Boarding Schools
What are they and are
they right for my child?

What are Therapeutic Boarding Schools?
Therapeutic boarding options are the least restrictive option of the boarding treatment programs. They are designed to be similar to a boarding school but with built in individual and group therapy serving a population of children struggling with mild to moderate social/emotional issues. There is often a strong academic focus and most therapeutic boarding schools have academic staff as part of the program.
Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash.


What is the typical duration?

The minimum will vary, but you should expect at least a 9 - 12 month stay at a therapeutic boarding school, similar to a traditional boarding school year.

Many children will stay a full year and some up to two years. Almost all therapeutic boarding school programs require a minimum stay to fulfill their treatment protocol (and most are also for profit enterprises so count on the tuition). We understand how daunting it may feel when you first consider sending your child away.

Who is a good fit?

Teens that are a good fit for a therapeutic boarding school may be transitioning from either wilderness or residential treatment programs and would benefit from continued therapeutic care in a safe environment with trained staff attentive to their needs and development plans. Most therapeutic boarding schools treat a wide range of issues including self-harm, eating disorders, OCD and anxiety, depression, adoption issues, and a host of others.

Therapeutic boarding schools are not appropriate for anyone needing more intensive care or those who are a risk either to themselves or to others.

Do they work?

As with other wilderness and residential treatment programs, there is legitimate debate about how and whether therapeutic boarding schools work. However, we have seen that it can be transformative, with the right program and therapy, to remove a struggling teen out of the home environment and the related stressors and surround them in a group of children struggling with their own issues.

In addition, just as the name implies, a therapeutic boarding school is like a regular boarding school but with therapy built into the experience – both individual and group. Your child may not love the program, but many, if not most, of the families we have spoken with believe firmly in the value that these programs provide.

Q & A

Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Therapeutic boarding schools combine an academic focus, such as  college prep and/or credit recovery, with intensive therapy to support personal goals, ongoing stabilization, and healing. There is a stronger emphasis on academics at therapeutic boarding schools than at residential treatment. 

If your teen is willing to go to a therapeutic boarding school, then  you can accompany them, however sometimes it is easier to use a transport service. There is no right or wrong way to send your child to therapeutic boarding school as it is often an individual and personal choice.  Many families like to take their teen directly – it gives you an opportunity to see the facility  in person and meet with some of the staff. That said, it can be emotionally difficult so don’t be surprised if you find yourself crying in the parking lot after saying goodbye. We have all been there .  


If your teen is not willing to go, as with wilderness programs, there are “transport” programs that will come in the middle of the night to take your child from bed. The kids call it getting “gooned”.  (See the description above in wilderness.) The people who run the transport programs are experienced and will get your child through the airport and to the program safely. Yes – your child will likely be terrified and really, really angry at you for weeks if not months. But many of them will thank you later and sometimes it is the only way to safely remove a child from their current environment who is not willing to accept that they need immersive therapy    


Most teens  coming from wilderness or a residential treatment program find it to be an easy transition – more like a regular boarding school setting. 

All therapeutic programs will expect significant family involvement. As with wilderness therapy or residential treatment, the concept is that while the child needs individual focus and treatment, the whole family, but especially the parents, are a critical part of the healing process.  Most therapeutic boarding schools will want to give your child a short period of adjustment with limited contact with you.  They will typically have a parent orientation session at the facility shortly after arrival.  You will have regular check-ins with your child and your child’s therapist – likely weekly.  After the adjustment period, your child will generally be able to call you regularly.  These schools will typically have quarterly sessions with the parents on campus where you are working directly with your child and their therapist as well as in groups.  Therapeutic boarding schools are generally much less restrictive around visits home.  You can expect your child to come home for holidays and even as much as monthly, when the program believes that your child can handle that.  The idea is that, at this point, the child is getting ready to transition home, so these visits are a way to test how that will work.  


If you decide to send your child to a therapeutic boarding school, we encourage you to ask what kinds and level of engagement is expected of the family. The more, the better.

Absolutely.  Although most programs may prefer you to visit during regularly scheduled parent and family sessions.

As with wilderness programs, therapeutic boarding is expensive and, unfortunately, at least to date, most insurance companies will cover only a small amount of the cost – usually only specific periods that can be attributed to therapy with a professional. The costs vary, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $9,000-$12,000 per month – often around $500 a day. These costs cover everything from food and supplies (you pack only your child and clothing) to intensive individual and group therapy. This cost does not include transportation to and from home if and when they allow home visits or your own travel to the program. Putting your child in a therapeutic boarding school is a significant financial commitment. 

As with wilderness or residential treatment programs, deciding what comes next after therapeutic boarding school is made in tandem with the family and treatment team. Some may actually transition to a more restrictive program like residential or wilderness if the team thinks they need more time and structure. Many children are ready to come home or transition to a regular, non-therapeutic boarding school. Some families and teens will decide to start a new school or repeat an academic year for a fresh start. 

Therapeutic boarding options tend to be the least restrictive option of the treatment programs.  They are designed to be more like a boarding school but with built in individual and group therapy serving a population of children struggling with mild to moderate social/emotional issues. Most also have academic staff as part of the program. Teens who need more intensive treatment would benefit from being at wilderness and/or a residential treatment program first. Some teens are a better fit for a therapeutic boarding school (a level down from residential treatment programs and more emphasis on academics) And many children  can work through their issues staying at home and getting out-patient services. 

Do you want to find the right program?
Check our directory.

Do you have more questions?
See what parents in our community have to say..

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