Transitioning from Therapeutic Residential Care: What do Interpersonal Strengths and Family Involvement have to do with it?

Room: Commonwealth 2

Therapeutic Residential Care (TRC) facilities are strongly urged by the Association of Children’s Residential Centers to help clients build resiliency to successfully transition out of care, as outlined in ACRC’s Redefining Residential Series and the National Building Bridges Initiative ( This presentation explored a study involving two resiliency areas, interpersonal strengths and family involvement, in adolescent transitions from Therapeutic Residential Care (TRC). Unfortunately, gains made by adolescents in therapeutic residential programs are often not sustained during the aftercare phase due to, among other factors, lack of family involvement and lack of interpersonal strengths. Few studies have examined specific strengths associated with successful and unsuccessful transition from residential care.
Therapeutic residential care (TRC), has traditionally focused on maintaining safety, stabilizing youth behavior, implementing evidence-based mental health treatments, and transitioning older youth to independent living in adulthood. There has been a tendency, however, to pursue these objectives with less consideration of successful and unsuccessful transition trajectories (ACRC, 2015). Given the challenges youth face during post-TRC transitions, TRCs may need to devote more time and resources to preparing youth and their families, with emphasis on strengthening interpersonal strengths and supportive relationships (Grych et al., 2015). To this end, the TRC where our study took place has strategically focused upon such strength building as a means to better prepare youth in their care for post TRC life. Strength building is an approach to helping youth learn about themselves in a positive light (LeBel & Kelly, 2014). It involves helping them use strengths they already possess and grow new strengths to improve interpersonal control and self-efficacy, repair broken attachments, build new ones, and reclaim trust in family and other relationships. Therapeutic strength approaches with youth often help them clarify their personal histories and life events, better integrate multiple relationships, and develop a greater sense of belonging.
The purpose of this presentation, therefore, was to discuss the results from our recent study that explored the relationship of interpersonal strengths and family involvement that had been nurtured in TRC to successful and unsuccessful transition trajectories. Results reveal that longitudinal measurements of interpersonal strengths and family involvement as measured by the Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale (BERS-2) are indicators of post-treatment transition success. Recommendations include helping youth and parents realistically understand the challenges of transitioning out of TRC and jointly developing comprehensive post-TRC transition plans with appropriate post-discharge check-ins.


Kenneth Coll, Ph.D.

Clinical Consultant , University of Nevada, Reno College of Education


Stacey Scholl

Clinical Director , Cathedral Home for Children


Landria Stinson

Administrative Director , Cathedral Home for Children