What is a Youth Treatment Specialist and What Do They Do?

Mentor, role model, case manager, teacher—youth treatment specialists serve in all of these capacities as they work to provide individualized social, emotional, and behavioral support for troubled adolescents.

The work of youth treatment specialists usually takes place in a secure residential youth facility that provides housing and treatment for adolescents suffering from mental illness, addiction, and related issues.

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The Job Duties of Youth Treatment Specialists

Youth treatment specialists, also known as youth rehabilitation treatment specialists and residential youth treatment specialists, serve in a number of roles. Above all, they are mentors and positive role models for the young people in the program. Youth treatment specialists work closely with youths admitted into these programs, often serving as their first point of contact throughout their time there.

Youth treatment specialists also:

  • Monitor and record the progress of the patients. They evaluate the patient’s background, recommend appropriate programs, coordinate services and resources, and monitor/evaluate patient status.
  • Work alongside the clinical team, including professional counselors, doctors, nurses, and addiction specialists and often collaborate with community service providers and the courts.
  • Plan and implement programs focused on socialization and skill building. They work directly with the patients, overseeing education, work, and recreational activities, and they direct cooperative play activities, social events, and group counseling activities.

Youth treatment specialists have knowledge in the following areas:

  • Case management, which includes assessing and planning options and services that best meet the needs of the patient
  • Laws, regulations, standards, policies, and procedures related to youth residential treatment
  • Report writing

How to Become a Youth Treatment Specialist

To become a youth treatment specialist, you’ll need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in an area such as psychology, counseling, criminal justice, sociology, or social work. Experience working with adolescents in any number of settings (e.g., schools, YMCAs, recreational facilities) is also highly valued among employers.

Salaries for Youth Treatment Specialists

The following job posts provide insight into what youth treatment specialists are earning throughout the country:

  • Youth Development Specialist, Abraxas Youth & Family Services, South Mountain, PA: $31,200
  • Youth Treatment Specialist, Lifeline Youth and Family Services, Pierceton, IN: $25,480-$31,720
  • Youth Support Specialist, Youth Dynamics, Great Falls, MT: $27,040
  • Overnight Youth Treatment Specialist, Tennyson Center for Children, Denver, CO: $34,320
  • Youth Program Specialist, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Kearney, NE: $33,280
  • Youth Specialist I & II, Missouri Division of Youth Services, Troy, MO: $29,368-$32,308
  • Youth Support Specialist, New Directions Youth & Family Services, Lockport, NY: $31,200


Individual job listings with educational requirements and salary information accessed directly from internet job boards and directly from the sites of employing agencies and do not constitute offers of employment.

All salary and job growth data accessed in December 2019.