Residential Treatment Center

Residential Treatment Centers For Troubled Teens

What is a Residential Treatment Center?

A residential treatment center (RTC) is a medical, inpatient program that provides comprehensive treatment for issues such as behavioral problems, mental illnesses, and substance use.

Residential Treatment Center is often chosen when outpatient therapy methods are not working. A residential treatment center is usually geared towards treating disorders such as depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD, oppositional defiant disorder, and sometimes drug/alcohol use. RTCs are able to individually assess a teenager’s needs and give them the most efficient and adequate treatment.

Why Residential Treatment Centers?

As inpatient facilities, residential treatment centers are typically chosen after local options are exhausted and found to not have created difference in outcomes.  Many RTCs have average lengths of stay of 10 – 14 months and are often private pay with some potential reimbursement for specific aspects of clinical services provided.

Before seeking residential treatments centers as an option, families have often seen the following transition:

  • Child is struggling with emotional, behavioral, academic, and/or psychological issues.  These issues might include defiance, anger outbursts, school refusal, underperformance, or neurodevelopmental challenges.
  • Family or schools are usually the first to identify these issues, as sometimes they appear more prominently in one environment more than the other.
  • School counseling is often first chosen.
  • Next, families might seek outpatient treatment with a local therapist.  Child, parent, and family might attend.  The type of therapy as well as frequency and duration usually correlate to child’s age, the severity of issues, and availability to services.
  • Sometimes, families will proactively choose new environments, whether changing social circles or changing schools, in order to facilitate change.
  • If these options have failed and behaviors or issues are becoming more serious and / or risky, this is typically when families will seek residential treatment centers.  It is quite common for outpatient therapists or schools to be involved in the recommendation of residential treatment centers or similar therapeutic services to assist the child in overcoming their challenges.

What kind of students are appropriate for Residential Treatment Centers:

Residential Treatment Centers are for more therapeutically and medically complex individuals.  This means that an RTC is more likely appropriate for those demonstrating emotional, behavior, and psychological issues and typically in conjunction with other issues.  This issues often include:

  • Complex Clinical Issues (e.g. personality disorders, bipolar)
  • Neurological disorders (e.g. chemical imbalances)
  • Defiance
  • Family Issues and discord
  • Mood Disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Anger Outbursts
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Self-Harming Behaviors
  • History of Trauma (e.g. PTSD)
  • Impaired daily Functioning
  • Identity Issues
  • Treatment resistance (e.g. refusal to participate)
  • Academic difficulties (e.g. school refusal, chronic underperformance)
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Grief and Loss
  • Cutting
  • ADHD
  • Depression, which may include suicidal ideation
  • Substance use and experimentation, both drugs and alcohol
  • Technology addiction (e.g. cell phone, video games)
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Adoption / attachment issues

Residential Treatment Centers will accept patients / students who are exhibiting these issues.  They use varying modalities in order to try and help see meaningful progress and since students will show mutliple issues, the varying modalities in a variety of formats is important to finding success.  For instance, before attending residential treatment centers students might be cutting, depressed, refusing school, and spending dozens of hours a week gaming online.  These qualities might represent a lack of engagement in life and reflect psychological and emotional challenges that are showing themselves in unhealthy ways where individuals can retreat into a make believe world where acceptance is more readily available.  Residential treatment centers help these individuals by giving them a safe, nurturing environment where talking about issues is commonplace.  These students also share common experiences with others in their residential facility which can help students feel less alone.  By removing access to technology and creating a personalized academic setting where success is possible, students may also “come out of their shells” and experience growth and progress.  The combination of school, environment, and therapeutic setting is one that is hard to replicate outside of residential treatment centers and contributes to the success RTCs have demonstrated in longitudinal studies.

Why Elevations RTC?

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” –Frederick Douglass

Elevations is an all gender residential treatment center for struggling teenagers. Through intensive and comprehensive therapy, Elevation helps adolescents work through and overcome their issues. Their therapeutic approach includes a combination of individual/group/family therapy, college-prep academics, excellent psychiatric and nursing services, and recreational activities.

Through the collaboration of residential, academic, and clinical staff Elevations RTC becomes a powerful tool that enables teens to grow in a stable and secure environment. Elevations is one of the premier residential treatment centers that cares and treats the whole person. Elevations works hard to keep families connected through update phone-calls, weekly therapy sessions, and family visits.


Carrier Foundation’s recent study of psychiatric patients’ treatment success depending on inpatient or outpatient concluded that patients in outpatient treatment were 4-times more likely to be treatment failures early on. It also concluded that patients with higher psychiatric issues and poorer social support were more likely to succeed in an inpatient treatment program.

– Inpatient vs outpatient treatment for substance dependence revisited.  Pettinati HM1, Meyers K, Jensen JM, Kaplan F, Evans BD.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 50 percent of mental disorders start at 14 years old, but because of delays in treatment of it, the disorder often evolves into a more difficult one to handle. They also found that about 4 million children and teenagers have serious mental issues in the United States. Research has found that early diagnosis and intervention through programs such as RTCs can often reduce the disorder a great amount.

– National Alliance on Mental Health, Mental Health Conditions Quick Facts.

Residential Treatment Centers are utilized within the criminal justice system as they address multiple and complex pyschological and emotional needs simultaneously.  This university-led study looks at the effectiveness of RTCs in helping juvenile delinquents create lasting shifts.


– Residential Treatment Centers.  Heather Larkin, Erica Dean.  The Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Contemporary Articles

In February 2014, Selena Gomez, popular actress and singer, checked into a residential treatment center in Arizona for two weeks in order to “spend some time on [her]self in order to be the best person [she could] be.”

Her parents encouraged her to spend some time in a residential treatment center, according to the NY Daily News, to help her work things out after her large increase in partying. The RTC obviously did some good, because after her stay she tweeted “I’ve done everything I could to the best of my ability. Thank you for the unconditional love and cyber hugs. You inspire me.”

RTC Defined By…

Your Little Professor




Family Help and Wellness


Treatment Success Depending on Outpatient or Inpatient

50 Percent of Mental Disorders Start In Teen Years

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The Elevations Team

Want to learn more about how Elevations can guide your teen with specialized, compassionate care? Contact us today!

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