1. What is NATSAP?

    1. The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs serves as an advocate and resource for innovative organizations which devote themselves to society’s need for the effective care and education of struggling young people and their families.
    2. We are a trade association consisting of member programs, individual professionals and affiliates all working to support a nation of healthy children and adults.
    3. Our member programs include residential treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness therapy programs, outpatient/non-residential programs, therapeutic day schools, specialty psychiatric & behavioral hospitals, transitional independent living programs, and young adult programs.


  2. Is NATSAP a licensing or accrediting body?

    1. No, NATSAP is a nonprofit membership association for therapeutic schools and programs. This includes, residential treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness therapy programs, outpatient/non-residential programs, therapeutic day schools, specialty psychiatric & behavioral hospitals, transitional independent living programs, and young adult programs. We are not a licensing or accrediting body.


  3. How does NATSAP help or support members in providing quality services?

    1. NATSAP serves as an advocate by uniting members around the country to work on the most important issues facing the profession. We initiate and manage programs with governmental and non-governmental agencies, presenting industry positions and supporting documentation on key issues.
    2. In addition to the professional development that our members receive through our one annual conference, our seven regional conferences, webinars, and Link n’ Learns; our members also have the opportunity to attend a Leadership Summit, which is designed for the sharing of best practices and innovative therapeutic models.
    3. NATSAP values research and evaluation as a cornerstone of effective programming and advocacy. NATSAP is committed to helping our member programs access pertinent research information and to engage in the evaluation of their own programs. In this effort, NATSAP utilizes a Standing Research Committee, publishes the Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs and manages the NATSAP Research and Evaluation Network (conducted by the University of New Hampshire).


  1. Why should I join NATSAP?

    1. In addition to the professional development at our annual and regional conferences and through webinars, many of our members most value the comradery between programs where resources and best practices are freely shared. Visit our member testimonial page to hear directly from our members.

  2. How do you become a member of NATSAP?

    1. To become a member of NATSAP, you must complete the appropriate membership application. Each application has a list of requirements that must be met during the review process.
    2. Please visit the Join Now page of the NATSAP website to review the cost of membership and application criteria. It is important to know that the processing time of your application may take 2 to 3 weeks once submitted to the NATSAP Office. The application will be reviewed by the Director of Membership, Membership Committee and NATSAP Board.
    3. Once a decision has been reached regarding your application, the Director of Membership will contact you to inform you of the decision.


  3. Why are all therapeutic programs not a part of NATSAP?

    1. NATSAP membership is voluntary and NATSAP requires that our member programs to meet certain criteria before they can be approved as a member. Some therapeutic programs may not meet those requirements, or they may choose to not be a member of NATSAP for various reasons. Regardless of membership in NATSAP, we strongly believe that all programs serving adolescents should be licensed by their respective state or should have accreditation through a national accrediting body (ex: Joint Commission, CARF, or COA).


  4. Where do the fees/costs that program members pay when submitting their application, go towards?

    1. NATSAP’s membership dues go to a variety of activities including government advocacy, professional development at our annual and regional conferences and through webinars, research conducted through our Outcomes Research Project, the editing and publishing of the Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, the editing and publishing of the NATSAP Membership Directory, and maintaining our website as a national resource for professionals and the public. Dues paid to NATSAP are tax deductible. However, the portion of membership dues that goes toward lobbying or political activities are not considered a deductible expense. To see what portion can be deducted, please refer to the payment section of your membership renewal packet.


  5. What is the benefit of my program joining NATSAP membership?

    1. NATSAP members adhere to the highest standards of ethics and practices and must be licensed and/or accredited to qualify for membership. NATSAP represents the best in our industry, and we’d like you to join us in our efforts to represent all that is good in our field. As a member of NATSAP, you will have access to:
      1. Government Relations & Advocacy- NATSAP works to develop, advance and implement the federal legislative objectives for our profession. We work with Congress to achieve these public policy objectives through government relations, policy development, political communications and grassroots advocacy. You will also have the opportunity to participate in our annual D.C. Fly-In and interact with Congressional members directly.
      2. Principles of Good Practice- All NATSAP member programs pledge to adhere to our Principles of Good Practice, guidelines for excellence in the ownership and management of residential treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools, and wilderness programs, and for the care and sensitivity with which they treat their clients and families.
      3. NATSAP’s Regional and National conferences- With seven (7) Regional Conferences and an Annual National Conference, NATSAP offers many opportunities for mental health and allied professionals who work with children, adolescents and their families for:
        • Concurrent break-out sessions;
        • Unlimited networking and professional development opportunities;
        • Dynamic keynote speakers; and
        • Opportunities to hear about the latest methodologies in programs.
      4. Visibility- NATSAP is typically the first point of contact for parents while exploring program options for their families.As such, each year NATSAP publishes the NATSAP directory (both in print and an electronic version) which lists NATSAP member programs, educational consultants, businesses, counselors. NATSAP also publishes two newsletters to keep members apprised of Association developments and activities (NATSAPPress), and innovations within programs (We Are NATSAP). Additionally, NATSAP members are encouraged to connect their website to the NATSAP site for more visibility to potential families.
      5. Link ‘n Learn- Participate in NATSAP’s exclusive sessions designed to enable educational consultants to get to know member programs and vice versa in a day-long, round-robin get-together akin to speed dating.  
      6. Electronic Classified Ads- NATSAP’s website is the premier site for members to list open positions within our profession at NATSAP facilities.
      7. Discounted Services- Including on-line education and inclusion in high-profile directories.
        • We have also recently added the additional benefit of all NATSAP members and their employees are now eligible to receive a significant discount at both Hertz Auto and Jiffy Lube.  
      8. Public RelationsNATSAP currently works with Sheri Singer of Singer Communications to help with any and all Public Relations related issues for both the Association and for our programs. NATSAP utilizes social media to highlight our programs and keep in touch with members of the Association. The NATSAP PR Tool Kit is also available for all members to use.
      9. Research- Take part in NATSAP’s research project headed by researchers at the University of New Hampshire, which provides up-to-date comparative data on outcomes, practices, and more. Each year, NATSAP publishes the Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, which contains technical papers based upon case studies, research, and more.
      10. Member Participation- As a member of NATSAP, members have the opportunity to volunteer on one of our many committees and have influence on the direction and future of your association. NATSAP also conducts various surveys throughout the year whose data is shared with members. Some of the information shared included: economic data, information on educational consultants, and more.
      11. And much more!


  6. How can I connect with other program members to collaborate or build relationships?

    1. One of the best ways to connect with other program members is to serve and get involved in one of the numerous committees. There are many committees to choose from, including involvement in the planning of a Regional Conference.
    2. Attending conferences is also a great way to meet people. Of course, the national conference draws the largest crowd, but new members may find that connecting at a regional conference is easier, due to the smaller size and more intimate settings. Members are welcome to attend any regional conferences, even if it’s outside of the region of their own program.
    3. Beyond committees and conferences, start connecting by finding even just a few people who you may have a common interest with. Reach out and show interest by wanting to learn more about others and you’ll find that the professionals involved in NATSAP are very friendly, and helpful. Step out of your comfort zone, by attending receptions, and group events and you may just find some really cool people and have a great time while doing it!

For Parents

  1. How do families pay for costs associated with specialized therapeutic programs?

    1. Due to all of the various services provided in out-of-home treatment programs (including wilderness, residential, therapeutic boarding, and other models), costs are high. While some families are fortunate enough to be able to afford such costs, others must find additional means to cover the monthly tuition.
      1. Health insurance is, of course, one of the first avenues to be explored, but most families have found many barriers, and most programs do not accept insurance as a primary form of payment. However, some families have successfully pursued this path to the point of being reimbursed for some of the costs of treatment. There are insurance advocates who work with families to navigate this process.
      2. In some states, school districts will support out-of-district (and even out-of-state) residential placements for students with needs that go beyond the scope of that district. This happens through the IEP (Individualized Education Program) process.
      3. Many families have sought out loans, including from financial institutions focused on mental health treatment.
      4. Many others have obtained a second mortgage in order to make cash available for payment.
      5. Some families decide to begin using college funds, knowing that without this treatment a university education may not be in the child's future.
      6. Others dip into their 401K's, liquidating available funds there.
      7. Some find help from close relatives (grandparents, siblings, etc.) or even friends willing to lend a hand.
      8. Still other options are available, and families often have to get creative and think outside the box.


  2. For our financial investment, what services do we receive?

    1. Out-of-home placements such as wilderness programs, residential treatment, and therapeutic boarding schools offer around-the-clock care by trained professionals, typically with a Bachelors education or higher.
    2. Staff to student ratios are generally quite low (ranging from 1:1 to 1:6 in most locations), ensuring that students are well supervised and taken care of.
    3. Lodging, meals, and facilities (including facility maintenance), as well as program vehicles if transporting students, all must be considered.
    4. Programs rely on Masters or Doctorate level professionals to provide therapeutic services on a full-time basis, typically with low enough caseloads to give substantial attention to student needs. These professionals attend several trainings each year to maintain and increase their certifications and skills, which programs encourage and support.
    5. Students/clients receive several therapy sessions each week, whether individually, with their family, or in groups.
    6. Therapists often put in extra time with families, referring professionals, and case workers to discuss client progress and future plans.
    7. Administrative staff are generally well tenured in the field of work and put in more than full-time hours as they run programs, respond to crises, travel to conferences, serve on committees and boards, and forth.
    8. Academic services range from individual online learning to very traditional, college prep academic settings with highly qualified teachers. Regardless of the approach, accreditation is a must and programs aim to hire motivated and engaging teachers who make a difference beyond just classroom learning.
    9. Programs use sophisticated software and databases to maintain client records, employee records, and other key information that supports the work.
    10. Liability insurance is a necessity for programs and their staff and can be costly due to the potentially vulnerable population we serve.
    11. Programs invest significantly in safety and security, and in meeting state licensing requirements as well as requirements of other accrediting bodies pertinent to our field of work.
    12. Most programs invest time, resources, and employees in valid and meaningful research, both for program improvement as well as to support our field of work as a whole.
    13. Many programs provide some level of support for students as they transition from one setting to another, and invest resources in alumni communication, activities, and other services for long-term benefits.


  3. Why can’t I speak to my child or teenager when they are in a program or therapeutic boarding school? I am the parent and I don’t like only having arranged phone calls with a therapist on the call.

    1. Contact with your child varies depending upon the program they are enrolled in. Your ability to communicate with him/her can vary depending upon different dynamics such as treatment length, orientation and integration in the program, program phases, and contact policies. As you’re going through the admissions process to enroll your child into the program of your choice be sure to ask about their communication policies, such as how soon after enrollment you’ll be able to speak with your child, how frequently you will be able to speak with them, and who your primary contact will be while they are enrolled.


  4. How does NATSAP handle complaints about a program or individual member?

    1. The NATSAP Best Practices Committee handles all complaints against a program or individual members. If you have a complaint about a member of NATSAP, please e-mail or The complaint will then be sent to the Best Practices Committee for review. The committee reviews all written complaints about programs/individual members and handles inquiries of same by contacting the involved program/individual. The committee will then create a report and make their recommendation to the NATSAP Board about specific complaints about programs/individuals. This process allows all parties to fully discuss the complaint and provides multiple layers of oversight.


  5. Where do I even start/How do I know what is the right placement for my child?

    1. Many families feel lost and unsure of where to begin looking for help when they recognize that there loved one needs help of some kind. If you’re uncertain of where to begin or what kind of placement would be a good fit for your loved one, then we recommend contacting a consultant. Consultants are treatment specialists that can help you find the best possible placement.
    2. You can start the process by visiting IECA or TCA and searching their respective membership directories. In the membership directory you will be able to search for a consultant based on a variety of search criteria that includes name, location, and specialty.
    3. If you already have an idea of what kind of program you’re looking to help your loved on than you can begin your research into finding a program for your loved by visiting  Once you’ve arrived to our home page you can click, “Membership Search,” which is located next to the drop-down menu. From here you can enter the search criteria to find a program/school of choice based upon specific criteria that you enter into the search filter.