Behavior modification programs often become necessary when the defiant or aggressive behavior of a teenager becomes uncontrollable. These organizations operated by professionals often provide a more effective method of reaching troubled teens than parental punishments, pleading, and negotiations. Professionals offer a level of service and understanding that may be necessary in reaching your troubled teen.

When it comes to behavior modification programs, not all of them provide exemplary service. It’s probable that you’ve heard both positive and negative stories about these programs – positive ones recounting stories miraculous changes and negative ones involving tales of abuse. When researching behavioral therapy for your teen, it’s important to take steps to identify the good programs. You can do this through your own vetting process which should include inquisitive phone calls, conversations in person (when possible), and personal investigations into the success rate of certain facilities.

The better you can match the personality and behavior of your child to a particular program, the higher the chance for success will be.

Categorizing teen behavior modification programs

Therapeutic boarding schools

These facilities are characterized primarily by academic emphasis. Parents who enroll their teen in therapeutic boarding schools do so knowing that their child will receive special attention relating to improving school performance in addition to behavior modification. Group therapy, individual therapy, specialized academic classes, private tutoring, and extracurricular activities are all features of therapeutic boarding schools.

Note: extracurricular activities can include sports, science, music, art, and others designed to help participants discover and develop their personal interests.

2 Residential treatment centers

These facilities focus more on therapeutically addressing your teen’s particular issue at its roots. Teens who struggle with substance abuse and/or mental illness are often admitted to this type of facility. Hospitals with neuropsychiatric wards are categorized as residential treatment centers. Around-the-clock monitoring and care is offered when certain cases require. Families of admitted persons can participate in outpatient programs provided by these centers.

Wilderness therapy programs

Though not as common as they once were, wilderness therapy programs still exist and can be effective in the right circumstance. Here, troubled teens will experience survival training, physical labor, and other similar, intensive forms of therapy designed to teach life skills, teamwork, and responsibility. These programs do not involve long-term admittance, typically lasting only 3-6 weeks.

Military boot camps

Most of these programs are not based directly in personalized therapy but rather employ the rigors of traditional military boot camps to instill direction, hard work, and other important characteristics. If your troubled teen has a desire to enlist when they come of age, this may be a good option for them.

Choosing a program

Finding and selecting the right program for your troubled teen isn’t always a simple endeavor. The industry is huge and the choices are endless. Every website will say that their program is the best, that it works wonders. Don’t take everything you read at face value. Here are some things to look deep into when considering any behavior modification program.

School licensing

Regulation of licenses and programs are overseen by the state, which means particular therapies and treatments are offered by some facilities and not by others. This often renders one program 3 very different from another. Do your best to match your troubled teen’s issues with a program so that the two are in sync.


Pay attention to the cost of the behavior modification programs that you’re considering, particularly as it pertains to your insurance. Licensing directly affects cost and research has shown that the more treatments a facility is licensed to perform, the more your insurance is willing to cover. Though this is not an general reality, it’s still worth paying attention to.

State regulations and laws

Each state has their own unique laws and regulations for behavior modification programs. Though looking at local facilities for your teen is a good idea, it isn’t the best choice in every circumstance. Oftentimes, local programs require the consent of the troubled teen before admittance is accepted, and depending on your circumstance, this may or may not be within the realm of possibility. Out-of-state options can sometimes be a better choice for this reason. Find this out during your research process.

Available therapies

Different programs offer different therapies, as previously mentioned. These therapies must coincide with your troubled teen’s particular problems. Understand your child’s issues – physical trauma, emotional trauma, anxiety, ADHD, sexual deviance, depression – so that you can accurately find the right place for them.

Class size

The setting of their therapy program will play an important role in your teen’s experience, class size being a major one. Do your best to understand how your troubled teen gets along with their peers and how they do in large groups, small groups, and isolation. Some young people show signs of aggression in certain social environments. Make an attempt to put your child in a program that will correspond with their learning style and social tendencies.

Academic programs

If your teenager has fallen significantly behind in school, the right academic program can often help turn their study habits and grades around. These courses help young people find subjects that interest them and help develop a healthy passion for them. Some facilities have better academic programs than others, so do some digging on this feature before making a decision.

Extracurricular activities

Often used in tandem with academic programs, programs that feature these types of activities usually offer many options that often include music, art, science leagues, sports, equestrian training, and much more. The geographical location where the facility resides usually influences the types of extracurricular activities they offer. If your child already has a vested interested in a particular subject, consider looking for a facility that offers it.

Parental involvement

How often can you visit and for how long? How often are participants allowed to make calls? Do they allow video calls via Skype and similar software? These are important questions to ask as parental involvement is very important to the progress of a troubled teen taking part in a behavior modification program.

Enrolling your child in a program out of state may make regular visits difficult, but be sure to find out the level of parental involvement certain places allow.

References and referrals

We mentioned it above, but it’s worth reiterating: don’t take the program’s word for it during your vetting process. Talk to more than just a staff member. Find and connect with parents who have sent their teenagers to places you’re interested in. Get first-hand knowledge from people who’ve experienced it, including teenagers themselves. This information will be accurate and unbiased.

You can often learn more about an establishment through referrals and reference than by any other means. If you’re wondering how to go about finding references and referrals, here are some places to look: review sites, program sites, program social media pages.

Note: remember that sometimes, parents who leave bad reviews do so because the program they chose wasn’t right for their teen, not because it wasn’t a great place that does good work. Read online reviews with that in mind.

Closing remarks

Don’t make the mistake of taking your troubled teen to the first behavior modification program that a friend or family member recommends to you. If you are considering one of these special programs for your child, put some serious work into investigating all the options that you’re leaning toward. Putting your teen in the wrong program due to little or no research beforehand is a monumental mistake. There are websites and programs designed specifically to assist parents in finding the best program for their teen.

Try not to get overwhelmed as we sometimes do when faced with hard decisions. There are plenty of resources out there that help parents locate, evaluate, and select the perfect program for their troubled teen. Connect with other parents who have dealt with the same dilemma and decision as you. Locate a local parent advocate group or find a local Facebook group where parents have had these same experiences. Ask these people questions so you can gather as much information as possible to help you make your decision.

We know, because you’re reading this, that either you or someone you love is going through a very hard time in their lives involving a troubled teen. In most cases, this is a sensitive topic that deserves great care and consideration. The deep love you extend to your struggling child should manifest in how you approach finding the right behavior modification program for them.

It’s very likely that their participation in the program you select will be a major turning point in their lives. Some parents can’t help but feel that, because they’re considering such a program for their teenager, they’ve failed as a parent. This is not true. Teenage therapy programs are not meant to replace parental guidance but rather to supplement it. Working together with the right program can help parents and troubled teens find peace, mend relationships, and take steps to a better, more fulfilling life.