Even when you know that it’s the right thing to do, the decision to seek professional help for your troubled teen can be a difficult one. The first thing you will need to do as a parent is to accept that there’s a problem. It is only then that you can make the best choices to better help your child overcome whatever difficulties he or she may be facing. While there is an ever-expanding array of treatment programs for troubled teens, it is often difficult to know which one is right for your child. Your first instinct may be to choose the “simplest” option—the one doesn’t turn life upside down so dramatically—but it may not always be the most appropriate choice. If you’re unsure what to do, work with your child’s counselor, therapist, and doctor to weigh the pros and cons of each available option as objectively and lovingly as possible.
Broadly speaking, treatment programs are offered either on an outpatient basis, allowing your child to live at home, or in a more structured residential program.
Types of Outpatient Treatment Programs
Outpatient programs are those that provide treatment during the day while your teen continues to live at home at night. These options are often the best place to start if you and your counseling team fully believe that:
The teen poses no risk to himself/herself or others at home.
The family dynamics won’t interfere with the teen’s ability to overcome his or her problems.
Intake starts with a psychological evaluation, which typically consists of a series of psychological or neuropsychological tests. The former helps identify the emotional, behavioral, or learning difficulties that may be contributing to the problem, while latter seeks to determine if there is a neurological component that may explain, at least in part, the child’s behavioral or thought processes.
Depending on the type of issues your child is facing, your team may recommend individual, family, or group therapy.
In some cases, the choice may be legally mandated if the teen has been arrested or convicted of a crime. If outpatient treatment is ordered, you would need to work with the court-appointed counselor or officer to work out the details of treatment (sometimes referred to as the diversion program). You may want to do so with the aid of an attorney to ensure your teen is able to access the best care possible.
For teens who are struggling at school or are at risk of dropping out, treatment may also include the exploration of alternative schools better able to address and meet the needs of troubled teens.