Teens at Muir Wood enjoy game night

What Parents Should Look for in a Teen Treatment Program

Choosing a Quality Residential Treatment Program

Looking into treatment options for your son can be an extremely emotional experience. I want you to know there is hope. At Muir Wood, we have helped countess parents who have been right where you’re at now. I’ve also worked with teens and families my entire professional career, spanning some 30+ years. As an Executive Director who also works with parents on admissions, I frequently speak with Mom’s and Dad’s who are understandably overwhelmed looking for the right program for their son or daughter. That’s why it is so important to have a keen understanding of what sets high quality programs apart from others. As parents you want the very best for your child. This can also be one of the most important decisions you might make. Below are criteria that every parent should ask when looking into treatment options for their child. My hope is that this guide will help you navigate this process. If I can ever help in person, please do not hesitate to call me or email me directly.

Scott Sowle
Founder & Executive Director
Muir Wood

Questions to Ask

  • Is the program licensed and is the facility’s license in good standing in the state in which they are located?
  • Is the program accredited by a recognized, independent, nonprofit accreditation organization like the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) or the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)?
  • Is the program “in-network” with insurance? Parents should be specific about this as many programs claim that “insurance is accepted”, but in reality, the program is “out-of-network” which can often result in significant out-of-pocket costs.
  • Does the program’s website provide detailed information about the program including individual staff bios with the staff licensing and experience, and a detailed summary of the clinical program?
  • How many beds are at the facility and what is the staff-to-patient ratio?
  • Is the treatment team made up of licensed professionals, and are these professionals in good standing with their licensing organization (this can be confirmed on the issuing state government site such as the Board of Behavioral Science)?
  • Is the program gender-separate, or do they have both boys and girls on campus together? Having a gender-separate program is essential, especially in adolescent care.
  • Does the program have an Addiction Psychiatrist on staff and are the physicians board-certified?
  • Is there a Learning Center that is a recognized California supplemental education program for grades 7 to 12. Muir Wood is one of the only residential treatment centers with an academic program that is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). 
  • What is the average age of the clients in treatment?
  • What is the average caseload of each of the therapists and how often do the therapists see each client for individual therapy?
  • What are the specific therapies offered and what does the day-to-day programming look like?
  • What is the average size of the groups?
  • How does the program address co-occurring issues (substance abuse and mental health diagnosis)?
  • Are the clinicians trained in treating co-occurring issues?
  • What is the level of family involvement? Does the program offer a comprehensive family program, such as a full-day weekend family program and individual family therapy during the week?
  • Are there current photos of the programs physical setting online? How many residents sleep per room and has the program ever been cited by their licensing body?
  • Does the program offer a continuum of care such as outpatient programming for clients once residential treatment is completed?
  • Does the program track treatment outcomes? Both while clients are in treatment and following treatment? Does the program use standardized, accepted outcome measurements?
  • Does the program offer alumni parent numbers to contact to discuss their experience with the program?
  • Does the program offer an alumni program and remain in contact with alumni after discharge?

These questions are all important. That said, when at all possible, parents should at minimum call alumni parents or ask as many professionals in the community about the program.