Sage Education Group

Therapeutic and Emotional Growth Placements

Adolescents and young adults face an array of developmental tasks - physical, emotional, intellectual, and social - that at times are daunting. While many of our daughters and sons negotiate these tasks with minimal disruption, others need extra support. They may experience depression, anxiety, identity confusion, difficulty forming healthy relationships. They may struggle with new or continued academic frustration when school expectations change. Adopted teens, and those facing family disruption or death, may face grief and additional uncertainty about identity and the meaning of family.

As any parent knows, the expression of these emotional or academic challenges is not likely to be direct. Rather, we may see anger, withdrawal, defiance, school refusal or failure. Various forms of self-harm or poor judgment are not uncommon; these may include abuse of alcohol or other drugs, unhealthy eating habits, overuse of computer games or the internet, and inappropriate sexual activity.

For many struggling teens and their families, local resources such as school counselors and teachers, extended family members, faith-based youth groups or other alternative peer groups, and psychotherapists provide sufficient support. Other families find that a son or daughter can better move forward in a setting with a more formal approach to nurturing teen development. These settings include therapeutic wilderness programs, residential treatment centers and therapeutic boarding schools. Such programs promote emotional health and responsibility through consistent structure, clear behavioral expectations and consequences, group and individual therapy, supportive or challenging academics, and physical activity. Mental health professionals and educators on staff encourage and teach students to become more accountable for their actions, more trusting and trustworthy, and better able to cope with life's inevitable challenges and disappointments.

These programs do not claim to "fix" a child who by implication is broken, nor do they “take over” for parents. Rather, they strive to guide both teen and family through a collaborative process of emotional growth, strengthening the base on which healthy habits and relationships - and ultimately, satisfying lives - are built.

Longer-term placements sometimes are preceded by a wilderness experience. (This is not "boot camp"). In a therapeutic wilderness program, a student joins a small group of age peers, led by professional therapists and field staff. In a clearly structured, simple outdoor environment without the pressures and distractions of popular culture, adolescents are guided to evaluate their lives to date, develop insights about the impact of their behaviors, and start to build an accurate sense of their own responsibility and capabilities - which often they have avoided or grossly underestimated. They begin a journey toward emotional health and maturity that can continue in a subsequent placement.