Therapeutic Boarding School vs Residential Treatment Center

What are the differences between a therapeutic boarding school vs residential treatment center? A therapeutic boarding school offers long-term education combined with therapy for behavioral and emotional issues, focusing on integrating academic progress with personal development. Conversely, a residential treatment center provides intensive, short-term psychiatric care for those with severe mental health issues, prioritizing stabilization and treatment over academic achievement. Both settings aim to support adolescents in overcoming challenges, but their approaches and durations differ.

Mental health issues can be debilitating. Personality disorders, substance use disorders, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders can result in dangerous or harmful behaviors, extreme irritability, or even physical illness and injury.

Teens who need constant support and long-term care while recovering from an addiction or while seeking treatment for a severe mental health issue may spend anywhere from a few months to over half a year in a clinical or residential treatment setting. During this time, they need to keep up with their academic responsibilities and continue to spend time studying. Therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment facilities may fulfill these requirements for teens but go about doing so in very different ways.

In this article, we explore the main differences between a therapeutic boarding school vs residential treatment center for teens.

Treatment Options for Troubled Teens

Millions of teens struggle with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and substance use disorders. While many successfully seek treatment through outpatient programs, counseling, therapy, and medication, some require a more comprehensive treatment plan that addresses severe symptoms, such as self-harm, suicidal ideation, or repeated antisocial behavior.

Residential treatment facilities help people isolate themselves from factors that may be triggering or aggravating their symptoms in their daily lives while also giving them a supportive and safe environment to focus on self-improvement and recovery.

For teens, these residential treatment facilities also provide a way to interact with others who have had similar experiences while continuing their studies through an accredited curriculum within the treatment center.

Therapeutic boarding schools are another option for teens who might benefit from the rigidity and self-sufficiency that a boarding school environment might provide but with a greater focus on education and academics and less time spent in intensive therapy or group therapy.

Therapeutic Boarding School vs. Residential Treatment Center

Therapeutic boarding schools are educational facilities that set themselves apart from other boarding schools by providing more opportunities for counseling and mental health support. They typically feature a lower student-teacher ratio and on-campus facilities for experiential therapy or therapeutic activities, such as equine therapy, adventure therapy, yoga, or mindfulness training.

Residential treatment centers are inpatient facilities that accommodate teens in a homely environment. They have a low teen-to-staff ratio and are carefully supervised while in treatment.

Here’s what you need to know about the differences between a therapeutic boarding school vs residential treatment center.

Differences in Treatment Options

One of the primary differences when comparing a therapeutic boarding school vs. a residential treatment center is the breadth of the facility’s treatment options and the availability of certain modalities. Therapeutic boarding schools first offer therapeutic services for students who need them.

Residential treatment centers are accredited treatment facilities for mental health issues and addiction disorders. They may offer a day school program for teens who seek to continue preparing for college or who want to keep up with their peers while out of school.

As such, therapeutic boarding schools may offer individualized therapy and counseling, as well as certain forms of experiential therapy, while residential treatment centers will offer a lower ratio of teens to trained staff, a wider breadth of treatment modalities and forms of therapy, and a daily program that is primarily dedicated towards each teen’s therapeutic and treatment goals, rather than their academics.

Understanding Therapeutic Boarding Schools

A therapeutic boarding school provides psychological support while teens attend classes and focus on their next academic grade. Therapeutic boarding schools still act like boarding schools and have an enrollment process and curriculum. However, most therapeutic boarding schools utilize a rolling enrollment process rather than following a standard school year.

Many therapeutic boarding schools specialize in helping teens with learning disabilities or mental health conditions that double as neurodevelopmental problems, such as ADHD. Some schools specialize in specific conditions and provide care specific to those conditions.

The dorm environments in therapeutic boarding schools are also designed to be more homely and provide a more relaxing and social atmosphere than the rigidity and uniformity of a traditional dorm. Most therapeutic boarding schools allow year-round admission rather than a normal school year. A student’s stay at a therapeutic boarding school ranges from a semester to at least a whole school year.

Understanding Residential Treatment Centers

A residential treatment center is an inpatient facility where people go for intensive psychiatric care. These are usually voluntary facilities, and many of them are designed to offer treatment for people with substance use problems and comorbid mental health conditions.

Residential treatment centers differentiate themselves from other inpatient facilities, such as psychiatric hospitals, by trading in a clinical setting for a “residential” or homely setting. Residential facilities are usually located in suburban or rural areas, away from the hustle and bustle, and focused on recovery and healing.

Like most inpatient facilities, a typical stay at a residential treatment center would be limited to one or two months.

Choosing the Right Option for Your Teen

When choosing between a therapeutic boarding school vs. residential treatment center, it’s essential to determine what level of care your teen requires. Therapeutic boarding schools provide an academic environment where teens can receive more support for their mental health challenges over the semester.

A residential treatment center offers a dedicated treatment plan for mental health conditions. It is usually the better fit for teens who require more supervision and care and need an intensive short-term treatment plan rather than a more accommodating school environment.

Residential Treatment at Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers

Teens struggling with severe mood disorders, personality disorders, or substance use disorders may not do well in a traditional school setting.

Seeking a teen treatment center that offers a residential treatment center for teens can help your teen better manage their symptoms without neglecting their schoolwork and better prepare them for the years to come.

Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers focus on providing care for teens needing treatment in the greater Los Angeles area.


Residential treatment centers offer a shorter stay, focus more on treatment, and often have fewer attending teens than a therapeutic boarding school. Furthermore, treatment at a residential treatment center is covered under different health insurance policies, while attending a therapeutic boarding school is paid entirely out of pocket.

If your teen needs more supervision, a treatment-centered environment, and does not respond well to outpatient treatment, then a residential treatment center may be the right fit for them. Give us a call today at 1-818-889-3665 for a free assessment.


What is a Therapeutic Day School Program?

A therapeutic day school is a specialized educational institution designed to provide a supportive learning environment for students with emotional, behavioral, or mental health challenges. These schools combine academic instruction with therapeutic services, such as counseling and behavior management, to address students’ specific needs and promote their personal and academic growth.

Navigating the complexities of mental health issues in teenagers while maintaining academic development can be a daunting task for parents.

The intertwining of educational demands and mental health needs calls for a unique approach to support and nurture these young individuals. A therapeutic day school program for teens offers a beacon of hope, offering a blend of academic rigor and teen mental health treatment tailored to the nuanced needs of teens.

This article explores a common question from concerned parents – what is a therapeutic day school?

What is a Therapeutic Day School Program?

Therapeutic day schools are more than a stopgap measure. They help teens maintain and improve their academic performance while in treatment. This is because a therapeutic day school program is part of a more extensive treatment program, meaning teens can keep learning what they need to learn for school while addressing the emotional and behavioral problems they struggle with in a typical school setting.

Because day schools focus on educating teens individually, they also allow trained educators and therapists to go more into depth on any topic and help teens tackle questions or concepts they struggle to understand in a standard classroom setting.

Therapeutic day schools account for the fact that individual students often have different learning styles and that their treatments and existing mental health symptoms might interfere with everyday learning. Therapeutic day school programs incorporate individualized education with therapeutic support to help teens learn at their own pace, identify more effective ways to teach, and develop the skill set needed to continue to learn after treatment or in future educational settings and academies.

Adolescents are highly satisfied with school-based mental health services, valuing therapeutic relationships and skills learned during therapy (Springer).

Related: 10 Back-to-School Tips for Parents and Teens

Core Principles of a Therapeutic Day School

Generally, the core principles of a therapeutic day school revolve around individualized approaches, a focus on support, and skill-building. Different facilities and day schools emphasize different things, such as specific learning strategies, teaching self-reliance or self-education, or improving social skills in between lessons.

Some of the common principles shared by most therapeutic day schools include:

Integrating therapy into education

A therapeutic day school’s core identity is integrating mental health treatment and support. Day school involves an accredited curriculum to help teens continue studying but within the framework of a residential treatment program.

Small class sizes

Most residential treatment facilities house fewer teens than a boarding or regular school campus. Furthermore, day school classes are often spread out over the day, so small groups of teens take classes simultaneously. Sometimes, teens learn separate subjects and focus on their modules or lessons; at other times, they take lessons together and collaborate on projects to learn more.

Positive reinforcement

Teachers are not always equipped with the therapeutic knowledge or training needed to address the emotional and behavioral challenges that teens with severe mental health problems face. Therapeutic day school programs are staffed by mental health professionals who can help encourage positive changes in teen behavior throughout their treatment.

Transition planning

Therapeutic day schools usually are not a permanent solution for a teen’s long-term education. They serve as a crucial part of a residential treatment plan to help teens transition back into the regular school system with new skills and tools to tackle everyday stressors and challenges.

Teens Who Benefit from Therapeutic Day Schools

Therapeutic day schools are specially designed to serve students who struggle within traditional educational settings due to emotional, behavioral, or learning difficulties.

Day school programs are a sanctuary for adolescents who require a more nurturing and understanding environment to thrive academically and personally. Students with conditions such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders often find that a therapeutic day school offers them the stability and individualized attention they need.

The curriculum is tailored to accommodate their unique learning styles while providing therapeutic support to address their emotional and behavioral challenges. This integrated approach ensures that students advance academically and achieve significant personal growth.

Students who once faced insurmountable barriers in traditional schools can experience renewed confidence and success by attending a therapeutic day school.

Related: The Key to Talking to Teens About Mental Health

Common Issues Therapeutic Day Schools Address

Traditional schools often don’t meet the unique needs of teens struggling with mental health issues.

This can hinder their academic and personal development, leading to challenges in communication, feelings of isolation, and academic struggles. Therapeutic day schools offer a solution by providing individualized support and strategies to improve executive functioning and interpersonal skills.

  • Anxiety Disorders: Including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, and panic attacks.
  • Mood Disorders: Such as depression, bipolar disorder, and dysthymia.
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Focusing on improving attention, reducing impulsivity, and managing hyperactivity.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Providing support for social skills, communication, and behavioral challenges.
  • Learning Disabilities: Offering specialized academic support and strategies for dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia.
  • Substance Use Disorders: Addressing drug and alcohol use while providing academic and emotional support.
  • Eating Disorders: Including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
  • Personality Disorders: Tailoring interventions for challenges related to borderline, avoidant, and other personality disorders.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Implementing strategies to manage compulsions and intrusive thoughts.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Providing trauma-informed care and therapies to address the impact of traumatic experiences.
  • Self-Harm and Suicidal Ideation: Offering interventions and support to reduce self-harm behaviors and suicidal thoughts.
  • Behavioral Issues: Addressing oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder, and other behavioral challenges.
  • Executive Functioning Difficulties: Helping with organization, time management, and decision-making skills.
  • Social Skills and Communication Issues: Improving interpersonal relationships and effective communication.
  • Emotional Dysregulation: Providing strategies to help manage and express emotions healthily.

Therapeutic day school programs address teens’ specific challenges, ensuring they keep pace academically while receiving necessary mental health support.

Related: Top 7 Teen Mental Health Issues

Critical Components of a Therapeutic Day School Program

The success of therapeutic day school programs lies in their unique blend of personalized academic planning, on-site therapeutic services, comprehensive behavioral support, and social skills development.

Customized curriculums allow students to learn independently, enhancing motivation and achievement.

Licensed therapists provide individual and group therapy to address emotional and behavioral challenges, while targeted strategies help improve behavior management. Additionally, programs focused on building interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence ensure a holistic approach to student development.

This combination fosters a supportive environment where students can excel academically and personally.

Related: 10 Common Problems Among Senior High School Students

Benefits of Therapeutic Day Schools

Therapeutic day schools provide myriad benefits that cater to the holistic development of students, intertwining academic progress with essential life skills. These schools create a supportive framework that encourages personal growth and resilience by addressing educational and mental health needs. Here’s a closer look at the key benefits:

  • Tailored Academic and Therapeutic Support: Each student receives personalized care that helps overcome educational hurdles and fosters deeper engagement with learning.
  • Safe and Supportive Environment: A nurturing atmosphere enables students to develop coping mechanisms and emotional regulation skills, promoting a strong sense of community and belonging.
  • Enhanced Self-Esteem and Social Skills: Through targeted programs, students build confidence and interpersonal abilities, crucial for navigating both academic challenges and life beyond school.

These support pillars empower students to face their difficulties confidently, paving the way for success in all facets of their lives.

Choosing the Right Therapeutic Day School

Choosing the right therapeutic day school involves careful evaluation of the school’s philosophy, staff qualifications, and staff-to-student ratio to ensure it fits your child’s needs.

A lower ratio indicates more personalized attention, a crucial aspect of your child’s growth. Feedback from the school’s community can offer insights into its impact and environment.

The ideal school provides a nurturing space that promotes academic and personal development, addressing your child’s emotional and behavioral challenges.

This decision is pivotal for fostering an environment where your child can flourish.

Our Therapeutic Day School Program at Visions

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers in Southern California, our therapeutic day school program is a testament to our commitment to holistic adolescent care.

Students find a harmonious blend of academic excellence and therapeutic support crafted to foster growth, healing, and learning. Our dedicated team ensures each teen receives personalized guidance to navigate their challenges.

Discover a place where education meets empathy and potential is unlocked. Contact us today to learn more.


Understanding what a therapeutic day school is and the profound impact it can have on a teen’s life is the first step toward embracing a path of healing and growth.

These schools offer more than just education; they provide a lifeline for students and families navigating the complex interplay of mental health and learning. If you’re exploring options for your teen, remember that the right environment can transform challenges into opportunities for success.

We invite you to consider the Visions Day School Program as your partner in this journey, offering a unique blend of support, education, and hope. Reach out today to learn how we can help your teen thrive.

Communication Education Mental Health Self-Care

Juggling Mental Health and School this Fall

If you or your teen is headed back to school this Fall, then awareness of common mental health problems and how to identify them can be invaluable. Teens today face mounting pressures as they pave their way towards college and the workspace. Building a better skillset for tackling and addressing mental health and school can help you or your teen deal with future stressors, become more resilient, and learn how and when to seek help.

Did you know about one in five teens will struggle with symptoms of mental illness, ranging from depressive episodes to major anxiety and everything in between? More than just a rare occurrence, mental health problems are a common issue in modern society and one that compassion, community, and a societal commitment can help address.

Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are treatable, yet only a fraction of those who need treatment get the help they require. Our responsibility as a society is to ensure that mental healthcare is not just available, but easily accessible and well-known. Fostering an open and understanding relationship toward mental health issues begins at an early age and needs to be especially emphasized during adolescence, a time in which many mental health conditions have their onset.

Work On Your Coping Skills

To cope is to deal with something negative. We cope with death, with grief, with stress, with loss. We cope with the things that may bring us down and keep us down. But coping skills can be both positive and negative.

Negative Coping

An effective, but negative coping skill, is having a drink. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and can have both a calming effect, and encourage the release of neurotransmitters that make us feel happier.

But both effects are short-lived and come at a heavy price. In the long-term, alcohol use actively feeds anxious thoughts and makes negative episodes more frequent, negatively impacts cognition and problem solving, affects memory, and leads to a whole host of dangerous, physical ailments and symptoms. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever drink alcohol, once you’re of legal age. But it does mean that alcohol is a poor answer to life’s problems.

Positive Coping

Similarly, there are positive coping skills. Going for a run or channeling your anxieties and negative thoughts into physical activity can be a healthy and effective outlet for stress. Exercise and physical movement have a positive long-term impact on your mental and physical wellbeing but are also useful in the short term, leading to the release of endorphins.

However, that doesn’t mean working out or breaking into a sprint will solve your problems, and just like anything else, you can overdo exercising, leading to overuse injuries and joint pain.

Coping Is Not the Answer to All Problems

Coping skills help us feel better, but they are not an answer to our problems. They are meant to help us deal with them, directly or indirectly, without introducing new ones. As such, we can split coping skills into maladaptive (such as resorting to substance use or self-harm) and constructive (such as exercises and creative outlets, like journaling and painting).

Building positive habits and finding effective, constructive coping mechanisms are both important tasks in adolescence, because these habits can carry on into adulthood, and help you deal with life’s future stressors, like mental health and school.

Planning a Schedule to Balance Mental Health and School

Being overwhelmed is a major source of stress for teens and adults alike. Effective time management is important for mental health and school to avoid overwhelming amounts of stress, such as concurrent deadlines, mounting pressure from parents and teachers on late projects, or your own sense of guilt for procrastinating. That is where learning to create realistic and helpful schedules – and finding ways to stick to them – is important.


First, we need to address procrastination and feelings of guilt. Many of us grow up to learn that being lazy is bad and that procrastination is a character fault. However, research tells us that putting things off is often a natural consequence of poor mood and psychological health. It becomes a vicious cycle, as procrastination leads to negative outcomes, which leads to poor experiences and even more procrastination.

We avoid the things that we are worried about but, in turn, only make them worse, as the pressure to address them mounts to a breaking point, at which point we rush to complete our tasks and feel a momentary sense of relief before the cycle restarts.

Creating Realistic Time Management Skills

Building healthy time management skills and realistic schedules can help avoid this destructive cycle of procrastination and guilt. Consider creating a list of everything you need to accomplish in a given week and break that list down into manageable daily tasks.

Break each task down into chunks of 30-minute to one-hour working periods and plan your day around these work times. Interrupt the monotony of your tasks with frequent snack and water breaks, music, and stretching.

Have a friend or study group hold you accountable to your schedule and remind you to focus or refocus on your work. By breaking your weekly tasks down into individual daily segments, you can take your time and focus on the tasks at hand without rushing to get a week’s worth of work done in a single day.

Put Together a Mental Health Kit

If you are prone to episodes of anxiety or depression, then it might be a good idea to put together your very own mental health kit. These are emergency kits you can refer to, to boost your mood, help you cope with your feelings, take a break, or seek help. A few examples of kits you can put together include:

  • Digital playlists of videos or music that make you feel better.
  • Your favorite (healthy!) snack, kept in your bag or close at hand.
  • Something to fidget with or stimulate your hands or mind, such as a puzzle toy.
  • A pocketbook you enjoy rereading.
  • A journal to create notes, list your thoughts and go over your emotions.
  • And more.

Tell Your Friends and Form a Support Network

Positive coping skills, mood boosters, and better time management habits can help us keep our negative thoughts in check and promote a healthier state of mind. But it’s dangerous to assume that our mental health is something we can control entirely on our own. There will be tougher days than usual and times when nothing seems to help. It’s important not to blame yourself for these days or feel like a failure for needing help. No one is an island – we are all connected and help each other through life.

As such, it’s important to discuss your condition with your closest friends and family and emphasize the need for a support network. Set up a group chat to talk with your friends and share your feelings. Get on calls frequently. Spend time together. Organize a plan for how to help one another on darker days. And share resources for emergency situations, such as self-help numbers, the numbers of a good therapist, the school counselor, or a reputable psychiatrist.

When Is It Time to Get Help?

Mental health professionals, such as those at Visions Treatment Centers, are trained to help whenever they are needed, and not just when a person has reached their breaking point.

Do not wait for a “rock bottom” of any kind, learning to effectively deal with mental health and school is essential. If you are feeling confused about your emotions, if your mood has been down a lot lately, if you can’t stop feeling sad, or if you are just beginning to feel burnt out – even before school has begun! – it’s time to ask for help.

Education Mental Health Recovery Therapy

Teen Academic Support During Therapy

In both inpatient and outpatient cases, teens undergoing treatment for a psychiatric condition will face daily challenges and undergo a long-term transformation. Yet, in inpatient treatment cases, teens will often be asked to leave behind their friends, school, and family to spend time in a completely different setting, whether for just a few weeks or several months. And while this is happening, it’s natural to ponder about continuing academia or teen academic support during therapy.

This can be a reason for some teens to reconsider or worry about the implications of mental health treatment. Is it worth putting everything on hold to “get better”? And what if it doesn’t work?

Not Being Left Behind

Life is challenging as it is – juggling relationships, family, and school responsibilities can be daunting, and for many teens, seeking help might mean having to forego some of these responsibilities. Teens don’t want to be left behind, whether it’s academically or socially.

Assuaging these fears is important. And this is why academic support is crucial.

A New Setting Can be Overwhelming

Residential treatment centers usually entail taking a teen out of their usual environment and putting them in a completely new setting, with new peers, new therapists, and different faces. This can be overwhelming – but it’s not all new. Teens in residential therapy will still have school responsibilities, they will still have teachers, they will still have lessons and curriculums, and they will still have peers to talk to.

Consistency is Key

Having these elements stay consistent in a teen’s life, both within and outside the context of therapy, is important. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and even psychosis can thrive in chaos and confusion. Consistent schedules, ongoing responsibilities, and opportunities for self-improvement can help teens focus on the day-to-day task at hand, avoid rumination, and build up their self-esteem – while keeping them on an equal playing field with their friends and peers back in school.

Should Teens in School Go into Treatment?

This is a trick question – mental health treatment needs to be made available to everyone who needs it and wants it, and everyone who needs or wants it should be able to confidently seek help from a mental health professional and get a treatment plan tailored to their circumstances and symptoms.

Teens are no exception, and in fact, adolescence is one of the most important periods to tackle mental health issues, as it provides greater opportunities for therapists and mental health professionals to impart the importance of healthy coping skills, and help teens tackle their symptoms before they grow worse in adulthood or lead to co-dependent health issues later in life.

However, treatment for teens needs to take their circumstances into account just as much as it does for adults. Adults who cannot afford to leave work won’t be able to consider residential treatment as an option, for example.

Teen Residential Treatment and Therapeutic Day School

In the case of teen treatment, residential treatment can be made possible through a robust and accredited academic program that continues to instruct teens as per state- or school-specific curriculum, offering them the opportunity to keep up with their peers while seeking help for their symptoms.

It’s still work. Teens in treatment will be expected to show up to lessons, do homework, and prepare for exams – all while continuing to attend treatment sessions, both individually and in groups, and participating in group activities. Preparing for your SATs or college application deadlines while going to therapy for a dual diagnosis can be tough.

But a day school in a residential treatment facility sets itself apart from a regular day-to-day classroom in that teens in treatment can seek individualized tutoring and may be better able to learn within the setting of a residential treatment clinic versus a conventional classroom.

Synergizing Academic Achievement and Mental Health Treatment

Meanwhile, there is synergy between promoting academic achievement and the mental health treatment process. Just as doing better mentally can help you study, an individually tailored academic program can help you feel better mentally.

Some teens don’t respond well to the typical structure of a school day or haven’t managed to find a way to study that suits them, especially if they’re struggling with the symptoms of a neurobehavioral disorder like ADHD.

Individualized Support and Education

Individualized support in the form of a day school at a residential treatment center can help teens balance studying with their mental health, improve their ability to cope with stressors while retaining information, and find alternative ways to prepare for tests and learn without the pressure and classroom setting of a normal school. Furthermore, day school programs help teens ensure that they aren’t left behind while in therapy and synergize treatment with a teen’s day-to-day academic responsibilities.

Helping teens improve their responses to stressors and prepare for the challenges that lie ahead are important parts of therapy. Some teens are too afraid to speak up about their depressive feelings or anxiety symptoms because they don’t want these things to jeopardize their chances at college, affect their relationships, or be a burden on their grades. But they are – if left untreated.

Teens with mental health issues have a much harder time retaining information and doing well at school – and these issues can continue to be exacerbated later in adulthood.

Furthermore, adolescence is a crucial chapter in the rest of a teen’s life – academic performance can have an impact on career options and college opportunities. Helping teens improve their grades through residential treatment serves as a major boon for the rest of their lives.

Choosing a Residential Treatment Clinic

Residential treatment centers differ in the modalities they offer and the facilities they have. Not all residential treatment clinics offer a day school and teen academic support programs for teens. When choosing a treatment clinic for yourself or your loved one, choose one with an accredited academic program and a reputation for helping teens continue their studies while in treatment.

A residential or inpatient treatment clinic is often just the first step in a longer journey. In many cases, mental health isn’t about curing a defect, but about learning to cope with one’s unique circumstances, and living a full and happy life in spite of the challenges one faces.

Teen Academic Support During Therapy at Visions Treatment Centers

If you or your teen is considering entering into residential treatment but worried about falling behind in academics, contact us today.

At Visions Treatment Centers, we offer Day School for teen academic support while receiving therapy. With a consistent schedule and custom-made curriculum plan, you or your teen will get the professional help they need while maintaining grades, social activities, and more.


2020 Back-to-School Emotional Wellness Checklist for Teens

We’re all going through a rough time with the ongoing pandemic. Some of us have lost close friends and loved ones. Many of us have lost work. The stress of isolation can take its toll quickly, and even after lockdowns have lifted, the restrictions we must impose on ourselves can have a tremendous effect on our mental and emotional wellness and health.

Our children are heavily affected, as well. The teenage years are already quite tumultuous and stressful for many growing young adults but add to it a break in routine and learning, and cabin fever, and we’re faced with a generation experiencing a profound impact on their emotional development.

As we continue to navigate this difficult situation and remain cognizant of the dangers of the virus, it’s important to take our children’s (and our own) mental and emotional wellness and well-being into consideration, and work together to stay sane and safe while dealing with the day-to-day effects of the crisis. To help parents and teens alike, here’s our 2020 back-to-school emotional wellness checklist.

Spending More Time With Friends (Safely)

Social contact is important, especially for teens. But what shape or form that contact will take depends highly on the options at hand. As dangerous as COVID-19 is, it’s not the most obvious or looming threat – and we’re only reminded of it when it invariably strikes, either in the news or within the community. This can make it difficult for teens to uphold and remember social distancing guidelines, particularly if they’re hanging out together.

Teens do want to keep each other safe – but that’s not always easy, or possible when interacting socially. Consider encouraging your teen to continue hanging out with friends after lockdowns have ended, but safely and without as much danger of physical contact and viral transmission. While visits to the mall or theater might be out of the question, and activities like basketball or hiking greatly increase the risk of infection, biking (with masks) offers fun while minimizing contact.

There’s always virtual interaction. Chances are your teen already has a group chat or two, and they might even be calling their friends regularly. But if they aren’t, why not bring it up as an idea? Video and voice-only group calls can act as a great substitute to face-to-face meetings, especially when combined with a degree of interactive fun. Video games can oftentimes be a much-needed source of fun, safe social interaction.

There are, of course, risks to overdoing it in the virtual world – most notably cyberbullying and the effects of negative online media. But when used as a tool to stay in touch with friends, the Internet can be a critical tool in keeping sane during these strange times.

Creating and Maintaining Routines

The risks of rumination are greater than ever, especially at a time when routines are falling apart and it’s becoming difficult to keep track of time. Whenever we aren’t keeping ourselves busy, it’s easy for the mind to slip into a bit of despair and anxiety regarding the current state of affairs.

Whether it be from abstract worries to the more immediate complaints of missing out on a tournament due to cancelled events, or missing one’s partner and friends after weeks and months spent apart. Encourage your teen to structure their week, making sure they’re waking up and falling asleep at the same times, and keeping busy with chores, schoolwork, exercising, and socializing.

They might need a little help and a little encouragement, and it’d be a good reason to create and keep up a routine of your own. Having a routine not only lets you keep track of time as the week progresses, but it helps keep your mind busy and active during times where isolation and inactivity can lead to ruminating thoughts, negative feelings, and the fear of being “stuck”.

These feelings can be especially disastrous for teens, as they’re in the middle of learning to form important habits and becoming self-reliant, and they need consistent and healthy sleep schedules to ensure proper emotional and neurological development. Routines also help both teens and adults develop a sense of normalcy and calm any emerging anxieties.

Practicing Self-Care and Improving Emotional Wellness

Self-care is a term that can seem confusing at first, but it generally boils down to anything you can do for yourself to take a break or destress, without necessarily being destructive. That rules out happy hour drinks or going through several bags of junk food, and instead focuses on things like skincare, exercise, cooking, baking, painting, writing, or reading a new book.

Just as routines develop and promote a sense of normalcy and help deal with feelings of anxiety or ruminating thoughts, incorporating these things into your day-to-day can help stave off some of the effects of social isolation and stress, and let teens create a definite boundary between their responsibilities (chores and schoolwork) and the time they use for themselves.

Seeking Teletherapy Related Options and Solutions

For teens who require ongoing physical or mental healthcare, the pandemic crisis may have had a drastic impact on the frequency and level of your teen’s care. It’s important to prioritize effective teletherapy related services to help them continue to deal with the symptoms of their chronic condition.

Some teens have also recently developed mental health problems as a result of COVID-19, including (but not limited to):

    • The recent and sudden school closures.
    • The loss of a loved one.
    • Worries due to financial instability and job loss in the family.

Such problems can include depression, panic attacks, and anxiety. Teletherapy can be an important part of dealing with these severe mental health issues and developing the toolkit to stay safe during the pandemic.

Providing Calm and Steady Support

It’s important for teens (and all of us) to understand that it’s normal to feel anxious in these times, and to lean a little more heavily on those around us as a source of support. Just as it’s important to support one another, stay connected, and maintain self-care routines. With the crisis exacerbating all other stress, balancing mental and emotional wellness is critical.


School Is Changing…Now What?

Understanding Student Fears

As we step into a school year of uncertainty, expect that your child is most likely experiencing one primary emotion: fear. Fear of the unknown. What will their school experience be like? Can they keep up with remote learning? Will I ever see my friends again? What will happen to their sports, clubs, extracurriculars, etc.? What about college?

The list goes on, as do the myriad of shifting variables impact student performance and vitality. While the Spring semester was largely sporadic and disorganized, students collectively assumed that by the Fall, it would be back to normal, and as we know, it is not. The looming permanency of their alternate learning model and school experience can be deeply unsettling for students, and we must validate and recognize their emotional realities.

Starting Conversations

The best defense when confronting and unpacking student stress is a good offense. In this case, that strong offense is communication. Effective parents will learn to ask questions without smothering their child with their adult interpretations, impressions, and opinions. Remember, a conversation with a student needs to be dialogue, not a parent monologue. Ask your students what emotions they are experiencing. For example:

    • What are they fearful of?
    • How would they assess and rate their level of intrinsic motivation?
    • What supports do they need (both tangible and intangible) from their parents?
    • What learning model do they prefer?
    • What environment do they feel would best allow them to succeed?

Rather than rebutting or attempting to immediately pacify or explain-away their responses, simply hold space and allow them to process and vent.

Redefining Your Relationship With Learning

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that not all kids miss comprehensive school. Contrary to our assumptions, many students actually prefer the opportunity to learn at their own pace, in a smaller environment, void of the social pressures and larger environments that lend themselves to mental health struggles. Yes, as kids, we adults went to school in-person, are experiencing the more traditional experience.

The world has changed, however, and your student’s potential, vibrancy and response to learning might actually increase in an alternative setting. On the other hand, students who are missing that traditional school experience, but are lacking their normal extracurricular activities, can grow disengaged; simply stated, the Zoom life is not for them. In these instances, I strongly recommend thinking outside the box and looking for methods to capture real-life learning opportunities.

Some examples include (but not limited to):

    • Learning to invest in the stock market
    • Learning to cook
    • Reading the classics
    • Taking a college course in a curricular area that is purely based on their intrinsic passions

Keeping It Simple

During this season of uncertainty, it is best to operate in the here and now. Avoid talking about academics in the long-term. Instead, carve out structure in your home that will increase reliability, predictability, and ease tension. Think:

    • Eat
    • Sleep
    • Exercise
    • School
    • Play

Collaborate with your child to establish an expected routine where there are clearly defined times and spaces for your child to live their whole life (safely of course). Simply winging-it will result in a breakdown both in productivity and family dynamics.

Changing the Narrative

Children don’t always listen to you, but they are always watching you. Yes, this is a time of unending stress and turmoil, but no, that is not what we need to focus on with our children. I am not suggesting that you dismiss the world’s reality, but as far as education is concerned, remaining positive and optimistic will pay great dividends than constant complaints.

If kids hear a continuous narrative that remote learning is ineffective, that the teachers are horrible, that the school is negligent, etc. those opinions will seep via osmosis into the paradigm of your children. Together, we need to work with what we have, and curate opportunities to optimize the hand we have been dealt.

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Risk Factors for Substance Abuse for Teens

While there is no way to definitively predict which teens might develop a substance abuse disorder, there are a number of risk factors that considerably increase the likelihood an abuse problem will occur. By understanding these risk factors, parents and others involved in a child’s life can employ effective protective actions to minimize the risk. Below are a few of the common factors that raise the chances substance abuse could become a problem by the time a child becomes a teenager.

Family history of substance abuse is one of the biggest risk factors for children develop a substance abuse disorder by the time they hit the teen years. Prenatal exposure to alcohol may also make a person more vulnerable to substance abuse later in life.

Children that are around substance use, either by parents, friends or members of their community, may regard drugs and alcohol as a normal part of life. They may not recognize the dangers of using these substances, which puts them at increased risk of addiction.

Children who are impulsive or aggressive in the early years of life may also be more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Aggressive behavior could lead to anti-social tendencies, while impulsivity is an individual risk factor that involves the inability to set limits on one’s behavior.

Mental Health
The connection between a substance abuse disorder and a mental illness is very high. In some cases, the person may use substances to cope with the painful symptoms of the mental illness. Other times, regular substance use may trigger the symptoms of a mental disorder.

Family Life
Children with parents that abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to use the substances themselves. In addition, a home life that is stressful due to conflict or other difficult situations can also make a teen more likely to use substances as a way of dealing with the stress.

Social Life
Children that do not socialize well with their peers are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their loneliness. By the same token, teens who choose friends that use are more likely to use themselves as well.

Struggles in school, whether academically or socially, can also lead to substance abuse. The earlier the school problems begin, the more likely it is that substance abuse will become an obstacle over time.

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we have seen teens turn to drugs and alcohol for a wide range of reasons. While prevention should always be the primary focus in keeping this age group safe and healthy, sometimes prevention efforts are simply not enough to keep a potential addiction at bay. The good news is there are also effective methods of treating substance abuse that help teens move away from their abusive behaviors and into a healthier, sober way of life. To learn more about our treatment programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

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The Benefits of Blending School and Treatment

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There is tremendous value in combining school and treatment. Many clients come to us having fallen off-track in their education as a result of substance abuse and mental health issues. There may also be undiagnosed learning disabilities that need to be addressed. Falling grades and school pressure can create another layer of stress and panic for a teen. When an adolescent comes to treatment, it is our responsibility to provide them with both treatment and educational support that fosters an environment of safety and encouragement around learning and healing. At the same time, providing school and treatment simultaneously allows us to notice where an adolescent needs extra support so we can provide that client with adequate educational and clinical support.


I looked to Daniel Dewey, our Residential Director of Education, and Joseph Rogers, our Educational Coordinator at our Outpatient Day School for some insight and perspective, particularly since they each see both sides of the education/treatment pendulum. Daniel sees our clients from their initial point of treatment, while Joseph spends time with our clients during their aftercare process. Both of them promote and create foundational pieces to add to the bedrock of an adolescent’s recovery; they invite curiosity about learning, provide support during times of difficulty, and provide individualized methods of teaching to facilitate and nurture a healthy outlook on education.


Daniel gave me some wonderful insight when he said, “School is important for treatment success; when a resident can stay on track (or in many cases gets back on track) they will have a stronger foundation for their aftercare. School can be a big stressor, so if school can work with treatment, we feel residents will be better equipped to leave Visions and follow their academic path. Additionally, doing well in school tends to be a source of self-esteem for adolescents.  We want our clients to feel good about learning. Many of our clients come into treatment hopeless. It is our goal to help them see the intrinsic value in education and to guide them toward a meaningful life.”


Joseph gave us similar insights, which also help identify the continuum that occurs with school and treatment. He said,  “The practical piece of joining treatment and education is having the benefit of rolling enrollment – clients can enroll at any time, increasing their opportunities of getting back on track. Additionally, students may not be emotionally able or prepared to go back into a normalized educational setting. Having them in a setting that is therapeutically structured for their safety gives them the chance to practice their new behaviors before they go back to their regular school, and because we have clinicians on staff, we can react to and notice a change in behavior quickly and effectively.”


We understand the importance of creating a therapeutically alive and nourishing environment for our clients and their families. Placing school in the treatment arena allows us to support our clients at optimum levels, and it provides a multi-level aspect to the healing process. School and Treatment from the residential and outpatient perspective is a necessary stone in the path to wellness. It is beneficial to the adolescent, building confidence and self-esteem, and it is advantageous for parents to see their children simultaneously succeed in their education and in their substance abuse and mental health treatment.

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Well Wishes As Visions’ Joseph Rogers Moves On

Joseph Rogers has been with Visions since 2005, first as a recovery mentor at our Mulholland facility and later becoming the Director of Education at the Outpatient Day School. Joseph has run the Mindfulness Meditation/11th Step, Spirituality group since 2007, exploring how developing spiritual practice is applicable to recovery. He also co-facilitates the Outpatient DBT Skills group with Jesse Engdahl on Wednesdays. Two and a half years ago, Joseph stepped down from the Director position in order to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree and begin the process of stepping into his new role of Chaplain. This has been a long-time coming: Joseph has been in facilitator/teacher training with Against the Stream Meditation Society for the last 5 years, and has built a remarkable community of cohorts and students.


It with great pride and excitement, as well as a bit of a heavy heart, that we bid Joseph farewell as he steps onto a new path. Joseph will begin his residency at UCLA, earning his CPEs (Clinical Pastoral Education) at the top of September. As sad as we are to see him leave the Visions nest, we are excited to see where this takes him. Joseph offers a sense of calm assurance to the deeply suffering, and he is able to hold space for vulnerable people in a profound manner. UCLA has a priceless jewel on their hands.


Joseph has been a consistent members of the VTeam for almost a decade, seamlessly blending boundaries and compassion, while encouraging a love for learning. He has created a foundational resource for the kids and staff to look to for support as well as leadership. Many alumni and staff alike will joyfully reminisce about learning history through the various comedic voices Joseph uses.  He has been the rock for many, and the quiet storm of compassion for all.


Joseph isn’t completely leaving Visions, however. He will continue to run the Mindfulness Meditation/11th Step, Spirituality group and he will continue to co-facilitate the outpatient DBT Skills group. Despite our denial that he won’t be with us every day, we are really excited for him and grateful for his dedication and commitment to Visions. Joseph has carved out a thoughtful, compassionate path of service, dedicating his life to help others recover and find peace with their suffering. Reverend Joseph Rogers, M.Div as a nice sound to it, eh?


“A kind, gentle soul. I will miss seeing Joseph’s smile everyday. I always look forward to his gems and guidance. A true friend I have found. I wish him the very best as he sets out on his journey. The world is a better place for him being here. Thank you for the honor of working with you.”– Noelle Rodriguez


“Ahhh! JRO! We will miss you and your gentle ways. Throughout the years, you have been a driving force for our school. You provide so much more than a basic education to our kids; the love you have put into it has been so good for us and the clients. We are so proud of your hard work and making it into the UCLA program, you truly lead by example. We will miss you very much. Thank you for the years spent together!” Amanda Shumow


I befriended Joseph years ago while I was studying at CSUN in the credential program. I told him that I worked at a little place called Visions and he was immediately interested. Soon after being hired, he took the position at IOP as teacher. Over the years he has made his mark as a calm leader with a fierce passion for his work. Joseph is wise and knows enough to always be learning. He is an educator in the truest sense of the word and will be missed by staff and students alike. His contribution to Visions has been, and will forever be, immeasurable. Joseph embodies the words of Bruce Lee: “A teacher is never a giver of truth; he is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself.” – Daniel Dewey


“​Joseph is an amazing person, teacher and soul.  He is someone that you meet and instantly feel that you are in the presence of someone wise, calm, and fearless. I wish him all the best, in all that he does!” — Jenny Werber

“I’ve never known anyone to be more universally liked by clients and parents than Joseph. Joseph is the rare person with whom you can disagree, but still feel your view was thoughtfully considered, while not feeling imposed by his own.”  – Garth LeMaster


“Joseph, you are a man with great insight and gentle wisdom. I have seen you live your convictions, tenderly heal wounded children and be the doorway of understanding for lost souls. I wish you peace, joy, challenges and love. Thank you for your part in my crazy art lady journey.”  Ever faithfully yours — Susan “The Art Lady” O’Conner


“Joseph has not only been an amazing role model as a productive co-worker but has become an amazing friend and mentor for whom I will dearly miss. I wish nothing but the best for him and all the experiences to come. You will be missed and loved always ” — Nick Riefner


“Joseph’s energy is contagious in every way possible. Every time I see him, no matter what is happening, he seems calm and at peace… For someone as anxiety driven as I am, being around someone so serene is refreshing. I have so much respect for Joseph and aspire to one day walk with as much dignity as he does.” – Ashley Harris 


“Joseph will be missed.  He has a very special way of relating to our clients that involves, at times, an extraordinary amount of patience.  I often sit out here at my desk and listen in to the conversations going on between Joseph and the kids.  I am equally entertained, amazed, and grateful to have been a fly on the wall of Joseph’s classroom.” – Natalie Holman


“I’ll miss Joseph terribly, I think it’s been so beneficial for our teens to see strength in a man shown through kindness, non judgment and calmness.” Roxie Fuller


“Thank you, Joseph. Thank you for helping to create an environment for learning, healing and recovery for Visions kids and families. Thank you for your unique perspective for leading the education and meditation groups and classes. There is some thing very special about the way you gently lead the kids with confidence and class. Thank you, Joseph!” – John Lieberman


“Joseph has been teaching me since my first day – a friend, a mentor, and a big brother all in one.  I’ve been afforded so much of his wisdom and care from this relationship, it will be really hard not to have him here all the time.  Riding shotgun while he teaches mediation, DBT, or most importantly sober FUN, he constantly helps me take care of the kids and myself in the kindest and simplest ways.  No one can really imagine Visions without him; I’m just grateful for all the time I’ve had with him and that he will still be doing groups with me.” – Jesse Engdahl


“Joseph has been such a huge part of my Visions experience and I think I’m the saddest to see him go. He is my friend, my teacher, my mentor, and my right hand. He has always been so supportive and understanding of things only us Visions teachers would understand. He has a strange yet peaceful way about him that makes any day a good day. He always seems to have the right words of wisdom in any situation and it’s hard to imagine he won’t be around. After years of morning check-ins about life, love, and the pursuit of sanity I’m going to miss him dearly. I wish him the best in his new endeavors and I am forever grateful for the time, wisdom, knowledge, and random facts he’s passed on to me. I’ll continue to make you proud, Jofes… thank you for being my shoulder to whine on, my ear to vent, and my rock to keep me sane.” – Adriana Camarillo


“With a heavy heart, I bid farewell to an amazing man, father and colleague. I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Joseph for nearly a decade and it’s hard to imagine my day-to-day without him. Joseph represents a quiet force, guiding his students with conviction and offering hope where there may be none. While he continues to be a spiritual inspiration to both staff and students, we will miss the man who, for so long, has been the core of Visions Day School.  The feeling is bittersweet. Selfishly, we want him to stay. But the truth is, he has another calling and with that, I honor his path and I am always grateful for this experience.” – Fiona Ray


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Teens Are Going Back to School

School is back in session! This means that the unstructured schedule of summer has ended and the wild teen energy requires a shift toward focus and effort.


It’s tough because you go from a veritable free-for-all (Summer) to a highly focused environment where there are higher expectations, firmer schedules, and of course, the dreaded homework. Kids who spent the summer in camp may have had some structure, but the truth is, it’s nowhere near as rigid as school. Bedtime has been later and waking up took on a leisurely state. School starting is a definite shift.


The positives about returning to school, according to one anonymous teen are, “You get to see your friends again and you get to learn.” In middle school and high school, friends hold a lot of power over each other. Often more important than classroom connection is the forming of social groups outside of class: in the halls, on the yard, et cetera. This is where the real influence, be it negative or positive occurs, and for kids more akin to following than leading, this can represent a shift toward bad decision making. Conversely, a child who is processing a lot of personal conflict (eg, family) may be drawn to kids who are acting out or whose behavior is outside of the norm. On the contrary, some kids are extremely skilled at creating the equivalent of work/life balance, both in maintaining good grades and in having a healthy social life.


Socialization can be tough, especially in adolescence. I often refer to teens as messy, and I say that because their emotional and physical terrain is rapidly changing and unpredictable. Even a kid with little to no conflict is still going to experience the messiness of adolescence. I find that one of the biggest things these kids need is validation: a confirmation that what they are going through is normal. I keenly remember how rough adolescence was. It was downright confusing and miserable at times. And at others, it was pure, unadulterated excitement! I remember thinking some kids “had it made” because they had all of the “stuff” I thought I needed, but later finding out they were suffering as much as I was.


Some teens can’t stop the summer fun, though. They want to carry on with late-night shenanigans far into September and October. It’s true: we do see an increase in clients during that time. Don’t wait until the first bad report card to do something; pay attention from day one to the way in which your teen is acclimating. Are they struggling? Is getting back to the “grind” harder than usual? Maintain an open, transparent place to have discussions with your teen.


  • Listen: Sometimes teens (and kids in general) just want to vent without receiving advice. “I hear how frustrating that is” or “That sounds difficult” can go a long way. Kids are actually skilled at coming to a healthy solution on their own if we allow them the opportunity.


  • Be present: Create a technology free period where you are together as a family and be willing to participate in each other’s lives.


  • Don’t take it personally:  Teens love to push buttons. If you can let the small stuff roll off your back, do. An eye roll can be ignored. Choose your battles.



Lastly, encourage your teen to avoid and/or ignore the kids whose choices are questionable, and to choose friends who are dedicated to their education and making positive choices.  Our teens look to us as parents to be their guide. We are their first teachers. If our attitudes about school and learning are positive and healthy, they will inadvertently adopt them (most of the time). If our attitudes about learning and school are mercurial, then guess what, our kids will adopt that same, fickle attitude toward learning.




“If you want your children to improve, then let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.” Dr. Haim Ginott














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