The decision to enter your teenage son in a recovery program can be a tough one. As a parent, you have to be able to trust that the professionals who care for your child are compassionate, well educated and credentialed in the field of adolescent addiction treatment. And because a large percentage of teens who suffer from substance abuse also have mental health concerns, the experts who care for them should be cross-trained in the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders.
As you search for the right treatment program, consider the backgrounds and interests of the staff. Ask yourself the following questions as you review their credentials:
- Does the staff include psychiatrists and other medical professionals, as well as therapists and counselors, nutritionists and holistic therapists?
- Are staff members licensed or certified in their professions?
- Has the treatment team received specialized training in adolescent mental health care?
- Are there family therapists and marriage counselors available to provide counseling for the entire household?
- Does the staff include therapists who specialize in holistic and experiential therapies?
Because these treatment specialists will be responsible for helping your son build a strong, sober future, it’s essential that they represent the best in the field.
Addiction Treatment for Teens
At one time, substance abuse was considered to be a problem that affected primarily lower class kids in urban areas. But the problem of teenage drinking and drug abuse has increased throughout the country, reaching families from all socioeconomic groups. Out of the teens who abuse drugs, the majority are males, especially in the 15-to-17-year-old age group. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration reports that in 2009, boys accounted for 72.6 percent of adolescent treatment admissions.
Some drug rehab centers offer a watered-down version of adult addiction treatment for young people. But clinical evidence suggests that treating teenagers for substance abuse is much different than treating their older counterparts. Current Psychiatry Reports notes that the approach to teenage drug rehab should differ from adult rehab for several important reasons:
- Teens are less likely to acknowledge the personal risks of substance abuse, such as drunk driving, accidental injuries, sexual assault and communicable diseases.
- Teenagers are more likely to exhibit binge patterns in their drug or alcohol use.
- Teens are more likely to have co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.
- Teenagers are more vulnerable to peer pressure than adults.
Up until the 1980s, drug and alcohol programs were designed primarily for adults, and teens were allowed to participate on a limited level. Today, addiction professionals understand the pressing need for treatment specialists who can understand the unique needs of this sensitive, vulnerable population.
Treating Co-occurring Disorders
Because most parents aren’t trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of psychiatric disorders in adolescents, they may overlook the warning signs in their teenage boys. Teenagers may not behave in the same way as adults when they’re depressed, worried or suicidal. Teenage boys may display behaviors that resemble typical adolescent rebellion, such as:
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Skipping school to spend time with a new crowd of friends
- Behaving aggressively toward younger siblings
- Displaying unexplained mood swings
- Spending an excessive amount of time on obsessive grooming rituals
- Becoming preoccupied with dark subjects like suicide or violence to others
The National Institute of Mental Health warns that many mental health professionals, as well as parents, miss the red flags of substance abuse and depression in teenagers. Adolescent addiction treatment specialists are trained to evaluate at-risk teens and to detect the signs and symptoms of co-occurring disorders, or psychiatric conditions that exist along with substance abuse. These professionals are uniquely qualified to develop treatment plans that reflect the needs of growing boys at this pivotal stage in their lives.
Treatment Specialists for the Whole Family
Addiction is a disease that affects not only the individual teen, but the entire family. An effective recovery plan must include counseling for parents or guardians, siblings and other family members. Your treatment team should include licensed marriage and family therapists, social workers, and counselors who will work with you and your son to build a healthy home life.
Recovery isn’t just about helping your teen shape up and get sober. It’s about helping him develop true self-esteem and discover his own potential. The treatment specialists at Muir Wood are dedicated to helping boys and their families recover from the disease of addiction so that they can look forward to bright, stable futures. Call our intake specialists for more information or download our admissions packet today to start the process of recovery.