Boot Camp For Troubled Teens: Effective Camps & Military Schools (IL, NY, NJ)

Parenting at-risk teens is often challenging, causing parents to seek alternative solutions to restore their kids to the right path. These alternative solutions could be boot camps, residential treatment programs, or therapeutic programs. In this article, you will learn:

·   How to deal with a troubled teen?

·   What bootcamping is all about?

·   The difference between boot camps and boarding schools.

·   Why do these programs work for troubled teens?

How Do You Deal With a Troubled Teen?

Parenting troubled teens is not an easy job. It is filled with high and low moments that bring joy and pain. It is normal to feel like things are beyond your control when raising a highly sensitive teen.

One moment you are both having a great time laughing over a meme. The next, they are screaming at you when you offer advice on handling projects. It takes great wisdom to be the parent they need you to be in these painful situations.

You’ll need to avoid communicating with them when you’re feeling triggered because talking to them when you’re angry or feeling frustrated by their actions will not yield positive results.

Instead, once your anger has simmered, try to find common ground and be there for them even though they will reject your help.

It will be beneficial to establish some sort of boundary or rule with your teen when they are angry. Try to give them a safe space to relieve their anger. Also, take note of their triggers or warning signs. If, for some reason, you feel threatened by your teen by the off chance, do not hesitate to call a loved one or the necessary authorities for help.

The famous proverb says it takes a whole village to raise a child. Therefore, when you notice recidivistic behavioral problems among at-risk teens, you might need outside help from troubled teen programs to induce positive changes.

Here is what you need to know about these teenage boot camps, residential treatment centers, wilderness programs, residential treatment programs, and therapeutic boarding schools that cater to the needs of troubled youth.

What is Bootcamping?

Boot camp programs (otherwise known as wilderness therapy programs) are short-term correctional programs that emulate the authoritative, strict discipline structure of military schools to correct behavior issues of at-risk teenagers.

At-risk teenagers are teenage boys or girls exhibiting negative behaviors that include breaking the law, substance abuse, mental illness, oppositional defiant disorder, gambling, stealing, sex, running away, anger, lying, and other criminal behaviors.

In these teen boot camps, kids are woken by drill sergeants to follow a rigorous daily schedule that consists of physical training, school, and drills.

Such military-style boot camps were created with the high hopes of reducing these behavioral issues among troubled teens.

What is the Difference Between Boarding School and Boot Camp?

Therapeutic boarding schools and boot camps are efficient programs designed for troubled teens. Two significant differences between both programs are their duration and pedagogies.

Both programs offer structured schedules, but they are different pedagogies upon closer inspection.

Duration: Boot camps are short-term, while the therapeutic programs are long-term. Boot camps typically run for a couple of weeks, while therapeutic boarding schools run for either a year or two.

Pedagogy: Therapeutic programs integrate recreational activities, therapy, and education through individualized structured training schedules and a healthy community to help troubled teens heal.

It is a good idea for kids dealing with addictions and emotional issues or disorders.

Boot camps or wilderness integrate adventures or militaristic experiences that teach kids self-discipline and critical thinking through rigid schedules and physical activities. It is found to be more effective among juvenile teens.

Why Do These Programs Work?

Contrary to popular belief, such programs as residential treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools, and especially wilderness programs are known to effectively heal troubled youth.

Horror stories of former campers regarding boot camps have led to significant reforms within the troubled teen industry.

These reforms encourage young adults participating in these programs to develop life skills needed for them to integrate into society.


One of these significant reforms includes incorporating programs to foster a sense of autonomy among participants.

This self-knowledge has reduced recidivism among troubled young adults when they join the outside world after completing these programs. Reduced recidivism rates are signs of lasting change among the kids.


Also, these programs work because they offer safety and support for kids with psychological and behavioral issues. There is no one size fits all approach to dealing with troubled teens.

Individualized Treatment or Experiential Learning

Some programs focus on kids achieving therapeutic healing and academic achievement through individualized training under the watch of a licensed medical health professional.

These professionals have a clear understanding of the kids’ mental health needs.

In contrast, others, such as mid-course correction camps, believe experiential learning through challenging physical tasks will benefit kids.


These programs emphasize the role in which family involvement plays in the emotional growth and healing of the child. Not only does the child heal, but the rest of their family does too.


These programs offer group activities for kids facing similar dilemmas to develop social skills with themselves, their therapy guides, staff members, and counselors.

In fact, boot camps have been proven to work better than any other type of residential treatment programs and are a proven method for helping teens who have serious mental issues. Troubled teen industry experts say that boot camps have a success rate of over 90%, which is far higher than any other type of program.

How Much Do they Cost?

A lot of factors influence how much these programs cost.

Some have longer durations, and others have more experienced professionals.

You should bear in mind that you will not know the exact amount unless you make inquiries through the program’s official channels. However, here are some estimates of how much these programs cost.

·   Teenage boot camps could cost between $2,000 and $10,000 monthly.

·   Residential treatment centers could cost anywhere between $1500-3500 monthly.

·   Therapeutic boarding schools could cost anywhere between $1,500 and $5,000 monthly. There’s also the additional processing fee that could cost about $2,000.

Where in the USA are they Located?

According to the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, about 140 accredited therapeutic programs exist across the US that adopts a data-driven treatment approach. They can be found in nearly all the states, including New York and New Jersey.

StateBoot Camps and Therapeutic ProgramsRatings
AlabamaNew Lifehouse Academy4.1
AlaskaAlaska Crossings5
ArizonaArivaca Boy’s Ranch4.3
ArkansasSubiaco Academy4.9
CaliforniaPolaris Teen Center4.9
ColoradoOpen Sky Wilderness Therapy4.5
ConnecticutAdult & Teen Challenge Connecticut4.7
DelawareHavenwood Academy4.2
District of ColumbiaCity Kids4.8
FloridaEckerd Connects5
GeorgiaSkyland Trail5
HawaiiAdult & Teen Challenge Keaau5
IdahoTwin Eagles Wilderness School4.9
IllinoisKemmerer Village3.5
IndianaOaklawn, The Children’s Campus3.5
IowaPrairie Ridge Integrated Behavioral Healthcare4.3
KansasKansas City Girls Academy3.8
KentuckyMission Teens Inc4.2
LouisianaLouisiana Virtual Charter Academy4.7
MaineNew Vision Wilderness Program4.5
MarylandAllegany Boys Camp4.8
MassachusettsBoston Higashi School5
MichiganLake Michigan Academy4.7
MinnesotaVoyageur Outward Bound School-Twin Cities Center4.9
MississippiPassages Adventure Camp4.2
MissouriAgapè Boarding School3.9
MontanaClearview Girls Academy
NebraskaNebraska Youth Camp4.9
NevadaK W Legacy Ranch3.9
New HampshireAdventurelore LLC4.4
New JerseyMatheny Schools3.8
New MexicoCottonwood Gulch Expeditions4.4
New YorkNorthWaters & Langskib Wilderness Canoe Camps5
North CarolinaAsheville Academy4.1
North DakotaCrystal Springs Camp4.9
OhioOhio Wilderness Boys Camp4.7
OklahomaNew Lifehouse Academy4.1
OregonEvoke Cascades4.7
PennsylvaniaBald Eagles Boys Camp4.6
Rhode IslandAdult & Teen Challenge Rhode Island4.9
South CarolinaCherokee Creek Boys School5
South DakotaKeystone Treatment Center4.3
TennesseeLakeshore Camp & Retreat Center4.9
TexasThrive Girls Ranch & Home5
UtahAspiro Wilderness Adevnture Therapy4
VermontFarm & Wilderness Foundation4.5
VirginiaWilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing4.9
WashingtonEastside Academy4.8
West VirginiaGreenbrier Academy for Girls3
WisconsinNew Vision Wilderness4.8
WyomingWings of Faith Academy3.3

What Age Kids Can You Send?

The minimum permissible age for kids being sent to wilderness boot camps, residential treatment programs, or therapeutic boarding schools is 10 years. However, for others, it is 11 years.

When Researching Boot Camps For Troubled Girls, what should I look for?

Here are a few suggestions to find ideal boot camp for girls:

  1. Location – This is probably the number one thing you need to consider when searching for the best girls’ boot camp. You want the camp to be as close to your home as possible.
  2. Website – Check the camp’s website for details about the program and the staff. If there is not a website, then call the camp and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions and do a little research on your own. There is nothing to be lost by asking questions and you may gain a lot by finding out more about the camp.
  3. Staff Qualifications – You want the camp to have qualified and compassionate staff who understand what it means to be a teenage girl.
  4. Program Length – Find out how long the program will last. Will it be a short term residential treatment program, or will it be a long-term aftercare program? Ask the camp what their track record is, and find out how many previous clients have stayed and completed the program.

Best Boot Camp for Troubled Girls

There are concerns that boot camps will be detrimental to girls who have experienced abuse. Therefore, it is in your best interest as a parent to seek a better alternative, such as a therapeutic boarding school or a residential treatment program.

When seeking out either of these programs for a troubled teenage girl, here are some preferred qualities to look out for.

·   Find out the different forms of therapy offered, such as Equine, Family, CBT, etc.

·   Find out whether your daughter will be provided with an excellent education.

·   Ensure that family inclusion is a priority. You’ll need to be able to communicate with your daughter through phone calls, scheduled visits, etc.

With that being said, here are four leading therapeutic boarding schools for girls that you should know of.

Spring Ridge Academy

Located in Arizona, Spring Ridge is on a mission to provide a life-changing structure for its residents. Here’s what you can expect from this academy.

·   A well-rounded experience that integrates family, academics, and therapy.

·   Encouraged family involvement.

·   Highly trained dedicated staff.

Asheville Academy

Located in North Carolina, Asheville helps troubled young girls communicate effectively and build relationships with family and friends. The academy boasts of:

·   A 97-acre private property for healing and reflecting.

·   Therapeutic programs for young girls aged 10 – 14.

·   Personalized family programming.

·   Equine and animal therapy.

Columbus Girl’s Academy

Located on a peaceful 34-acre ranch in Texas, Columbus helps young women gain life skills and overcome past struggles.

·   It is a safe residential treatment program for ladies aged 18 – 24.

·   Use a data-driven approach called the Fulshear Integrated Attachment Model to facilitate change.

·   Offer various forms of therapy such as equine, group, individual, family therapies for long-lasting mental health.

Clearview Girl’s Academy

Clearview, located in Michigan, is a Christian residential treatment center. They offer affordable clinical help covered by your insurance to at-risk female teens.

·   They offer a multidisciplinary clinical staff consisting of licensed psychotherapists, physicians, orthodontists, mentors, etc.

·   They also offer weekend workshops to parents of troubled females to foster family inclusion needed for effective communication, self-awareness, and relationship building.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is there a boot camp for 12-year-olds?

Yes, there is a boot camp for 12-year-olds. Most boot camps for troubled teens are designed for ages 10 – 17. Contact the camp for details on the age range and entry requirements.

Is there a boot camp for 14-year-olds?

Yes, there is. Most boot camps have an upper age limit of 17, but some often end at 14.

Enrolling your troubled teen in a correctional camp or suitable treatment program may just be what they need to change their lives and fulfill their purpose in life. These programs need to be accredited by the necessary bodies before enrolling your child there.

What is wilderness programs and what is it’s purpose?

Wilderness programs are used for teenagers and young adults between the ages of 13 and 25 who have been diagnosed with mental illness. The purpose of wilderness programs is to help the participants become healthier and more self-sufficient. 

Wilderness therapy is an effective treatment for behavioral, emotional, and mental health issues. It allows the individual to remove themselves from their everyday environment in order to work on the issues that are causing them distress.

What is oppositional defiant disorder?

Defiance, disobedience, and hostility are characteristics of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). People with ODD are often in constant conflict with authority figures like parents and teachers, and they tend to argue, blame others, and actively defy or refuse to comply with people who try to supervise them.

Boot Camp For Troubled Teens Summary

In short, a boot camp is an intense, structured program designed to help teens and young adults get the help they need to improve their life and to make sure they don’t return to their destructive behavior after the program ends.

It is important for teenagers and young adults to be aware of the resources that are available to them so that they can make informed choices about their treatment options.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a problem such as substance abuse, depression, anxiety, or anger management, there are plenty of great programs available to help. A boot camp can provide the support necessary for teenagers and young adults to learn healthy ways of dealing with their problems.

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D. Hahn

DIY guru, dad, husband, blogger. When I'm not creating life hacks I'm teaching my kids how to fix stuff after their dad breaks it.

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