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Treating Aggression At A Residential Treatment Center For Teens

Teenagers are often overly emotional as they are undergoing many new experiences, from developing bodies to first heartbreaks. While many teens weather this storm without turning to destructive behaviors, some troubled teens embrace aggression to a destructive extent.

Identifying Aggressive Teen Behavior

There is a distinct difference between the occasional angry outburst and sustained aggression. Teens struggling with aggression exhibit hostile or attacking behaviors. These behaviors may not have any provocation and instead are used by the teen to control their circumstances. Other times, the aggressive behavior will take place in retaliation for perceived wrongs.

Some clearly physically aggressive things teens do that you can identify are:

  1. Spitting

  2. Hitting

  3. Property destruction

  4. Tripping

  5. Pushing

  6. Stealing

  7. Pinching

Harder to identify are aggressive behaviors that follow indirect tactics:

  1. Passive-aggressive actions

  2. Gossiping

  3. Shunning

  4. Name-calling

These two types of identifiable aggression are not mutually exclusive, and many aggressive teens blend them together to terrorize others.    

What Causes Aggression In Teens

A teen can develop aggressive behaviors for a variety of reasons. Some of the key factors behind teen aggression are:

Environmental factors – A major trigger of aggressive behavior in teens can come from their environment. If teens feel threatened either at school or at home, they may turn to aggression to feel in control and protect themselves. Children who have been adopted can be particularly prone to aggression as a method of controlling their circumstances.

Physical triggers – Some physical conditions can trigger aggression, such as those who suffer from epilepsy,  or have undergone severe alterations such as amputation.

Genetics – Research has shown that there can be a genetic component of aggression. It has been particularly noted in animals that aggression can follow certain genetic lines. So, if there is a history of aggression in the family, it is far more likely that the teen will develop aggressive behaviors.

Medications – Even if all your teen takes is over-the-counter medications, these can trigger feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and irritability, which can transform into aggression. Illegal drugs have an even higher likelihood of causing aggression in teens.

Mental illness – The most common cause of aggression in teenagers is mental disorders. It is possible for almost any mental illness to trigger aggression; however, some disorders have a higher likelihood of triggering aggression.

  1. Conduct disorder


  3. Addiction

  4. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

  5. Bipolar disorder

  6. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  7. Psychosis

  8. Impulse control disorders

How Residential Treatment Centers Address Aggression

Some teens are able to overcome their struggle with aggression while at home. For those teens who do not, residential treatment centers for troubled teens can address teen aggression and help teens change their lives.

  1. Daily therapy – Most residential treatment centers allot 90 minutes a week for individual therapy, with additional time added if the teen requires more help. Beyond the teen’s one-on-one appointment with a licensed therapist who specializes in working with troubled teens, teens participate in group therapy daily and have family therapy once a week.

  2. Personalized learning – As school can be a huge environmental trigger for aggression in teens, residential treatment centers make it a priority to provide personalized learning. Students who have fallen behind will be given help to catch up with their peers with the assistance of licensed teachers and tutors. Classes are small and accredited to ensure that teens receive a quality education.

  3. Physical outlets – While residential treatment centers do not advocate for aggressive sports to treat teen aggression, a certain amount of physical activity is vital to a teen’s proper development. Cooperative sports and individual ones are often a part of residential treatment centers, allowing teens to expel excess energy and focus on healing.

  4. Natural consequences – Rather than focusing on punishment, which can encourage aggressive behavior, most residential treatment centers focus on natural consequences. For instance, if a teen throws their food on the floor in a fit of anger, the food will not be replaced. It will not hurt the teen to miss the rest of that meal, and it will give them a direct consequence for their aggressive action.

  5. Life skills development – Frustration and a lack of development can be a large trigger for aggression. At residential treatment centers, teens are given the tools to progress in life and express themselves in healthier ways than with aggression. Some skills focus on leadership and interpersonal relationships, while others hone in on the development of cooking and musical talents.  

Sundance Canyon Academy Can Help

At Sundance Canyon Academy, we focus on helping troubled teenage boys from ages 13-17. Our program incorporates immersive therapy into everything our students do, from their schooling to their physical activities. We have an accredited educational program and an experienced staff to provide our students with the tools to succeed.

Contact us to talk to one of our program advisors and see if we can help your teenage son overcome his struggles.

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