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Therapeutic Boarding Schools Defined


One of the biggest concerns parents have when finding a therapeutic program for their child is not wanting to compromise their school attendance. Especially if your daughter is already struggling with school refusal and poor academic performance, it is hard to make the decision to seek help. Fortunately, therapeutic boarding schools combine elements of residential treatment centers and traditional boarding schools help students learn new to manage their mental health struggles. With around the clock support, students that attend therapeutic boarding schools are able to make improvements more quickly than they would in outpatient therapy sessions while staying on track academically.

As students who attend therapeutic boarding schools often require a lower level of care than those who may benefit from hospitalization, these schools also offer a variety of recreation activities both on and off-campus to help students grow in other areas. Nestled in the mountains of North Carolina, the Asheville Academy campus boasts almost one hundred acres of hiking trails, separate academic buildings, and a small, private lake, which helps students become motivated to learn experientially.

The guide is meant to be comprehensive, but as such, not every section will be applicable to everyone. Instead, we invite you to click on the links in the table of contents to jump to the sections that most interest you.

What is a Therapeutic Boarding School?

Therapeutic Boarding Schools (TBS) are residential schools that utilize the therapeutic community model which combines academics with a supervised, specialized structure for students with mental health struggles, learning disabilities or behavioral issues.

The focus of a therapeutic boarding school is emotional and academic recovery to ensure behavioral, emotional, physical, social, family, academic and intellectual development. Educational and therapeutic approaches vary greatly. The typical duration of a student’s enrollment in a therapeutic boarding school can range anywhere from one to two years. Students earn credits that can transfer to any school they attend after they transition home, so they do not get behind academically.

Therapeutic boarding schools provide long-term treatment to teens and their families. With the support of the school’s therapists, parents are equipped with the resources they need to work through problems at home while their child continues to make progress at school.

Residential Treatment Center vs Therapeutic Boarding School

For many adolescents, residential treatment centers are ideal for helping them stabilize and learn healthier coping mechanisms through intensive group therapy. Therapeutic boarding schools build upon the skills taught through group and individual therapy by offering more opportunities for students to apply these skills in environments similar to those they would experience at home. They are designed to help students transition more smoothly back into an academic or social environment when they leave the program. While residential treatment centers specialize in working with adolescents with specific mental health diagnoses, therapeutic boarding schools work with a wider range of mental health struggles, like loneliness, insecurity, and attachment issues. 

What Makes Therapeutic Boarding Schools Unique?

  • Varied Therapeutic Approach: Most therapeutic boarding schools use a combination of recreation, group discussions, and intensive one-on-one therapy—plus more unique programs like animal therapy or community service—to help students. There is a greater focus on lifestyle changes and improving one’s wellbeing in a holistic way, rather than following a specific therapeutic style, designed to work for a particular diagnosis.
  • Focus On Academics: Since therapeutic boarding schools are fully qualified academic institutions, students are expected to fulfill high academic standards and work toward reaching their full intellectual potential. This might involve classes and lectures, individual tutoring, or support for teens with special needs. While many programs offer online school or “packet” work for academic credit, therapeutic boarding schools fully accredited school onsite with qualified teachers offering an intimate, personalized academic environment where your child can receive the attention they need to succeed.
  • Independent Environment: Therapeutic boarding schools are much less restrictive than the average residential treatment center, giving teens the chance to cope with their struggles without slowing down their social, emotional, or physical development.

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Why Choose Asheville Academy For Girls?

Asheville Academy for Girls utilizes an accredited, safety-based, developmentally appropriate approach to create one of the best therapeutic boarding schools in the country. It is a therapeutic boarding school geared towards recovering relationships, developing coping methods, and instilling confidence in its students.

Asheville Academy creates a safe, supportive environment in which girls can gain experience, increase confidence, and learn to regulate their emotions. Their clinical model includes individual, family, group, and equine therapy. Asheville Academy’s caring staff are extremely qualified in dealing with a variety of girls. They give young girls the tools to create better academic, emotional, and physical habits to ensure a better, brighter future for them.

Benefits of Therapeutic Boarding School Environment

Asheville Academy, a therapeutic boarding school for girls 10-14, offers your daughter a change of pace, which is key to dealing with various problems. Being removed from a familiar environment encourages girls to reevaluate themselves. Some who attend have a mental illness, such as depression; others have simply encountered too much stress. Whatever the issue, at a therapeutic boarding school, it will be addressed properly.

Another aspect of sending your daughter to a therapeutic boarding school is the respect with which your child will be met. Many traditional schools simply lack the resources to offer individualized attention to struggling students, even if teachers are aware of their learning differences. At a therapeutic boarding school, your daughter is an individual, not simply another student. This means that treatment plans depend on each individual’s strengths, challenges, and background, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

There is a wide range of factors to consider when choosing a boarding school for struggling girls. Some of the central things to note include:

  • Professional staff. First and foremost, a therapeutic boarding school is about the people. It combines all the benefits of a regular school with the therapeutic surroundings necessary to aid your daughter in her time of need. Highly trained specialists ensure that your daughter will get the best care possible.
  • Top-notch facilities. Having safe, well-equipped facilities in a therapeutic boarding school is vital to parents’ peace of mind. Thankfully, at a therapeutic boarding school, you can certain your daughter is in good hands.
  • Communication. Sending your daughter to a therapeutic boarding school doesn’t cut her off from you. By keeping you updated on your daughter’s progress, you can see the positive changes for yourself!
  • Therapy. A therapeutic boarding school is designed to treat numerous issues and, as such, offers a number of forms of therapy to heal your daughter.
  • Family. A therapeutic boarding school is all about building connections both with the family and the community. Going to a boarding school for struggling girls reminds your daughter that she is part of something bigger.
  • Preparing for the future. The focus isn’t on merely on curing the symptoms – it is about changing the underlying problems. By fixing the deep issues, your daughter will be well on her way toward a happy, healthy future.

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Accredited Academics at Asheville Academy

We provide rolling admissions for new students year round and will work directly with your child’s home school to make the transition as smooth as possible. By offering classes year-round, students complete five “quarters” a year, which makes it easier for them to catch up on classes they’ve struggled in, or get ahead by taking honor’s credits or classes in the grade above them. In small classes, rarely exceeding 7-8 students, students feel more comfortable actively participating, collaborating with others, and finding their voice.

Students are in a full day of classes Monday through Thursday from 9 am – 4 pm, with study halls built into the schedule during and after school. Fridays are reserved for electives, personal growth curriculum, and community service projects. We have qualified teachers delivering curriculum approved by AdvancED. In additional to core classes, aligned with North Carolina requirements, Friday electives might include art, music, theater, or physical education.

Teachers are considered part of your child’s treatment team and consult with therapists and mentors on a regular basis to better understand how their mental health may affect their academic performance and vice versa. Students also have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a Learning Support specialist, if they need additional support in or outside of the classroom. 

If your child is under-performing academically, there are many potential causes:

  • Undiagnosed or mistreated learning difference
  • Lack of study skills
  • Improper utilization of your child’s core intelligence
  • Using school as a form of rebellion
  • Sensory processing issues
  • Emotion regulation

Asheville Academy understands that many of these school struggles stem from problems with low-self esteem, self-advocacy, and feelings of hopelessness. No matter the challenge, we look to heal the underlying issues leading to school struggles and has a proven track record of helping students with these challenges succeed in school. 


According to a study on programs like therapeutic boarding schools, youth going through the program experienced a decline in behavioral issues up to a year after going through the program. This study displays the effectiveness of therapeutic boarding schools.

Another study discusses the effective nature of animal assisted therapy in therapeutic boarding schools. Programs who use animals, such as horses, to heal children of emotional and behavioral woes find high levels of success in helping children grow and prosper.

Compassion-Focused Therapy

All of our therapists take a person-centered, strengths-based approach to working with young people

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involves identifying negative beliefs that contribute to  feelings of anxiety, discussing how those beliefs have been shaped, and challenging those negative thoughts

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Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy teaches students a variety of coping skills to apply to different situations

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Neurofeedback targets brain waves in order to regulate brain activity and improve executive functioning

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Animal therapy

Animal therapy is offered on campus with horses and other barn animals where students practice regulating their emotions in order to connect with the animals

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Group Therapy

Group Therapy helps students practice relationship skills, like active listening and effective communication, and develop close relationships with their peers, which helps reduce social anxiety

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Play Therapy

Play Therapy is a useful intervention for this age group to help them express themselves in creative ways–through activities in individual sessions and gteam building games

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Family Systems Therapy

Family Systems Therapy addresses how your child’s anxiety has been influenced by and has impacted your family dynamic

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