Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jean Caraway


To date, the literature sorely lacks empirical research exploring treatment outcomes among children in residential treatment centers (RTCs). Consequentially, there is an increasing demand for more studies examining such outcomes, particularly as they pertain to an individual’s experience leaving an RTC. There is even less research exploring the perspectives of individuals who resided in an RTC as a child due to the vulnerable nature of this population and difficulty in accessibility. The transitional period is believed to be a salient component impacting treatment outcomes, yet little is known about how this component of residential treatment is experienced and whether it impacts individuals long-term. The purpose of the study was to understand how adults who transition out of an RTC as a child recounted their experiences before, during, and after their transition. The study was guided by the following research questions: “How do adults who transitioned out of an RTC as a child recount their experiences before, during, and after their transition?,” “Which lived experiences do these adults perceive to have been the most impactful in their life trajectory?,” and “In what ways have these adults integrated their experience leaving an RTC as a child into the broader context of their life story?” Six participants who resided in an RTC as a child for at least six consecutive months produced a total of 26 hours of interview data. They recounted their experiences associated with residing in and transitioning out of an RTC as a child and eloquently told their stories. Data was transcribed, coded, and written in narrative and thematic form for the purpose of extrapolating meaning from the stories. Six narratives were written, and five themes were identified through data analysis. Identified themes include the following: learned and used coping skills, changed opinion about mental health treatment across time, increased understanding and awareness of mental health, developed and maintained impactful relationships, and experienced difficult transition from the RTC. Validation and reliability procedures were utilized to ensure integrity and legitimacy of the findings.

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology


children, discharge, narrative, psychiatric inpatient facility, residential treatment center, transition

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota



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