The Difference Between Therapeutic Day Schools and Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Not all therapeutic schools are boarding schools. Some are day schools where students are only on campus to attend classes. Therapeutic day schools are for students who struggle in a standard academic setting and who may have fallen behind due to emotional, behavioral or other psychological challenges. Many of the same services are offered at both a therapeutic day school and a therapeutic boarding school; counseling, group therapy, behavior modification, character building and academic assistance.

The benefit of a therapeutic day school is that the staff works with both the student and the parents to help create a stable, nurturing home environment and establish appropriate boundaries. A therapeutic day school is a good option for a student who needs some extra attention and guidance, but doesn’t need to distance herself from an unhealthy home or from friends who are bad influences.

Because students don’t live on campus at a therapeutic day school, the teachers are often uniquely trained and equipped to combine therapeutic elements into the everyday classroom. They are trained in working effectively with students who struggle with emotional issues, learning disabilities and more. As such, each class becomes a type of counseling session where students learn not only academics, but how to interact with other students, pay attention, follow directions, and respect authority.

Most therapeutic day schools also have psychologists and/or counselors on staff to work with the students. The difference is that counseling or group therapy sessions address issues that are hindering academic growth. The primary focus of a therapeutic day school is to help students overcome the issues that have caused them to struggle with academia so they can eventually return to a standard public or private school. In contrast, a therapeutic boarding school’s primary focus is to help students overcome issues that are hindering every aspect of their lives, not just their academics. Occupational and Speech and Language are the two most common types of therapy utilized in a therapeutic day school.

Occupational therapy helps students “who have difficulty understanding, utilizing, and organizing information from the world around them that they gather through their eyes, ears, and touch.” Called “sensory integration” issues, they often interfere with a student’s ability to focus, organize, follow directions, and make and keep friends.

Speech and Language therapy helps students who struggle with verbal communication. The problems may be caused by a learning disability, lack of exposure to the language, a neurological condition like ADHD, or emotional issues.

Because therapeutic day schools are focused on academics, many of the unique extracurricular activities that are offered at therapeutic boarding schools are not available. Students have the opportunity to learn some of the same life skills, but in a less concentrated manner, and more often as a part of classroom or other scholastic-related activities. Therapeutic day schools do, however, offer standard extracurricular activities such as sports, theatre, and other clubs.

As mentioned before, a student’s home life becomes part of the focus at a therapeutic day school. Parents attend either individual or family therapy sessions where they are guided, encouraged and equipped in helping create a positive home atmosphere for both the student and the rest of the family. At the same time, the students learns how to be a positive, productive member of the family, working within set limits and boundaries without withdrawing completely from the family or causing unnecessary drama or tension.

A therapeutic day school offers a holistic approach for the entire family that focuses on a student’s academic performance while supporting the family unit and helping create a harmonious living environment.