Residential Treatment for Conduct Disorder in Teens

Table of Contents

Receiving a conduct disorder diagnosis for your child might evoke a variety of emotions within you. This is to be expected and processing these emotions does not need to be rushed. One of the first things you will need to consider is the method of treatment and intervention, both for your teen and yourself/family.

Conduct disorder is a mental health challenge that affects many children and teenagers in the US. It is defined by persistent patterns of behavior that violate society’s standards and others’ rights. Adolescents with conduct disorder are more likely to engage in criminal activity, abuse substances, and develop antisocial personality disorder later in life. Early intervention and residential treatment for conduct disorder in teens can help to avoid unfavorable consequences that will be exhibited in adulthood.

Key Healthcare residential treatment for conduct disorder in teenagers involves a combination of counseling and behavioral intervention tactics, depending on the symptoms and individual needs. The purpose of treatment is to assist the teenager in learning acceptable habits and improving their quality of life. 

This article offers an overview of successful treatment modalities, such as counseling, medication, and behavioral intervention tactics included in our residential program, and supports parents in making the decision on how to support their teen’s behavioral and mental health difficulties.

Overview of Conduct Disorder in Teens

Conduct disorder is defined by ongoing and recurrent patterns of behavior that violate others’ rights and ignore social norms and standards. It is a mental health challenge that often manifests itself during childhood. Adolescents with conduct disorder frequently engage in violent behavior, such as physical fighting, bullying, and animal cruelty, as well as deceptive behavior, such as lying and stealing. 

While conduct disorder and other disruptive behavior disorders, such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and intermittent explosive disorder (IED), have certain similarities, there are several major distinctions between these disorders.

ODD is defined by a pattern of rebellious, disobedient, and aggressive conduct toward authority persons not accompanied by considerable aggression or property destruction.

IED is characterized by recurring, impulsive outbursts of hostility that are disproportionate to the context and frequently end in property destruction or physical violence to others. 

Research shows roughly 5-10% of children and adolescents suffer from conduct disorder. It affects males more than girls, and those with a family history of conduct disorder, ADHD, or drug addiction are more likely to acquire the disease.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Conduct Disorder in Teens

Conduct disorder can have serious consequences in a person’s life. Let’s look at the most prevalent symptoms of conduct disorder, the diagnostic criteria, and the distinctions between conduct disorder and other behavioral disorders.

Common Symptoms of Conduct Disorder

Adolescents with conduct disorder may misbehave or misconduct themselves which may hurt others’ feelings or belief systems. When things go haywire, symptoms become alarming and need immediate action to control the actions that violate society’s standards and others’ rights. Some typical conduct disorder symptoms include:

  • Aggressive conduct directed toward humans or animals.
  • Bullying, threatening, or intimidating others. 
  • Engaging in arson or damaging property.
  • Behaviors of deception, including theft.
  • Intentional  disregard of rules, regulations, and social standards.
  • Getting into physical conflicts or committing violent acts.
  • Engaging in substance misuse leading to addiction.
  • Lack of empathy for their acts or remorse.

Diagnostic Criteria for Conduct Disorder

To be diagnosed with conduct disorder, medical professionals look out for diagnostic criteria established in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5 TR). These are some of the criteria:

  • Repetitive and persistent patterns of behavior that violate others’ basic rights or age-appropriate cultural standards, such as aggressiveness toward people and animals, property destruction, stealing, and deception.
  • These habits severely hinder social, intellectual, or vocational performance.
  • These symptoms must manifest before the age of 18.
  • At least three symptoms occurred in the last 12 months, with at least one in the previous six months.

Using these criteria, a mental health practitioner will be able to separate the different behavioral disorders and determine whether your teen has a conduct disorder. The key aspect of a diagnosis of conduct disorder is that the behavior intentionally infringes on others’ rights or social norms in a damaging manner.

Causes and Risk Factors For Conduct Disorder in Adolescents

Conduct disorder is a complicated disorder that may have causal factors within genetic, environmental, and social realms. While the actual etiology of conduct disorder is unknown, research has discovered various risk factors that may contribute to its development.


Genetic factors are thought to play a role in developing conduct disorder. According to research, children with a family history of conduct disorder or other mental health difficulties, such as ADHD or substance use, are predisposed to develop conduct disorder.

Environmental Factors

Children who grow up in an unstable or chaotic environment are at a higher risk of developing behavioral problems. Substance addiction, criminal activity, or domestic violence can all play a role in developing conduct disorder.

Childhood Trauma and Abuse

Children subjected to trauma or abuse, such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, may be more likely to develop conduct disorder. 

Relationship With Parents and Peers

Children with inconsistent or harsh parenting or bad connections with their parents are at a higher risk of developing conduct disorder. 

Types of Conduct Disorder

There are three types of conduct disorder based on the age of onset of the disorder: childhood-onset, adolescent-onset, and unspecified onset.


Childhood-onset conduct disorder refers to the appearance of symptoms before the age of ten. Often a child with conduct disorder at this age will show emotionally volatile symptoms and this may make it difficult to accurately diagnose.

Adolescent Onset

Adolescent-onset conduct disorder is defined as the appearance of symptoms after the age of ten. Adolescents with conduct disorder may engage in delinquent activities such as stealing, vandalism, and truancy. 

Unspecified Onset

Unspecified onset conduct disorder refers to situations in which the age of onset is unknown or cannot be identified. Children with undetermined onset conduct disorder may have various symptoms consistent with both childhood-onset and adolescent-onset conduct disorder.

Behavioral Presentations of Adolescent Conduct Disorder

Teens with conduct disorder display a variety of behaviors that can be difficult for them and their families to manage. These behaviors are frequently classified as follows:

Aggressive Conduct

  • Fighting or participating in violent physical altercations.
  • Using weapons or other ways to cause damage to people or property.
  • Intimidating and bullying others. 
  • Enjoys being cruel to others.

Deceitful Behavior

  • Engages in stealing, lying, and cheating.
  • Defaulting on pledges or commitments.
  • Manipulation of others to obtain what they desire.

Destructive Behavior

  • Engages in intentional vandalism and property destruction.
  • Starting fires or indulging in other risky acts.
  • Engaging in conduct that endangers or damages others or property.

Violation of Rules

  • Breaching regulations or laws regularly and intentionally.
  • Disregard for norms and authority, frequently defending their actions with their rationale.

Residential Treatment Provides Evidence-Based Treatment Options For Conduct Disorder in Teens

Teens with conduct disorder often require professional help to manage their symptoms and prevent further difficulties. The Residential Treatment Program at key Healthcare includes:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT is a talk therapy that recognizes and modifies harmful thinking patterns and behaviors. CBT may teach teens how to recognize and control their emotions and decision-making abilities and build more positive social connections in the case of conduct disorder.

Components of CBT

CBT for conduct disorder often incorporates multiple components, including:


The therapist educates the teen and family members about the causes and symptoms of conduct disorder and teaches them appropriate coping skills.

Cognitive Restructuring

The therapist assists the teen in identifying and challenging negative attitudes and beliefs that lead to their problem behaviors.

Behavioral Skills Training

The therapist teaches the teen particular behavioral skills such as anger control, communication, and problem-solving.

Role of Therapist and Family

The therapist is essential in CBT for conduct disorder because they provide direction and support while the teen learns new skills and habits. Family members can also contribute to the therapy process by encouraging, reinforcing, and supporting the teen’s development.

Success Rates

Medical research found CBT to be an effective therapy option for teenagers with conduct disorder. According to Eva Feindler, the Director of the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program, CBT decreased conduct disorder symptoms in juvenile offenders by 50-60%.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for Conduct Disorder in Teens

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT for teens, is a form of psychotherapy that encourages individuals to accept their thoughts and feelings rather than fighting or feeling guilty. For teens with conduct disorder, ACT focuses on increasing psychological flexibility, which allows them to engage in positive behaviors aligned with their values, even in the presence of negative thoughts and feelings.

Components of ACT

ACT for conduct disorder typically involves several core processes, including:


It helps teens become more aware of their thoughts and feelings in the present moment without judgment. This awareness is crucial for managing impulsivity and aggression associated with conduct disorder.

Cognitive Defusion

Teaches teens techniques to reduce the impact of harmful thoughts and beliefs by observing them without getting attached or reacting to them impulsively.

Values Clarification

Helps teens identify what is genuinely important and meaningful to them, guiding them to align their behaviors with these values.

Committed Action

Setting goals based on personal values and taking concrete steps to act on them, even in the face of obstacles.

Role of Therapist and Family

In ACT, the therapist plays a vital role in creating a non-judgmental, accepting environment that encourages teens to open up and engage in the therapeutic process. They guide teens through exercises that promote flexibility and value-driven actions. Family involvement is also crucial in ACT, as family members can support the teen’s efforts to implement changes and provide a reinforcing environment for positive behaviors.

Success Rates

Research indicates that ACT can benefit adolescents with conduct disorder, particularly in enhancing emotional regulation, reducing aggressive behavior, and improving social functioning. While specific success rates can vary, the emphasis on acceptance and committed action provides a robust framework for addressing the challenges of conduct disorder.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Conduct Disorder in Teens

Teen Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, is a cognitive-behavioral approach designed to help individuals manage difficult emotions and reduce conflict in relationships. DBT focuses on building skills in four key areas for teens with conduct disorder to help manage symptoms and improve overall functioning.

Components of DBT

DBT for conduct disorder includes the following components:

Emotion Regulation

Teaches strategies to identify and manage intense emotions, reducing the likelihood of reactive aggression and behavioral outbursts.

Distress Tolerance

It focuses on enhancing the teen’s capacity to tolerate stress without resorting to destructive behaviors, promoting resilience in challenging situations.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

It helps teens develop healthier ways to communicate and interact with others, improving relationships and social skills.

Role of Therapist and Family

In DBT, therapists work closely with teens to develop trust and encourage their commitment to the therapeutic process. The therapy includes individual sessions, group skills training, and, in some cases, phone coaching. Family involvement is integral to DBT, as family therapy sessions can address communication issues and reinforce positive behavioral changes within the family dynamic.

Success Rates

DBT has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of conduct disorder among adolescents, including decreasing aggression, improving emotional regulation, and enhancing social skills. Studies have demonstrated significant improvements in teens undergoing DBT, making it a promising option for those with conduct disorder.

Multisystemic Therapy

MST is an intense family- and community-based treatment that focuses on changing various issues contributing to conduct disorder, including family ties, peer interactions, and school performance.


Medication can be used to treat some of the symptoms of conduct disorder, such as aggressiveness, impulsivity, and irritability. Conversely, medication is often used in conjunction with other therapies, such as therapy, and should be closely managed by a physician.

Family therapy

Family therapy seeks to enhance communication and problem-solving abilities, encourage healthy family relationships, and build the parent-child bond.

Objectives of family therapy

The following are the goals of family treatment for conduct disorder:

  • Improving communication and problem-solving abilities in the family.
  • Reducing negative encounters and family conflict.
  • Positive family interactions should be encouraged.

Techniques Used

Family therapy for conduct disorder may include a range of strategies, including:

  • Behavioral interventions.
  • Communication skills training.
  • Parenting skills training.

Benefits for Teens and Family

Teens with conduct disorder can benefit from family therapy by strengthening their connections with their parents and minimizing conflict within the family. It can also help the entire family by encouraging healthy connections and communication. 

Alternative Treatment Options

Art therapy and yoga/meditation are two alternative treatment approaches that can be utilized in addition to standard evidence-based therapies to help teenagers with conduct disorder.

Art Therapy

Art therapy for teens is a form of psychotherapy in which individuals use the creative process of producing art to explore and express their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Some art therapy strategies that Key Healthcare may employ with teenagers suffering from conduct disorder include:

  • Drawing or painting emotions or high-conflict situations..
  • Making a “feeling wheel” to aid in the identification and labeling of emotions.
  • Creating a collage to convey personal objectives or beliefs.
  • Using clay to sculpt or shape emotions or experiences.

Yoga and Meditation

Teen Yoga Therapy and meditation are relaxation, awareness, and physical and emotional well-being activities. These activities may assist in reducing tension and anxiety, enhance emotional control, and develop a sense of inner peace and balance in treating conduct disorder in teenagers.

Yoga and meditation approaches that may be useful for teenagers suffering from conduct disorder include:

  • Exercises in mindful breathing to reduce anxiety and promote concentration.
  • Yoga positions for stress relief and physical relaxation.
  • Meditations with instructions to help with emotional management and self-awareness.

Residential Treatment Process for Conduct Disorder in Teens

The residential treatment method for conduct disorder in teenagers might differ based on the severity of the symptoms and the teen’s particular requirements. It usually consists of a combination of 30 days of Inpatient evidence-based treatments.

Residential treatment is an alternative for teenagers with behavior disorders who require 24-hour monitoring and treatment. Its major purpose is to offer a controlled and safe setting for individuals to acquire new skills and coping methods and address underlying issues contributing to their conduct disorder.

Seeking Residential Therapy for Conduct Disorder may entail the Following Steps

Assessment and Evaluation

Before admission, your teen will have a full examination and evaluation to establish the severity of their conduct disorder and identify any co-occurring disorders or underlying difficulties.

Treatment Planning and Goal Setting

Based on the assessment and evaluation, a treatment plan will be prepared that defines the aims and objectives of therapy, the precise treatments to be employed, and the estimated duration of stay.

Intake and Orientation

Once admitted to the residential treatment program, syour teen will undergo an intake procedure that includes orientation to the facility, meetings with treatment team members, and creating a daily routine.

Aftercare Planning

Once your teen has completed the residential treatment program, an aftercare plan will be prepared to offer ongoing support and services as required. 

Helpful Tips for Parents and Caregivers

Parents and caregivers may feel overwhelmed when a child or adolescent is diagnosed with conduct disorder. Conduct disorder may be difficult to handle and can create severe disturbance in family life. Key Healthcare’s experienced mental health professionals share helpful tips for parents and caregivers to support their teens with conduct disorder and foster faster recovery.

  • Creating logical rules that have natural consequences that are enforced consistently. 
  • Using positive reinforcement within natural consequences. This can be tangible, such as a reward or praise, or more abstract as they achieve something they want. For example, they pack their own lunch from the options on offer, they get to have what they would like.
  • Setting boundaries or limits is helpful. However, these limits must be clearly explained and consistently enforced. 
  • Although it is difficult, responding to your teen calmly and calmly is the best course of action. When you become emotional, it can exacerbate your teen’s response.
  • Encourage open conversation with your teen by carefully listening to their worries and feelings.
  • Collaborate with mental health professionals to design a treatment plan and track progress made and any adjustments needed.
  • Finding a way to take a break from your daily responsibilities helps to reduce your stress and avoid burnout. This could be a hobby or class you go to or a quick getaway.
  • Remember that you are not alone; seek assistance from friends, family, or mental health experts.
  • Prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, good food, and hobbies.


Conduct disorder is a serious mental health disease that affects many youths and can have devastating implications if left untreated. Parents, caregivers, and mental health experts must collaborate to recognize and manage conduct disorder symptoms as early as possible. Residential treatment with evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, multisystemic therapy, and family therapy has been demonstrated to be successful in treating adolescent conduct disorder. 

Furthermore, useful recommendations for parents and caregivers, such as controlling behavior at home and practicing self-care, can help with therapy. We can assist teens with conduct disorder to enjoy full and productive lives by recognizing the necessity of treating it and taking proactive actions to address it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Core FAQs

Several evidence-based treatment options for conduct disorder include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behavioral therapy  (DBT), multisystemic therapy, and family therapy.

The role of the family is crucial in treating conduct disorder. Family therapy is an effective treatment option; involving the family in the treatment process can lead to better outcomes.

While medication can help manage some symptoms of conduct disorder, it is not typically used as the sole treatment approach. A combination of medication and therapy is often recommended.

The treatment process for conduct disorder typically involves evaluation and assessment, treatment planning and goal setting, and a combination of therapy and, in some cases, medication.

It is important to educate yourself and your teen about conduct disorder and to help them understand that it is a medical condition that requires treatment.

Researching the possible facilities and options for treatment will help you find the treatment you can afford. Including community mental health centers, sliding-scale fees, and insurance coverage in your research may prove beneficial.

Yes, early intervention is crucial for treating conduct disorder. The earlier treatment is sought, the better the outcomes tend to be.

Some common challenges during the treatment process include resistance from the teen, lack of family involvement, difficulty finding affordable treatment, and managing co-occurring mental health issues.

Keeping open communication, setting achievable goals, providing positive reinforcement, and involving the teen in the treatment planning process can all help to keep them motivated throughout treatment.

  • Conduct disorder is not something that goes away and reoccurs. It is a chronic disorder that is managed to limit damaging behaviors. Managing this condition involves Ongoing therapy and treatment.
  • Monitoring for any signs of relapse.
  • Implementing healthy coping mechanisms and lifestyle habits.

Longtail Broad FAQs

The length of treatment for conduct disorder can vary depending on the severity of the symptoms and the patient’s individual needs. It may take several months to several years of ongoing treatment.

When looking for a therapist to treat conduct disorder, it is important to find someone who has experience and expertise in working with teens and conduct disorder. They should be licensed and trained in evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioral and family therapy.

While there is no cure for conduct disorder, symptoms can be effectively managed and controlled with appropriate treatment.

Medication alone is not typically used to treat conduct disorder. It is usually prescribed in conjunction with other treatments, such as therapy.

Supporting your teen during treatment for conduct disorder can involve:

  • Providing emotional support.
  • Encouraging them to attend therapy and take medication as prescribed.
  • Setting consistent boundaries and rules at home.

Family therapy can be an effective treatment option for conduct disorder, as it can help improve communication and relationships within the family and provide support for both the teen and their caregivers.

There are potential risks associated with medication, including side effects and the risk of addiction or dependence.

Yes, alternative therapies such as art therapy, yoga, and meditation can be used in conjunction with traditional treatments for conduct disorder, as long as they are supervised by a healthcare professional and used safely and appropriately.

If your teen does not respond to initial treatment, exploring other treatment options or adjusting the treatment plan may be necessary.

Relapse is possible after treatment for conduct disorder, but with ongoing monitoring and support, it can be effectively managed and treated if it occurs.

PAA (People Also Ask)

Common symptoms of conduct disorder in teens include aggression, deceitfulness, destruction of property, and violation of rules.

Conduct disorder is typically diagnosed through a comprehensive evaluation and assessment by a qualified mental health professional, who will consider the teen’s behavior and history.

The causes of conduct disorder are complex and can involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and social factors.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in treating conduct disorder in teens. CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors and can be tailored to meet the individual needs of the teen.

Potential roadblocks to effective treatment may include a lack of motivation on the part of the teen, family conflict, difficulty finding a qualified mental health professional, and financial constraints.