Parents considering residential treatment for a troubled teen often wonder what daily life will be like for their teen in this type of program. To illustrate how these programs work meet a fictional teen as she spends her day in an adolescent residential treatment center (RTC).
Introduction to Amber - Troubled Teen
At age 15 Amber is participating in the fictional treatment program Helping Teens, where she has been admitted for angry and rebellious behavior. After participating in outpatient therapy for several months she physically threatened a teacher and was expelled from school, leading to her placement in this program.
Amber's Daily Schedule in Residential Treatment
Residential treatment centers are based on a schedule that provides intensive therapy, support and structure to teens. Specific activities and therapies are adjusted based on each teen's presenting problems.
Here's how Amber spends a typical day:
7:00 AM: wake -up
Her room must be cleaned and organized before breakfast. The counselors supervising the unit where she lives evaluate Amber's efforts and she's awarded points based on the results. Earning a high number of points will help her move forward in the phase system.
8:00 AM: breakfast in the cafeteria
The teen residents work together to clear dishes and wipe off tables after the meal is over.
8:30 AM: morning meeting
This daily meeting is held in the unit living area during which residents set a goal for the day and work through any conflicts between residents.
9:00AM- Noon: school
Amber attends school on-site where she gets individualized attention and instruction to get caught up with the academic credits she's missed due to misbehavior in public school.
12:00- 12:45PM: lunch
12:45-1:00PM:supervised break to socialize with other residents
1:00- 2:30PM: group therapy
The same therapist Amber meets with for individual therapy facilitates group therapy sessions attended by residents with similar problems. In daily sessions the residents give and receive help in dealing with the reasons they are in treatment and learning better ways to cope.
2:30- 3:30 PM: recreation therapy
She participates in recreation therapy designed to physically release some of that anger.
3:45- 4:30 PM: art therapy
It's time for art therapy in which she's encouraged to express herself using various art materials. Sometimes residents work on their own projects, other days they work on projects in small groups. Today Amber is asked to create a visual representation of a situation that makes her angry.
4:30- 5:15 PM: free time
Amber has time before dinner to work on her journal and complete homework.
5:15- 5:30 PM: medication
She goes with residents in her unit to the nurse's station to get her medication.
5:30 - 6:15 PM: dinner
6:15- 7:15: family therapy
Family therapy sessions are held weekly. Tonight all family members attend with the discussion focusing on how Amber's siblings are afraid of her.
7:15- 7:45 AM: social time
Amber spends ½ hour socializing with her family with supervision provided by her unit counselors.
7:45- 8:45 PM: therapy education
Tonight an educational program is presented by staff on the topic of social skills.
The exact time is determined by what phase Amber has achieved.
The structure of teen residential programs is a significant aspect of their effectiveness. Different programs will have different resources and emphasis. As of this writing our fictional troubled teen is making steady progress in her treatment.