Addiction rarely goes away without help, and if left untreated, a dependence on drugs or alcohol can have a substantial and long-lasting impact on teens.
Before you look for a drug and alcohol treatment center, however, be sure your child is dealing with substance abuse or addiction. It’s normal for teens to experiment and occasional use doesn’t automatically equal addiction.
If you think your teen may be abusing drugs or alcohol, look for signs such as changes in appearance or hygiene, an unexplained need for cash, changes in sleep or appetite, or hanging out with new, different friends.
Tips on Finding a Good Treatment Center for Your Teen
- A good treatment center will offer a teen-only program, as mixing teens in an adult program isn’t effective and in some cases, can be dangerous.
- Remember that hormones are raging during the teen years: programs should be separate for boys and girls.
- Be sure the treatment center can offer safe detox and withdrawal from drugs and alcohol, and that your child will be monitored around the clock until the drugs have safely left his sytem. The team should be highly trained and able to prescribe medications, if needed.
- Beware of punitive treatment programs with stringent rules and military discipline. Such drug and alcohol treatment programs, usually unregulated, are often touted as “bootcamps,” “wilderness therapy,” or “therapeutic boarding schools”. Teens respond better to positive programs that include rewards and incentives – not punishment.
- Be sure the treatment center or rehab has accreditations or licensing required in your area. Such information is available to the public, so take a minute to call the licensing agency and confirm that the facility is indeed a member. Ask if any violations have been reported, or if any actions have been filed against the program.
- A treatment center for teens should be prepared to help kids keep up with schoolwork during treatment, which will ease the transition back to school at the completion of the program. Teachers should be properly certified and licensed. If the center claims to offer college credits, confirm their claims with the Board of Education.
- Don’t hesitate to ask a lot of questions. A quality treatment center will be happy to address your concerns.
- Visit the treatment center and ask for a tour. The facility needn’t be fancy, but it should be comfortable, safe and clean. The diets should be varied and nutritionally sound and the ratio of staff to residents should be low. Your child should have opportunities for healthy exercise.
- The counseling staff should be experienced and knowledgeable about the needs of teens, and they should have relevant, up-to-date credentials. Ask if the center requires background checks on their employees.
- Ensure the treatment center has an aftercare program in place, as returning to real life after treatment is difficult. A carefully planned aftercare program will help your teen make better decisions and cope with temptation, thus reducing the risk of relapse.
- Will you be able to contact your teen? It’s common and acceptable for treatment programs to prohibit contact during the first few days, but extended time without contact with your child is a red flag. If possible, find a treatment center close to home, which makes it easier for you to be fully involved.
- Does the treatment center offer one-on-one counseling sessions? Group therapy can be a positive experience, but too much reliance on group programs may indicate the center is attempting to cut costs. A quality treatment center will offer both, as well as a variety of programs that treat addiction and underlying issues such as depression or anxiety.