Fact Sheet Index

What is the difference between a traditional and therapeutic boarding school?

Boarding schools have a long tradition in our society, generally known for their excellence in education and ability to prepare students for a bright academic and professional future. Small class sizes, individualized attention, and often a higher quality of teachers and other academic professionals has given boarding schools a much-deserved reputation as educational institutions that produce bright, skilled, and capable young adults.

Over the years, a new breed of boarding school has developed. These schools specialize in kids whose parents want them to excel academically, but know these students have other challenges that need to be addressed if they are to achieve this goal. They are known as therapeutic boarding schools or emotional growth schools. They serve children and adolescents who have emotional or behavioral issues by giving them not only an academic education, but a life education. These schools teach more than the three “R’s”–they also teach responsibility and self-reliance, and promote healthy behaviors so that these unique students can achieve their highest potential.

What Sets These Schools Apart

Class Size

Generally the ratio of teachers to students is much smaller in therapeutic boarding schools. Children receive very individualized academic attention, which makes them an excellent resource for kids with ADD, ADHD, or learning disabilities. Most parents who have teens with these issues know their kids are bright and capable. They also know how such children can “fall through the cracks” in a traditional academic setting.


Therapeutic boarding schools promote emotional growth by offering group and individual therapy for students, and educational opportunities for parents. The approach of these boarding schools is to create a complete education, one that addresses the unique issues of its students and respects both their abilities and their differences. No two children are treated alike, which means your child gets an individualized education plan that is specifically designed for him or her.

Recreational Activities & Unique Adventures

Many therapeutic boarding schools offer children exceptional opportunities to participate in wilderness adventures or other unique activites. Adolescents at the Academy at Swift River have the opportunity to take part in a program in Costa Rica. 

A Whole Approach to Education

The therapeutic boarding school educates the whole child by addressing the emotional, behavioral, psychological, academic, and creative needs of each adolescent. Teens who attend these schools can make remarkable progress in all these areas in their lives, enabling them to return home with a renewed sense of self and strong character.

Aspen Education Group has a number of programs offering the benefits of a boarding school environment for pre-adolescent and adolescent children who have self-defeating behaviors. These intensive programs can quickly narrow down the issues your child is experiencing to help him or her on a positive life path.

The Academy at Swift River is a boarding school and compassionate educational community that fosters personal growth and healthy self-expression in adolescents, inspires academic excellence, and teaches individual responsbility and service to others. Talk to a program representative for more information.

Aspen Ranch has a unique approach to teens struggling with behavioral issues such as depression, substance abuse, and academic underachievement. Equine-assisted therapy can be highly effective in helping teens understand and verbalize their issues. Their relationship with the horse gives them a new perspective on their lives and behaviors, and faciliates emotional expression in adolescents who feel disconnected and depressed. Talk to a program representative for more information.

Our Assessment Test can help you determine if a residential program might be best for your particular child.

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