A Typical Week in Teen Rehab

A Typical Week for Boys in Teen Rehab at Muir Wood

For boys who struggle with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders a teen rehab program can be a life-changing experience. Parents who choose Muir Wood want their son to have the most effective treatment available, and view this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for their son to experience incredible personal growth. These same parents often ask what a typical week in residential treatment looks like. Here’s the answer.

Early to Rise

The teen rehab weekday at Muir Wood begins at seven in the morning. The boys have an hour to wake up, shower, brush their teeth, dress, and enjoy a nutritious breakfast.

At eight, the day kicks off in earnest with the first therapy session, the goal-setting group facilitated by a licensed marriage and family therapist. Goal setting is one of the most important instruments in the recovery toolbox.

The objective of goal setting in teen rehab is to break down general objectives like “getting sober” into smaller steps that are less vague and less overwhelming for teen patients. Similar to employee performance management and personal-development objectives, teen rehab goals use SMART criteria: goals should be Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, and Time based. If goals are too ambitious, the fear of failure can all too quickly throttle good intentions and cause problems. If there is no time limit set, boys in teen rehab won’t know when they have achieved their goals. Large, lofty goals have to become achievable, broken down into more modest objectives.

boy studying at Muir WoodAcademics and Teen Rehab

After the goal-setting group, it’s off to school for the boys in teen rehab at Muir Wood. Muir Wood Learning Center is a year-round school that student-patients attend Monday through Friday from 8:30 am until noon. Muir Wood provides academic support to residents in a number of different ways dependent upon the academic needs of the student.

Muir Wood Learning Center is a California-recognized private school with master’s-level accredited teachers. The center provides the curriculum for courses such as English (grades 8-12), U.S. and world history, geography, health education, and human interactions. Muir Wood Learning Center can also award academic credit for physical education, which is roughly equivalent to one semester of PE.

Not interrupting the education process is critical for school-age boys in treatment. Their mental health issues and substance use have likely had a negative impact on their academic life already. The primary mission of our academic program is to ensure that treatment doesn’t create a knowledge gap that will cause high anxiety and trigger relapse when the boys return to their classrooms back home.

Afternoons in Teen Rehab

After the lunch break at noon, the boys participate in a group therapy session. There are different sessions according to what day of the week it happens to be. Monday and Thursday, the boys have process group from 1 – 2 pm. On Tuesday, it’s a health group facilitated by a licensed marriage and family therapist. Wednesdays, the boys learn coping skills and on Friday they work on relapse prevention.

After a short break, patients take part in a dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) skills session, except on Fridays when they can work on their recovery in a psychodrama therapy session.

DBT is a cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy developed in the 1980s that emphasizes the psychosocial aspects of treatment. The theory behind the approach is that some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations, primarily those found in romantic, family and friend relationships. In teen rehab at Muir Wood, boys tackle a different DBT skill every day. On Monday it’s mindfulness. Tuesdays, the boys work on emotional regulation. The Wednesday session deals with interpersonal effectiveness and on Thursday, the theme is distress tolerance.

Learning distress tolerance in teen rehab ties in nicely with Friday’s psychodrama session. Psychodrama was developed by Dr. Jacob L. Moreno nearly 100 years ago. When used in psychotherapy, clients use spontaneous dramatization, role-playing, acting, and dramatic self-representation to gain insights into their own lives, the lives of those around them, and their substance misuse.

boys in teen rehab at muir woodA key concept is Moreno’s theory of “spontaneity-creativity.” Moreno believed, the more anxious you are, the less spontaneous you can be but if you can reduce anxiety, spontaneity can emerge. To achieve that healing level of spontaneity, psychodrama uses a number of techniques, such as mirroring, doubling, and role reversal. In mirroring, clients act out an experience and then an expert mirrors their actions. In doubling, the expert, sometimes called “therapeutic thespian” acts out a scene as if he or she was the client. And in role reversal, patients play the role of a significant person in their life while the therapist takes on the role of the patient. All of these techniques are meant to help boys in rehab confront their addiction problem head on, enabling a solid start into recovery.

After the DBT or psychodrama session, the teen rehab afternoon continues with a break or an individual therapy session. Depending on the day of the week, the next session, starting at 3:30, is either gym, individual therapy, or workbook study hall.

Gym class (Monday, Wednesday, or Friday) is also an important tool in teen rehab. Physical exercise has numerous health benefits. In recovery, it can provide stress relief and improve the mood of the patient. Since addiction is frequently driven by co-occurring mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, wellness programs can have a positive impact on the underlying causes of the substance abuse.

In teen rehab, physical activity may also boost self-esteem. Teens in active addiction are frequently plagued by feelings of shame and a negative body image. This in turn provides a strong impetus to continue with the substance abuse in the attempt to contain those feelings. Working out in teen rehab is good for body and mind.

During the hour before dinner, the boys can strengthen their recovery with a variety of therapeutic options. On Monday and Friday, it’s either workbook study hall or individual therapy. On Tuesday, Muir Wood offers a yoga session.

Yoga has many benefits that are important in teen recovery. Much like gym class, it can make patients physically stronger and more flexible. It may reduce stress and improve circulation. Many people who do yoga experience greater peace of mind, making new and healthier coping mechanisms more accessible. Because yoga tends to increase self-discipline, it may make practitioners more resilient to cravings and triggers, an important benefit in teen rehab.

Wednesday’s pre-dinner hour belongs to art therapy and on Thursday the boys work on their meditation skills. Addiction and substance abuse is a disease that affects the sufferer physically, mentally and spiritually. Meditation is a practice with physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. That makes it so valuable in teen rehab because addiction is a Biopsychosocial and spiritual disease. Meditation may increase open-mindedness, creativity, happiness and a feeling of completeness and oneness. After the final teen rehab session of the afternoon, a nutritious dinner is served at 5:30 by one of our talented staff chefs.

The Work of Recovery Continues into the Evening

After dinner, the boys join an off-campus 12-Step meeting. Both Marin and Sonoma counties have lively young-persons 12-step meetings in the community. Accompanied by staff, Muir Wood teen rehab residents attend six nightly young-persons meetings in the community. The goal is to introduce teen rehab patients to positive social peer groups, to recognize that recovery from substance abuse can be fun, and to recognize that there are countless “cool kids” in the community who want to remain sober and live productive lives.

In addition to active participation in young-person’s 12-Step support groups, the boys in teen rehab work the 12 Steps in their daily lives on campus. While many boys do not meet the clinical criteria for addiction, and do not think of themselves as “addicts,” they usually agree that aspects of their lives have become unmanageable—the central theme of Step 1. The boys are guided by their teachers and teen rehab therapists to work through daily struggles using the principles and wisdom of the 12 Steps, whether they are facing addiction-related issues or learning to manage difficult relationships, academic challenges or personal conflict.

After the 12-Step meeting, the teen rehab day concludes with the daily goal reflection group. The weekday in teen rehab ends with lights out at 10 pm. A good night’s sleep is critical in teen rehab as tomorrow will be another full day of recovery work and treatment.

Time for Family and Unwinding

Saturdays and Sundays follow a slightly different schedule at Muir Wood. The wake-up call on Saturdays is at eight. After breakfast, the boys have goal setting group for an hour.


The rest of the Saturday follows alternating bi-weekly schedules. On one Saturday, it’s time for family visits from ten to the lunch break at noon. Addiction and substance abuse is often described as a family disease and family involvement is crucial for recovery in teen rehab. Teenagers with substance use disorders and mental health issues need the support of their loved ones to make their recovery a success. Visits by parents and other family members helps the boys realize they have solid family support for their efforts at recovery.

Equine-Assisted Therapy in Teen Rehab

In the afternoon, patients engage in a special kind of therapy. Horses have been utilized as a therapeutic aid since the ancient Greeks who used them to help people with incurable illnesses. Modern equine-assisted therapy is used for a variety of mental and behavioral health conditions such as depression, abuse issues, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as substance use disorders.

equine assisted therapy at Muir WoodIn teen rehab, equine-assisted therapy isn’t about instilling a love of horsemanship in participants. Loving horses isn’t required and those who participate may not ever actually ride a horse. Instead, the horses are used as a special kind of teaching tool for young people, allowing them to pick up lessons that might elude them via other training methods.

A therapist may ask the patient simply to entice the horse to move forward, accept a halter, nibble a treat, or submit to brushing. Horses are animals especially suited for healing interactions with humans. Equine-assisted therapy allows participants to learn how their actions and emotions impact those around them. It may also help addicts reconnect with emotions that have remained dormant during their struggle with substance use. Through equine-assisted therapy, teen rehab patients may experience a significant improvement in their ability to trust others, access emotion, request help, and rise to challenges throughout their recovery.

Teen Rehab Family Workshop

Every other Saturday, family members have the chance to participate in the family workshop offered at Muir Wood. The teen rehab family program offers a lot of valuable information about addiction and how to deal with it. Families get help from a variety of treatment experts who work with Muir Wood as guest lecturers. Teen rehab lecturers include esteemed physicians and board-certified addiction treatment specialists, psychologists, therapist, educators, and authors.

Topics range from co-dependency and attachment, the disease concept and neurobiology of addiction, conflict resolution and effective communication techniques, effective parenting, relapse prevention and preparedness, understanding 12-Step recovery, family reunification, and helping teens make the right choices: substance abuse strategies for the whole family. The Saturday family program also includes a multifamily process group facilitated by the clinical director. This empowering and supportive group therapy combines the benefits of a group dynamic with an underlying focus on family systems and structure.

After dinner, the teen rehab Saturday concludes with the daily goal reflection group. Lights out is at eleven.

Adventure Therapy in Teen Rehab

After breakfast and goal setting most of Sunday’s schedule is dedicated to adventure therapy. The all-day outings of the adventure therapy program integrate the best practices of psychotherapeutic treatment for substance use disorder and the time-tested processes of initiation. This dynamic combination fosters the growth of young people into the role of being purposeful adults in an experiential weekly process of self-discovery.

outdoor therapy in teen rehabWith activities such as hiking, rock climbing, or kayaking providing the focal point, and the spectacular natural setting of northern California and Sonoma County providing the context, our boys embark upon weekly journeys that are facilitated by licensed therapists with the stages of change explicitly described prior to the outing and then discuss in a dynamic process where teens can experience these changes firsthand in outdoor an unparalleled outdoor setting. This integrative model accelerates personal growth with a sense of adventure. The teen rehab weekend finishes with a life skills session, and the daily goal reflection after dinner.

Boys residential teen rehab at Muir Wood is a comprehensive program for the treatment of teen substance abuse, teen mental health, and teen behavioral issues. During each busy week while in our care, boys take part in an intensive clinical program, keep up with academics in the on-campus classroom, may benefit from optional comprehensive psychological testing and assessments, participate in a full schedule of therapeutic activities, and benefit from thoughtful, organized outdoor activities.