Therapeutic Boarding Schools

“Therapeutic” means “healing.” A therapeutic boarding school is a school at which students receive both academic training and treatment, therapies, or interventions. This article explains the types and purposes of therapeutic boarding schools.

What Is a Therapeutic Boarding School?

A therapeutic boarding school can be looked on as a particular type of boarding school. So let’s start by defining a boarding school. Boarding schools are schools offering an educational program and at which students stay during the school year, generally either for seven days of the week or for five days of the week, returning to their family home for the weekend.

Boarding schools with various specialty focuses can be found. There are boarding schools, known as prep schools, that focus on extremely high standards of academic achievement. Others focus on a special area of interest besides academics, such as a sport or some area of the fine arts. Military boarding schools focus on preparing students for leadership positions, both within our country’s armed forces as well as in civilian life. Therapeutic boarding schools are those at which academic achievement shares focus with other areas of the student’s life that are giving the student and/or the student’s family, school, or community concern.

Let it be clearly stated that, despite rumors to the contrary, military boarding schools are not the place for—and will not accept—students for whom truancy, lack of self-discipline, and problems with authority are an issue. These are among the issues better entrusted to a therapeutic boarding school.

What Are the Types and Purposes of Therapeutic Boarding Schools?

There are several ways to distinguish different types of boarding schools. One key one is those that are accredited and licensed vs. those that are not. Accredited therapeutic boarding schools may have licenses for their clinical staff and accreditation for their therapeutic practice, and their academic program, or both. Alternatively, a therapeutic boarding school may be accredited for its therapeutic practice and rely on another academically accredited organization to provide education for its boarders. In any and all cases, any services that a child receives through a therapeutic boarding school should be certified. One way to ensure this is to use the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) website to search for therapeutic boarding schools. Links from the NATSAP site take you to the schools’ own websites for more detailed information.

Therapeutic boarding schools can also be typed by their philosophy, which might be guided by 12-step, Bible-based, focus on creating a family-style experience, or tied to experiential learning, for example. Therapeutic boarding schools that focus on experiential learning include wilderness programs and outdoor therapeutic programs of various other types. Programs also differ in size, length, whether they are coeducational or single-gender, and the age of participants accepted.

Another distinction between different therapeutic boarding schools is the range of symptoms, issues, or problems that they are prepared to treat. At one end of the range are therapeutic boarding schools that focus exclusively on a single issue, such as programs designed for pregnant teens. Other programs are prepared to deal with a broader array of problems, which may include coming to terms with learning disabilities, addressing addiction, and taking on other issues ranging from violence to self-defeating behaviors and choices to resisting authority.