Behavior Problems & Residential Treatment Centers

Who Does a Residential Treatment Program Serve?

Residential programs offer treatment to a wide variety of populations, including children, adolescents, young adults and adults with mental health challenges. Residential treatment programs serve people with a history of emotional, behavioral and psychiatric difficulties that have resulted in problems at school, home or in the community as well as those with a history of psychiatric hospitalization, substance abuse problems, brain injury and intellectual disabilities.

Substance Abuse

Residents of substance abuse programs often experience intense drug cravings and engage in compulsive drug seeking behavior. Residents of these programs struggle with the urge to use, even in the face of severe consequences.


Behavior problems presented by children in residential treatment facilities are varied. These children often engage in high- risk behaviors, such as harming or threatening people, damaging property, lying or stealing, tantrums and arguments, hostility, substance use, and early sexual activity.

Mental Health Challenges

Many residential treatment programs serve people diagnosed with a mental illness. Their problem behaviors can include a risk of hurting themselves or others. Additional problem behaviors vary and can be related to the mental illness from which the person suffers.

Intellectual Disability

Residential treatment programs often serve those dually diagnosed with an intellectual disability and psychiatric disorder. In a 2008 study published in the Journal Research in Developmental Disabilities, Even Myrbakk and Stephen Von Tatzchner found "depression was associated with screaming and aggression in the participants with severe and profound intellectual disability, and with self-injury in the participants with mild and moderate intellectual disability."


Complex clinical conditions and diverse intellectual and developmental needs lead to a variety of behaviors in residential treatment settings. A wide range of residential treatment programs are designed to offer growth and change despite distinct treatment challenges. A residential treatment program is a 24-hour-a-day program located in a community setting staffed by mental health professionals. Treatment may include evaluation, behavior modification, intensive or specialized therapy, medication management, specialized diets, psychiatric rehabilitation, counseling, support and crisis intervention.