Group Homes for Troubled Teens

Group homes provide teens with intensive therapeutic treatment.
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No parent ever wants to imagine having to place their child in a group home. But sometimes, a residential setting is the best place for a troubled teen who needs intensive help.

Group homes provide therapy, 24-hour supervision and support to troubled teens in a home-like setting. Unlike large residential treatment facilities or psychiatric hospitals, group homes serve a small number of teens. They reside in a family-like setting with trained staff.


Whether a teen is struggling with mental health issues like an eating disorder, substance abuse problems, or self-harm issues, a group home can provide a structured, therapeutic environment in which teens receive assistance in making emotional and behavioral changes.

Group homes can also provide a transition from a higher level of residential care. After a short stay in a psychiatric hospital, or after being released from a juvenile detention facility, a teen may be moved to a group home to continue working on their goals.

Usually, a teen's goal is to eventually return home. The length of stay in a group home may vary between a month and several months (or perhaps even years).

What You Need to Know

The daily schedule for group home residents is structured to include active participation in therapy, school and learning activities. Clear rules and consequences are enforced by staff to create a safe environment that helps teens create positive changes.

Residents usually attend local public schools with group home staff maintaining close contact with teachers to monitor a teen's behavior and academic progress.

While living in the group home, privileges are often earned through a level system or token economy system. Teens can earn privileges such as electronics time or opportunities to go on outings based on their behavior. Teens who follow the rules will be granted access to more privileges.

Teens living in a group home are actively involved in the day-to-day activities of the home, such as shopping and preparing meals, cleaning the house, and planning group activities. 

Within the context of living and learning together, the group home setting provides opportunities for teens to learn new skills with staff support. Staff provide ongoing coaching and look for teaching opportunities when problems arise. Teens may learn skills from how to do laundry to how to manage their anger, in preparation for independent living. 

What Group Homes Provide

The treatment provided in a group home focuses primarily on improving self-esteem, teaching new skills and holding teens accountable for their behavior.

Some group homes offer specialized treatment for specific issues, like autism, substance abuse, or inappropriate sexual behavior. Most group home programs include:

  • Anger management
  • Drug education
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Individualized behavior programs

If the goal is for a teen to return home, family involvement is critical. Participation in therapy and multi-family groups is essential to helping the family be prepared for a teen's return home.


Group homes offer a small therapeutic setting where each teen becomes well known to the staff. Each teen's individual needs are able to be addressed.

The home-like environment is comfortable and familiar and, in this setting, teens learn skills to get along with family members. With strong family support, a group home may be a good choice for many teens having emotional or behavioral problems.

They're often good solutions for teens who need more support. While they're getting help, parents can learn new strategies for helping a teen cope with the eventual return home.

Potential Drawbacks

It can be difficult to get a health insurance company to cover the cost of living in a group home. Since they serve only a small number of teens, the costs can be quite high. It can be difficult to find an available bed in a group home as well. Many of them have long waiting lists and quite often, it can be difficult to find a group home located within the teen's same school system.

Children in foster care may be placed in a group home setting for long periods of time. They can be very restrictive in comparison to living in a foster home and the rotation of staff can interfere with a child's ability to develop healthy attachments when a group home becomes a long-term placement.  

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