Therapeutic Boarding Schools Defined

Therapeutic boarding schools are therapeutic programs that combine an educational environment with therapeutic programming. Many therapeutic boarding schools utilize an integrated approach to therapy and academics. This is because positive mental health can help teens improve academically. By following a personalized therapeutic and academic plan for each student, therapists and teachers are able to make sure all of a teen’s mental health and academic needs are met.

Many therapeutic boarding schools cater to a specific age group, gender, or diagnoses. By using programming targeted to a specific group of teens, therapeutic boarding schools ensure that the specific needs of those individuals are fully addressed. Therapeutic boarding schools are usually less clinically intensive than a residential treatment center or teen assessment center. Instead, they are focused on providing a nurturing, therapeutic experience that does not involve as much “hardcore” clinical work as residential treatment centers.

Many therapeutic boarding schools offer fun activities on a regular basis to let students let off some steam and get some exercise. Activities offered at some therapeutic boarding schools include sports, arts, and outdoor activities like biking and hiking. Some therapeutic boarding schools utilize unique therapeutic methods like equine therapy which can help your child learn useful life skills while having fun.

therapeutic boarding schoolsWho goes to therapeutic boarding schools?

Therapeutic boarding schools may cater to teens in a specific age group or by gender. This is because the type of care needed by one age group or gender may not be effective for another age group of gender. For example, the needs of 10 year old girls are certainly not the same as a 17 year old boy. Many therapeutic boarding schools offer programming designed specifically for specific diagnoses. Teens who attend therapeutic boarding schools may be struggling with difficulties like:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Defiance
  • Adoption issues
  • Anger management issues
  • Learning disorders
  • Disruptive behavior
  • School refusal

Therapeutic boarding schools aren’t typically for teens struggling with severe mental health issues that need intensive clinical help. Instead, they help teens who are having difficulties that may be affecting their everyday lives, but can be worked through with the right coping tools and therapies. Therapeutic boarding schools have been known to help teens go on to lead successful, productive lives after they transition out of the program.

Comparing therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment centers

Typically, Residential Treatment Centers (RTC) differ from Therapeutic Boarding Schools (TBS) in terms of the student profile, the diagnoses, the length of treatment, and clinical intensity.  Often, therapeutic boarding schools have less stringent levels of licensing, membership, and accreditations.

residential treatment center for teens

Student Profile.  Students at therapeutic boarding schools are usually working through “softer” issues or perhaps have not been struggling with issues as long so there complexity and intensity may be less at TBS v RTC students.

Licensing, Accreditations, Memberships.  Licensing requirements vary by state, but typically therapeutic boarding schools can operate without a license from their state.

Staff to Student Ratio.  Ratios are often determined by licensing or accrediting bodies, since therapeutic boarding schools may not be required by any agency their ratios are often lower than residential treatment centers.  Therapeutic boarding schools may have anywhere from 8 to 12 students per staff member.

Duration Student Remains in Program.  Therapeutic boarding schools students are not typically struggling with the same level of emotional, social, behavioral, or psychological issues.  Therefore, the time required to see significant progress at therapeutic boarding schools will often be less than that of residential treatment centers.

Psychiatrists and Medical Staff.  Therapeutic boarding schools may not employ a psychiatrist on staff or as a contractor.  Usually, a residential treatment center for teens has full-time psychiatrists working to give the teens a fuller, more involved therapeutic experience. Therapeutic boarding schools may also have a few psychiatrists, but it’s more rare for them to be full-time.

Contemporary Articles

An article in Mic discusses the prevalence in anxiety amongst teen girls versus teen boys. According to the article, an estimated 30 percent of young women struggle with issues related to anxiety compared to only 20 percent of young men. The reason for this disparity may lie in the large numbers of young women struggling with body image issues. In fact, according to the article, 80 percent of 10-year old American girls had reported being on a diet in the past year. Body image issues can negatively impact a girl’s future, which means that parents should be aware of how severe the issue is. Therapeutic boarding schools like Sedona Sky provide a safe place for your child to work on those struggles.

A recent article in Reuters discusses a recent study that found overweight teen girls are more likely to be depressed as adults than girls at a healthy weight. Researchers suggested this may have to do with body image and self esteem issues that plagued these overweight woman’s entire lives. This article just goes to show how important it is to get help for a child with negative body image issues as early as possible. Negative self esteem can carry through a person’s entire life.


One study discussed on NPR describes the rising suicide rates amongst teen girls in America. The rate of suicide in girls between the ages of 10 and 14 has jumped up the most in past twenty years, although it still makes up a relatively small percentage of suicides in America.

According to a recent study, three 11-13 year old girls out of a typical classroom of 30 suffer from emotional problems. Researchers believe this large number of children suffering from emotional problems may come from the variety of stressors now prevalent in the lives of young people including social and academic stress.

Therapeutic boarding schools defined by…



Your Little Professor


Posted in

The Elevations Team