There are numerous professionals who make up the treatment team in a typical adolescent treatment center. Knowing the categories and their respective responsibilities can help a parent better navigate the treatment process. This is just a partial overview of several types of mental health professionals typically found in a private adolescent-treatment setting.


In a treatment setting, nurses may serve a broad range of medical functions, including medication dispensing and monitoring, body weight assessments for eating disorders, and of course taking care of aches, pains, and medical emergencies. Some may monitor the detox process in addictions programs. Nurse practitioners may also prescribe certain medication (including anti-depressants) and/or monitor other current prescriptions.


Direct-care staff are generally responsible for 24/7 supervision of those in treatment. This supervision includes mentoring, skill-building, recreation, transportation, and crisis management. Many programs train their direct-care staff to implement milieu-based treatment approaches, such as DBT or group processing. Direct-care staff members are the core of a program’s treatment system, typically providing experiential opportunities for those in treatment to practice in real life situations what they are learning in the program.


The therapist’s role in treatment is to foster a therapeutic relationship based on safe boundaries, rapport, confidentiality, trust, and to deliver psychotherapy within the context of that relationship. Forms of psychotherapy may vary widely from a pathology-oriented approach to a more strengths-based approach and from in-office talk therapy to experiential equine-assisted therapy that takes place outdoors. Therapists may provide individual, group, and/or family therapy, and can offer assessment, treatment, and monitoring services as well. Often the therapist is the main contact between parents and the adolescent treatment program, and keeps the parents apprised of their child’s therapeutic process.


Educational consultants help families select an appropriate treatment program for their child based on a combination of interview, review of academic materials, and psychological tests. In addition to placement, some consultants also provide mentoring, advocacy, and even therapy.


Addictions counselors are highly specialized professionals. They may provide intervention services to get someone struggling with drug or alcohol (or another) addiction into treatment. They also provide specialized counseling, mentoring, and support.


While a psychologist may deliver a wide range of services from organizational change to psychotherapy, their typical roles within a treatment setting include supervision of clinical staff, patient assessment and treatment planning, clinical training, and delivery of psychotherapy. The clinical psychologist is often seen as the psychologically oriented counterpart of the medically oriented psychiatrist, and the two often work closely together on cases.


The psychiatrist approaches behavioral, emotional, and neurobiological issues primarily from a medical perspective. While some also practice psychotherapy, their primary role is typically to provide medical assessment and medical treatment (including the prescription and monitoring of psychotropic medications). While a licensed, board-certified physician (and nurse practitioner) can prescribe drug-based psychotherapeutic treatment, it is recommended that this kind of treatment be provided by a practitioner who specializes in emotional or mental disorders, such as a psychiatrist.