Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Convincing Your Teenager to Attend Rehab

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that drug abuse treatment doesn’t need to be accepted voluntarily in order to be effective. In fact, a push from a family, an employer or the legal system could be just the thing an addicted person needs in order to change his or her habits for good. This can be welcome news for the parents of addicted teens, as they may struggle to get their charges to do even simple tasks like cleaning their rooms and washing their clothes. Figuring out how to make these teens do something monumental like enrolling in rehab can be difficult, and in some cases, it might even be impossible. However, there are a few things parents can say, and a few things they should avoid, as they attempt to find a solution that could help their troubled children.

Focus on Motivation

If they’re asked to do so, parents could likely provide a thousand supporting reasons for a child’s entry into rehab, including:

  • Improved health
  • Better grades
  • Stable relationships
  • Mental health improvement

It’s common for parents to outline these reasons when they discuss rehab with their teens, and unfortunately, these conversations are very one-sided and not very helpful. It’s easy for teens to just tune out and refuse to change when they feel as though they’re being lectured. Deep inside, however, these teens might have a tiny bit of motivation to get sober, and questioning can help parents to seek out that motivation and increase its impact. Parents might ask their children how they think their lives might be different if they were sober, or ask their children to describe one event in which drug abuse made something worse. Parents might also ask their children to describe their life goals, and then describe how drug use could allow them to reach these goals. These questions can force a teen to think about the consequences of drug use, and it could allow them to see that rehab could make their lives just a little better.

Ask for Help

Talking with teens can be difficult, even when parents use the right techniques. Sometimes, underlying conditions are to blame. For example, according to a study in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, about 75 percent of teens who use drugs have an underlying mental health issue. These teens need help, and their parents may not be able to deliver those solutions. In some cases, it’s best for parents to work with a therapist before the teen enters rehab. Teens might willingly accept a few sessions of therapy, as they think it might be easier than entering a full-blown rehab program, and the therapist might be able to continue to boost the teen’s motivation to enter rehab and perhaps give help for a mental illness at the same time. Therapists are adept at working with reluctant patients, and they can use sophisticated techniques that can break through denial and really help teens to improve and get better. For some parents, asking for help is the best way to ensure that the child enters rehab with an open heart, willing to really work and improve.

If you’d like to know more about how rehab works, or you need help in order to help your son enter a program and get assistance, please call us.

Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services is a Joint Commission-accredited mental health and substance use disorder treatment provider located in Petaluma, California. We provide integrated evidence-based care including psychiatry, psychotherapy, experiential therapy, wellness services, and milieu therapy for adolescents and teens, and their family members.