Emotional Growth & Therapeutic Boarding Schools. How Do They Work?

Emotional Growth schools and Therapeutic Boarding Schools (TBS) must be signs of just how much are new generations appreciating the importance of mental health. But what is their program and what does the therapy within the therapeutic stand for in these schools? Read on to find out.

The first one who came up with the term Emotional Growth Education was Linda Houghton. From the very early 80ies, she started drafting workshops and specialty programs with a curriculum that focused on developing healthy principles in children, better self-esteem, communication skills and generally a greater level of self-awareness. She combined all of these elements and brought a new educational approach in front of parents, faculties and professionals – an approach that centered the idea of emotional growth. That’s how later on she founded two schools, seeking to bring to life that exact idea of holistic education methodology.

Emotional Growth schools focus on character development, self-awareness, and appropriate socialization as teens move into young adulthood. These schools place an emphasis on accountability, self-acceptance, emotional transparency and improved self-esteem through cathartic workshops, group treatment, and positive peer interaction.

A girl browsing a book / Photo: Jonathan Borba on Unsplash
A girl browsing a book / Photo: Jonathan Borba on Unsplash


The difference between EGS and TBS

Although both of these schools are not traditional schools, and they tend to follow an alternative methodology towards the learning process, there are slight differences between the two of them. Parents who decide to have their children pursue an education in Emotional Growth Schools, and academics of these schools believe that the only barrier of children and students who are brought to these schools is immaturity. K12 Academics point it out very well that emotional growth theory itself developed from the idea that immaturity was the reason for behavior problems in teens. They add that with a tightly structured community where consequences for behavior were immediate and appropriate, the student might learn from his/her mistakes and grow appropriately. But that’s not the case with TBS, and children with certain trauma, cannot benefit solely from Emotional Growth Schools.

“A strictly emotional growth curriculum is considered ineffective for students with deep-seated trauma or serious psychiatric disorders such as bipolar, anorexia, etc. A TBS will add clinical treatments to the emotional growth curriculum, including medications, for students with more serious disorders. The original emotional growth programs rarely incorporated medications for the students. Over the years, as more schools and programs were created, the term “emotional growth” was used and misused to describe vastly different therapeutic schools that sometimes did not adhere to the basic components needed for true emotional growth education.” – K12 Academics

Children sitting on the bench / Photo: Piron Guillaume on Unsplash
Children sitting on the bench / Photo: Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Therapeutic schools are types of alternative schools, that have the aim of helping out teenagers and young adults thrive out of their difficulties in learning, cause by different circumstances. These circumstances may be addiction, behavioral and emotional challenges, trauma, or any other cognitive barriers that they may be facing. Professionals offering help from these schools doubt that children with these problems can be fully functional in traditional schools, hence, they believe that therapy is the right choice for them.

Aside from helping children achieve academic improvement, these schools are deeply involved on the student’s personal experience. They offer specialized psychological counseling and rehabilitation, in order for their students to be able to become freely vulnerable, while achieving a balance of their mental, physical and emotional health. Therapeutic Boarding Schools may have residential programs, offering peaceful environments, usually close to the nature and villages for students to stay. On the other hand, there are also TBS that have therapeutic day schools, where students also have the option of staying at home after school days.

It is well known that some Therapeutic boarding schools do not allow students unsupervised access to computers, cell phones, or other means of communication, especially when they first arrive. The purpose of this to help them focus solely on themselves and the therapeutic work they are asked to do, throughout their stay.

Having a unique approach towards learning, these are the most typical therapeutic models pursued and practiced in therapeutic boarding schools:

  • Cognitive Behavioral
  • Dialectical Behavior
  • Experiential
  • Narrative
  • Rational Emotive
  • Behavior
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Crisis Management
  • Narcotics/Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Smart Recovery
  • Addiction/Substance Abuse
  • Counseling
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Structural Family Therapy
  • Solution Focused Therapy
  • Psycho-Educational Therapy
  • Trauma Based Approaches
  • Art Therapy
  • Equine Assisted Psychotherapy

And how does this list of models used in TBS work?

Maybe the biggest difference between traditional schools and boarding schools relies on the fact that boarding schools manage their students twenty-four hours a day, not just the six or seven hours which would be the typical school hours. Therapeutic boarding schools are responsible for providing intensive therapy, counseling, and empowerment programs designed specifically with the aim to strengthen teens’ core identities and undo any destructive pattern or behavior. This twenty-four-hour schedule is highly structured and well arranged, with enough time set for classes, homework, bedtime, study periods, morning rituals, meals, exercise, and counseling. It is very normal that children will initially resist such routine and such arranged structures, however, many teachers and parents say that their children’s behavior and habits improve drastically with the time going by, and when they are exposed to this sort of routine.

What you must know in advance, as a parent, is that boarding schools cost awfully expensive. This is where you decide how important it is for you to spend a fortune in your child’s well-being and for him or her to have a bright future. In most cases, parent invest blindly in boarding schools because they know that without this treatment, their children’s future is at scope. That’s why they even spend their child’s college savings or try to get their health insurance to cover the costs. If you haven’t got an insurance or savings, some places may provide government-funded boarding schools that will require extensive applications to meet requirements. So at all cases, a parent is left with a lot of work and research to conduct.


Bottom line

Whether you are a student, educator or a parent seeking for the best opportunities for your child, it is important to understand that Emotional Growth Schools and Therapeutic Boarding Schools are special alternatives that will help your child strive, if you think that they may be struggling in certain aspects of their development. These schools may as well be a great choice towards a safer, healthier educational environment, and we hope to see more of them as we walk past the traditional idea of learning, towards the more alternative ones. It’s about time we start giving our well-being the attention it deserves!

Title photo: Ramin Talebi on Unsplash

Read more in our series on alternative eduaction around the world:

Alternative Education – Steiner System

Education in Finland – What Makes It So Great?


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