The ABC’s of an Effective Treatment Program


The ABC’s of Effective Adolescent Residential Treatment for Anxiety, Depression and Trauma AND Support: How Treatment Programs Can Prepare Families for Transitioning Home

The decision to evaluate residential treatment for adolescents is one of the scariest dilemmas a parent can encounter. There are so many options for residential care for mood disorders, trauma and substance use that a simple Google search can produce more questions than answers. How do I know my son or daughter will be well cared for? Do the program’s clinicians actually know what they are doing? When will I get ‘my old child’ back again?

At Paradigm San Francisco, we have a straightforward mission: To deliver a 30-45 day treatment experience that provides comfortable, expert treatment for anxiety, depression and trauma and delivers evidence-based clinical care in a compassionate setting for the adolescents and their families. We accomplish this in a variety of ways that aim to support an effective treatment course, accentuate each adolescent’s strengths and treatment efficacy that continues recovery post-discharge through effective and individualized treatment planning for the family’s home and community. Here are the ABC’s for integral factors that parents should look for in an effective treatment program.


Assessment. How could a program provide effective treatment if they do not know what they are treating? Programs that provide comprehensive assessments upon admission provide the adolescent and their therapists the most effective tools to provide a treatment plan that is based on an accurate diagnostic picture. If a program doesn’t provide assessment services shortly after admission, how do they know what they are treating? At Paradigm San Francisco, we conduct a comprehensive assessment for each adolescent we treat within the first 3 days of treatment.

Behavioral Approach. There is no evidence that adolescent treatment needs to knock kids down to build them up again. Why would an adolescent who is struggling with anxiety or depression need to experience a harsh or unempathic treatment environment? Most families that make the decision to send their child to residential treatment have seen their son or daughter get knocked down more times than any adolescent should. Many adolescents have such low self-esteem that they have become experts and knocking themselves down. At Paradigm San Francisco, we believe in meeting the adolescent where they are and helping them build themselves up without artificial incentive, point or level systems.

Clinical Expertise. Deciding which residential program is the right one is a daunting experience for families. Often, it appears that a single treatment program has the capacity to treat any diagnosis and behavior. Effective programs have a succinct and targeted set of diagnoses and behaviors that they treat and expert clinicians that have the training and support to provide state-of-the-art and evidence-based clinical treatment for those issues. Not only does it help the individual in treatment, it also helps families know that their child is in a safe program where other clients that are being treated have struggled in similar ways and will find success in treatment and beyond.

Daily Schedule. Structure may be one of the most important components in adolescent development. Not surprisingly, programs thrive when that structure provides academic focus, individual treatment and targeted group programming. Most adolescents have tried individual therapy once or twice a week in the community and that has proven to be ineffective. Often adolescent’s anxiety, depression or trauma causes attendance to school, relationships and extracurricular activities to diminish. At Paradigm San Francisco, we provide 3 hours of daily classroom time each weekday, in addition to individual therapy 7 days a week. Our comprehensive clinical group program provides 4 hours of didactic, process and experiential programming every treatment day.


Evoking Strengths. Families seek effective residential care because their child has deficits in an area that cannot be addressed in the home or community treatment setting. Often, though, when adolescents enter residential treatment, they need to leave all of their strengths at home. Family, friends, academics, athletics and arts are the very activities that help kids stay afloat in spite of their anxiety, depression and trauma. At Paradigm San Francisco, we provide specialized programming for adolescents who are gifted artists and students to accentuate their strengths while in treatment.

Family Programming. The adolescent is the important person in treatment; however, his or her family needs to be an integral part of the treatment process. Effective programs provide support, care, compassion and understanding for the entire family system. Often, parents have worked to provide residential treatment in their own home and a parent’s world has become very isolated with respect to getting their own network of support. At Paradigm, we offer an extensive 5-hour family program every Saturday in addition to weekly individual family treatment. This allows parents to engage a similar level of skills and support to ensure that the entire family system is working together to accomplish meaningful change.

Great Outcomes. If residential treatment is the learning component, then heading home and succeeding in school, relationships and effectively managing anxiety and depression is the final exam. How can a program know how effective their treatment is if they do not conduct ongoing outcome research? If an adolescent has to be in a program to be successful, then the program will never be a success. At Paradigm San Francisco, we have extensive and ongoing outcome research documenting that adolescents feel significantly less anxious and depressed, have substantially better family relationships, feel more confident about their future and feel that they are much more worthwhile as a person at discharge and six months post-discharge.

For more information about our services, outcome research or to see if Paradigm San Francisco could be a fit for your son or daughter, please call us at 855-780-8336.