School Refusal Treatment Program for Teens

The school refusal treatment program at Ridge RTC can help teens and their families get to the root of school anxiety and school avoidance. Targeted treatment methods include individual and group counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and clinical support, all provided in a safe, comfortable environment dedicated to your child’s health and well-being.

Occasional school avoidance is usually nothing to worry about; however, when a teen refuses to go to school for an extended period of time, it could be a sign of ongoing mental health challenges or other complex issues that require professional help.

The Ridge Residential Treatment Center for teens is a compassionate setting where they can identify and properly understand the reason(s) behind school refusal. Learn more about what we offer and the possible explanations for a teen’s school avoidance.

What is School Refusal?

School refusal behavior, also known as school avoidance, occurs when a child or teen regularly avoids attending school or experiences significant distress related to school attendance. This behavior may be because the child or teen is struggling with their classes or could be related to a mental health issue such as anxiety, a traumatic event at school, or a number of other triggers.


So your child is avoiding school, but is it a big enough problem to warrant treatment?

Professional school refusal interventions can be immensely helpful. To holistically address the situation, you must know if you’re dealing with mild, temporary avoidance or something more serious. Some signs to be on the lookout for include:

  • Frequent complaints of physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach-aches, particularly on school days
  • Unexplained and prolonged absences from school
  • Extreme resistance or refusal to go to school, accompanied by intense emotional distress, tantrums, or clinginess
  • Excessive worry or fear about academic performance, social interactions, or specific situations at school
  • Reluctance to engage in activities or discussions related to school
  • Noticeable drop in academic performance or engagement

It’s important to note that adolescents can experience a symptom or more, even if they do go to school. They may be late to school regularly due to anxiety or dread the thought of going to school. They may also often try to leave school early or visit the school nurse frequently. A clinical assessment can give you insight into whether interventions are warranted and what an appropriate school refusal treatment plan may look like for your child.

School Refusal Program


There are several reasons why a child or teen may not want to go to school. Some may be innocuous enough, such as forgetting to do their homework or study for a test. Sometimes, though, a child’s reasoning for not wanting to go to school can be much more significant and severe, and their school avoidance may signal a much larger issue that needs addressing.

Some of the more common reasons a teen may refuse school attendance:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Bullying or Peer Issues
  • School-Related Stress
  • Mental Health Disorders
  • Traumatic Experiences
  • Learning Difficulties
  • Family Problems

When it comes to school anxiety, teenage patients often struggle with an anxiety disorder that goes beyond mere academic challenges. Anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, or specific phobias can all contribute to school refusal. They may worsen due to academic pressure, social interactions, or fear of failure.

In addition to school refusal or avoidance, some other signs that your teen may be suffering from an anxiety disorder include:

  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating patterns
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent and unexplained physical ailments
  • Avoiding certain people or places that may trigger feelings of anxiety
  • Struggling academically

At Ridge RTC, we offer help for school refusal-related anxiety, and our teen anxiety treatment program can help your child get back on track.

Negative experiences such as bullying, peer exclusion, or social conflicts can all lead to school avoidance. Unwanted sexual advances and harassment are a particularly prevalent problem. For instance, the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that in 2021, 11% of high school students were forced to engage in sexual activities against their will. Additionally, the percentage of female students who faced sexual violence increased from 2017 to 2021.

Academic challenges, excessive workload, high expectations, or a hostile school environment can trigger school refusal. Suppose a child or teen feels as though they are metaphorically “drowning” at school. In that case, they might avoid going because they fear they’ll never be able to get ahead of all their responsibilities and expectations. Slipping into this kind of despair can eventually morph into depression and isolation.

Suffering from a mental health disorder can often make it difficult to perform even the most routine of tasks, including going to school.

Some examples of mental health disorders that can negatively affect an adolescent’s academic performance and may result in them not wanting to go to school include:

Traumatic experiences, such as the loss of a loved one, abuse, or witnessing a distressing event, can result in school refusal due to persistent emotional distress.

Issues at home may also prevent a child from attending school. An example of this is a teen wanting to stay home if a parent is ill. Another example is a teen not wanting to go to school as a result of parental fighting and a belief that they need to stay home to offer support to one or the other of their parents.


Located in serene settings in Maine and New Hampshire, Ridge RTC is a mental health residential treatment facility specializing in helping teens who need therapeutic assessment, stabilization, and additional support for school avoidance. Our school refusal program prioritizes therapy, structure, high levels of supervision, and limited distractions so that residents can focus on their health and develop the critical skills they need to move forward confidently.

While Ridge RTC is a short-term residential treatment center, we do offer a wide range of treatment options and services for adolescents who may be struggling, including:

  • Stabilization: Ridge RTC provides a safe and supportive environment where adolescent patients can stabilize and begin to better manage their emotional distress and anxiety.
  • Assessment: A comprehensive assessment is a key first step in your child’s school refusal treatment plan and helps us understand the underlying causes of school avoidance and identify any potential co-occurring mental health issues.
  • Clinical Help: Ridge RTC offers evidence-based therapeutic interventions, including cognitive behavioral therapy, individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, experiential therapy, and more, to address the unique needs of each individual. For instance, our teen depression rehab program provides a continuum of therapeutic support for teens struggling with major depressive disorder or other types of depression.
  • Academic Support: Ridge RTC recognizes the importance of education and provides access to academics if the teen is ready and willing to engage. Our boarding school is available to those in grades 9-12 and is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
  • On-Site Psychiatry and Medical Care: Ridge RTC has a psychiatrist available five days a week to provide evaluations, manage medications, and offer clinical insight and support. Additionally, a family nurse practitioner and a registered nurse are available to address medical needs and ensure holistic care throughout your child’s stay.


Q: Is Ridge RTC only for teens with school refusal, or do they treat other mental health conditions as well?

A: In addition to treating school refusal, we also provide treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, depression, trauma-related issues, and more.

Q: Will my insurance cover the cost of treatment at Ridge RTC?

A: At Ridge RTC, we believe all teens and young adults deserve the highest quality treatment. That’s why we partner with several insurance providers to make treatment as accessible and affordable as possible. Should you have any questions about your insurance coverage, you can reach out to your insurance representative or fill out our insurance verification form. We will review your policy and let you know what is and isn’t covered before your teen begins treatment.

Q: What happens after my child completes the program at Ridge RTC?

A: Upon completion of the program, Ridge RTC will work closely with your family to develop an aftercare plan, which may include outpatient therapy, continued medication management, and/or ongoing support.

Teen Refuses To Go To School


School refusal is often a sign of a more significant mental health issue that, when left unaddressed and untreated, can have serious long-term consequences. That’s why it is essential for parents to recognize the signs of school refusal and seek appropriate support.

Putting the right school refusal interventions into place can make all the difference in your child’s academic performance and overall well-being. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you and your teen work through their issues so they can succeed in school – and whatever comes next.

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