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Why Parents Should Avoid Summer Camps for ‘Troubled Teens’

teens roast marshamallows at a campfire

Trying to keep tabs on your teen who is lashing out, acting recklessly, or isolating themselves is tough. During summer, it can become even more difficult. Without the structure of school to help balance their days, they might turn to mischief or neglect their responsibilities. Some may call them “troubled teens,” but really, they are teens struggling with their mental health. Trying to find a summer camp for troubled teens might only worsen the problem since many of these programs rely on punishment instead of healing.

Family First’s adolescent treatment programs are a good choice for teens this summer. Teens at our center are never punished. Instead, they work closely with experienced therapists to explore the root causes of their mental health. Call 888.904.5947 to learn more.

The “Troubled Teen” Treatment Industry

Recently, the “troubled teen” industry has been revealed as a dangerous approach to trying to modify teen behaviors.1 The issues start at the root. The term “troubled teen” is stigmatizing, casting doubt and unfair labels on adolescents who are going through a difficult time. This perception of being “troubled” can negatively impact their self-esteem and make it even harder for them to seek help.

Moreover, many troubled teen camps and programs rely on tactics such as physical punishment, isolation, and harsh discipline in an attempt to control or “fix” behavior. Not only is this approach ineffective, but it can also be damaging to the mental health and well-being of teens. Adolescence is a crucial time for brain development, and using punitive measures can hinder this process, leading to long-term negative effects.

Teens Need Help Now More than Ever

The teen mental health crisis is serious and requires the attention of parents everywhere. In 2021, 29% of high school students experienced poor mental health during the past 30 days at the time of one study. Similarly, 42% of the same teens experienced persistent sadness or hopelessness.2

It’s important to note that these feelings don’t just stem from depression. Sadness and hopelessness can stem from anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health issues that impact teens. It can also be accompanied by other symptoms, like reckless behavior, problematic gaming, screen addiction, or arguing and causing fights.

Troubled Teen Camps Are Not the Answer

Harsh discipline might actually cause more issues than it solves.3 More importantly, the idea of a “troubled teen camp” is outdated and harmful. While some programs may claim to help teens, they often rely on outdated and ineffective methods that do not address the root causes of mental health issues. Furthermore, these camps can be expensive and may not have qualified mental health professionals on staff.

Unlicensed professionals and programs can include physically and mentally dangerous activities, leading to further harm to struggling teens. Instead of sending your teen to a “troubled teen camp,” consider seeking professional help from a licensed and reputable treatment center.

Compassionate Treatment Can Build a Better Path

When teens can connect with treatment staff in an open, compassionate environment, they can start to heal and overcome their struggles. Therapists who value the input and ideas of teens can help them better understand their feelings and behaviors.

At Family First Adolescent Services, we prioritize the well-being of our teen clients. Our experienced therapists use evidence-based practices such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy to address the underlying issues causing distress in teens. Our goal is to provide a safe and supportive environment for teens to heal and build healthy coping skills.

The Family First Approach to Summer Programming

Teens who visit us during the summer are often coming when their parents are looking for them to have a fresh start before the upcoming school year. Our summer program is designed to give teens the tools they need to continue their progress once they return home. They participate in individual therapy, group therapy, and experiential activities that encourage self-discovery and growth.

Individual Therapy

During individual therapy, our therapists work one-on-one with teens to identify and address their specific struggles. By creating a safe and trusting space, teens can openly discuss their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. Topics of discussion may include:

  • Developing healthy coping mechanisms for stress and difficult emotions
  • Addressing any past traumas or unresolved issues
  • Improving communication and problem-solving skills
  • Building a positive self-image and improving self-esteem

These valuable sessions can help teens uncover the deep emotional challenges they face and make positive changes in their lives.

Group Therapy

Group therapy allows teens to connect with others who are facing similar challenges. Through facilitated discussions and activities, they can learn from one another’s experiences, gain support, and practice communication and social skills. Our therapists also use this time to address common issues among the group and provide guidance on how to handle them effectively.

Experiential Activities

We know that teens don’t stay engaged with classroom-style therapy sessions. That’s why we incorporate experiential activities into our summer program. Expressive art therapy, equine therapy, exercise programs, and outdoor activities at our beautiful South Florida campus allow teens the opportunity to express themselves, build confidence, and learn new skills in a fun and engaging way.

Contact Family First Today

Summer can be a challenging time for teens, but it can also be a time of healing. By seeking professional help at Family First Adolescent Services, your teen can have the opportunity to heal and grow in a supportive and compassionate environment.

Call 888.904.5947 or contact us online now to speak with one of our admissions counselors and take the first step toward a better future for your teen.


  1. Time – How Netflix’s The Program Docuseries Exposes the Troubled Teen Industry
  2. CDC – Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report: 2011-2021
  3. Development and Psychopathology – Use of harsh physical discipline and developmental outcomes in adolescence