Teen Rehab: Academic Support


One of the hardest mental health problems to diagnose and treat, antisocial personality disorder is marked by constant manipulation, and is often tied to substance abuse and criminal behavior. If you suspect your teen may be suffering from this disorder, now is the time to seek help.

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Academic Support Options Through Drug Rehab

teacher helping studentDrug and alcohol addiction can be a relentless battle. Many families face the harsh reality that high school drug problems can impact their teen’s education. Fortunately, there are a number of ways for them to salvage their education and get back on track.

To meet the needs of teenage addicts, rehab clinics regularly offer some form of academic support. Certain treatment options (outpatient rehab) allow teens to live at home and still go to school while undergoing the process. More involved treatments (inpatient rehab programs) require that patients leave their daily routine and take residence under the supervision of rehab professionals.

Depending upon the unique needs of your teen, and which treatment your family decides to pursue, your chosen rehab clinic may offer a number of options for continued education. These may include the following:

  • Educational Assessment – This determines your teen’s current mastery of the core subjects, their current progress through their class curriculums and the expectations from their teachers for the remainder of the school year. By doing this, the treatment staff can determine the academic needs for each teen and lay out coursework to the best of your child’s abilities.
  • Onsite Classrooms – These provide teens with the next best thing to their school’s offerings, in the form of classrooms, desks and an interactive environment where they can learn core material. Grades from these classes are sent to each teen’s origin school, so their transcripts stay current and they progress through grade levels as normal.
  • Individualized Tutoring – This gives teens a one-on-one, focused environment where they can improve in areas where they may be struggling.
  • ACT, SAT and GED Prep – This provides teens the necessary tools to succeed in standardized tests, which play a huge role in graduation and college placement in many school districts. This can include instruction on the various sections of these exams, how to approach complex problems and practice tests modeled after common standardized tests like the ACT and SAT.
  • College Prep – helps teens nearing the end of high school to prepare for a collegian future. This might include writing college essays and filling out applications, researching colleges of interest, or enrolling in pre-college or practice college courses.
  • Psycho-Educational Services – These educate teens on the nature of addiction and substance use itself, how to cope with their problem and what’s at stake if they continue to use. While not an aspect of traditional academics, these classes serve as a supplement to treatment itself, and can help teen addicts grasp the scope of their individual problem and also substance addiction as a whole.
  • Skill-Building – These workshops focus on improving non-academic knowledge such as computers, interpersonal communications, job hunting, and self-image. These workshops can prove just as valuable — if not more so — than core academics in strengthening teen addicts from all angles as they prepare to reenter the outside world.

Can a Recovery High School Help?

student writing on whiteboard with teacher watchingNaturally, teen substance use is discouraged in all public schools, and the faculty will do what they can to prevent it. But it’s easier said than done: a 2012 study revealed that 17% of high school kids drink, smoke, or take drugs while on campus. Countless others arrive to campus already high and mix in with the rest of their classmates. Recovery high schools (or “sober schools”) have been a steadily-growing presence since 1987. These schools are designed for teens with a history of substance problems, offering them all the amenities of the high school experience while drawing a firm line in the sand against drugs and alcohol.

“Recovery schools are a unique intervention that can help students sustain their abstinence [from substances], which in many cases can save their lives. Throwing kids in recovery back into their old high schools is setting them up to fail, so we need to look for alternatives for them. We do a lot of primary prevention in this country, but the further you go down the spectrum of prevention, treatment and recovery, the less help there is.”

Kevin Jennings
Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug-Free Schools, U.S. Department of Education

What Is a Recovery High School Like?

People with antisocial personality disorder can easily be seen as “cruel” and “heartless.” They often create a world of lies that makes it difficult to ever really know or trust them. In many cases, they will also take on their frustrations by destroying property, getting in fights or even abusing animals. All the while, they may be able to fool friends, family or coworkers into a false sense of security, with expert-level flattery and the appearance of good intentions.

Recovery schools focus on the following priorities during a typical school day:

  • Target multiple life-health domains (emotional, physical, vocational, psychiatric)
  • Offer academic courses that translate to high school or college credits
  • Be sensitive to each student’s realities (cultural and socioeconomic)
  • Encourage family involvement during treatment
  • Motivate students towards prosocial hobbies
  • Provide cognitive and behavior skills training to help prevent future substance use
  • Create a non-using social network for every student

Additionally, sober schools engage in serious efforts to keep their students separate from public school students, using scheduling and physical barriers. It is crucial to the recovery process that teens are kept away from temptation, which can include being near other teens who currently use substances. A single misguided interaction can send a recovering teen right back to their self-destructive old ways.

Should My Teen Attend a Recovery High School?

Only your teen’s medical treatment team can determine the best educational option. However, all parents and drug treatment professionals can agree that recovering teens should be able to reap the benefits of school without worrying about slipping back into their destructive habit, or hanging around kids who are using.

Sober high schools are built to meet this demand — 78% of their students have had prior formal treatment for substance use problems, though it’s not a requirement for admission. It’s believed that the first 60 days following addiction treatment pose the greatest risk of relapse, or returning to a harmful substance habit. Thus, a school for troubled teens best serves incoming students immediately following treatment until the students feel prepared to fully transition back into an everyday school atmosphere.

How Effective Are Recovery High Schools?

Past students report that recovery schools have high therapeutic value, and were beneficial as a stepping stone back into the realm of public schooling. Of the students who attend these schools, 75% do so voluntarily, 86% report they get more attention than they did at other high schools, and 87% report overall satisfaction.

How Do I Find a Recovery High School?

Speak with your teen’s doctor or current school administrators if you’re interested in tracking down a local sober school. You can also search the Web for offerings in your area.

How Do Drugs Affect School?

As a drug or alcohol problem worsens, your child’s chances of getting a proper education can start to fade. Fortunately, there are a number of ways for them to salvage their education and get back on track.

Drugs and High School Dropouts

What if school is no longer an option? Trouble with drugs or alcohol — along with other social or emotional issues — causes many teens to leave school, either by choice or forcibly. It’s estimated that 79–94% of schools have zero-tolerance policies towards possession of drugs or alcohol, along with things like violent behavior and other misconducts. Catching your teen in possession of illicit substances can cause their school to kick them out, even on the first offense. In 2006, 3.3 million students in the U.S. were suspended or expelled from high school. In addition to this, 1.2 million American kids make the decision to drop out, for any combination of reasons.

If your son or daughter faces the reality of expulsion, there are alternative avenues to get them an education. It’s important to get through to them about the importance of learning. They need to make the personal decision to pursue alternative schooling when high school is no longer a choice. Once they do, they have several options. Models for alternative schooling, according to the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network, include the following:

  • Alternative Classrooms – Self-contained classrooms offering varied programs within traditional schools
  • School-Within-A-School – Schools with semiautonomous or specialized educational programs, housed within traditional schools
  • Separate Alternative Schools – Freestanding schools having different academic and social adjustment programs than regular public schools
  • Continuation Schools – Schools offering real-life academies (e.g. job-related training and parenting courses) for teens no longer pursuing traditional education
  • Magnet Schools – Intensified, focused programs for individual subjects, such as math or science

Teens whose substance problems robbed them of a high school experience can pursue the GED, which allows them to learn a significant portion of the lessons they would have learned in traditional school, and ensures they receive a certificate for their efforts. Many employers, particularly those in the labor force, view a GED diploma as an equivalent of a high school diploma. Teens who earn a GED have far better odds of being accepted into college than teens with no diploma of any kind.

Approximately 7,000 kids become high school dropouts each day in the United States, — about one million every year. Substance problems often play a big role — nearly a third use illicit drugs, and around 42% drink alcohol, with 32% actually binge drinking. About 27% of teen dropouts currently use marijuana (as opposed to 18% of enrolled high schoolers), and about 10% abuse prescription drugs (as opposed to 5% of enrolled high schoolers). Many teens are aware of the impact that their substance abuse has had on their education — 30% of dropouts admit that it was a major factor in their decision to drop out of school.

Long-Term Education Issues

If substance abuse in high school is not resolved, academic issues can follow your teen into college. College students who use drugs or alcohol spend less time studying and skip more classes. For example, one study shows that college students who use prescription pills non-medically skip 21% of their college classes.

Additionally, college students who smoke marijuana — even infrequently — are 66% more likely than their peers to be discontinuously enrolled (i.e. skipping a semester or more at a time). To parents, perhaps the scariest fact of all is that students who use substances are less likely to graduate college.

Rebounding from Drugs

teacher showing two students the answerIt can be overwhelming for your teen to reenter the “real world” after drug treatment. There are a few ways for your teen to maintain their recovery and stay on the right academic track:

  • Establish Support – Your teen should build a network of academic advisors and teachers who are invested in their success. Their school guidance counselor can help with this process, if need be. Many teachers may extend extra understanding if they know that a student is in recovery.
  • Stay in Therapy – Your teen should absolutely continue some form of outpatient therapy, even if it means only seeing a therapist once a week. As your teen progresses, their therapist will determine when therapy is no longer necessary. But since relapse is common right after treatment, some form of continuing therapy is crucial.
  • Plan to Stay Busy – When your teen sets a schedule, finding ways to stay active can help prevent relapse. This could mean planning to hang out with sober friends, having some family fun, or enjoying some physical activity. (Note that exercise is not only a great way to stay busy, but also provides your teen with much-needed endorphins, which are brain chemicals that make you feel good.) Plus, if your teen has a set schedule, it is easy for them to nail down study sessions.

Does My Child Need Rehab?

If your child is struggling with substance addiction, rehab may be necessary. Once you become aware of the problem, the first step is to contact your child’s school guidance counselor. They can help you begin the process of recovery for your child. Upon request, they can probably also provide you with a list of treatment options and centers that may suit your teen’s needs.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of centers to the ones you like best, go ahead and schedule visits with them if you like. This will allow you to get a feel for the environment where your teen would reside, and to meet one-on-one with each facility’s academic support personnel.

For immediate, free assistance in locating an appropriate treatment facility, call TheRecoveryVillage.com. Our expert treatment advisors understand the complexity of adolescent rehab, including the need for academic support during therapy. Scary as it may sound, your child’s life is at stake. Don’t let anything hold you back from getting them the help they need.

Give your child the treatment and care they deserve.

Speak with one of our devoted addiction specialists today to take that next step.

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Academic Support was last modified: June 18th, 2017 by The Recovery Village