What are residential treatment centers for teens?

Residential treatment centers (or “RTCs”) for teens are mental health programs that specialize in meeting the therapeutic needs of adolescents. Most residential treatment centers for teens will work with a specific group of adolescents, ones that have similar mental health concerns and developmental abilities. With this approach, RTCs are able to create a program that targets and meets the needs of their population.

A residential treatment center for teens can help struggling teens by providing an increased level of support from what is available in the home environment. This typically includes individual therapy, family therapy, and group therapy throughout the week. RTCs for teens also have some sort of academic programming available. The types of therapies and academic options vary from one RTC to another, depending on the individual needs of the students served.

RTCs are considered “residential” as students live on-site while they are receiving therapeutic support. The length of time that a teen is at a residential treatment center varies greatly and depends on their individual goals as well as the RTC they are enrolled in. The average length of stay for most RTCs is between 10-18 months.

The goal of having a teen attend a residential treatment center is to reduce problematic behaviors, increase positive behaviors, and improve coping strategies.  One of the reasons that most RTCs last approximately a year is because the students (and their families) are hoping for lasting change in their lives. Many of the behaviors and patterns have led to this placement have been going on for quite some time; because of this, the investment of about a year is ideal to achieve long-term success.

Many times, parents hear the term “residential treatment center” and it conjures up images that carry a negative connotation. While these might have been accurate 50 years ago, the residential treatment centers of today are professional, caring, and welcoming places where great healing and growth occurs.

Who do residential treatment centers for teens help?

Residential treatment centers for teens typically work with teenagers, ages 13-18, that are struggling with a variety of mental health concerns. Some of the common issues that residential treatment centers for teens help with are:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • School Refusal
  • Trauma
  • Attachment or Adoption Issues
  • Unsafe Behaviors/Excessive Risk Taking
  • Substance Use
  • Self Harming Behaviors
  • Relational Issues/Conflict (this includes conflict or unhealthy relationships with family, peers, or significant others)

These are just some examples of reasons that a teen may need an RTC; there are many other situations that might lead parents to pursue an RTC level of care for their teen. It’s also very common for these behaviors to shift depending on the setting. In school, an anxious teen might be getting straight A’s, but at home and socially, they are not managing well at all. A teen that is struggling with substance abuse might be able to hold it together at home, but their grades and sports team attendance is falling apart. In both cases, a residential treatment center for teens would be able to help.

While there are co-ed residential treatment centers for teens available, many RTCs for teens are single gender (all-girls or all-boys). This is because single-gender treatment has been found to be more effective, especially for adolescents and teens.

Residential treatment centers also help a teen’s family. Because teens will be likely returning to the home environment after treatment, it is important to involve family members so that old patterns and behaviors can be addressed. Additionally, family dynamics can be worked on in family therapy sessions. This type of family involvement results in better outcomes for the teen in the long term.

therapeutic boarding schools

Why choose residential treatment over outpatient?

Many teens and their parents have explored outpatient therapeutic options prior to researching a residential treatment center for teens. This approach makes sense, as a best practice in therapy is to utilize other options available before shifting to a higher level of care. Having said that, residential treatment centers for teens offer significant advantages over outpatient therapy:

When a teen is using outpatient treatment, there are many disparate providers in the mix. With a residential treatment center for teens, clients can have all their needs met in one place, including therapeutic, educational, social, and medical/health.
Not only is there a whole person approach to care at an RTC, the entire treatment team is connected and informed about each student’s needs, goals, and progress. For example, if a new medication is being introduced, all providers are aware and can provide support (and give feedback) in different contexts.
At an RTC, there isn’t one single modality or strategy that a program uses – they use a variety of approaches to find the ones that are most beneficial for each student! This allows much greater versatility and flexibility than attending outpatient therapy, and finding the right approach means more effective treatment, now and in the future.

Residential treatment centers for teens are typically best for those that have already pursued some sort of outpatient therapy and have achieved limited success. One of the difficult things about outpatient therapy, especially for teens, is getting engaged in the therapeutic process. If a teen doesn’t want to attend outpatient therapy, they may skip appointments or be purposefully late. Or if a teen doesn’t feel like sharing, their therapist may be left in the dark. With residential treatment, that isn’t an option – therapists are on site with their students and are kept in the loop about how each of them is doing day-to-day.   

What makes Solstice West RTC a great option for your teen?

Solstice West is a premier residential treatment center for girls ages 14-18 , located just outside of beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah. With our compassionate yet clinically sophisticated approach to care, we have helped hundreds of teens just like yours find healing and hope as they begin to thrive!

Many teens and their families come to us discouraged, as they feel disheartened and like they’ve tried everything. At Solstice West, we understand and we are here to help. With our trauma-informed care and nurturing staff, we provide a caring and safe setting to help your daughter heal and grow.

And though every student’s journey is different, we have seen similarities in the path to healing. That’s why we have created our own Hero’s Journey Program at Solstice West. This engaging and empowering curriculum provides the framework for a student’s time at with us. The Hero’s Journey also offers a comprehensive and holistic guide for life after Solstice West, helping students develop a deep understanding of self-care, balance, and healthy relationships. The Hero’s Journey gives your teen the tools she needs for success now and in the future.

The Hero’s Journey also incorporates a principles- and value-driven process to decision making and life choices. This is a common thread through the programming at Solstice West – we believe that by using this perspective, our girls can create long-lasting change based on their own moral compass. This differs from the compliance-based tactics that other RTCs might use. We want our students to make healthy decisions regardless of whether or not someone is watching, and while a values-based program takes more time to achieve change, we believe the strong foundation and lasting results are worth the time and investment.

Solstice West helps students heal from wounds, discover the hero within, and move toward their future with hope, confidence, and the tools for success.

Solstice West RTC’s Relationship-Focused Therapeutic Approach

As a leading residential treatment center for teens, Solstice West is known for our compassionate and relationship-based therapeutic approach. We believe that teens heal best in the context of healthy relationships, so we have created a safe and nurturing space for our students to do so.  

Within this relational approach, we utilize a number of different modalities for therapy including the following evidence-based practices:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF CBT)
  • Trauma-Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (TF EAP)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • EMDR (Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
  • Somatic Experiencing (SE)

Our clinical team has all of these specialties because want to find the modality that works best for your teen. By using research-validated modalities, Solstice West provides the most effective treatment for our students. Additionally, we use art therapy and adventure therapy regularly, because we recognize that experiential approaches are very productive and engaging for our girls.

Using an interdisciplinary treatment team, Solstice West offers a holistic and comprehensive program for therapy and overall care. With each student’s primary therapist leading the treatment team, we incorporate all the professionals that serve each student to provide an unmatched combined treatment approach – all within the context of our relationship-focused therapeutic approach.     

Through this relationship-based work in family therapy, we are able to restore families to healthy, trusting relationships. Solstice West’s family focus helps our teens heal more quickly, and this healing extends to all family members. Families have weekly distance therapy sessions as well as quarterly on-campus family seminars. These powerful and transformative weekends are often mentioned as one of the favorite parts of Solstice West by students and parents alike!

Academic programming at Solstice West RTC

At Solstice West, one of the best residential treatment centers for teens, we believe that our students’ academic careers can continue and thrive while they are in treatment. With our accredited academic program, students are able to transfer the credits they earn with us onto their next school – or graduate with us and go onto college!

With a year-round school year, students are able to enroll at any time and immediately jump into classes. This academic calendar also allows our students to accrue more credits than they would in a typical school year, which means students can do credit recovery and also get ahead in school.

Our accredited academic curriculum helps teens find success in school again, with an average 10% increase in each student’s GPA. Small class sizes allow for individualized attention from our certified teachers. This personalized approach increases our students’ engagement in the classroom, which results in active learning! We also incorporate experiential learning opportunities, where students have the opportunity to learn by doing.

We also prepare students for the next step in their education, with a college preparatory academic curriculum, study skills training, and college entrance exam (SAT and ACT) preparation classes. Solstice West students consistently score well above state and national averages on these tests, opening up opportunities for even more colleges, universities, and scholarships.

Regardless of what struggles our girls had with school prior to come to attending Solstice West – school refusal, learning differences, emotional stress – our structured school program and dedicated teaching staff inspire students to reignite their love of learning!

We help teens and families from:

Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii,
Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts,Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi,
Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont,Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming