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Finding the Right Program

Most parents seeking a treatment solution for their son or daughter are themselves in crisis, struggling with a combination of sorrow, fear, anger, and guilt. Add to this the confusing myriad of treatment options available, and it's enough to push most parents to desperation. With the right support, however, you can make a treatment choice that's based not on desperation, but on an understanding of your child's unique set of issues and the best available treatment options. 

There are several steps you can take to ensure that, even in this time of crisis and confusion, you make a rational and appropriate treatment choice for your child. 

Professional Advice

The best initial sources of advice regarding placement are educational consultants and mental health professionals. It's worth the cost of these services to ensure that you have the objective support, guidance, and advocacy you need to make a sound treatment choice. Many educational consultants will also provide third-party guidance and advocacy throughout the treatment process. 

Assessment

If your adolescent or young adult will comply, it's a good idea to have a full battery of psycho-educational assessments conducted to gain insight into the nature of your child's struggle. With the support of an educational consultant or mental health professional, this information can help you make a better placement choice. If your child is not compliant prior to treatment, however, these assessments can also be conducted during placement. You should check with your mental health professional for his or her recommendation. 

Talk to Other Parents

Once you've identified a program that seems promising, request to speak with parents. While these parents are likely to be handpicked because they have had a positive experience, those are really the parents you want to talk to! They can offer you program insight, a compassionate ear, and hope! 

Visit Your Top Picks

Always visit your top picks and use both your brain and your gut to make your decision. Insist on talking with students, staff from every department, and the program director. You should be allowed to tour the entire facility and ask questions freely. It's smart to come with a list of questions prepared; program visits can be taxing and it's easy to forget what to ask while you're touring. It's also important to listen to your gut when you visit a program; the program you select will be your child's home for a period of time, and no one knows your child like you do. 

Transport Services

If your adolescent or young adult is likely to resist a placement decision, it is recommended that you engage the services of a transportation service. Most programs and educational consultants can refer you to a safe, reliable transportation service that will provide professionals with mental health backgrounds who can safely transport your child to treatment. 

Create a Support System

Not only is picking a treatment program for your adolescent or young adult stressful, but that level of stress can actually temporarily decrease your cognitive functioning, making a difficult decision even more difficult. It's important to have the support of friends and family during this time both to sooth your emotions and to help you process information and think through options. This is not the time for isolation or secrecy. This is a time to reach out for support. 

Tell Your Story

The first step in any healing process is telling your story. Whether to a friend, family member, member of the clergy, or a mental health professional, or a program representative, telling your family's story is a critical part of really understanding it, and understanding it is critical to finding a solution. It's also just therapeutic to tell your story during a time of crisis, so don't try to go it alone if your child and family are suffering. 

Check Credentials and Associations

It's important to check the credentials of the programs and the staff they employ. Some basic credentials to look for include: 
   Program

  • JCAHO Accreditation
  • State licensure to operate as a treatment facility
  • Academic accreditation from a regional accreditation body such as NAIS or WASC
  • Membership in a national therapeutic association such as NATSAP

   Staff

  • Master's level therapists
  • Clinical leadership provided by PhD and/or clinically licensed therapists
  • State-credentialed and/or master's-level teachers
  • Special-education credentialed teachers on staff if your child has learning differences
  • 24 hour on-call medical staff (preferably RN, Nurse Practitioner, or physician)
  • Psychiatrist on staff or affiliated
  • Wilderness First Responder certification for wilderness program staff
  • First-Aid and CPR certified staff

Do Your Homework

Some reliable sources of sound therapeutic program information are The Woodbury Report and the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs