Substance abuse treatment tends to follow a certain pattern, no matter what sort of facility or program you choose to attend. There will probably be detox, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and then some kind of aftercare, like returning occasionally for therapy or attending 12 step meetings. Once you’re out of treatment and heading into recovery, you start looking at going back to work and learning to cope with life’s struggles without drugs or alcohol. What if the patient is a teenager? Does the process look different? And what role do you, as a parent, play in their continuing care?
Generally speaking, treatment isn’t all that different for teens compared to adults. Since you’re the responsible party, it’s up to you to make sure that your teen will have the support they need going forward. Before they leave inpatient therapy – ideally, before you even choose that facility, to begin with – find out if the program offers ongoing care. This includes a counselor and/or a support group with frequent meetings, and continuing checkups and drug testing by a medical professional. If the treatment center doesn’t offer something like this, you’ll need to look into finding a therapist and local support groups yourself.
There are some 12 step programs that have meetings specifically for teens. Try calling AA or NA and asking if they can point you toward a meeting for teenagers, or ask a therapist or other parents of kids with substance use disorders.
Be supportive. Neither of you can forget the hurtful things that may have been said or done while your teen was using, but neither should you let resentment fester. Talk things out – often treatment facilities will have family therapy available, where you can work through some of these issues with a professional – and learn to move forward. Remind your teen that you’re proud of him for making it through treatment and that you’ll continue to be there for them throughout his recovery. You can also offer rewards or incentives for doing well. Don’t buy them a brand new car for their one-month sober mark, but find a way to show that you’re proud of them, like taking them to dinner or allowing them to have some small privilege back.
You may or may not be involved in the counseling that takes place during this time. If family therapy is offered, you should absolutely go as long as your teen is comfortable with it. If it’s individual or group therapy, however, you would just be intruding. If your teen doesn’t feel like they can talk openly with you present, consider taking the time while they’re in therapy to find someone to talk to for yourself. There are programs out there for parents of addicted teens. The website drugfree.org has resources for parents and allows you to talk to someone by phone or chat. You can also talk to other parents who have gone through the same thing.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.