If your teenage son is struggling with mental health problems or substance abuse, you might be tempted to send him to a boot camp to help break his negative behavior patterns. Don’t do it!
Boot camp isn’t actually an effective rehab method for substance abuse disorders. In many cases, the stringent atmosphere of teen boot camps can actually amplify the negative behavior in teens. For most teens, a therapeutic boarding school is a much better option than a boot camp.
Why doesn’t boot camp work for teens?
The boot camp style of treatment became popular in the 1980s as a way to address negative behavior in teens. People thought that the tough atmosphere and the no-nonsense approach would break kids of their bad habits and set them on the right path. It seemed logical that the militant approach would drive away any negative behavior, but that hasn’t been the case.
Over the years, numerous studies have shown that boot camps aren’t consistently effective. Sometimes they work, but sometimes they make things worse. Boot camps that incorporate counseling and therapy often see better results than those that don’t, but the results are mixed either way.
So why doesn’t it work?
Punishment-based approach Boot camps focus on punishing negative behavior as a means to stop the behavior. Drill instructors make the teens miserable if they step out of line, so they don’t want to step out of line. That might seem great on the surface, but it really just teaches the teens not to misbehave when they’ll get caught. They end up focusing solely on avoiding punishment rather than working toward something positive.Many of the teens who attend a boot camp do show improved behavior while they’re in the camp, but they return to the old negative behaviors once they’re back home. Without the drill instructors there to chastise them at every turn, there’s no reason to stay in line. Once the threat of immediate punishment is removed, they’re free to act how they want to again.
Focused on the negative Because the boot camp method focuses solely on discouraging negative behavior, the teens don’t learn new positive behaviors. Teens typically develop substance abuse problems as a means of addressing something larger in their life. Substance abuse is a negative coping skill that needs to be replaced with positive coping skills for the teen to be successful in life.When addressing substance abuse problems, teens need to do more than just break their bad habits. They need to learn new skills like goal setting, anger management techniques, and stress-reduction techniques. If they don’t learn new positive life skills, they’ll return to what they know when they get back home.
Poor training Boot camps are notorious for hiring poorly-trained staff members who rely on physical punishment rather than teaching life skills. When the staff members don’t have the training necessary to coach troubled teens through their struggles, the teens get short-changed.
Better than boot camp
If you are at the end of your rope and you’re looking for help with your teenage son, consider a therapeutic boarding school like Sundance Canyon Academy. With trained therapists on staff, the school focuses on teaching positive life skills to replace your teen’s negative behaviors. Rather than simply punishing poor behavior, they address the root issues and help the students create a better future.