Rehabilitation For Teens: How To Determine Which Program To Choose

Though addiction doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age, it can be beneficial for teens struggling with addiction to receive treatment separately from their adult counterparts. Being surrounded by peers can make teens feel less isolated during treatment and can also lead to supportive and understanding friendships when it comes time to leave treatment.

When researching treatment options for a child with substance abuse issues, parents may want to look into teen-only treatment facilities. But first, it’s important to gather information on the extent of your child’s substance use and what substances are being used. A drug test may be beneficial in determining if drug use is occurring and what substances your teen is using.

Addiction vs. experimentation

The first step in finding a treatment facility for your teen is determining if they do, in fact, struggle with addiction or chemical dependency. It’s important for parents to realize that there is a difference between experimenting with drugs or alcohol and being addicted to them.

According to, “Teenagers have a natural curiosity and a desire to explore, including drugs and/or alcohol. Experimenting with drugs does not automatically lead to drug addiction; addiction occurs when your teenager crosses over from occasional use or abuse of a substance to the need to use it, which results in a loss of self-control.”

When a child is addicted to a substance, certain signs of abuse present themselves. These may include changes in physical appearance, an unexplained need for money, a change in friends and a change in appetite and sleep. Different types of substances can present different signs of abuse, so if you have a suspicion about the type of substance your child may be abusing, it’s helpful to research specifics about that substance.

Which drug rehab program is best for my child?

Once you have determined your child is indeed addicted to a substance, it is time to research rehab facilities and decided if inpatient or outpatient treatment is a better fit.

With inpatient treatment, a teen stays in a facility for a minimum of 28 days, during which they take part in group and individual therapy to try to pinpoint the underlying causes of addiction. In outpatient treatment, the idea is the same, but the teen does not reside in the treatment facility and may continue day-to-day responsibilities, such as work and class.

Though outpatient rehab has benefits, inpatient treatment, also known as residential treatment, is often suggested for teens. This can be scary for parents, as they feel like they are sending their child away and are unable to see them. However, most inpatient treatment facilities have family days, where family members are invited to take part in group sessions.

According to the Building Bridges Initiative, “Residential programs are designed to assess and stabilize children so that families can be re-united as quickly as possible, given the needs of the child and family. The best programs work with and for families and children: they collaborate and help families discover what works to help their child flourish.”

Recovery facilities know that family relationships are a vital part of recovery, and as such, they often include family members in the treatment and recovery process.

Ask the right questions

Once you have determined whether an outpatient or inpatient facility is a better fit, it is time to find a specific facility for your child. This involves asking a variety of questions, including the following.

Is this a safe program?

Sending your child to treatment can be difficult, and it’s important to know they will be safe. Be sure to ask if the program is licensed to make sure it is legitimate. Also ask about whether staff members have had background checks conducted, and whether or not they have the necessary credentials.

How do you include families in a child’s treatment?

Make sure to ask the staff at the facility whether or not they will communicate with you regularly, as some facilities will call parents weekly. It’s important to feel as if you have a say in your child’s recovery, and knowing what is happening can help alleviate any stress or confusion.

Is this program teens only?

It’s important for facilities to cater specifically to teens, as their treatment needs are different from the needs of adults. Often, teens are still growing and undergoing changes, including hormonal ones. It’s important for a facility to have a knowledge of this and be prepared to deal with any accompanying difficulties. For example, according to Time, “When a teenager is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they require a rehabilitation program that is operated by professional counselors. The rehabilitative program for a teenager overcoming an addiction is different from the treatment that is provided to adults. In some cases, an addicted teenager is as young as 13, requiring a knowledgeable counselor and physicians with an understanding of how to care for an adolescent who is in a rapid growth phase with constant changes of their hormones.”

How will treatment affect my teen’s education?

This is often a big concern for parents, as a child’s education is important to keep up with. Falling behind can be overwhelming and often detrimental. Usually, a treatment facility will be willing to work with the teen to ensure they are keeping up with their peers when it comes to schooling.

How will this program prepare my child for life after treatment?

Some facilities provide aftercare options, meaning they have groups and resources for those who have been released from the program. This can be helpful because it allows the child to start returning to their normal routine while continuing to give attention to recovery.

Like most aspects of treatment and recovery, finding a recovery center that meets your teens needs is possible. It may just take some time and research.


A Tip Sheet for Families Considering a Residential Program. Building Bridges Initiative. Accessed 25 September 2016.

Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment of Teen Drug Abuse. On the Wagon. Accessed 25 September 2016.

Szalavitz, Maia. How to Find the Best Drug Treatment for Teens: A Guide for Parents. Time. 17 February 2011. Accessed 25 September 2016.

How To Determine the Right Teen Rehab Program
5 (100%) 1 vote[s]