Your teen’s addiction can feel insurmountable, but you are not alone in this fight. Treatment professionals (such as counselors, intake specialists and doctors) dedicate their lives to helping others recover from addiction. If you find that your teen has engaged in substance abuse, you should discuss the situation with a recovery professional.
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What Do Treatment Professionals Do?
Treatment professionals are people trained in preventing, screening, intervening in and treating substance use and addiction. While your family physician or your teen’s school guidance counselor may be able to identify a problem, it requires a particular set of skills and education to properly give addicts the attention they require. If your son or daughter has developed a dangerous pattern of drug or alcohol use, enlisting the help of medical professionals offers them the best odds at a successful substance abuse treatment.
Treatment professionals (e.g. addiction specialists) should be certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) of the American Board of Psychology and Neurology (ABPN). These specialists take one of two routes: addiction medicine and addiction psychiatry. In order to practice addiction medicine, specialists require one of two things:
- Board certification by an American Board of Medical Specialty (ABMS) member board
- Completing an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredited residency
Addiction psychiatry involves a particular set of therapy modules, proven effective in cases of teen drug abuse and addiction. Therapists trained in this subspecialty of psychiatry work with other rehab professionals to address the psychological damage in rehab patients, and help reshape and strengthen them on a mental level to live without drugs and alcohol. This certification is only available to psychiatrists, and they’re required to do three things:
- Complete a 1-year addiction psychiatry residency
- Meet the ABPN criteria
- Pass the ABPN certification examination
In the U.S., there are more than 2,500 physicians certified in addiction medicine and 2,000 psychiatrists certified in addiction psychiatry. These specialists work alongside licensed nurses and other staff members in either inpatient or outpatient rehab settings. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) provides a database of addiction specialists and doctors in the U.S.
Is There Help Beyond Rehab?
Outside of the actual rehab process, you may encounter professionals in different, equally important roles as your teen works through the steps of recovery.
What Is An Educational Consultant?
Educational consultants are trained experts who can assess your teen’s needs, ensure they receive academic support throughout drug treatment, and help place them in the appropriate education environment once rehab is complete.
What Is An Addiction Counselor?
Addiction counselors, also referred to as substance abuse counselors, advise patients who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction or other behavioral problems (e.g. eating disorders, self-harm). Your teen may meet with an addiction counselor prior to treatment to have their health and behavior assessed, along with their readiness for rehab. The counselor can then review treatment options for your child and recommend which plans would be best.
Other duties of substance abuse counseling include:
- Helping patients develop recovery goals and plans
- Helping patients develop skills and strategies to prevent relapse
- Identifying high-risk situations that may interfere with recovery
- Teaching families about the dangers of addiction and other co-occurring health issues, and suggesting ways to cope with these problems
- Helping patients rebuild personal and professional relationships
- Referring patients and their families to other resources, such as local support groups and 12-step programs
Counselors often work in private practices, but also operate in rehab clinics and alongside social workers or psychiatrists. Court-ordered addiction counseling is sometimes required of teens whose substance habit gets them in trouble with the law. As a parent, you may decide on counseling for your teen before, during or after rehab — some addicts benefit from addiction counseling months or even years after they get clean.
Some counselors operate with only a college degree and experience in the field — many are recovered addicts themselves — but the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals offers 3 main credentials for addiction counselors. If you choose to seek counseling for you teen, seek out a counselor who is one of the following:
- National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I (NCAC I)
- National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level II (NCAC II)
- Master Addiction Counselor with Co-Occurring Disorders Component (MAC)
What Is An Interventionist?
If your son or daughter’s substance problem gets out of control, and your attempts to personally address them have no effect, an intervention may be necessary. An intervention is a structured gathering of friends and loved ones, designed to put a spotlight on your teen’s addiction and convince them that they need help. An interventionist (or intervention specialist) is a professional who can help.
When you reach out to an interventionist, they will help identify the appropriate people to take part in the proceedings and who can have the biggest impact. This individual will then educate the “recovery team” on the problem, train them in how to stage the intervention, provide guidance and support the team in any way possible. In many cases, they will also facilitate the intervention, serve as a mediator and help direct the addict to treatment and aftercare.
When confronted, teens battling a substance problem may be resilient or reluctant to acknowledge the damage they’ve caused themselves and their loved ones. The prospect of starting treatment is often met with strong resistance. An interventionist can assist families in getting through to the teen, and offer thoughtful answers to any questions that may come up — whether from the struggling teen or from the loved ones on the recovery team.
Interventions aren’t necessary in every case, and ideally you can bypass this stage and get your teen into treatment on their own accord. But if an intervention becomes imperative, an interventionist can play a major role in pulling the pieces together and making sure it goes as planned. The Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS) offers a directory of Certified Intervention Professionals, who are educated in the field and adhere to a code of ethics established by the association.
Does My Teen Need a Treatment Professional?
If you suspect your teen is drinking alcohol or using drugs, address the situation immediately by contacting a treatment professional. Whether or not you think your teen is actually addicted or is just experimenting, now is the time to nip this in the bud. Consider the dire consequences of substance use, and don’t allow this problem to fester.
If you don’t know where to start, feel free to call us at TheRecoveryVillage.com. We offer free assistance to parents like you, who believe their child may be dealing with substance abuse. Everything we talk about will be kept in strict confidence. Our compassionate treatment advisors are experienced in recommending next steps, and answering any questions you may have about addiction and treatment. If you want, we can even provide you with a free list of therapists and facilities that specialize in treating teenagers. Do not hesitate to get in touch — your child’s future depends upon you right now.
- “What is an Addiction Specialist.” ASAM. American Society of Addiction Medicine, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.
- “Therapeutic Advising.” IECA. Independent Educational Consultants Association, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
- “Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors : Occupational Outlook Handbook.”U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. US Department of Labor, 17 Dec. 2015. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
- “NCC AP Credentials Overview.” The Association for Addiction Professionals. NAADAC, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
- “What is an Interventionist.” Association of Intervention Specialists. AIS, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.
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