The year of 1985, in the state of Louisiana, marked the introduction of juvenile boot camps as short-term, cost-reducing, court-ordered alternatives to correctional facilities for troubled youth. (National Institute of Justice, n.d.) However, this quick-fix soon met its faults of over emphasizing problem behavior, lacking family involvement, leading to re-entry into the correction system, and causing recent tragic events. Thus, the intense, military-style boot camp for teenagers is losing its appeal to safer, longer term, more holistic alternative programs to help troubled teens.
Residential Treatment Program
One of the alternative programs for troubled youth is a residential treatment program that provides adolescents with therapy and continuous supervision. The New Foundation in Arizona is a great example of this program that offers therapeutic behavioral health programs and education to youth with mental and behavioral disturbances including depression, oppositional-defiant behavior, substance abuse and addiction, and learning disabilities. Although this program has existed since the 1970s, it established its first 30-day Residential Intensive Substance Use for youth ages 11 to 17 in 2008, providing support to both adolescents and their families. Application details are available on their website http://thenewfoundation.org/.
Other troubled youth programs include wilderness therapy, where survival in the wildlife provides youth with profound life lessons. One such program is Wood Creek Academy in the rural mountains of Western Montana. It targets troubled boys and girls with “dual diagnoses” from ages 13 to 17. A holistic approach is used to emphasize understanding the whole person over changing problem behaviors. Lasting 30-45 days, wilderness therapy provides long-lasting results by fostering “cooperation” over “confrontation”. The basic concept is that nature has a healing quality as it creates a “responsive rather than resistant environment” for youth to build on their strengths, learn independent living skills, and practice more effective alternative behaviors.
Therapeutic Boarding School
Therapeutic boarding schools provide emotionally and behaviorally disturbed youth with therapy and education in a private out-of-home placement. Crosswinds of Indiana offers a Christian therapeutic boarding school called Caribbean Mountain Academy with programs spanning from a semester to 18 months for youth ages 13 to 18. A unique feature of this program is the school’s location in the Dominican Republic that encourages freedom from material value. In addition to therapeutic activities, this program involves an academic curriculum, spiritual guidance, leadership training, relationship building, family communication skills training, and service building.
The main concept to take away is that the most effective troubled teen programs possess holistic, life-changing, strength-based, and family-based qualities.