What Parents Can Learn From the Paris Hilton Documentary
Knowing if residential therapy is right for your teen and finding quality care.
Posted September 14, 2020 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
It has been an extremely stressful time during the pandemic, especially for parents of teenagers. If you were struggling with your child prior to COVID-19, chances are this new normal has only compounded behavioral issues.
Parenting at your wit's end
No one is immune to having difficulties with their kids, from celebrities to average people. If you are dealing with an out-of-control teen, you can feel like a hostage in your own home.
In the recent documentary, This Is Paris, Paris Hilton reveals that at age 15 her parents reached their wit's end. After being shipped off to a series of wilderness programs, she landed in a program that she claims was emotionally and physically harmful.
It's hard to blame Paris' parents, because I was once that mother. Two decades ago, I sent my daughter to a residential therapy program that claimed they would help my daughter, but it was very similar to Hilton's experience.
This was after I hired an educational consultant that attempted to sell me the wilderness programs too. Fortunately for our family, we didn't buy into the wilderness shuffle. I believed that my daughter was struggling enough, emotionally, that breaking her down in the woods wouldn't resolve or help her problems. Unfortunately for us, we landed in an abusive program too (which is now closed down).
The teen help industry
Today teens are experiencing depression, anxiety, stress, suicide ideation, self-harm, internet addition, vaping, marijuana use, drinking, and other risky behavior at an alarming rate. With high school students, a 2019 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Behavioral Survey shares concerns of prescription Opioid misuse, binge drinking, and other substance abuse.
The fact is, there are young people that need quality teen help and sometimes it means attending a therapeutic boarding school.
When my daughter was out-of-control, we exhausted our local resources. After going through five different therapists, outpatient therapy, and a short stay in-patient locally, I finally sent her to a relative's to stay. That lasted less than two weeks before we made the major decision of residential therapy.
The teen help industry is big business. No one realizes this until you need it. Why would you?
Learning from our experiences
After all the darkness, and sharing our story online in 2001, I've since educated thousands of parents about searching for quality residential treatment centers. Questions to ask schools and programs and helpful tips in researching facilities are some of the valuable information I offer for parents in crisis.
Although there are many that would like to see all programs shut down, we can't ignore the fact many children and families need help. This is why it's important that parents learn how to do their homework so they don't end up in facilities like my daughter and Paris Hilton did.
Does your teen need residential therapy?
As I share with all parents, only you can answer that.
Here are some questions to consider:
1. Have you exhausted all your local resources? From using local therapy to extending into outpatient, teens can be easily shut down. Although we know that many times it’s difficult to get a teen to open up to a therapist—or even attend a session—parents need to know they at least tried. When in residential therapy, the entire program evolves around their emotional wellness, 24/7. Being removed from their negativity helps tremendously.
2. Have they tried living with a relative? Some families have attempted to move the troubled teen to a relative. Again, sometimes this works—and other times it can be a Band-Aid. However, it can help you make that decision that you have exhausted your local resources before you decide to choose residential.
3. Is your teen a danger to themselves or other people (you)? Has your child become violent towards you or themselves? This is when you know it’s time to start researching for residential therapy. It’s not working at home.
4. Do you feel like you are a hostage in your home by their behavior? Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells? Being careful about what you say or how you act for fear they may become explosive? Again, this is a red flag that it may be time for residential therapy.