Components of the Best Adolescent Drug Rehabs

There are so many different rehab programs available today, but it is important to find the right one for your adolescent. Start by looking for an accredited and licensed supervised facility that provides a safe and substance-free setting.. Some basic components are common to most facilities, but based on my experience running adolescent programs, I want to share with you 14 important but rarely mentioned components of an adolescent rehab that will give your child the best chance to regain control of their life and future.

  1. Life Transformation: It is important for the rehab program to focus not just on external recovery but inner mind, heart, and therefore, life transformation. Recovery is behavior management that is hard to sustain during adversity or temptation, but transformation is an inner change in your view of self and life that is sustainable. It is sustainable because goals, peace, adversity, and temptation are viewed differently. So the rest of these components are to facilitate engaging your teen’s heart and mind for healing and growth to be natural and sustained.
  2. Trust the Staff: Before a teen will take in this life-changing information, they need to trust the staff, thus building a bridge for the info to pass from staff to your teen. This trust bridge is built best when the staff:
    • is honest
    • is authentic
    • models what they teach (not a hypocrite)
    • genuinely cares
    • connects
    • has fun hanging out with teens
    • uses appropriate language
    • has appropriate professional boundaries but able to engage well
    • is a good listener
    • is non judgmental
    • values relationships
    • is upbeat and positive
    • verbally affirms the teens in a genuine and not a superficial way
    • manages their own emotions well especially in confrontations or stressful situations

The bottom line is, you want a healthy and qualified staff with experience working with teens.

  1. Spirit, Mind, Body Integration: Teens have interest in the spiritual world, but often have little understanding how that spiritual world interacts with their thinking, emotions, brain chemistry, and everyday living. A good rehab teaches that healthy brain chemistry (body) is essential to take in and process life and manage our emotions to make good decisions. Good decision-making (mind) renews the mind and improves brain circuitry (body). But the lenses we use to view life and the absolutes or rules we use to guide our goals and decisions come from our spiritual beliefs. So spirit, mind, and body are intertwined, and understanding of this allows for a powerful transformational tool/weapon.
  2. Decision-Making Skills: The most important psychological skill of decision-making needs to be taught and learned. Pulling back the curtain and revealing to the child what goes on in their mind when a teen makes a decision so life will make sense and be easier is such a huge advantage. The two biggest components of every decision are viewpoint and emotions. Maturing is being able to see clearly so teaching teens how to have eyes that see reality or the truth (the truth sets us free) is essential to good decision-making. The next step is helping them be less emotionally driven, helping them understand the role of their uncomfortable feelings and then develop skills to manage those feelings so the feelings don’t manage them. This frees them to be less emotionally driven and more reality and rationally focused in their decision-making.
  3. Christian Programming: A Christian program will not only teach the Spirit, Mind, Body integration mentioned earlier, but also has 3 powerful aspects:
    1. Helps the teen access and use the divine power of the Holy Spirit to influence their decisions, resist temptation, see life more clearly, and evaluate options better.
    2. Use the instruction manual (B.I.B.L.E. – Best Instruction Book for Living Everyday) our Creator wrote to help us understand ourselves better and to more easily achieve our goals of peace, love, connection, and fulfillment – the abundant life!
    3. Christian staff members often have a sense of calling and compassion for what they do and who they work with so a caring environment that breeds trust and encourages honesty, humility, and vulnerability is more easily achieved in a Christian program.
  4. Addiction’s Role: A good program teaches that addiction is not the primary issue, but an ineffective and destructive stress management or coping tool for stress, wounds, hurts, losses, anxiety, or other uncomfortable feelings or misinformation a teen has. Then the program will teach much better and healthier skills that help both short and long-term coping.
  5. Competency Approach: If they need rehab, teens have heard what they are not good at for a long time. It is so important for them to hear what they are good at, what they are competent in, what special gifts and skills God has given them. They will come alive with that recognition and feedback, and then staff can help them understand how to use those strengths and competencies to build a much healthier and fuller coping and life management system. This will allow your teen to transform their ideas and goals for themselves and truly realize and achieve their God-given potential.
  6. Length of Treatment: Length of the program is vital. Detox is 3-7 days, then some programs offer 7-14 days after that. But a 30-90 day program allows time for the brain to start to heal as the substance is able to leave the brain, then not just hearing and intellectually learning new information, but experientially learning and applying it through repetition and practice with expert supervision. This time to get the necessary repetition for new lenses and habits to form and become their default settings is essential. If they have not re-set their default settings, they will easily fall back on their pre-rehab views and behaviors.
  7. Peer Population: Teens are very gullible and vulnerable to peer pressure. Unfortunately, peer pressure is usually one reason why most need rehab. But on the flip side, a strong, positive, hopeful peer population in rehab that wants to get better can also be a great positive influence on your teen. Part of developing a strong peer population is having a program that is 30-90 days long. Being able to stay longer allows for a subset of more mature peers who are growing and transforming to be good mentors and peers for those early in the treatment process. For rehabs that are only detox plus 7-10 days, just as their mind is clearing and they are starting to get it, they are discharged so the overall peer maturity level is low. Sort of like having a dorm with all freshmen instead of a dorm with freshman all the way to seniors so the freshmen get some guidance and mentoring from the upperclassmen.
  8. Intensive Engaging Programming: An idle mind is the devil’s playground, especially for a teen. Combine this with the fact that much needs to be accomplished in a short amount of time in rehab. An important component is structured programming from wakeup till bedtime that is also interactive, engaging, and practical while generating some fun as well. Opportunities to engage in art, music, horses, dogs, surfing, or other activities to help teach some life and relational lessons while growing in confidence and self-esteem are powerful tools.
  9. Family Involvement: Your involvement is essential, so having family sessions to heal wounds, develop healthier communication patterns, and come up with better strategies for expressing love through clear boundaries and expectations is important. Family sessions will allow your teen to share what they are learning and how you can help and support that, as well as address many other logistical and relational elements. This is essential, or the stress upon arriving home could be overwhelming and relapse will be probable.
  10. Psychiatric Evaluation When Necessary: As we discussed earlier, addictions don’t come out of the blue. They are a poor coping skill for underlying emotional or psychological struggles. For some, that struggle has evolved into a more overt psychiatric illness or disorder like Clinical Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar, Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Eating Disorder, Cutting, ADHD, Social Anxiety Disorder, or others. Self-medicating through substance use might bring occasional immediate escape, but worsens the underlying disorder. Having a psychiatrist perform an evaluation to asses if an underlying issue is present and then prescribe the appropriate medication to relieve the symptoms while the teen works on psychospiritual skills to overcome the psychiatric illness is a huge advantage.
  11. School: Yes, dreaded school. Can’t get away from it. Accredited residential rehabs will have 1-2 hours of school. Since the teen will be away from school for 30-90 days, keeping up with school is an important part of their life and teaches other valuable skills of perseverance, time management, confidence, competencies, delayed gratification, working with others, accepting guidance and teaching, etc. Teaching them coping skills when engaged in school activity or working on homework is vital to any teen’s maturation process.
  12. Affordability: Cost is important. No matter how good the treatment is, if the family is now financially stressed or in large debt, not only is that a family stress that will affect the teen, but the teen feels a lot of pressure around every decision because the family sacrificed so much. Sometimes those combined pressures are too much and the teen crumbles. The other financial issue is understanding rehab is only the start of the transformation process. More treatment, in the form of individual, family, and sometimes marital therapy (for the parents to come back together and restore their relationship that became a casualty), and possible psychiatric medication management is needed so finances need to be available to make sure ongoing treatment is going to happen to build on the foundation and gains of rehab.

Lighthouse Network can help you find the right rehab program for your adolescent. Call us at 844-LifeChange (844-543-3242) today to learn more.


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