It can be scary when you have a child who has emotional problems severe enough that you are starting to look at residential treatment centers. It can be even scarier if you are a parent who does not know what to look for in a placement. There is usually a pattern of events working up to looking for residential treatment centers which include, working with a psychiatrist and medication, going to a host of fine therapists locally, getting the requisite battery of psycho-educational testing, employing a tutor to help with lagging academics and sometimes even switching schools. Many parents are frightened about the prospect of placing their child in one of these residential treatment centers for they fear that they are dark and foreboding places.
As an educational / therapeutic consultant who has worked in this field for many years, the image of residential treatment centers is often not the reality. There are many options which can be considered residential treatment centers yet they feel much more like a home. I have traveled throughout the country visiting all types of placements, including residential treatment centers and I have been thrilled by the change in what most people expect. Nurturing facilities in beautiful settings where frightened kids can learn to meet their demons in a loving, supportive manner and get the tools they need to move on in their lives successfully. Although residential treatment centers are considered higher levels of care, it does not have to mean that it feels like a hospital, with long cold corridors. Just as the face of mental illness has changed, so has the face of mental health treatment. Before families start thinking the worst of what may lie ahead, I want to throw out a life line to them and encourage them to have hope. The residential treatment centers of today are no longer the dinosaurs of the past.