Be in the Know

Treatment Research Lacks Good Science (PDF)

ASTART Warning Signs (PDF)

FTC Warning Signs (PDF)

When a Client/Patient Has Spent Time in a Residential Treatment or Wilderness Program (PDF)



Professionals: Be Thorough and Cautious

Girl in therapyIt is especially important for therapists, educational consultants and other professionals to be aware of the cautions detailed on this website, including the widespread reports of abuse, maltreatment and neglect, and in some cases death, in residential programs for teens.

ASTART wants professionals to understand this issue in the context of providing services to youth and their families. We advise professionals to:

Conduct a thorough investigation before referring

  • Do your research. Don't trust that a program is high-quality just because it has an accreditation. Accreditations may not come from reputable organizations, may only represent a paid membership affiliation, or may greatly oversell the specific certifications they cover. 
  • Look deeper than the marketing materials. Program websites do not tell the whole story, and we question the accuracy of many sites. Treatment research routinely promoted in the marketing materials of many programs lacks good science. Read more.
  • Investigate the qualifications of staff. The services listed may not actually be provided, or may not be provided by qualified staff. “Therapy,” for example, is commonly provided by under-qualified or untrained staff.
  • Watch for biased testimonials. They may present only favorable views.
  • Visit programs personally. It is important that you not refer a teen to a program with which you are not thoroughly familiar. When you visit a program in person, be aware that your visit may be carefully staged.
  • Please share this information with colleagues and professional associations with which you are affiliated.

Understand that corporate-run programs may measure success by profit

The corporations that run many of these programs measure success in part by the increases in the length of average stay in the program, and the amount earned per child per day, as published in their annual reports. We continue to be concerned that a program's effectiveness at improving the lives of teens may not be their top priority. 

  • Residential programs for teens are make millions. CRC Health’s recent financial report listed net revenue per child in outdoor programs of $438.96 per day, and in residential programs of $257.87 per day. 
  • Cost does not equal quality. Learn to distinguish between high-quality programs and low-quality/harmful programs.

These cautions apply to professionals who provide services and referrals to youth and their families

  • Therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers
  • Educational consultants, school counselors, teachers
  • Medical providers, diagnostic evaluators
  • Judges, juvenile justice professionals, lawyers, advocates, expert witnesses

When a client/patient has spent time in a residential treatment or wilderness program

It's vital that mental health and medical professionals who provide services to teens and young adults who have spent time in residential programs or wilderness programs for "troubled teens" are aware of the potential abuse a client/patient may have endured. These teens may suffer PTSD and other trauma-related symptoms. For details, please read this information by professionals, for professionals. 

 Contact ASTART for further information.

Last updated 3/6/13