Therapeutic boarding school for bright, depressed sophomore

My son is a very bright high-school sophomore who has been suffering from anxiety and depression for some time. His father (my husband) died 20 months ago after a long illness, and I also had a major illness when my son was very young. He is in outpatient treatment, but he is not thriving in general. In particular, Berkeley High does not seem like the right place for him to be. Not the school's fault, so much (though they offer few services due to budget problems), but it's just not a good fit right now. I seek recommendations for academically excellent boarding schools that include a therapeutic component: i.e., substantial counseling services and a "whole-person" approach to education. I also want a place that offers good arts and language classes and gives the kids job responsibilities. Preferred regions are California or New England. Reviews of the Hyde School in Maine and any other similar institutions would be welcome. Thank you.

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I understand that this must be a very hard place to be in, but I couldn't help but think while reading, that your son has been through the trauma of your illness as a young child, and then the loss of his father at such a young age - so much loss! Sending him away, especially far away from you, who are likely his only constant, at this tender point in his life seems like a choice you may want to reconsider. I'm not judging you, I understand how hard parenting is, but I would urge you to seek compassion for his losses (as well as your own) and perhaps find a therapist and school environment where he might be able to be home with you - studies are showing more and more that our teens need us more than they did as toddlers, and sooner than you think he'll be away at college and in the world. Sending you prayers of hope and peace!

You might want to contact Willows in the Wind, which is a parent group with a lot of experience with residential treatment programs.  There are two monthly meetings, one of which is in Oakland.  Information about the monthly meetings  They are very kind and knowledgeable people. 

I have been working in the mental health field for over 20 years, including working with adolescents and their parents with varieties of issues.  My recommendation to this kind of situation is never a boarding school/residential treatment programs.  I have almost never seen a success story by sending kids to these programs.  From my experiences, I recommend family therapy with you and your son (and any siblings, other adults involved)right here.  Adolescents never feel great when they are "sent away" from their home.  Imagined to be them.  Does it feel good to be sent away?       I know it's really hard to see your son suffer. I know you may feel incompetent or inadequate to help your son,  You may feel your son needs more than you can ever provide help with at home.  I am a mom too and I get that.  But, they need you right there with them. 

My ultimate recommendation is to get down with your son to struggle with him.  Some time, you just need to be there. Let him know you are right there when he needs you.  Let him know you want to help but don't know how.  Ask him help you help him.  Ask him to go learn how to help him together. 

He may reject at first. Teens are like toddlers. They will test you first. Be persistent and consistent.  

Please know that I can be completely off. I am saying all this based on the little fact I know about your life that I learned by reading what you posted. 

Hope you both will find a way to thrive together.

I'm writing from the perspective of a parent who is also a therapist for over 25 years.  I had an opposite experience from some of the comments.  I sent my 14 year old to residential treatment for anxiety and depression and it was a very, very positive thing to have done for her.  Yes, it was painful and difficult and she missed the family terribly, and we missed her terribly, but it helped her tremendously.  She came home functioning so much better than she had been, so much happier and with so many positive tools to help her when she has mood issues now.  She is not on any medication whatsoever and doing as well or better than her peers.  I highly recommend considering it.  I would also recommend you get an educational consultant to help you choose the right situation for your family and child.  They can be extremely knowledgable and helpful.  It's just terrible to have a child struggling, but it definitely can get better.

Hi - My 17 year old son is at a residential treatment center (Telos in Orem, Utah) and while sending him to wilderness and then to the RTC was the hardest decision of my life, it has turned out to be the best decision of my life too.  My son has social anxiety, anger, ADHD.  All issues that made it so we didn't function well as a family, and he had trouble functioning socially.    We had numerous years of therapy (mostly for him), but I think he wasn't mature enough for much of the therapy, and in the end he needed much more than a weekly therapy session.  We only sent him to wilderness to get him off the computer as he was isolating more and more into his video games, but the video game playing was just a coping mechanism to help him get through life since he was having trouble functioning in a healthy way and having trouble making friends.  Plus, he needed to have intervention when his behaviors, emotions, etc. were in the heat of the moment, not just meet with his therapist and tell her about it and his father and I did not have the skill set to help him with his challenges.    After 6 weeks of wilderness (which he grudgingly went to), he admitted that it was helpful.  In the end, so helpful, that he was the one who hugged me and comforted me, telling me it would be ok, when his father and I dropped him at his RTC.  He is still there, and I visit often.  I see the growth he is making every week, and he himself it the first to say, that this investment of a year of his life will help him for the rest of his life.  I am happy to share more with you.