org. Options for Troubled Teens.Retrieved online March 21, 2020: .
Parenting Teens. Options for Troubled Teens and At-risk Youth. Retrieved online March 20, 2020: .