Troubled Youth Programs

A troubled youth program may serve young people with a variety of problems or have a very specific focus. There are many different types of troubled youth programs. Learn more about boarding school programs, residential treatment programs, and more.

Types of Youth in Need of a Program

The term troubled youth, or troubled teen, can have a wide range of meanings. Some troubled youth run away from home or are truant from school. Others have become pregnant. Some teens use drugs or alcohol, while others have mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, or other mental health issues, including eating disorders. A troubled youth may not seem to be maturing, exhibiting irresponsibility, low self-esteem, lack of motivation, and problems in school. More aggressive problems include confrontational behavior, defying authority, manipulation, and/or a sense of entitlement. Criminal behavior such as stealing, teen violence, bullying, and carrying a weapon are also troubling behaviors in youth. It is also the case that young people may act out because of their environment or behavior directed at them. A child with family issues, who is the subject of bullying, or who has been abused may be labeled as troubled.

Programs for Troubled Youth

There are many troubled youth programs, each having different characteristics designed to serve certain populations. They also vary in their location and whether they offer a "course" that is completed in a certain, set period of time or have a more flexible troubled youth program that is derived to meet the needs of each particular resident. Here is a run-down of some of the varieties:

• Day School Programs Many types of troubled youth programs are available. Day schools are one source of programs. Public schools, including charter schools, may have specialized troubled youth programs designed for troubled youth. Charter schools and private or independent schools may be specially designed to serve youth experiencing one or more types of problem.

• Boarding School Programs Private or independent boarding schools specially set up to treat troubled youth are another available resource. In these settings, a young person's academic needs are met while his or her issues are addressed. For boarding school programs outside your immediate area, if you go to a site like that run by the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP), you can make sure of finding accredited troubled youth programs that can grant diplomas and whose credits will be accepted elsewhere.

• Residential Treatment Programs Residential treatment centers may also have academic programs available, but - as their name indicates - their primary focus is treatment. Both boarding schools and residential treatment facilities have a range of sizes and program philosophies. Treatment may be for individuals, groups, families, or a combination. The troubled youth program may be based on a 12-Step understanding, cognitive behavioral therapy, Christian values, or a number of other approaches, employed separately or in combination. Small residential programs are distinguished by a home-like environment and a small number of participants. Though they may include outdoor adventure and recreation, there is a focus on learning the skills that help create and maintain a healthy living environment.

• Outdoor-Oriented Treatment Programs Encompassing both wilderness programs and outdoor therapeutic programs, outdoor-oriented treatment programs for troubled youth are a boarding alternative that may employ one or more of the following: hiking, camping out, equine therapy, occupational therapy, and other aspects of outdoor living. Most, if not all, troubled youth programs have some focus on the interdependence of people with each other and with animals and of stewardship for natural resources. In addition, self-reliance and autonomy are encouraged in a context in which those traits really matter. Academic support is also often provided.

• Transitional Living Programs Preparing youth for living independently, these troubled youth programs specialize in providing the support that will allow releasing control to the individual to live successfully on his or her own. An appropriate level of academic course is also often available.

• Hospital Programs For situations in which a young person's medical needs are paramount, there are hospital programs designed for specialized care. This type of troubled youth program can be useful either when a diagnosis has eluded the health care professionals in the case or when medical issues are paramount, which may include cases involving eating disorders and other mental health issues, addiction, or gender identity issues.


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