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What are Boot Camps?

Boot camps are short-term programs modeled after military training that use discipline to address behavioral issues in “troubled teens.” Their goal is to help teens improve their physical fitness, go beyond their limits, work together with others, and achieve a common goal. Their methods are often considered controversial, as they emphasize obedience, fear, and shame rather than offering therapeutic support. Many teens leave the program more traumatized than when they entered.

Alternative Options

Your family has many options to choose from when it comes to mental health treatment for your teen with behavioral issues that use more current and innovative strategies to empower your teen to make changes for themselves. Boot camps do more harm than good. Their success rate is similar to those who are in Juvenile Detention.

Some treatment programs with more positive outcomes include but are not limited to:

  • Residential Treatment Centers
  • Therapeutic Boarding Schools
  • Assessment Centers
  • Wilderness Therapy



Low success rate.

Some teens’ behavior might improve, but they don’t deal with the problems contributing to their behavior, leading to lower long-term success. It is more common for teens to leave with more problems than when they started due to abuse and association with other “criminals”. 


Use of physical discipline.

Some programs are more aggressive than others and have a negative reputation. Students run a high risk of enduring physical harm from daily rigorous workouts or fighting with peers.


Emphasis on obedience

to authority figures rather than building close connections with mentors. In effect, they are “scared straight”


Don’t address underlying issues

While they help teens with mental health issues, they often do not provide individual therapy. They focus more on behavioral problems than emotional problems.

Effectiveness of other types of programs
  • Residential Treatment Centers. Focuses on underlying mental health issues that affect behavioral problems through a variety of activities.
  • Therapeutic Boarding Schools. Provide supportive therapeutic environment for teens with academic issues or discipline problems at school, along with mental health issues. 
  • Assessment Centers. Help stabilize struggling teens and offers insight into diagnoses.
  • Wilderness Therapy. Similar outdoor component with more emphasis on relationship with environment and confidence-building through adventure activities rather than workouts.
% Drop out rate

% Increased chance of re-offending

% recidivism rate, including dropouts

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