What are Teen Boot Camps? 

Since their creation in the early 1980s, teen boot camps have become one of the significant developments in the troubled teen industry, providing a much-needed solution to desperate parents looking for ways to manage their troubled, at-risk, and defiant teenage girls.

Lately, however, various groups made up of prominent researchers reported that teen boot camps and similar-style involuntary boot camps for adolescent girls were not successful in their established goals to implement therapeutic intervention and treatment to its participants. According to what was discovered from the 10-year study financed by the U.S. Department of Justice, these facilities were never effective. Their report advises boot camps should be abandoned in favor of more valid alternatives that have been proven efficient in providing intervention and treatment for troubled teens - such as therapeutic boarding schools.

Types of Boot Camps Vary 

When boot camps first became popular in the 1990s, they mainly focused on military-style treatment. Teens were screamed at, treated harshly, and, in lieu of receiving actual psychotherapy for underlying issues, punished with push-ups or physical discipline. Most parenting experts don't suggest short, military-style boot camps as a behavior management strategy devoid of psychoanalysis and therapy.

What's worse, in extreme cases, boot camps have led to life-altering and even life-ending consequences. The poorly trained staff coupled with corporal discipline have, unfortunately, led to the deaths of several teens over the last few decades.

Fortunately, many alternative, more therapeutically credible treatment programs have been established over the past couple of decades. Therapy-focused programs depend on more psychotherapy, education, and life skills than harsh punishment. Some of these programs even occur in the wilderness or a ranch-style boarding school versus jail-like settings.

Ineffectiveness of Military-Style Boot Camps

Empirical and clinical studies on teenage boot camps for troubled girls that use a military-style strategy confirm that they aren't all that practical in yielding long-lasting or genuine change in behaviors. These facilities focus on punishment rather than discipline. Scare tactics are used to get teenagers to perform under duress and, in no way, actively teach them how to act in the outside world.

Teenage girls in military-style boot camps learn to do what they're told when someone is screaming in their face and frightening them into doing push-ups. That said, teenage girl students are not faced with the same daily threats of abuse in the real world; they aren't motivated to behave. Temporary "change" yields only temporary results.  

Consequently, most boot campers return to their previous behavior as soon as they return home.

Military-style boot camps are notorious for their failure to teach new skills or therapeutic and behavior strategies. It's common sense: troubled teenage girls in need of intensive treatment cannot make healthy decisions for themselves.

A Decade of Empirical Data Proves Boot Camps Do NOT Work

In response to the increasing incidences of adolescent crimes, involuntary boot camps were instituted in the late '70s as a means to provide hope and an alternative to jail to incarcerated youths overcrowding the already crowded prison systems. The purposes of these boot camps were to reduce the presence of children within the prison population, give them a new chance at life by reducing recidivism of its juvenile members (in psychiatry, recidivism is the chronic tendency toward repeating negative behavior patterns of troubled teenagers), and to decrease jail operating costs.

Initially, involuntary boot camps were reported successful. The participating youth found success in these programs, stating that the camp's method and structure taught them how to conduct themselves better. Like the military drill camps they were fashioned after, partakers of teen boot camps are also ordered to get up, get dressed, work, or play according to a scheduled regimen. They must don uniforms and practice drills and ceremonies, and superiors are addressed by rank and title. They are group into divisions or companies and entered facilities, such as the mess room, in groups and usually marched themselves to activities. Analysis has regarded that such a highly structured atmosphere positively affects the teens participating in these programs.

It was also pointed out that teens conform to the rules and statutes and tend to commit themselves. Unfortunately, these positive changes did not yield diminished negative behaviors or recidivism among its campers in the long run.

According to Doris MacKenzie, one of the foremost boot camp researchers who began studying teen boot camps in 1997, "these businesses have failed to implement sufficient intervention treatment to troubled teens because these facilities lack the necessary component of an effective therapy capable of eliciting a lasting change. For an intervention to be successful, the immediate positive transformation must be carried into the future."

In her 2007, MacKenzie stated report that effective programs focus on individual-level change. For example, cognitive skills programs that emphasize individual-level changes in thinking, reasoning, empathy, and problem-solving are far more efficient programs that can decrease our country's world-record-setting recidivism rates.

According to Mackenzie, "They need to learn how to set goals, resist peer pressure, and solve problems. They also need to learn social skills, and often, they need hobbies and interests that will keep them out of trouble."

Should Moms and Dads Send Their Child to a Boot Camp for Teens?

Teen psychiatrists and psychologists, teachers, education professionals, and even the U.S. government have answered this question repeatedly with a universal "no."

Boot camps operate in false advertising, meanwhile touting their program as a camp for troubled teens who need discipline and what they call an "attitude adjustment."

Boot camp businesses take advantage of worriedly desperate parents by telling them their boot camp has effectively treated the negative behaviors of thousands of rebellious adolescents into law-abiding, mature members of society.

They routinely tell parents that boot camps instruct kids on how to "understand" the consequences of their actions through physical labor, structured regimens, and learning problem-solving skills.

Sadly, it's usually too late when parents become privy to the fact that these carefully crafted advertisements are nothing more than hot air-filled lies.

In a crucial exposition about boot camps for troubled youth distributed by the International Journal of Human Sciences, boot camps are labeled "shock incarceration programs that highlight a military environment."

The authors of the paper evaluated a comprehensive set of literature investigating boot camps in the U.S. They found that "strict discipline, drill ceremonies, and physical training are common characteristics" of all boot camps. One of the article's writers affirmed that "control of the inmates (aka teens in the boot camp) is entirely in the hands of military drill instructors."

Still, after the U.S. Department of Justice conducted their assessment of boot camps in 1998 and determined that they were not practical for reducing recidivism among teens, boot camps proceeded to prosper due to their misleading advertising, albeit overwhelmingly effective methods. Boot camps continue to operate in much the same way they have always used - by isolating teens from their desperate and worried moms and dads while legally victimizing them in remote, undisclosed camps.

Over the past couple of decades, more than a few boot camps have been shut down after children participants reported their horror stories to state lawmakers. Yet even after the major reformation and sweeping shutdowns, inconceivably, several children have died at the hands of callous camp "leaders."

More Disturbing Facts That Boot Camps Don't Want Parents to Know

Although boot camps for troubled teenage girls claim that graduates of their highly structured "treatment programs" rarely exhibit previous behavioral issues, academic research clearly shows otherwise.

Many social and educational researchers have documented that troubled teen girls attending a military school or boot camp may have even greater recidivism than youths in traditional juvenile detention centers.

In other words, not only do these programs not work, clinical and empirical evidence suggests that they are more likely to make matters even worse. 

Parents are not Allowed to Speak or See Their Daughter.

Many facilities that operate under the guise of a "wilderness therapy" program tell parents they will teach kids self-sufficiency, ultimately improving their self-esteem. However, what they don't tell parents during interviewing processes is that this involves isolating teens from parents for weeks at a time.

Through first-hand accounts of kids imprisoned in boot camp programs, we now know they can be objected to physical abuse, starvation and even denied necessary medical attention.

Needless to say, boot camps for troubled girls do not include family counseling or therapy sessions with parental involvement - two of the most effective treatment methods in teaching troubled girls how to communicate their feelings and thoughts when under duress and in need of help.

Not All Troubled Girls are Alike (Nor Should Their Treatment Be) 

Teenage girls with behavioral problems at residential treatment centers or therapeutic boarding schools are first evaluated by licensed psychotherapists and officially diagnosed with learning, mental, or personality disorders. This specification and attention to individualized treatment are paramount as no teenage girl is the same, and therefore, requires personalized treatment that is specifically designed for their therapeutic needs. 

After the initial intake, teens are then placed with peers who have similar behavioral and mental issues. Any reputable treatment program individualizes a program designed to address their unique needs and provide both traditional one-on-one and group therapy sessions. 

Contrariwise, boot camps do not evaluate each child enrolled in their camp. Instead, teens with bipolar disorder, ADHD, defiant personality disorder, and other mental health issues are thrown together and are treated as one unified group. 

To make matters inexplicably worse, the vast majority of boot camps don't even employ a licensed therapist or mental health professional on their staff whatsoever. 

This (in addition to a myriad of other negative implications) means more aggressive teens may contact introverted, shy teens who are easily bullied or physically abused.

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Therapeutic Boarding Schools: An Exponentially Better Alternative to Boot Camps

To produce a lasting positive change in troubled teens, they must have an internal inclination to change in themselves first place. 

This brings us to the fundamental flaw of boot camps: they don't promote or instill any real, lasting change in the behavior or lives of troubled teens. Troubled teens are not bad kids. Rather, they are children whose underlying mental and emotional issues are, in a sense, causing their negative behaviors. Without sophisticated treatments, these negative behaviors will not be exercised. 

At a boot camp, which does not employ any or utilize the integral aspect of psychiatric care, these negative behaviors are merely addressed with abusive and vitriolic aggression. The best-case scenario parents can expect from a boot camp is their child masking their behaviors by "weathering the next few weeks" with superficial compliance. As multiple, decades-long studies have shown us, this change is an artificial one, and negative behaviors fueled by underlying clinical issues will eventually resurface - and most likely even worsen. 

There are many more effective options to choose from for any parent currently seeking the services of a boot camp for their troubled teenage daughter. The most recommended of these alternatives are known as therapeutic boarding schools. Therapeutic boarding schools have the therapeutic acumen of a residential treatment center and the academic curriculum of a traditional boarding school. Therapeutic boarding schools are not only well-versed in treating severe mental health-related issues but they are also certified residential high schools that can further a teenage girl's academic life to the next level.

For example, top-tier therapeutic boarding schools, like Clearview Girls Academy, offer computer-based grade restoration. Meaning, with the assistance of professional teachers, female students will not only be able to accel towards in their academia, graduate early, and partake in college courses, they will also be able to improve their past grades to improve their overall GPA retroactively. 

Clearview Girls Academy, An Effective Alternative to Boot Camps for Troubled Teens

Here at Clearview Girls Academy, we offer troubled girls what we refer to as behavioral reconciliation. 

As described on our About Me Page: 

Reconciliation is "the act" of bringing all good things back together as one, fully restored. Behavioral reconciliation is the process of aligning our thoughts and our actions together to become who we are meant to be and who we really want to be. Behavioral reconciliation happens when we realign our "inner man" (true self) with our destiny (true identity) and then follow our hearts. Behavioral reconciliation leads to the repair and restoration of our relationships, which leads to being full of joy.

With 25 years' worth of experience and a reputation that boasts the rehabilitation of thousands of female students, we can confidently assure you that we are an exponentially better alternative to boot camps for troubled teens. For more information, don't be a stranger! We are here for you any time of day or night. Call us now at (888) 796-5484.