This NATSAP review offers information on the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs for parents who are looking for resources to help their struggling teen. NATSAP can help you find the right boarding school, wilderness program, residential treatment facility, and more.


NATSAP, the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, is a membership organization for providers in the areas of:

  • home-based residential programs that work with troubled adolescents
  • therapeutic schools
  • residential treatment facilities
  • wilderness programs
  • outdoor therapeutic programs
  • young adult programs.

These programs may be offered as boarding schools, small residential programs, outdoor therapeutic programs, residential treatment centers, specialty psychiatric and behavioral hospitals, transitional living programs, wilderness programs, and young adult programs.

Candidates for membership are required to be appropriately licensed and accredited by one of these agencies:

  • The Joint Commission
  • COA - Counsel on Accreditation
  • CARF - Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities
  • NIPSA - Therapeutic - National Independent Private Schools Association

as well as have a qualified clinician overseeing their therapeutic services, accept NATSAP's Ethical Principles and Principles of Good Practice (see below), and have been open for more than two years. Each of the four accrediting agencies listed also have their own application process and ethical standards.

NATSAP provides advocacy and resources for member organizations and information and resources for families seeking a quality placement for a troubled or challenged child, teen, or young adult. It does not provide oversight.

NATSAP Ethical Principles and Principles of Good Practice

As is typical of professional membership organizations, NATSAP provides its members with both Ethical Principles and Principles of Good Practice, both of which are based in the accreditation requirements put out by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Organizations for Residential Care of Adolescents.

According to the Principles of Good Practice, NATSAP members are enjoined to follow all federal and state laws with regard to hiring, treatment of employees, program administration, safety, and care of participants in the program. Programs are also required to have a clear philosophy, and the different categories of organizations are defined. Educational curricula are required to be accredited and a licensed mental health professional is required to have oversight of treatment.

According to the Ethical Principles, programs that are members of NATSAP are required to represent their programs honestly and accurately to potential clients, avoid conflicts of interest, maintain the economic wherewithal to carry out their mission, fully disclose all aspects of service to prospective clients, ensure a safe environment, and be respectful of the backgrounds of participants in their programs, with regard to social, family, and cultural background of clients.

Finding a NATSAP Member Organization

NATSAP makes available a hard copy of its member program directory here: It provides an online search service here: Programs can be searched by state, program type as listed above, the range of age of clients accepted, and the gender restrictions of the program, or all programs can be listed. A keyword search is also available. NATSAP provides a short listing for each program in its search results. The short listing summarized key information, including name, location, ages, gender, and type of program.  A link takes you to a longer listing, and each longer listing has a link to the member program's website.


Related Article: Independent Educational Consultants Association - IECA Review >>