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.

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
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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

Many Youth Treatment Specialists also fall into the Bureau of Labor Statistics category of Community and Social Service Specialists, All Other. According to 2021 statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Youth Treatment Specialists earned a median salary of $47,390 annually.

  • 25th percentile: $37,170
  • 50th percentile: $47,390
  • 75th percentile: $60,300
  • 90th percentile: $76,630

Youth Treatment Specialists earned the highest mean salaries in the following states:

  • District of Columbia: $79,160
  • Pennsylvania: $62,550
  • New York: $61,840
  • New Jersey: $60,640
  • Washington: $60,180

The top-paying metropolitan areas for Youth Treatment Specialists, according to mean salary, were:

  • Oxnard (also includes Thousand Oaks and Ventura), CA: $75,580
  • Harrisburg (also includes Carlisle), PA: $74,930
  • Albany (also includes Schenectady and Troy), NY: $69,800
  • San Jose (also includes Sunnyvale and Santa Clara), CA: $69,790
  • Olympia (also includes Tumwater), WA: $68,240

2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Community and Social Service Specialists, All Other reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed January 2023.