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Most states have a division of their Human Services Department responsible to inspect and regulate therapeutic programs.  Typically, trained State licensors make planned and unplanned visits to programs several times each year in which they audit employee files, review critical incidents, interview students, and assure all safety standards are being adhered to.  Complaints or concerns about programs are reported to the state and inspectors are deployed to investigate.  Facilities with a track record of infractions are sanctioned, and in some cases closed down.

A few states still lack licensing standards.  Programs operating in these states should seek to be accredited by a national body dedicated to assuring high safety and efficacy standards (such as the Joint Commission, CARF, or COA). 

If you are considering enrolling your child in a program, make sure they are State Licensed and/or nationally accredited.



Chances are the last hospital you went to was accredited by the Joint Commission, an international accrediting body that inspects and assures hospital staff are following the agreed upon best practices of patient care.  This same accrediting body, along with others like CARF and COA, accredits therapeutic wilderness and residential programs. 

If you are considering placement in a therapeutic program, ask them about their accreditation status.



In the 1980s and 90s programs were able to operate within less defined standards. 

However, that is no longer the case. Just as safety measures have increased across many other industries, the field of residential treatment has increased its standards and oversight. Now most states and all major accrediting bodies require program staff to be:

  • Overseen by licensed clinicians

  • Certified in CPR and 1st Aid

  • Screened by a national background check

  • Certified in nationally recognized deescalation and safety techniques

  • Professionally trained in client rights and appropriate boundaries

If you are considering enrolling in a therapeutic program, ask them about their staff qualifications and training.​

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