boot camp for troubled teens

Can boot camp help troubled teens get back on track?

Most of us recall the horror stories about militant boot camps for teens back in the 90s. The kids were abused and punished while living in awful conditions, all in the name of building character. Well, things have changed.

A teen boot camp is still a highly regimented, discipline-focused venue, but now these camps are more humane. The goal of these programs for troubled teens is still centered on training teens to take ownership of choices. They are still teaching teens to acquire healthy lifestyle habits. The difference is they don’t punish teens, a style of discipline that was so extreme in years past. Instead the teen is shaped toward making positive choices through constructive skill building.

These days a teen boot camp is more like the blending of a boarding school and a wilderness program. Parents who are burned out, stressed out, and at the end of their rope may see these programs as their last hope.

What are Boot Camps for Troubled Teens?

Parents faced with a teen that seems to be out of control may have run out of options. The parents may have tried every possible method of reining in their teen, yet nothing has worked.

The teen might have a mental health disorder that is leading to their acting out and getting into trouble. Behavior issues will often crop up during grade school and get worse during the teen years. The older the teen gets, the more harmful their actions can be to others, themselves, and to their future.

A teen boot camp offers a treatment option for these parents to try when nothing else has helped their child. These venues feature very strict, structured programs that teach teens to take responsibility for their actions. Over time, the teen will also learn some valuable life skills that they can use later.

Elements of Teen Boot Camps

Choosing a boot camp for a troubled teen might seem to be an extreme step. But when a teen’s problems are complex and layered, and parents at their wits end, it is worth a try. Teens enrolled in a boot camp will experience personal growth. Opportunities for growth occur in these areas:

  • Build self-esteem.
  • Builds character.
  • Improves confidence.
  • Develops resilience.
  • Improves self-control.
  • Teaches self-sufficiency.

Boot camps use a blend of experiential methods and traditional methods to help guide teens towards healthy behaviors. Because the camps are set in nature and outdoor focused, teens are very active while enrolled in the book camp. Getting lots of exercise is part of the therapy.

Boot camps for troubled teens may have specialties, such as for treating substance abuse or trauma recovery. Special treatment focus areas require the staff to have training and licensing to practice in the specialty.

Family therapy is also highly beneficial to the teen and the family members. Boot camps often invite parents to join their teen for special sessions or special family events. Family involvement is very helpful for the teen and his or her recovery.

Which Teens May Benefit Most From Boot Camp?

Teens who display behavior problems may have a mental health issue, like a conduct disorder, ADHD, or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Maybe the parents had ignored the warning signs and the disorder has gotten much worse in the teen years.

Other teens may have functioned normally during early childhood, only to develop problems later. These could be due to social issues, bullying, substance abuse, hormone changes, or a mood disorder like depression.

Some risk factors attributed to the behavior problems might include:

  • Trauma. Physical or sexual abuse or neglect.
  • Genes. A family history of mood disorders or mental instability.
  • Biology. Certain personality traits, temperaments, lack of impulse control, difficulty managing stress, a learning disability.
  • Environmental.  Triggers are parents getting divorced, sudden death of a parent or loved one, or moving to a new town.
  • Mental illness. A mental health disorder, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder.

Some teens struggle with these mental health issues:

Conduct Disorder.

Teens with conduct disorder will display defiant, hostile, aggressive, and disruptive behaviors. They tend to look for fights and have no regard for social norms. Much more common in males. Symptoms include:

    • Destruction of property
    • Setting fires
    • Aggression toward people and animals
    • Bullying
    • Stealing
    • Getting in fights
    • Truancy
    • Burglary
    • Conning people
    • Lack of empathy

Oppositional Defiance Disorder.

ODD is a behavior disorder where teens display angry and hostile behaviors. They have a hard time accepting authority, and they also get frustrated easily. ADHD is a common comorbid disorder. Symptoms include:

      • Defiance
      • Reject authority
      • Angry outbursts
      • Negative attitude
      • Verbal assaults
      • Hostile
      • Refuse to follow rules
      • Spiteful

Substance Abuse.

Teens who become involved in substance abuse are at risk of developing a substance use disorder. Many of the drugs, such as oxy and Vicodin, are highly addictive and can lead to harder drugs. Symptoms of teen substance abuse include:

    • Signs of substance use, such as pinpoint pupils, smelling of alcohol or weed, extreme fatigue, chronic constipation.
    • Sneaky behaviors.
    • Hanging out with different groups of friends.
    • Stealing pills from family members.
    • Stealing money to buy drugs.
    • Having items like foil, balloons, empty pens, burnt spoons, rolling papers in their room.
    • Missing school.
    • Grades decline.
    • Weight loss.
    • Changes in sleep habits or eating habits.
    • Impulsive and high risk behaviors.
    • Getting in trouble with the law.
    • Showing signs of withdrawal.

If your teen seems to be out of control and you are worried about his or her future, a boot camp might be the best option. These programs can get the teen back on the right track.

BNI Treatment Centers Teen Residential Mental Health Treatment

BNI Treatment Centers offers an alternative to boot camps. Our inpatient program offers troubled teens a safe, nurturing setting to work on their issues, while moving forward in scholastics. If your teen is struggling with behavior disorders or co-occurring substance abuse, call the BNI team today at (888) 522-1504.

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