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Teen Rehab: An Overview of Our Treatment Program

Teen Rehab: A First Step

Teen Rehab is, in all likelihood, not something you anticipated needing for you child. There’s no question that it’s a shock to the system discovering that your child has been using or abusing drugs or alcohol and is steadily spiraling down into an untenable existence at home that is negatively affecting the entire family. Naturally, you’re concerned, confused, and frightened. And you’re wondering if there’s even a path back for your child and a bright future ahead that can be realized through teen rehab.

The unfortunate truth is that what you, your family and your child are going through is all too commonplace these days and more or less the “new normal”. Scores of families from all walks of life are waking up to teenage children who have turned As and Bs into Ds and Fs and “I love you!” into “F____ you!”.

At Muir Wood Teen Rehab, we’re here to tell you that by simply taking this first step to investigate our teen treatment center — perhaps we were suggested by a doctor or other clinician, or a family friend, or even the all-powerful Google – you are doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. In fact, the time to act is now. A research study conducted at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University showed that 90% of adults with substance use disorders began using drugs and/or alcohol prior to their eighteenth birthday. Needless to say, the time to intervene is now, before a teenage issue becomes a debilitating adult affliction.

What Teen Rehab Is And Is Not

Before we go any further, let’s all agree on what teen rehab means. The term teen rehab connotes rehabilitation from the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse. It implies treatment solely about and for substance abuse. In reality, substance abuse, in adults and teens, is considered by many to be the end product of, or better put, a symptom of deep, underlying emotional and mental health issues that oftentimes include depression, extreme anxiety, childhood trauma, bullying, guilt, shame and a whole host of other issues.

So, we’ve come to understand that teen rehab really involves a comprehensive battery of treatment designed to delve into the root issues precipitating the teen substance misuse while providing the counseling, insight, self-awareness, teaching, and tools needed to cope with and rise above those underlying mental health issues. Once that is achieved, we can focus on creating an understanding of substance use, why it came about, how to walk away from it, and how to sturdy one’s self when it threatens to return, and how to deal with it quickly and effectively if it does.

What Every Parent Should Insist Upon When Choosing A Teen Rehab


Gender-Specific Teen Rehab Treatment

Gender-specific teen rehab is at the very top of our list of how teen treatment is best implemented and should be at the top of yours and here’s why. First, Muir Wood provides residential treatment for teenagers ages 12-19. So we’ll present our argument for gender-specific teen rehab through this male patient lens set.

Gender-specific treatment for substance abuse and its associated underlying emotional issues is just what the term gender-specific implies. Everything we do in our teen’s residential treatment program is designed for the male gender and administered in an environment that includes only male patients. Why is this critical? Well, as the parent of a teenager, you know all too well what sort of drama and distraction is possible when the opposite sex enters your child’s orbit. The same principal applies to teen rehab. By treating only teens, we eliminate the drama and distraction that is very common in teen rehabs that treat both boys and girls. In this gender-specific situation, our teens are free to focus on the important work and studies required to achieve a successful treatment outcome.

Another positive and important by-product of gender-specific teen rehab is that the teens in our program tend to have more ability to open themselves up and share what is in their head and heart without the threat of appearing weak or vulnerable. Teens at Muir Wood also display less posturing and male bravado, and appear to be less confrontational than teens in mixed gender settings. At the end of the day, we believe that gender-specific teen rehab is a leading contributor to successful treatment outcomes.

DID YOU KNOW… that 6 out of 10 substance abusers also suffer with a mental illness? Source: N.I.D.A.

Family Involvement In Teen Rehab

Family involvement in any teen rehab program is critical. At Muir Wood it is prerequisite. In fact we believe that success in treatment is virtually unattainable without the close cooperation of the client’s entire immediate family. Why is that? Because you are actively seeking a teen rehab, you’ve likely heard or read these words at least several times: Addiction is a family disease. And while we are talking about more that just substance abuse issues, the words still ring true. What your child is going through is being experienced by your entire family, and your family’s world is likely in disarray right now.

To fully understand the effects that your child’s emotional upheaval and substance misuse are having on your family and, likewise, to understand the effects that the family is having on your son’s substance use and emotional struggles, we have designed a program that brings the family into the treatment picture by way of weekly individual therapy sessions on campus or via video conferencing, weekly phone consultations with a licensed therapist, and our comprehensive Saturday Family Program where the family is exposed to a wide array of teen rehab experts and topics, along with time spent with the Muir Wood staff. On average, you can expect to spend 6-10 hours each week involved with your child’s treatment at Muir Wood. This close collaboration with the family, we believe, is critical to your son’s success. Learn more about our comprehensive family program here.

A Teen Rehab Treatment Team That Understands Teen Issues

It is not enough for a teen rehab team to be expert in mental health, substance abuse, and addiction. They must be authorities on teen mental health, teen substance misuse, and teen addiction. The leadership team at Muir Wood, from our Executive Director Scott Sowle to our Chair of Addiction Medicine David E. Smith, M.D. are all noted experts in the fields of adolescent mental health and substance abuse.

The nature of teen rehab requires highly specific knowledge, expertise, and experience in treating teens. At Muir Wood we recruit and hire only the best and the brightest from the fields of adolescent mental health and substance abuse treatment. Learn more about our highly credentialed teen rehab medical and clinical teams staff.

DID YOU KNOW… that six percent of 12- to 17-year old teens used prescription drugs non-medically in the past year? Source:

Comprehensive Psychological Testing and Assessments by Licensed Clinical Professionals

Psychological testing and assessments, when considered necessary to your teen’s treatment, and when performed expertly, can serve as an integral component to teen rehab success. This is why Muir Wood offers parents the option of having comprehensive psychological assessments and tests performed by leading Neuropsychologists.

At Muir Wood, Dr. Barbara Nova, Ph.D., along with Dr. Jenny Foreman, Ph.D., and Dr. Jim Moses, Ph.D., use comprehensive psychological testing as a means of:

  • developing highly customized treatment plans and coping strategies
  • identifying work to be done on your teen’s interpersonal skills that can contribute to long-term recovery
  • developing a medication strategy, if deemed necessary

Dr. Nova and her team employ a battery of more than 20 different, multi-faceted industry-standard tests to assess the functional ability of each teen and to optimize his time in treatment in order to help ensure long-term treatment success after discharge from teen rehab.

Learn more about psychological testing and assessments here.

Treating Dual-Diagnosis in Teen Rehab

The term dual-diagnosis refers to two or more illnesses occurring concurrently. In the context of teen rehab, dual-diagnosis often refers to substance abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol occurring alongside mental illnesses that may include teen depression, teen anxiety, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), teen trauma or PTSD, as well as mood and personality disorders in teens. Research shows that teens struggling with mental illness are far more likely to abuse substances. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (N.I.D.A.), six out of ten substance abusers also suffer from a mental illness.

In many of the cases that we see here at Muir Wood, teen substance abuse is precipitated by underlying mental illness. That is not to say the opposite cannot occur. And because teen substance abuse and mental illness tend to fuel each other, it is imperative that they be treated at the same time.
At Muir Wood, our clinical staff is highly trained and experienced in treating teen mental health disorders and are committed to instilling in teens the skills needed to cope with the negative feelings associated with mental illness in order to effectively treat the co-occurring disorders.

Medication Management

Many of the teens that we treat for dual diagnosis in our teen rehab program have been prescribed medications to help them manage common mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. For these teens, Muir Wood offers medication management services so that you can rest assured that your teen will receive the appropriate medications that they have been prescribed in the proper dosage and at the correct time.

Academic Excellence: A Core Component of Teen Rehab at Muir Wood

It is our belief that successful teen treatment should never come at the expense of academic achievement. Academic excellence is promoted by way of the Muir Wood Learning Center, a recognized California supplemental education program for grades 7 to 12, including for physical education. Muir Wood is one of the only residential treatment centers nationally with an academic program that is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). 

This world-class academic program is lead by Jeff Erbst, MBA, who holds the credential of California Single Subject Teacher. The curriculum that Jeff heads up provides classroom assistance in a highly individualized manner based on each teen’s academic strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Typically, the work done in the classroom, whether it be English, history, geography, human interaction, or physical education, equates to at least one full semester of credit.

Collaboration with your child’s school back home is critical to his Muir Wood classroom progress and success and, to that end, close contact is maintained with his home school. While he is in our teen rehab center, we will obtain and submit your son’s assignments on a weekly basis via fax or email to ensure that he is keeping pace with his peers back home.

Another unique aspect of the Muir Wood Learning Center is our professional relationship with the Valley Oaks School, an independent study program that is part of the Petaluma, California Unified School District. Through this affiliation, teens at Muir Wood can enroll in and attend one to two classes based on their academic abilities. The Valley Oaks School provides a transcript at the end of study.

Teens in rehab at Muir Wood can also enroll in fully accredited distance learning programs by enrolling in online studies at institutions such as the Brigham Young Online High School, the Laurel Springs Online School, and others. Distance learning is made possible by our fully appointed computer lab.

The overarching objective of the Muir Wood Learning Center is to create a seamless, stress-free transition back to the teen’s home classroom following discharge from treatment.

A Small Teen Client-to-Clinician Ratio is Critical to Success

At Muir Wood’s teen rehab we treat only 20 teens at a time across two beautiful residential facilities in Petaluma, CA. By treating only these two small 10-teen patient populations, we are able to maintain one of the lowest teen client-to-clinician ratios in the field. This ensures that your child receives the focused attention that he deserves, and that our clinicians are able to gain and leverage an in-depth, intimate knowledge of your teen and your family. We believe that remaining committed to this small ratio of clients to clinicians ensures that we are delivering the most focused, individualized, and effective treatment possible for your teenager.

An Environment That Promotes Progress and Healing

Muir Wood GardenIn real estate, it’s location, location, location. The same can be said of teen rehab in that a physical environment that encourages and promotes healing can contribute the success of the program. Muir Wood’s two teen’s residential teen treatment facilities are located in beautiful Petaluma, CA, part of Sonoma County in northern California. Both residences are situated on sprawling, wide-open farmland that provides a tranquil place where teens in treatment can run, play, and create important bonds with others in treatment. Our Skillman Lane location features a pond for fishing and both residences have gardens where the teens can cultivate not only flowers and vegetables, but friendships and character as well.

Our teen rehab residences are among the nicer you’ll find anywhere in the country. Like the properties they sit on, the interiors are wide open ye warm and enveloping. Decorating is professionally done, colors are quiet and comforting, and all furnishing, from sofas to beds, are meticulously selected for comfort. Our goal is to literally create a home away from home where teens in rehab can feel relaxed, emotionally open, and very much at home. 

DID YOU KNOW… that 20 percent of 8th graders report that they have tried marijuana. Source:

A Focus on Outcomes

It is imperative that we at Muir Wood know how we are performing in the enormously important and sensitive work we are doing. To gain this understanding, we monitor the progress and outcomes of every teen who goes through our teen rehab program. Muir Wood makes use of nationally-recognized, empirically validated outcome measurement instruments that include:

  • the Adolescent Relapse Coping Questionnaire (ARCQ)
  • the Kutcher Depression Inventory (specifically for adolescents)
  • the Response to Stress Questionnaire (specifically for parents and teens)

By monitoring treatment outcomes, we are able to make program tweaks and adjustments when necessary that enable us to deliver the very best teen treatment possible.

Accessibility to the Teen Rehab Staff

When your son is in treatment at Muir Wood, you will have access to Muir Wood’s Executive Director Scott Sowle as well as to your son’s treatment team during normal business hours. You will be provided with cell numbers that can be used outside of normal business hours for urgent matters.

Parent Approval of Muir Wood Teen Rehab

Full length of happy old couple standing together against isolated on white background

The words of the parents of our alumni speak volumes about the success of our teen rehab program. When these families found themselves in crisis and needed the very best help available today, they chose Muir Wood. More important, they continue to lend their voices to the good and important work we do so that others in their former position can find the best help for their children. These are real parents with real stories of the life-changing transformations their children underwent at Muir Wood. Here are just a few…

“I can tell you from my personal experience the staff at Muir Wood (Teen Rehab) saved my family. My son was battling addiction and that battle was destroying him and us. It is my most sincere belief that only due to the extraordinary skill of the staff at Muir Wood is my family intact today.”
– D.B. (father of a Muir Wood Alumnus)

“As a result of Muir Wood, our son graduated from high school and received the highest semester grade point average from his school, applied to and was accepted to a University, was able to work as a youth counselor at a summer camp this past summer, and now has a chance for a productive and rewarding future, that we believe did not exist just a year ago.”
– E.A. (father of a Muir Wood Teen Rehab Alumnus)

“My fifteen-year-old son was in a downward spiral of addiction and depression that almost annihilated him and devastated our family. Muir Wood saved my son’s life and began the healing process for our family. The entire staff at Muir Wood demonstrated incredible compassion, integrity and responsive expertise during his stay there and after discharge.”
– E.G. (mother of a Muir Wood Alumnus)

Read more parent testimonials here.