Problem Teens: Residential Therapy and Making that Difficult Decision

Seeking residential help can be daunting online.

Seeking residential help can be daunting online.

Summer is here and some parents will be considering summer camps while others are in the midst of hoping their teenager passed the school year, or had enough credits to graduate. If you are the parent of a teen who is struggling with school and acting out, it can drive you to your wit’s end.

Maybe your once fun-loving teenager who is good looking, intelligent, and has lots of good friends is now talking back to you, staying out late or sneaking out, defiant, and possibly sexually active? On the flip side, your once sweet child might be a teenage misfit who is acting out because of bullying, or is experimenting with sex, drugs, and/or alcohol in a desperate attempt to find acceptance.

What happens when you have a teenager that decides they don’t want to finish high school when they are more than capable? Perhaps they were consistently getting excellent grades and now they are just getting by or failing completely.  From an overachiever to an underachiever.  Or you have the teen that used to be a great athlete, was a popular kid in school–suddenly your child has become withdrawn and is hanging with a group of new peers that are less than desirable.

Is this typical teen behavior?

Possible, but how do you know when it is and when you need to intervene?

As the school year is coming to an end, it is a good time for parents to evaluate where their teen is at both emotionally and academically–especially if they are in High School. These are your final years to make a significant difference in their lives, and get them on a positive road towards their futures. When a child is crying out for help by using illegal substances,  running away, flunking in school, becoming secretive, possibly affiliating with a gang, or displaying other negative behavior it is a parent’s responsibility to get involved, as painful as that is, and seek treatment.

When adolescents reach the point of rebelliousness, many parents will try therapy, and this is a good place to start. But the success of local treatment will depend on the child and how far their behavior has escalated. Unfortunately many parents I have spoken to have reported that the one-hour session once a week–or even twice a week–rarely makes a difference in their teen’s behavior. For many parents there comes a time when residential therapy is taken under serious consideration–especially if drugs and/or alcohol are an issue. It is important to seek outside help, and removing a teen from their environment can be critical in getting them the help they need to heal. This is particularly true when a teen needs to be separated from undesirable peers that are instigating or perpetuating their negative behavior.

Though the majority of teens are unwilling to attend residential treatment, most of them are professionally transported by experts in the field. Parents spend a lot of time and stress about this part of the decision, but hiring a professional in this field can lessen the worries. They are trained to work with at-risk youth and will ask you all about your child before they arrive. In speaking with many parents and teens that have successfully used transports, the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.

At the end of the day, your teen truly wants to feel good about themselves again, too. They want to be that happy child that you remember. Remember, they were once that a good kid, and they can become that good person again.  Being a teenager isn’t easy, and parenting that child when you have reached your wit’s end is a challenge. Knowing you are not alone helps!

Take away tips for parents:

When seeking residential treatment, I always encourage parents to look for three key components that I call the ACE factor:

  • Accredited Academics (Ask to see their accreditation): Education is important, some programs actually don’t offer it.
  • Clinical (Credentialed therapists on staff): Please note–on staff.
  • Enrichment Programs (Animal assisted programs, culinary, fine arts, sports etc): Enrichment Programs are crucial to your child’s program. They will help build self-esteem and stimulate them in a positive direction. Find a program with something your teen is passionate about or used to be passionate prior their path in a negative direction.

I also encourage parents to avoid three red flags:

  • Marketing arms and sales reps (All those toll-free numbers, be careful of who you are really speaking to and what is in the best interest of your child.)
  • Short term programs (Wilderness programs or otherwise, rarely is there a quick fix. Short term program are usually short term results. They usually will then convince you to go into a longer term program after you are there a few weeks–why not just start with one? Consistency is key in recovery. An average program is 6-9-12 months, depending on your child’s needs and the program.)
  • Statistics that show their success rate (I have yet to see any program or school have a third party–objective survey–perform a true statistical report on a program’s success. Success is an individual’s opinion. You have to do your own due diligence and call parent references.)

For more information about researching residential therapy and helpful tips, visit http://www.helpyourteens.com and don’t forget to review the list of questions for schools and programs so you can make an educated decision.

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Parent’s True Story: Searching for Teen Help

WitshandsAfter experiencing my good teen making some bad choices, I found myself surfing the Internet until I was so confused and stressed that I couldn’t make a decision. One group of specialty schools and behavior modification programs kept popping up wherever I clicked, and I figured they must be good. Then I received their beautiful glossy literature with a video that could make any parent weep.

Once the initial sticker shock wore off, the cost was reasonable in comparison with other programs, or so I thought until I enrolled my child. The hidden costs added up like a grocery bill. I was totally misled by the sales rep and made a rash decision. Mistake number one: being clueless as to whom you are speaking with when reaching out to these toll-free numbers. This is a common mistake for parents in a desperate situation. A swift sales rep is there waiting for you; meeting questions with the answers you want to hear and making promises that convince you they can help your child.

My true nightmare was just beginning.

Impressed by the fancy words and glossy brochures, I enrolled my child with the understanding that they were qualified to help. I am ashamed to say I never did a background check on these programs. I had called their parent references that they gave me (and later found out they were paid to talk to me, some actually receiving a free month’s tuition). I know many of you are thinking I must have been nuts, and you are right. In this stage of my life, I was at my wit’s end and just wanted help for my child.

Long story short, my frenzy and desperation led to my biggest mistake. I was looking for therapy and internalization through the help of professionals, but what I inadvertently ended up with was more of a teen warehousing program. This was not what they had sold me.

In retrospect, red flags went up shortly after I dropped my child off and I asked who the psychologist would be. Guess what? There was none, unless I wanted to pay extra! So who led the group therapy they raved about? There was no group therapy, there was a person, usually another student, who sat in a circle with them as they reflected. Their psychologist was available for another $100 per visit. But their sales reps had told me that there was a licensed therapist “on staff and on site.” I should have pulled my child then, but I thought I was over-reacting since I was in such a state of confusion and frenzy. The staff was very good at convincing me to “trust the program” instead of addressing my concerns.

My child wrote me letters: some good, some bad. According to the program, the good ones were considered manipulation; the bad ones were considered proof that she needed to stay longer. I couldn’t win and neither could my child.

During my child’s entire stay of almost six months, I was never allowed to speak with her. I only spoke with an employee once a week for 15 minutes (in further research, I discovered these employees had no credentials and many weren’t educated beyond High School, including the President of the organization). I later found out it usually takes up to six months to speak with your child, and in most cases up to a year to see them.

It took me months to realize that I had made a big mistake. In order to visit my child it was mandatory to attend some very bizarre seminars; I wrote my withdrawal letter immediately after the second seminar.

I brought my child home suffering from depression and nightmares from her time in a WWASPS program, and fear of being sent back had created suicidal thoughts.  My child went immediately into real counseling where, after almost two years, an excellent psychologist helped us recover from this horrible, traumatic post-WWASP experience. When my child felt confident that I wouldn’t send her back, I heard some unspeakable stories. I have also heard similar stories from many other post-WWASP aka WWASPS students and families suffering from the same post traumatic symptoms. Through this experience I have developed the opinion that fraud and misrepresentation, combined with a vulnerable parent, can lead to danger for a child. I believe in sharing my knowledge of this (very political) industry with as many families as possible.

So who am I? I am a parent that refused to be silenced. In 2001 I posted my story of what we endured. How my child was abused, how I was duped, and how they (in my opinion) continue to dupe others. WWASPS decided to sue me to have my story removed from the Internet. It went to a jury trial, and I won with truth as my defense.  My story is here and is also published in Wit’s End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen (Health Communications, Inc). I have continued to help families through my organization founded from our experiences, Parents’ Universal Resource Experts, Inc (P.U.R.E.)

As of March 2013, it is believed that WWASP aka WWASPS or Premier Educational Systems has affiliations with the following, click here.

If you are one of the many parents struggling with their teenagers — good kids making bad choices — you are not alone. If you are in need of teen help, residential therapy is an excellent resource.  In reality there are many more good programs than there are not so good; the key is to do your homework. I created a list of tips and questions to ask schools and programs before enrolling your child, as well as other valuable information. Be an educated parent and you will have safer and healthier teens. So ditch your denial and get proactive! Your child deserves a chance at a bright future.

Learn from my mistakes, gain from my knowledge…..

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Back to School: Is Your Teen Already Out of Control?

Yes, it is happening again.

We thought maybe a change of schools – maybe a new school year – maybe a fresh start – maybe a new maybe…..

Let’s face it, as parents we hope and pray that our teenager will grow out of that defiant behavior.  This age of entitlement and spoiled rotten brat syndrome is getting worse by the day.

The only refreshing thing is to know you are not alone!  Though it doesn’t make it easier.

One thing I can’t stress enough is parents can’t ignore the warning signs of a teen going down a negative road, especially if they are in their late teens.  Remember once they turn 18 they are no longer in your control – though they may still be living with you, you can’t force them to get help.

If your teen is 16 or 17 years old (especially 17+) and they are spiraling out of control,  it is imperative you seek help for them.  So many times, unfortunately, the once a week therapy session rarely is enough to make a difference at this point.  Usually a teen has been through several therapist – and they won’t even attend.

Don’t be a parent in denial – don’t think it is only marijuana – or it is only because of the friends he/she is hanging with – remember your teen is making the decision to smoke the pot and hang out with those friends.  They are making these bad decisions.

Learn more about getting your teen back on a positive road.  Visit www.helpyourteens.com where we have helped thousands of families since 2001.  There is no shame in admitting your teen is struggling.  We have been there.  Getting help is what responsible parents do.

Parent Support Groups: OPERATION PARENT

Parents helping parents.....So often I hear from parents looking for parent groups – parents they can talk to, parents that know the feeling of being at their wits end with their teenager today. Years ago many parents turned to Tough Love, however they disbanded and there has always been a debate whether it was the most effective way to handle teens of today.

The teenage years today can be extremely challenging!

Whether it is a sense of entitlement, peer pressure, society, or an attitude of defiance, it seems some teens today are literally holding their parents hostage in their own homes.

Operation Parent is an organization that has recognized many parents feel they are alone.  They have created support groups and have offered resources and information for communities to start their own groups.

Operation: PARENT is on a mission to educate, equip, encourage and engage parents of teens and pre-teens. Welcome to our website where you can purchase our Parent Handbook, register for one of our many parenting classes, delve into a tough issue related to parenting teens, or learn more about our exciting Coffee Series.

Bring part of a support group can help you and your family begin healing.  You are now part of our network of thousands of parents and their goal is to make sure no parent in any community ever feels alone while raising their teen or pre-teen. Together we can do this… together we can raise incredible teens!

For more information visit www.operationparent.org.

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Behavioral Modification Programs – Specialty Boarding Schools – Teen Help Programs

What exactly is a parent looking for when their once happy bouncing toddler has turned into an out-of-control teenager?

Second semester.  Some teens have had enough. They don’t want to go to school anymore.  They believe they know it all.  It is easier to get a GED, after all, some of their so-called friend are doing it!

As much as you are trying to ignore or just say it is a phase, you notice your teen is withdrawing from the family, failing in school, smell alcohol, maybe even marijuana, cigarettes, and overall have become a child you no longer recognize with a personality that is defiant and totally disrespectful the the family boundaries – what do you do?

Most parents try local therapy – which is a great first step, but when happens when therapy doesn’t work?  You can’t be afraid to take that next step!  A parent in a denial only harms your teenager.  Don’t be held hostage in your home by your teen’s behavior.

Sending a child to a residential program/school is a major decision. It is not one to be taken lightly or to be decided on overnight.

Usually a teen’s behavior has been slowly escalating and a parent knows that deep down things are not getting better.  As much as you hope and pray that things will change, this is only typical teen behavior, sometimes it just isn’t.

With drug use and substance abuse rising – more dangerous and deadly ingredients being used, such as spice and inhalants, parents have reason to be concerned.  It isn’t your marijuana of generations prior – it is so much worse and in many cases – addictive and deadly.

If you have reached your wit’s end and now surfing the Internet for help, remember, anyone can build a website.  Anyone can put up nice pictures and create great content.  You need to do your due diligence.

Years ago I struggled with my own teenager.  I was at my wit’s end.  I didn’t realize what a big business this “teen help industry” was.  Yes, my child needed help, but what we received was anything but that.  My story is a cautionary tale – not one to scare you into not using a program, however on the contrary, you have to get your child help, but you have to do your research in getting them the right help.

You can do it without spending thousands!

Here are some quick tips:

  • Your child is not for sale, try to avoid those marketing arms selling you a list of programs that are not in the best interest of your child’s individual needs.
  • Always speak with an owner or director – Someone that has a vested in your teen’s recovery.  Their reputation is on the line.
  • Wilderness and other short term programs are usually nothing more than a band-aid that will fall off as quickly as the program lasted.  They are expensive camping trips and in most cases the Wilderness program will tell you at about 4 weeks that your teen will need to continue on to a longer term program.  What? Yes, now you go back to the research board and worse than that, your teen will be deflated when he finds out he/she isn’t coming home in 6-9 weeks as they were lead to believe – and they will be starting all over again with a new therapist – new schedule – and new setting.  Don’t get caught up in this “shuffle.”  Start and finish with the same school/program.
  • The average stay should be about 6-9-12 months, depending on your teen.  Anything less is probably non-effective.  Anything more, you may be creating abandonment issues in my opinion.
  • Do you really need an Educational Consultant?  Absolutely not.  You are the parent and no one knows your teen better than you do – with a few tips, you will be able to make some sound choices.

For more helpful hint and tips, please contact www.HelpYourTeens.com for a free consultation. After the ordeal I went through, I created this advocacy organization to help educate parents on finding safe and quality programs.

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Red River Academy – Horizon Academy – A Parent’s True Story 2012

My story has been told and validated on many news networks.

Mention my name to any “sales rep” of Red River Academy or affiliate of their programs (see the listings here) and you will find out fast that I am not their favorite person.  They will send you to some very ugly websites about me, but will neglect to tell you I not only defeated them in a jury trial and in the appellate court, I also won an $11.3M jury verdict for damages of Internet defamation of all those ugly sites they are sending you to.  The funny thing about the Internet, it is the world’s largest tattoo machine, and like a tattoo – some things are hard to get removed – and trust me, I have tried.  However I have been legally vindicated.  And God knows they have tried to bury me – virtually and literally – but here we are going into 2012 – and my story is still going strong.  Read on….

As a victim of the WWASPS organization – I am often called or receive many emails about our (my daughter and I) experiences with them.  Obviously not pleasant.  Though I am happy to say the program she was at, Carolina Springs Academy, which attempted to go through a name change to Magnolia Christian Academy (or School) depending on the day you Googled it, is finally closed – it has been rumored some of the staff is now at their affiliate program – Red River Academy and/or Horizon Academy.

Let me be clear for legal purposes – these are rumors – but if I were placing my child in program, I personally wouldn’t take any chances – and furthermore, Red River Academy is clearly named in the current lawsuit which is extremely disturbing with allegations of fraud, abuse, neglect and much more – (click here) that is current.

So when the “sales rep” tells you that “Sue Scheff” is a disgruntled parent – I say – YES, I was – you put my daughter in a box for 17 hours, she was mentally and emotionally abused – food and sleep deprived – I was complete defrauded – and she also missed out on 6 months of education.  None of which I had signed up for.  Grant it, this was 10 years ago – a lot has changed – but those original owners haven’t – so in my humble opinion – I wouldn’t trust any of their programs with my pets….. BTW: I am the only parent to have defeated WWASPS in a jury trial.  Most of the other (many) lawsuits have settled out of court with silence agreements.  I don’t have one, which is why I can still share my story – which is why I get slimed online – which is why their sales reps have all sorts of stories about me – including “the jury made a mistake” – neglecting to tell you I won the appellate court too.  No one condones child abuse – period.

I have been called a crusader (and not in a flattering way) though I take it that way.  I have made it my mission to find the better programs and schools, since I do know what it is like to be at your wit’s end.  I know what parents need help. I am not against residential therapy, which brings us to many  of my stalkers that were formally abused in programs that believe all programs should be closed down.  That is being extreme – they are not a parent trying to save their child’s life and future.

I will share with you that there are more safe and quality programs than there are bad ones – it is just about doing your homework and research.  Today you are more fortunate than I was – you have more access to information and you can learn from my mistakes and  my knowledge.

Please – take 10 minutes to read my story and see the list of programs that are and were once affiliated with Carolina Springs Academy – and from there, you make your own choices for your child.

I had one parent that almost went to Red River Academy that actually said the sales rep said they could have their teen “extracted” within a few hours?  Extracted?  Really – is your child a tooth?  Please don’t get rushed into a quick decision – this is a major emotional and financial decision.

My organization is Parents’ Universal Resource Experts – and no matter what those “sales reps” or the Internet fiction – I don’t own, operate or manage any schools or programs!  We are about educating parents when they are looking for help for their at risk teen…. Don’t get scammed when you are at your wit’s end.

Oh – and when these “sales reps” send out these defamatory links about me – another FACT they neglect to tell you is I won the landmark case for Internet Defamation that awarded me $11.3M in damages for what was said about me online!  Lies and twisted facts!  Here is my recent appearance on Anderson Cooper.

This is strictly my opinion from my own experiences and you are free to make your own decisions…..

Facebook Status: What does it say about your teen? Red Flags parents need to know

“Forgive me.”

“When will this end?”

“I hate my life”

RED FLAGS and parenting.  Know them!

Facebook is the social hangout of the internet for all ages, but it is particularly true of teenagers.

Teenagers often are much more open about what they are thinking and feeling in this cyber environment than most older adults. Since teens experience many emotional ups and downs, it can be easy to dismiss most of their dramatic postings as nothing more than normal teenage drama. However, there have been too many instances in recent years when parents had wished they’d paid more attention to what their teenager had posted as their ‘current status’.

Here a few status updates parents should watch for and investigate further.

  1. I can’t take it anymore. Although, this could mean anything from homework overload to sibling irritation, it could also be a cry for help from a teen who is truly overwhelmed with life in someway. It is not a status update that you want to ignore. Parents should take the initiative and find out what prompted this entry.
  2. Text me. This may seem innocent enough, but, for some parents, it may be a signal that their teen may be trying to keep something hidden that needs to be in the open. Privacy and protection are always a fine line to walk with teenagers. Parents, however, should never hesitate to ask about the reason behind such a post.
  3. Really loaded right now. If your teen is high enough to make this post on Facebook without thinking about the fact that their parents might see it, there is drug or alcohol abuse going on. Ignoring these types of problems does not make them go away.
  4. Depressing song lyrics. Song lyrics are popular posts from teens. It may be what they’re listening to at the moment or a song that is running through their head. If the lyrics of the songs are continually negative and depressing, this could be an indication of the teen’s emotional state, as well.
  5. No one understands. This is a common feeling during teenage years, but it is also one that can develop into a true depressive state. Seeing this posted as your teen’s Facebook status should raise enough concern for their parents to pursue the reasons behind the posting.
  6. I hate my life. Again, this is not an unusual statement to come from a teen at different points in their adolescence, however, posting it as your Facebook status is similar to shouting it from the rooftops. It is always better to treat these statements seriously, than to ignore them as a simple impulse statement.
  7. Forgive me, Mom & Dad. This kind of post would be one that should require immediate connection with your child. If it doesn’t mention what they are asking forgiveness for, it may be a subtle plea for you to stop them from doing something terrible. Take this very seriously!
  8. You’re all going to die. In light of the terrible things we have seen happen in our schools, a teen who posts something like this should not be ignored. “I was just joking” is not an acceptable explanation for this type of post. A teen who posts such a statement publicly should expect inquiry from, not only his parents, but school and law enforcement as well.
  9. I wish I were dead. Never assume these statements are words only. Any type of suicidal expression like this should be taken very seriously. Many parents have had the misfortune of finding out that even a verbal statement can be an indication of suicidal thoughts. A public posting of that thought should be taken just as seriously.
  10. I hate my school. The key word in this status update is ‘my’. It doesn’t say ‘I hate school’, it is more specific than that. It would behoove the parents to find out what it is, about the child’s school, that made them post this statement, and what can be done to improve the situation.

Facebook status updates reach a lot of people, a parent of a teenager should definitely be one of those people who pays attention to what their child is broadcasting into cyberspace. It may be their way of trying to find out if anyone is really paying attention, and if anyone really cares.

Source: My ISP Finder

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