“My Son is In Residential Treatment. Now What?”

Sending your teen to a residential treatment center is one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make. This post is for those parents who have already made that choice. I want to talk a little about seeking support for yourself while your son is in a residential or wilderness program and about setting up follow-up therapy for your son when he returns.

I have many years of experience working in a residential, therapeutic school serving emotionally and academically challenged teen boys. Residential treatment, with its round-the-clock supervision, highly structured behavioral programs, and multiple staff members is vastly different than once or twice per week therapy.

Parents often find themselves confused about what to do when their son is currently in treatment. Your son’s treatment center may offer services such as family therapy or family visits while he is in treatment, or you may be left wondering, “Is there anything I can be working on while he is gone?” The answer is a strong “Yes.”

Recovering from difficult events, planning for your child’s return, rebuilding your marriage, strengthening your limit-setting skills, and working on your own relationship or personal-development issues are some of the ways you as a parent can utilize the time your son spends in residential placement. Even though your son may have been the one acting out most severely, the rest of the family often has therapeutic work to do. You can prepare a more stable and structured environment for your son’s return.


Parents and teens need support after residential treatment ends. The transition from residential placement to home re-entry is nearly always very challenging for teens and their families, and the work does not end when the treatment program is completed.
After the initial excitement and relief of having your son home there is usually a “honeymoon phase”, then old patterns and issues often re-surface, and your son may struggle to apply the things he learned in his treatment program. He will find that most people cannot relate to the things he has been through, and adjusting to a new routine after having life-changing experiences can be extremely difficult for everyone involved.
Your family will likely need support in helping your son to maintain his sense of progress and avoid (or manage) regression or relapse. This can take the form of individual counseling, family therapy, a structured set of rules for the home, or all of these. In-home structure takes practice and support to maintain, and a one-time decision to “do better” is seldom enough.

Safe place

Also, while many programs offer quality services, your son may have been exposed to negative tactics or harmful experiences while in treatment. He will need a place to process his feelings about his time away, recover from painful events, and apply the most positive aspects of his treatment to his present life.
This is an area in which I am excited to be able to serve our community. If you have placed your son in an out-of-home setting and need support, please call or email to speak with me.