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No one likes to witness their adolescent struggling emotionally.  The teen may be exhibiting behavioral symptoms, such as anger, violent actions, impulsivity, or compulsive behaviors that are deeply concerning.  Maybe the symptoms are psychological, such as those associated with anxietydepression, mood swings, or a personality disorder, which can be even more worrisome.  A parent knows their child and can see when something is off in their psychological make-up, and knows their child needs help.

Recognizing the signs of emotional instability in your teen is the first step in getting to the bottom of their mental health condition.  After making an appointment with a physician to rule out a medical explanation for the changes seen in the teen, getting targeted professional help at a residential treatment center for teens is the best course of action.

What Conditions Do Residential Treatment Centers for Teens Treat?

Teen mental health issues are prevalent.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an estimated 20% of youth aged 13-18 will experience a severe mental health disorder.  In fact, 50% of all chronic mental illness emerges before age 14, and 75% by age 24.

Residential, or inpatient, mental health programs that are geared for teens have tailored the treatment programs to accommodate the specific needs of adolescents between the ages of 12-17.

residential treatment center for teen


Teen depression often shows up in a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, a persistent state of sadness, a sense of hopelessness, and irritability.  Other symptoms might include fatigue, changes in appetite and sleep habits, trouble concentrating, angry outbursts, and self-harm.


Teen anxiety expresses by excessive and irrational worry that impact their ability to function.  Social anxiety is a common manifestation of anxiety in teens, as self-consciousness, low self-esteem, and fear of being judged keep teens in a state of fear regarding social events.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Teens who suffer from OCD experience obsessive thoughts combined with a compulsive, uncontrollable need to engage in repetitive rituals in order to avoid feelings of anxiety.  Their compulsive behaviors can make them the object of ridicule at school or social events, and teens with OCD are often bullied.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Teens with BPD struggle socially.  Their disorder impedes their ability to successfully form and maintain lasting friendships because of their tendency toward unpredictable and compulsive behaviors.  They may exhibit exaggerated emotional outbursts and frequent mood swings.

Bipolar Disorder

Teens with bipolar disorder experience frequent and extreme shifts in mood, from the depths of despair to mania, over a short period of time.  During manic phases, teens may exhibit irritability versus adults, who exhibit elation or euphoria during manic phases.  Bipolar disorder can lead to substance use disorder and high-risk behaviors.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Teens with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) are argumentative and noncompliant with authority figures, and may display chronic aggression, angry outbursts, failure to follow instructions or abide by rules, being easily annoyed, and blame others for their mistakes.

Substance Use Disorder

Teens experimenting with drugs or alcohol may do so out of curiosity, as a result of peer pressure, or as a means of self-medicating a mood disorder.  Signs of substance use disorder include decline in academic performance, hanging out with a new group of friends, sneaky behavior, money missing from parents wallet, teen displaying bloodshot eyes, dilated or constricted pupils, or smell of marijuana or alcohol.

Dual Diagnosis

Teens with both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder have a dual diagnosis.  It is not yet understood which disorder causes the other, but a dual diagnosis is fairly common.  Treatment will be tailored for the specific substance involved and the diagnosed mental health disorder.  Talk therapy, group therapy, medication, and adjunct therapies can work in an integrated fashion to treat both disorders simultaneously.

Teen Grief and Loss

While a teen’s depressive disorder may have been triggered by hormonal fluctuations, genetics, or environmental factors, one of the most delicate issues for a teen to process is the death of a loved one. A teen that is grieving the loss of a parent, grandparent, friend, or sibling may need special care in navigating the powerful emotions around the loss. If the death was sudden and unexpected it could provoke trauma disorder.

Teens do not have the life experience to manage the intense emotions around the death of a loved one. This can result in disruptions in functioning caused by symptoms such as sleep disorder, appetite changes, concentration difficulties, mood swings, and feelings of guilt or shame. Teens may withdraw and isolate themselves, or may turn to using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate the uncomfortable feelings. The residential setting offers teens in mourning a safe place to process the emotions associated with the loss, and to begin the healing process.

What to Expect At Residential Treatment Centers for Teens

The advantage of selecting a residential treatment center for teens is the access to the most highly trained mental health professionals.  These inpatient programs can provide a safe, compassionate, and supportive environment for teenagers who are struggling with a mental health condition.  Removing the teen from the usual stressors in their home or school settings allows them to concentrate on learning new coping skills and other tools that will enable them to better manage their condition.

The residential setting is purposely set up to feel homey and comfortable versus sterile and clinical.  A comfortable setting puts the adolescent at ease, which leads to a better treatment outcome.  A thorough evaluation and interview will be conducted that assesses the teen’s physical health, their mental health history, and the current presenting symptoms.  This information will assist the clinicians who manage each case to design a treatment plan specifically customized to the teen.

The teen mental health treatment program will use a menu of treatment modalities and therapies that will be integrated to provide a comprehensive approach to helping the teen overcome the mental health or substance use disorder.  Some of the common types of psychotherapy used, in both individual settings or group settings, for teens include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
  • Solution focused therapy

In addition, family therapy, recreation therapy, yoga, art and music therapy compliment the traditional forms of therapy.  Psychotropic medications may be needed to help manage certain mental health disorders, rounding out the typical treatment protocol for teens.

The residential treatment setting allows the clinical team to work with the adolescent on a daily basis, providing for a trust bond to develop with the teen.  The consistency and order of a residential mental health program is calming to the teen, as they learn what activities to anticipate each day.  The residential setting offers the very best opportunity for achieving successful long-term recovery results.

Academic Support for Teens

While an adolescent is residing at the treatment center it is important that he or she not fall far behind in their studies. Academic pressure is one of the primary sources of anxiety for teens, so keeping on top of schoolwork is essential. Tutors are available to assist the teen with their homework assignments, and to act as a liaison with the school administrator. In this capacity, the tutor will coordinated the efforts between the school and the treatment center to create an academic plan and ensure that students continue to move forward scholastically while receiving treatment.

The Role of Experiential Treatment Elements for Mental Health

The role of psychotherapy in teen mental health programs should always take center stage. In addition to therapy, it has been found that teens are more engaged when in the process of doing rather than simply discussing or sharing their feelings verbally. In this capacity, experiential activities or therapies can successfully compliment the therapeutic effects of psychotherapy.

Teenagers like to get outside and move. By harnessing the teen’s desire to be physically active and coupling it with psychological aspects such as gaining fresh insights, self-confidence, and improved sense of worth, these activities become augmentative to the overall value of the mental health program. Such activities might include equine therapy, gardening, surf therapy, hiking, yoga, and other outdoor fitness activities. Experiential activities may also include indoor activities, such as art therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, journaling, and meditation.

teen treatment

Family Support

Many times a teen’s emotional distress has a significant impact on the family dynamic, affecting all aspects of family functioning. For this reason, an emphasis on family support is an intrinsic element in residential teen mental health programming. The family is included in the treatment process, allowing for the healing and restoration of the family unit. This often includes identifying areas of dysfunction that may be fueling the teen’s mental health condition. By recognizing the need for learning new ways of communicating, setting healthy boundaries, and providing consistency in discipline, families can move forward in a unified manner.

Fostering Healthy Relationships

Too often a teen is struggling with severe social functioning disorders. This might include social anxiety, being bullied, social media shaming, or simply a feeling that they don’t fit in. By helping the teen improve their social functioning through improved psychosocial skills, it can provide newfound confidence that can significantly improve their overall recovery.

While in residential treatment, there are multiple opportunities each day to practice new healthy interpersonal skills. During group therapy sessions or while participating in a group activity, teens are encouraged to apply the social skills they learn in treatment so they will become positive new habits.

BNI Treatment Offers Residential Treatment Centers for Teens

BNI Treatment is a psychiatrist owned and operated residential mental health treatment center located in Los Angeles, California.  BNI Treatment provides primary mental health treatment, acute stabilization, medical detox, substance use disorder treatment, and dual diagnosis treatment.  BNI Treatment utilizes pharmacogenetic testing during the initial evaluation, which provides important information that aids the psychiatrist in accurately selecting the right medication for the teen.  BNI features a wide array of adjunct therapies, such as surf therapy, equine therapy, drama therapy, art therapy, music therapy, yoga, and meditation.  For more information about our residential treatment program for teens, please contact BNI Treatment today at (888) 387-0105.

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