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Considering Residential Treatment Programs for Children

NAMI has developed A Resource for Families Considering Residential Treatment Programs for Their Children to help families make an informed decision about sending their child to a residential treatment program.

Although most children with mental illnesses respond to standard treatments, some children with more serious mental illnesses continue to struggle. Residential treatment programs, including wilderness therapy programs, boarding schools, academies, behavioral modification facilities, and boot camps, are often considered once families have exhausted all community mental health care resources. While some residential programs offer nurturing and caring environments and use evidence-based interventions, others are highly dangerous and damaging. The most concerning programs are those that operate under the philosophy that young people must be broken before they can be helped. These programs use disciplinary techniques such as degrading confrontation, deprivation of basic physical needs, and alienation from family. These abusive methods can confer permanent psychological damage and divide the young person from his or her family.

NAMI's new web resource is intended to help families distinguish between residential treatment programs that are safe from those that may be dangerous and damaging. The resource guide can be accessed at: