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Considerations When Finding Safe Treatment

Resources / Finding Safe Treatment / Considerations To Make

Considerations When Choosing a Rehab Center for Your Teen

We understand that finding the right treatment for your adolescent can be challenging. When doing your research, it’s vital to ensure any treatment center you consider has strong safety protocols in place to protect your child. Do your due diligence and ask as many questions as you can about the program. The following list serves as a helpful guide in knowing which issues to ask about, and why these issues matter.

Licensing & Accreditation

Maintaining licensure and accreditation ensures the treatment center follows state regulation that set the standard for client safety. Licensing and regulations of teen treatment centers vary state by state.

Accreditation provides a program with an additional seal of approval. CARF and The Joint Commission, the standard accrediting bodies for treatment centers, ensure that programs preserve clients’ rights, enforce robust safety protocols, and adhere to best clinical practices. These accrediting organizations routinely provide updates on the latest standards of care, offer information about common areas for improvement, and guide treatment centers’ quality improvement efforts. If a program has other sorts of accreditation, investigate what they are and how they are being monitored. Some accreditations are memberships more than oversight.

If a program offers information regarding academic accreditation, parents should inquire about clinical accreditation and state license requirements. For safety reasons, clinical oversight and accreditation are important in ensuring teens receive support and care that meets the highest standards, as determined by local, state, and federal regulations.

Staff-to-Patient Ratio

A good staff-to-patient ratio means a high one: the more professional clinicians and staff on hand to support your child, the better their treatment will be. Too many teens + too few staff = a recipe for disaster. A strong residential treatment center that values patient safety will maintain a staff-to-patient ratio of at least 1:3. This enables treatment center staff to provide the supervision and individualized care teens need for successful treatment and recovery. It’s also important that the therapists at the center you choose have a manageable caseload. Therapists should carry a caseload of no more than three clients at any given time.

Staff Qualifications

Qualified staff are the foundation of an effective treatment center. Best practices for the treatment of adolescents are formalized and available in a variety of formats. Treatment center staff must be certified and licensed in their area of expertise. They must also have training specific to the population they treat. Staff at a treatment center for teenagers must have training and experience working with teenagers. For instance, at a treatment center for teens with severe emotional dysregulation issues, staff members should be trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), an evidence-based treatment that has been proven effective as a modality for teens with severe emotional dysregulation.

Treatment centers must perform criminal background checks to ensure each staff member who supports your child has a clean, safe record. All staff members must pass a Live Scan background check, which clears them through the Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Child Abuse Central Index (CACI). When asked by parents, treatment centers should be able to quickly produce and verify staff certifications, any applicable licensure, and any background checks.

Emergency Policies

Crises don’t always occur during normal 9-to-5 business hours, which is why licensed staff should be on call 24/7/365. A treatment center that does not have licensed staff on call is not a high-quality treatment center. Residential treatment centers should also have protocols in place that match each level and type of crisis. A licensed clinician, psychiatrist, and/or nurse should be on call to address any situation that requires immediate intervention. If the teen has a life-threatening emergency, staff should be trained to implement appropriate protocols and involve the entire medical treatment team as soon as possible.

Monitoring Methods

If you’re considering a residential treatment center for your teen, it’s likely they need 24/7 supervision. That’s why line-of-sight and line-of-hearing policies are vital: these policies ensure all teens are within sight and hearing of staff at all times. At all times. This includes at night and during off-site excursions. Surveillance cameras, an important tool that protects the safety of clients and staff, indicate a treatment center that offers a high quality of care. Facilities should be equipped with overnight monitoring systems to ensure staff conduct routine bed-checks.

It’s also important to ask whether a facility is locked or unlocked, especially if your teen has a history of treatment-resistant behaviors. Licensing and regulations for locked vs. unlocked facilities differ state to state. If a facility is unlocked, protocols should be in place in the event a teen decides to leave the facility before official discharge.

Access to Potentially Dangerous Objects

If your teen engages in non-suicidal self-injury or suicidal ideation, this is important. During treatment, a teen should not have access to any objects they might use to harm themselves. Therefore, sharp objects such as knives, scissors, and razors should be kept under lock and key. They should be closely monitored when taken out for use, and protocols should exist for accounting for all objects when they’re returned to their appropriate place. Safety-conscious treatment center staff understand that clients can be resourceful and should monitor even potentially dangerous objects to mitigate any possible risk. Potentially dangerous objects might include office supplies, toiletries, decorative objects, and cleaning supplies. Staff should conduct safety checks and sharps counts regularly. All cabinets, bathrooms, offices, gym facilities, and bedrooms should be locked when not in use. When you take a tour of the facility, check to see if these areas are locked. If they aren’t, that means the safety protocols either don’t exist or aren’t followed. In both cases, this is a serious red flag that indicates the treatment center has problems with their safety protocols and/or practices.

Behavior Modification Strategies

Parents should be aware of, and comfortable with, the types of behavior modification strategies that will be utilized as a part of their child’s treatment plan. For example, a level system reenforces positive behavior with privileges and opportunities. Drawing from principles of behaviorism, level systems increase the likelihood that desirable, effective behaviors occur more frequently. Privilege loss is seen as an opportunity for teens to understand why a behavior was ineffective. When privilege loss occurs, teens receive coaching from staff to learn how they can react more effectively in the future. A level system can help a patient buy into treatment and motivate them to change.

If the patient experiences emotional distress and displays maladaptive, dysregulated behavior, staff should be trained in Nonviolent Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI). Staff members should be able to de-escalate a crisis and coach a patient in using appropriate behavioral skills to cope effectively with their emotions.

An important question to ask is: If nonviolent de-escalation techniques do not work, are staff permitted to physically intervene? In other words, is this program a hands-on or hands-off facility? Physical restraint can lead to abuse and/or physical harm when administered incorrectly. Physical intervention or restraint should only be employed by staff with accredited CPI training, and only in programs that have the correct licensing. Policies regulating hands-on and hands-off facilities vary by state.

Contact with Others

While in residential treatment, teens should focus on healing. Outside interaction (visits, letters, and phone calls) should be limited to a select group of appropriate individuals approved in advance by parents and the treatment team. At the same time, parents/guardians should ensure that they’ll be able to receive regular updates from the treatment team regarding their child’s progress. Teens should also be able to speak to their parents on a regular basis.

Your Family, Your Choice

When you begin exploring residential treatment options for your child, you’ll have a lot of things on your mind: insurance coverage, treatment modalities, location, facility quality, length of stay, and logistical issues. But in the midst of all these important questions, remember to research and confirm the safety protocols each treatment center employs. Ask as many questions as you can. If treatment center staff show any reluctance to discuss an issue or answer a question, it may be a red flag. The admissions counselors you speak to should be able to put your mind at ease by discussing rules and policies freely, and they should know most details without consulting a manual or policy book. A high-quality treatment program trains their admissions staff for just this reason: they’re the first contact in the organization, and should be able to speak easily on any topic related to the support and treatment of your teen.

Evolve Treatment Centers, accredited by CARF and The Joint Commission, utilizes the highest level of safety protocols for teens. We maintain strict line-of-sight policies, state-of-the-art monitoring technology, and the highest staff-to-patient ratios available. Evolve offers a full continuum of care for adolescents 12 to 17 years old. To learn more about Evolve’s mental health and substance abuse programs, please call (877) 620-4598.

Level of Care Definitions

Finding the treatment option that best meets the needs of your child and your family can be challenging. The following information aims to reduce confusion about the types of treatment available and offers a list of considerations to keep in mind when choosing the best program for your child.

Questions to Ask

Below are various topics we cover on our Questions Page around questions to ask the admissions counselor of any treatment center you consider for your adolescent.

Clinical Questions >

What are your therapists’ credentials? How long is each session?

Safety Questions >

It’s vital to ask about these safety policies and protocols.

Wilderness Programs >

Wilderness programs operate under a different set of guidelines than most adolescent treatment centers. Read more.

Boarding Schools >

Therapeutic boarding schools operate under a different set of guidelines than most adolescent treatment centers. Learn more.

More Questions? Reach Out Now.