About Free Programs for Troubled Teens

by Anna Green

Whether your child has a mental illness, severe behavioral problems or has experienced a serious trauma, there are many programs that can help your teen grow and heal. Many of these programs are subsidized by nonprofit organizations and are free, although families may have to show proof of financial need to qualify. Additionally, programs may involve not just the teen, but sometimes the whole family is involved to learn how to communicate and interact effectively.

Admission Criteria

Many free programs for troubled teen have admissions qualifications, including age, gender, specific mental health diagnoses or involvement in the mental health system, juvenile justice system, or child protective services. For example, some programs admit only teens who have experienced a traumatic event or children with behavioral health diagnoses. Thus, parents may not be able to access these programs without involvement from outside professionals, even if they have personally observed problematic behaviors that have not manifested outside the home. Further, some free programs for troubled teens require a recommendation from a therapist, doctor, court counselor, school or some other agency that is familiar with the teen's behaviors and problems.

Types of Free Programs

Free programs for troubled teens often include services such as outpatient individual and group counseling. For teens with more severe issues, some organizations offer partial day treatment programs that offer structured socialization, parent/teen support services and integrated therapy. These organizations may also offer full-day boot camps and wilderness camps. Some groups may offer residential or in-patient treatment or boarding schools for troubled teens to families who show financial need.

Goals and Purpose

Free programs for troubled teens often focus on conflict, such as resolving both external and internal conflicts in constructive ways, explains the website for CRC Health, an organization that operates facilities for teens with exceptional needs. For troubled teens with emotional problems, the programs may emphasize sharing their struggles in a safe environment with peers who have experienced similar struggles. Despite the differences, most programs aim to provide a structured environment staffed by mental health professionals that fosters healing and draws on the teen's strengths and family resources.

Locating Free Programs

Often, your child's school or court counselor can connect you with appropriate free programs. If your child is not seeing a counselor, community health departments and social service agencies often have lists of free resources for parents. Additionally, private counselors may be able to connect you with free programs. Further, by seeking professional mental health services and identifying your child's exact diagnosis and precise parameters of problematic behavior, you can help your support systems find free programs that are a good fit for your teen.

About the Author

Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.

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