Based on my 30 years of experience of working with troubled teenagers, I've compiled this list of warning signs that a parent should for indicating that the teen needs professional help.

1. Your teen refuses to abide by anything you say or request, and his or her resulting behaviors put your child or your family in danger or high risk leading to constant fear or stress in the home.

2. Your teen is displaying behavior that is a marked change from what has been normal (sleeping little or too long, forgetfulness, lack of motivation, aggression, depression, anxiety, grades slipping, hating what they once loved or loving what they once hated, always wanting to be with friends or away from home, or avoiding friends altogether and spending too much time alone).

3. Your teen has become increasingly disrespectful, dishonest, disobedient and openly displays rebellion, no longer veiling his or her feelings or caring about the consequences.

4. There is a blatant ignorance or profound rebellion by your teen toward the boundaries or rules of the home. This can be shown in passive aggressiveness or open defiance that is unusually excessive for your child.

5. Your teen exhibits outright or veiled threats of suicide, or acts of self-mutilation/cutting, excessive risk-taking, dangerous drug use or blatant sexual promiscuity. There is seemingly a loss of a conscience or moral compass.

6. Treatment by your teen of people, pets, or belongings is threatening or out of control.

7. Your teen thinks he or she is the center of your family and shows blatant disregard for the feelings of other family members, their time or their possessions.

8. Months of counseling is providing little or no positive progress for your teen.

9. Your teen refuses to do anything with the family and displays a growing hatred for the family.

10. You cannot keep your teen away from peers who are obviously leading a lifestyle counter to your beliefs and your child is buying into their destructive behavior and attitudes.

If your teen exhibits some of these troubling signs of needing counseling and temporary removal from the home, then by all means consider a program like Heartlight.

When a troubled teenager displays these behaviors and becomes unmanageable, parents look frantically for solutions. But, as a rule, unless a boarding school or military academy indicates that their program is specifically designed for troubled teens, then it may not be suited for troubled teens. In fact, such kids tend to quickly get kicked out of such schools.

Most valid programs for troubled teens are not long-term. For instance, our program at Heartlight usually lasts 9-12 months, and that depends on how quickly the troubled teen comes to the realization that they will need to go all the way through the levels of the program before their parents will bring them home again.

Such therapeutic programs offer professional counseling staff to work with each troubled teen in individual and group counseling sessions and trained residential staff who work with and mentor the teens 24/7 in conjounciton with the counselor. Counselors update the parents on the student's progress and keep them in the loop, since parents and the family are an important part of the therapy.

When we refer parents to other programs, we look for a formual that is loving and relational, not forced or focused on breaking the troubled teen's spirit. It should be designed to bring light to a troubled teen's heart and reveal and deal with their struggles, not crush their spirit.

Should you have a troubled teen needing the help of such a therapeutic program, we welcome your inquiry here at Heartlight. We can help you find another good program if Heartlight itself is not appropriate or available. Just call us at 903-668-2173 or contact us online at

Many of our alumni parents say that Heartlight literally saved their troubled teen from sure self-destruction and saved their family from pulling apart at the seams.

Author's Bio: 

Mark Gregston is the founder of Heartlight, a residential counseling program for struggling teens.