Out-of-Control Teenager Programs: A Parent's Guide to Finding Help

If you're the parent of an out-of-control teenager, you know the stress and frustration that comes with trying to help them. While traditional therapy can be helpful, it may not be enough to address the unique challenges that your teen faces. That's why Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment is known for being one of the most effective options for parents looking to support their teens and help them get back on track.

Take our assessment for out-of-control teens and see if a Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment program is right for your family.

What is an Out-of-Control Teenager?

Being an out-of-control teenager typically refers to a teenager who is engaging in behavior that is harmful to themselves or others, and that is not in line with socially acceptable norms or family expectations. Out-of-control behavior can take many forms, including but not limited to severe anger, substance abuse, criminal behavior, defiant or disrespectful behavior, and engaging in risky or dangerous activities.

This type of behavior can indicate deeper issues, such as mental health concerns, difficulty managing emotions, or a lack of guidance or structure. Out-of-control behavior can have serious consequences for the teenager, as well as their family, friends, and future prospects.

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    Signs Your Out-of-Control Teen May Need Treatment:

    The signs of out-of-control behavior in teenagers can manifest in physical, emotional, and behavioral ways. As a parent, it's crucial to be knowledgeable of these warning signs in order to effectively support and guide your teen. The following is a list of common indicators of out-of-control behavior in teens that parents should be aware of.

    Here are some common signs that a teenager may be out of control:

    It's important to note that these signs can vary from teen to teen, and that not all out-of-control teens will exhibit every sign. Additionally, these signs may also be indicative of other issues or challenges that the teen is facing. If you're concerned about your teen, it's important to seek professional help as soon as possible.

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    Types of Out-of-Control Teenage Behaviors

    There are two main types of out-of-control behavior in teens:

    Dangerous or risk-taking behaviors:

    This category includes behaviors that put the teenager or others in harm's way, such as reckless driving, unprotected sex, self-harm, or thoughts of suicide.

    Defiant or disruptive behaviors:

    This category includes behaviors that show disrespect or defiance towards authority, such as running away from home, truancy, criminal behavior, or aggressive or violent behavior towards others.

    This grouping is not exhaustive, and other categories or subcategories may be appropriate depending on the specific situation.

    Is it Just Normal Teenage Behavior or Something More?

    It can be challenging to distinguish between normal teenage behavior and out-of-control behavior, as adolescence is a time of significant change and development. However, there are some key differences that can help parents identify when a teenager's behavior has crossed a line.

    Normal teenage behavior can include:

    • Experimenting with new ideas, interests, and identities
    • Questioning authority and testing boundaries
    • Expressing emotions in intense or dramatic ways
    • Seeking independence and privacy

    Out-of-control behavior can include:

    • Engaging in destructive or self-harmful behaviors
    • Exhibiting reckless or criminal behavior
    • Consistently disregarding rules or boundaries
    • Struggling with school or relationships
    • Displaying signs of drug or alcohol abuse

    Please seek the advice of a mental health professional if you're unsure about your teenager's behavior, as early intervention and support can make a significant difference in their well-being and future prospects. Additionally, it's important to keep in mind that out-of-control behavior can be a symptom of underlying mental health or developmental issues, and that professional support can help identify and address these underlying causes.

    What Causes Teens To Be Out of Control?

    There are a variety of factors that can contribute to a teenager becoming out of control, including but not limited to:

    • Mental health concerns: Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD can lead to impulsive or destructive behavior.
    • Trauma or adverse childhood experiences: Exposure to traumatic events or difficult childhood experiences can impact a teenager's ability to regulate their emotions and behavior.
    • Family dynamics: Family conflict, lack of structure or support, or inconsistent parenting can contribute to a teenager feeling out of control.
    • Peer pressure or negative peer influence: Peer pressure to engage in risky or harmful behaviors, such as substance abuse or criminal activity, can contribute to out-of-control behavior.
    • Lack of healthy relationships: A lack of positive role models or healthy relationships can contribute to a teenager feeling lost or struggling to find their identity.
    • Stress or pressure: High levels of stress or pressure, such as from academics, social pressures, or financial difficulties, can lead to impulsive or self-destructive behavior.

    It's important to note that these factors can interact with each other creating a compounding effect and specific causes of out-of-control behavior can vary from teenager to teenager. Additionally, it's important to seek professional help if you're concerned about your teenager's behavior, as early intervention and support can make a significant difference in their well-being and future prospects.

    Dealing with Rebellious Teenager: Seven Positive Things You Can Do

    Dealing with a rebellious teenager can be challenging. As a parent, you may feel frustrated and powerless. Unfortunately, teenagers don't come with a user's manual, but there are things you can do to help them through this challenging time. Here are the seven best tips to help you respond to a rebellious teenager:

    1. Understand Why Teenagers Rebel

    Understanding what makes teenagers rebellious can help you temper the frustrations of some of their defiance. So what makes teenagers so disrespectful and disobedient in the first place?

    While rebellion has many causes, it might help you to know that it is a natural part of adolescent development. It is a time when teenagers test boundaries, feel increased pressure to fit in with their peers, and want to start developing their own sense of self and control.

    Understand that some rebellion is a natural part of adolescent psychology. Knowing this can help you understand some behaviors and shape them in more positive ways.

    2. Establish Rules and Consequences Together

    Disciplining a defiant teenager who doesn't seem to care about consequences is frustrating and scary. Parents can feel they are ineffective, and teens can feel punishments are arbitrary or excessive.

    Working with your teenager to set reasonable boundaries can increase their cooperation in abiding by the rules they help set. Let them help create the rules that you expect them to follow. Invite them to explain why the rules are essential and establish appropriate consequences for broken rules.

    This joint effort can give your teenager a sense of legitimate control while acknowledging their good behavior.

    3. Consistently Enforce Boundaries

    Even the best-behaved teen will push limits and boundaries. But all children, especially teens, need consistency in how rules are made and enforced. The consequences of breaking rules should be transparent and consistently applied so that your teen will always know what will happen.

    Fair and consistently enforced consequences for rule-breaking let your teenager test limits while knowing that you care.

    4. Know What to Ignore

    Even when abiding by family rules, teens will push your patience. Understanding when to ignore something or let it slide will help you maintain your sanity. Finding ways to let the small things slide can let your teen feel they are gaining independence and have control over their lives.

    5. Keep Communication Open

    Teenagers often feel misunderstood and shut down when parents try talking to them. And parents don't always know how to talk to their rebellious teenagers. You can keep lines of communication open by letting your teen do most of the talking. Simply listening to them can help them feel less pressured to share their thoughts and feelings.

    6. Know That It's Not Personal

    Keeping a cool head when your teen is acting out is hard. Understanding that your teen is learning necessary behavioral skills and independence will help you not take things personally. Staying calm and respectful will set a good example, even in difficult times.

    7. Find Support

    While teens will be teens, there may be a point where what may have started as rebellion needs professional support. Out-of-control teenage rebellion lasting for more than six months or accompanied by substance abuse or mental health concerns may need professional support.

    Importance of Early Intervention & Treatment for Out-of-Control Teens

    Early intervention is important when helping out-of-control teens because it can make a significant difference in their well-being and future prospects. Some reasons why early intervention is important include:

    • Preventing negative consequences: Early intervention can help prevent negative consequences such as substance abuse, criminal behavior, or long-term mental health issues from becoming entrenched.
    • Building resilience: Early intervention can help build resilience and coping skills in teenagers, which can help them better manage stress and challenges in the future.
    • Improving outcomes: Early intervention can improve a teenager's outcomes, including their academic performance, relationships, and overall well-being.
    • Addressing underlying issues: Early intervention can help identify and address underlying mental health or developmental issues, which can be a root cause of out-of-control behavior.
    • Improving access to resources: Early intervention can help ensure that a teenager has access to the resources and support they need to overcome challenges and develop positive coping strategies.
    • Building trust: Early intervention can help build trust between parents and their teenager, which can be critical in ensuring that the teenager is receptive to support and guidance.

    Seek professional help if you're concerned about your teenager's behavior, as a mental health professional can provide tailored advice and support based on the specific needs of your teenager. Additionally, early intervention can be critical in ensuring that your teenager receives the support and resources they need to overcome challenges and reach their full potential.

    Parents hug their teenage son at a graduation from ThreePeaks Ascent, a nature-based short-term residential treatment center for teens and their families

    Not Seeking Treatment Can Be Harmful

    The short and long-term effects of leaving out-of-control teenage behavior untreated can be significant and far-reaching. Some of the most common effects include:

    Short-term effects:

    • Decreased academic performance
    • Damaged relationships with peers, family members, and authority figures
    • Increased risk of substance abuse and criminal behavior
    • Decreased mental health and well-being

    Long-term effects:

    • Increased risk of ongoing mental health issues
    • Decreased life satisfaction and success in personal and professional areas
    • Difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships
    • Increased likelihood of involvement in the criminal justice system
    • Substance abuse and addiction

    Early Intervention Is Important For Healing Your Teen & Family

    Early intervention refers to recognizing the warning signs of out-of-control teenage behavior and acting before it gets worse. When you realize that your teen is struggling, it’s important to get professional treatment before it becomes worse.

    Early intervention can help parents and families of out-of-control teenagers in several specific ways, including:

    • Providing support and guidance: Early intervention can provide parents and families with the support and guidance they need to navigate the situation effectively. This can include information on effective communication strategies, coping skills, and resources available to help manage the situation.
    • Improving relationships: Early intervention can help improve relationships between parents, teenagers, and other family members. This can include teaching parents how to better understand and communicate with their teen while also improving the teenager's relationships with their peers and family members.
    • Reducing stress for the whole family: Early intervention can help reduce stress and anxiety for parents and other family members, as well as for the teenager themselves. By receiving support and guidance, families can feel more confident and better equipped to manage the situation effectively.
    • Preventing further harm: Early intervention can help prevent further harm to the teenager and the family. This can include addressing behavioral issues before they escalate and helping the teenager access the resources and support they need to overcome challenges.
    • Building resilience: Early intervention can help build resilience and coping skills in parents and family members, which can help them better manage stress and challenges in the future.
    • Improving overall well-being: Early intervention can help improve the overall well-being of everyone involved. By addressing out-of-control behavior early on, families can take an important step toward promoting positive mental health and well-being for all members of the household.

    Plus, it could help reduce long-term medical costs and the overall burden on family and friends. Overcoming out-of-control teenage behavior is possible with the right tools and treatment programs. You can help your teen get the support they need.

    Out-of-Control Teenager Programs: What Are Your Options?

    Parents of out-of-control teenagers have a number of options for programs that can help manage their teenager's behavior. Some of the most common options include:

    • Outpatient therapy: Outpatient therapy involves regular visits to a therapist for individual or group therapy sessions. This can be an effective option for teenagers who need support and guidance but can continue living at home and attending school.
    • Day treatment programs: These programs provide treatment and support during the day, with the teenager returning home in the evenings. They typically provide a structured environment, individual therapy, and group therapy sessions to help teenagers address their challenges and develop coping skills.
    • Residential treatment centers: These facilities offer 24-hour care and treatment for teenagers with behavioral and emotional challenges. They provide a safe and supportive environment where teenagers can receive individual therapy, group therapy, and other types of treatment to help them overcome their challenges. ThreePeaks' residential treatment center uses the outdoors for therapy and skill-building. Teenagers participate in activities such as hiking, camping, and team-building exercises to develop problem-solving skills, communication skills, and resilience.

    The best option for a particular teenager will depend on their specific needs, challenges, and goals. It's important for parents to work with a mental health professional to determine the most appropriate option based on the teenager's unique circumstances.

    I’m Not Sure Where to Start.

    We’re here to help - take the first step and contact us to see if Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment could be the path to healing for your family.

    Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment

    If your teenager is struggling with out-of-control behaviors, ThreePeaks residential treatment program offers a specialized program to provide support and guidance. Our short-term program combines therapy and nature-based activities, creating a holistic approach to address their specific needs. Led by experienced therapists, our team is dedicated to delivering individualized care for each teen.

    Throughout the program, your teenager will engage in activities like hiking and camping, working alongside their therapist to overcome challenges. The simplified setting allows them to detach from daily distractions and focus on personal growth. The natural environment serves as a metaphor for their journey, translating the skills learned in treatment to everyday life.

    Our program empowers teens to take ownership of their healing process and develop lasting skills for recovery beyond their stay. It serves as a stepping stone towards independence rather than fostering ongoing dependence.

    We understand the weight of choosing the right treatment program for your teenager and are committed to supporting you every step of the way. Our team is available to address any questions or provide additional information about our program. With the right support, we believe your teenager can overcome their struggles and pave the way for a happier and more fulfilling life. Contact us today to learn how we can help your family.

    Benefits of a Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment Program

    Being immersed in nature can have a profound impact on a teenager. It improves their mental, emotional, and physical health.  Combined with a proven clinical approach, our therapeutic program helps teens heal from the issues driving their out-of-control behavior.  Here are specific benefits your family can expect to see while your teen is in nature-based short-term residential treatment.

    The first stage of effective short-term residential treatment focuses on assessment and stabilization.

    1. Assessment 

    By observing your teen in a novel environment, our experienced therapists gain a deep understanding of what is really happening with your child. Research indicates accurate mental health assessments can lead to a 20% reduction in the number of days in treatment.

    2. Stabilization 

    Mental health stabilization provides a safe environment to deescalate your teen’s level of distress and/or reduce their acute symptoms of mental illness. Until teens feel genuinely safe, they cannot begin to heal. One therapeutic modality emphasizes that “Cues of safety are the treatment” and “safety is defined by feeling safe and not simply by the removal of threat.” It is not enough to merely tell a teen in crisis that they are mentally and emotionally safe, they must actually feel and believe it.

    Once your teen feels safe, our nature-based residential treatment program provides a novel and challenging environment that disrupts their unhealthy patterns and behaviors. Behaviors that either:

    • cause your teen's mental & emotional health struggles
    • or that your teen has developed as a negative way of coping with their struggles.

    The second stage of an effective residential treatment program focuses on engaging teens in the therapeutic process and empowering them with the skills needed to thrive.

    1. Engaging Teens in Therapy (even if they’ve been resistant to it before)

    The ThreePeaks Ascent treatment program is designed to re-engage teens in healthy adolescent development. When your teen attends a short-term residential program, they are taken away from negative distractions they may have at home. They engage in treatment in a way that would not be possible in any other setting.

    Your teen will participate in individual, group, and family therapy sessions while in treatment. This allows them to process their behavior as well as make changes in their personal life and family relationships. They are also able to learn from their peers, realize they are not alone in their struggles, and gain motivation to make changes.

    We've found that by the time of discharge, 90% of teens were actively engaged in treatment. When contacted six months after treatment, most of these teens maintained the motivational progress they made during treatment.

    2. Empowering Teens Through Skill Development

    As your teen engages in the therapeutic process, they’ll start to see huge progress. But for long-term healing, it is not enough to only alleviate your teen’s struggles, we must also empower them with the skills needed to thrive in life. These skills include:

    • Self-awareness skills like a growth mindset, identifying one's feelings, developing interests & sense of purpose
    • Self-management skills like emotional regulation, self-motivation, resilience, setting & achieving goals, planning & time management
    • Responsible decision-making skills like showing curiosity & open-mindedness, anticipating & evaluating the consequences of one’s actions, internal locus of control
    • Relationship skills like communicating effectively, seeking & offering support, resolving conflicts constructively
    • Social awareness skills like showing empathy & compassion for others, taking others’ perspective, recognizing strengths in others

    Your teen is powerful, intelligent, and capable. They are among the leaders of tomorrow. That is why the third stage of our short-term residential treatment program focuses on helping teens redirect their previously misused potential toward developing mastery in life.

    Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche observed years ago, “Happiness is the feeling that power is increasing—that resistance is being overcome.” When teens develop competence and mastery they:

    • gain self-reliance and self-confidence
    • become more resilient
    • have a greater sense of meaning and purpose
    • and better resist negative emotions.

    Overall, building mastery helps teens develop a positive mindset. Because they feel competent and in control, they go from feeling, “I’m not capable” to “I can do this!”

    About the Author

    Steven DeMille, Executive Director at ThreePeaks Ascent, a short-term residential treatment program for teens in crisis

    Steven DeMille, Ph.D. LCMHC


    Steven DeMille is the Executive Director of ThreePeaks Ascent. He is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. His educational experience includes an MA in Mental Health Counseling and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision. His research focus is on Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment, nature, adolescent development, and counseling ethics. He is actively involved in the counseling and psychology profession and holds regional and national leadership positions. He publishes and presents on Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment and the use of the outdoors. This is done around the world at the national and international conference levels. 

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