Adolescents have brain structures and pathways that are far from mature. From this perspective alone, it makes perfect sense that the treatment objectives as well as the treatments themselves for adolescents who are in addiction recovery programs will be different than those for adults. Those differences can also pose unique challenges for counselors and therapists who strive to structure effective addiction treatment programs for adolescents.
Adolescents generally present a different addiction profile than adults. Since they are younger, their substance abuse history will be shorter and they will not have experienced as many of the adverse consequences that typically befall adult addicts. Their drug or alcohol abuse may be more binge-oriented or it may occur in discrete episodes rather than becoming ingrained as a daily routine. As adolescents struggle with their own identities, their substance abuse might be a symptom of other psychological issues as it simultaneously masks those issues. On the plus side, these factors give adolescents a greater opportunity to recover and to develop positive motivations that keep them permanently away from drugs and alcohol.
Counselors and therapists use different research-based treatments to help adolescents recover from substance abuse problems. These include behavioral therapies such as community reinforcement programs that are designed to replace the temptations that led them to drug or alcohol abuse with more positive influences, cognitive therapy that helps teens to better understand the consequences of their substance abuse, and contingency programs that give adolescents rewards for drug- and alcohol-free behavior.
Adolescent Addiction Recovery
Because most adolescents are still living with their families, family-based therapy is also an effective approach to adolescent addiction recovery. These therapeutic programs engage an adolescent’s entire family structure to variously provide positive reinforcement, to learn how to interact in a positive manner and to improve inter-familial respect, and to communicate more effectively to avoid breakdowns in family relationships that might drive an adolescent toward drugs or alcohol.
Adolescent Addiction Treatment
Adolescent addiction treatment programs also focus on a teen’s self-esteem and in helping a teen to overcome any experiences that may have harmed his self-image. Teens are susceptible to low self-esteem as a result of on-line or in-person bullying, poor performance in school or athletics, or rumors and stories that get spread through social media. Counselors have discovered that in many cases, teens have turned to alcohol or drugs to ease the difficulties associated with these situations. Rebuilding an adolescent’s self-esteem that has been damaged by external events like these can be a daunting challenge, but it is not an impossible task.
One goal of adolescent addiction recovery that is common with all addiction therapy is its focus on preventing relapses. Some studies have suggested that between one third and one half of all adolescents who have received substance abuse therapy will experience one or more relapses within twelve months of completing that therapy. Counselors are trained to look for relapse risk factors, including the presence of other psychological issues, drug or alcohol use by an adolescent’s family members and close friends, and his or her coping skills when faced with stressful situations. Where an adolescent’s family expresses strong motivation to help prevent relapses, that family can be the best tool that he or she can rely on for that purpose. Teens may also more open to educational therapies that expose them to risks of relapse and that give them mechanisms and resources to turn to when they are tempted to resume using drugs or alcohol.
Sustain Recovery Services
Sustain Recovery Services in southern California focuses its efforts on helping adolescents and young adults to recover from drug addiction and alcoholism. Please see our website or call us at 949-407-9052 for more information about our services or to arrange a confidential consultation with one of our counselors.