Parent-Advocacy.org is a Parent-Led volunteer organization with a mission to find and report the truth about Residential Treatment Centers for troubled teens and struggling teens in the United States.
The idea, and the need for such an organization came from the excruciating experience that many parents go through when struggling to find help for their troubled teen.
My name is Kathy Michaels, this is my story…
My son was always a really good kid, always. From the time he was a little boy he was so kind and caring, but about his freshman year he began to change- everything began to change. He was an avid cross country runner. Totally in shape – he lived for the sport. He ran 5 miles in the morning, then 10 miles at night and had many really good friends from his team. His grades were mostly A's and B's, and he loved spending time playing with his little sister, making her laugh and smile.
It all happened kind of slowly. Slowly enough that every red flag that we saw was easily enough dismissed as just a bad day or a phase he was going through. After all, he was a teenager and that's how they are sometimes, right? He began sleeping in late and missing cross country practice he loved. His grades started slipping dramatically, and he was just irritable, no matter what was going on, or what we were talking about. I remember talking to my husband about him, a little bit worried, but we still thought it was jus a “phase” that would pass. After all, he was such a good kid – and we trusted him completely.
His friends stopped coming around. He stopped running completely, and came home several times completely freaked out and scared but wouldn't talk to us about anything but was just angry that we would ask. Finally, we realized that something had to be going on, so we started watching closer and asking questions.
I Wasn’t Prepared for What Happened Next
I wasn't prepared for what happened next, we discovered that for almost two years he had been hiding just about everything about his life. At first it seemed impossible that we wouldn't have known that he was sneaking out at night with friends, or that he had drugs hidden in the room he shared with his 8 year old brother. The more we probed, the more we uncovered. He was cutting and had scars in places I think we should have noticed, but didn't. Then when we searched his room we found a diary describing how miserable he was, how depressed he had become, and how is friends were all fascinated with death, misery,drugs, and suicide. It was obvious he was suffering and needed help.
We talked with him openly about everything we had learned and he agreed to work with us if we got professional help. We asked around, researched the internet and found a local therapist that specializes in troubled teens and began seeing him regularly. First two times per week, then weekly. At first it seemed like it was the help we needed, but after almost six months we realized that all the good that was accomplished with the therapist was erased, ignored, or forgotten once he was back to school, online, or anywhere around his “friends”.
Unless we were able to be with him 24 x 7, there was simply no way to ensure his safety, get him completely off and away from drugs
Then one day he confided in us that he was struggling with thoughts of suicide, an effect we found out later attributed to the synthetic marijuana often called “spice”. That was when we realized that we were dealing with a range of issues that we were incapable of dealing with ourselves at home. Unless we were able to be with him 24 x 7, there was simply no way to ensure his safety, get him completely off and away from drugs, and have a chance at therapy working. There were simply too many forces working against us.
Our next step was to contact a psychologist to see from a professional standpoint what we were dealing with. We found the best psychologist in the three states surrounding us – we wanted to make sure we had a qualified professional to give us a proper diagnosis and advice on what we should to to ensure his safety, treatment and recovery.
The results of the psychologist came back and indicated that he had severe depression due to the drugs he was taking, the complexity of the double life he was leading, and the guilt he was feeling from disconnecting from everything he really loved. The suicidal thoughts were attributed to the drugs, but he was concerned about letting him be alone until he had undergone rehab and therapy. His recommendation was residential treatment or rehab outside our home.
From there we began researching everything. It was all new to us. We had never heard of “Residential Treatment Centers” or residential programs specializing in troubled teens.
It took nearly a month of internet searching, phone calls, and second opinions
It took nearly a month of internet searching, phone calls, and second opinions before we found what we thought was a perfect fit for our son. It wasn't the stereotypical “hospital” environment I envisioned or saw when I looked at many of the brochures we had received. It was a boarding school, but specializing in troubled teens in the early intervention stage. Of course I was worried about sending my son to live with a bunch of “druggies” although he could be considered one. This school didn't take court adjudicated kids, had a sports program, art, music, and an incredible academic program which I loved since I was worried about how much schooling he would miss when he was already so far behind.
I actually chose two schools that were residential treatment centers for troubled teens in Utah. I scheduled a visit to each school, bought plane tickets and flew to Utah to see where my son would be spending the next 6-8 months.