Adolescence Therapy Treatment

Breaking the Silence with Talk Therapy

Teens can benefit from talk therapy just as much as adults, whether it’s for mood swings and anxiety issues, or exam blues, relationship troubles, and school pressure. Talk therapy is not limited to people with mental health conditions and can be a powerful tool to enable introspection and a healthier outlook on life even when a person considers themselves mentally healthy.

The argument for talk therapy can be summed up as preventative care: making sure minor problems don’t brew into major issues down the line, while helping teens build life skills that will continue to serve them as bastions of resilience and strength against mental health issues in the future.

What is Talk Therapy?

Talk therapy is another term for psychotherapy or individual therapy. In talk therapy, a patient and a therapist discuss a patient’s thoughts, concerns, experiences, worries, ambitions, and more.

The point of each therapy session is to make progress on the patient’s mental wellbeing, which may involve thought exercises and “homework,” such as writing a daily journal entry or making observations about one’s responses and emotional states at work or at school.

Combining Talk Therapy with Therapeutic Methods

Different forms of talk therapy apply different questions and therapeutic methods to help a patient make progress. Nearly all therapy centers around introspection, wherein a therapist helps their patient reflect on their way of thinking and their coping methods in order to think healthier, more positive thoughts and develop better, more effective coping skills.

As an example, a therapist treating a teen with depression through cognitive behavioral therapy may teach their patient to identify and isolate self-deprecating and negative thoughts, to dissociate from them, and use positive affirmations to negate these thoughts. These positive affirmations will be rooted in truth, focusing on the teen’s strengths or positive attributes.

It might not feel convincing or effective at first, but reinforcing this type of mental work can, in turn, change the way a patient feels, creating a stronger self-image and healthier self-esteem. This can take as few as five or as many as 20 sessions.

Talk Therapy isn’t Always Used Alone

Talk therapy is not always used on its own. It may be reinforced through medication, helping the brain dull severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, or another mental health problem while training a teen to refute and replace unwanted thoughts when they arise.

How Does Talk Therapy Help with Depression?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most used talk therapy method for cases of depression. Depression in teens can range from a mild or temporary issue to a long-term chronic condition, or a severe and debilitating mental health problem. Regardless of severity, talk therapy is often a central part of treating a depressed patient.

It is true that you cannot “talk your way out” of a depression. It is also true that conditions like depression do not have a cure. Mood disorders are mental health conditions that may resolve themselves over time but are often chronic and long-lasting. For teens with depression, this might mean struggling with dark thoughts from time to time, for years or decades.

Talk Therapy Builds Reinforcements Against Depression

The point of talk therapy is to reinforce habits that help a teen build resilience against these thoughts, anticipate and isolate them, learn not to listen to them, and learn how to refute them with real-life examples of joy and happiness.

We also know that conditions like depression are exacerbated and disarmed by risk factors and protective factors alike. Excessive stress and poor physical health can make depressive symptoms worse and more frequent. Taking care of oneself, spending more wholesome time with friends, and insisting on a healthier work-life balance can help keep depression at bay.

In many cases, talk therapy involves helping patients lay the foundation for the habits and mindset that will keep them safe from depressing thoughts in the future.

Therapy and Addiction

Substance use is another condition where talk therapy, both individual therapy, and group therapy, plays an important role in treatment. Substance use disorder or addiction is a very complicated health problem with compounding social, physical, and psychological factors.

While talk therapy alone does not address all these factors, it can be key to helping patients re-establish themselves in the aftermath of addiction, reaffirm their interests, reclaim their hobbies, and emphasize their newfound lives in sobriety.

There are very few medications for addiction – some medications help cut down on alcohol cravings, for example, while others block the effects of addictive substances like opioids, eliminating the high.

Most of the work in overcoming and surviving addiction relies on guided introspection through one-on-one therapy and group therapy sessions, positive affirmations, healthy coping mechanisms to avoid or defeat cravings, and a long-term support plan.

How Can I Convince My Teen to Try Therapy?

More than half of those who are diagnosed with a mental health problem are not getting the help they need. In many cases, it’s a matter of misinformation, fear of judgment, financial worry, and other factors. In your teen’s case, they may be worried about what might happen if news got out about their therapy. Or, they might be worried that it won’t work and that you would be wasting your time and money.

Sometimes, just talking to your teen will be enough to get them to try it out. Letting them know that you’re in their corner and want them to get the best possible care is important. At other times, it may take more than a single heart-to-heart. Consulting with a therapist beforehand might get you some important pointers on how to bring your teen to therapy.

Being a teen represents being at a major crossroads in life physically, socially, and mentally. Teens are at the cusp of their transformation into adulthood, which brings with it a set of responsibilities and new authorities they need to learn to manage.

Meanwhile, becoming an adult means teens will be expected to do more, first at school, then in the workplace, introducing more sources of overwhelming stress. While all this is happening, teens are struggling with their own emotional and sexual identity and maturity, learning to develop as individuals and cementing their personality traits.

Talk therapy can help teens navigate these issues and accompanying life stressors, before they’re further complicated by anxious or depressed thinking, or other symptoms of illness. In teens who are already struggling with a condition like depression, talk therapy can help them navigate their thoughts and develop better habits.

For more information, contact us today. We are here to help you and your teen. At Visions Treatment Centers, we offer residential treatment programs for teens that address various mental health conditions and diagnoses.

Experiential Therapy Mental Health Treatment

How Can Experiential Therapy Activities for Teens Help?

When people bring up therapy, they’re usually talking about talk therapy or psychotherapy – these are treatment methods that involve discussing certain actions, thoughts, and emotions with a trained professional, and relying on healthy argumentation and dialogue to develop a better understanding of one’s own thoughts and emotions, as well as the effects of a mental health issueBut, experiential therapy is something different altogether.

While still a therapeutic treatment for mental health problems, experiential therapy combines dialogue with action, using immersive experiences to help patients overcome unhealthy coping mechanisms, shed their anxieties and worries, and get to the emotional core of their condition or problem.

What is Experiential Therapy?

Experiential therapy is like talk therapy, but adds action to the treatment process, involving patients in immersive therapeutic environments to help them become more introspective, and achieve a greater therapeutic effect.

The thesis of experiential therapy relies on the idea that actions help reinforce our thoughts and emotions just as much, or even more than words. Rather than confronting negative thinking in dialogue, experiential therapy aims to bring out and expose unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns through roleplaying, psychodrama, music, and other forms of art and public or personal self-expression.

The Difference

The difference is more than semantic – there is a clinical and philosophical core to experiential therapy that sets it apart from other types of talk therapy, and allows it to become an important tool in the repertoire of different therapists and mental health clinics. That core is characterized by the idea that some people are better at introspection than others.

Talk therapy forms like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) are so successful because they help patients identify and argue against thoughts and feelings that originate with or are perpetuated by their mental health problems.

In doing so, they can embrace a healthier thought process that allows them to dull the blow of a depressive or anxious episode, or work against symptoms of their diagnosis. In tandem with medication, family support, and lifestyle changes, therapy helps patients take back control over the way they feel and improves their overall quality of life.

But patients who struggle to look inward and might not have the innate introspective abilities needed to apply lessons in therapy may struggle to progress with traditional forms of talk therapy, such as CBT and DBT.

Infusing Active Experiences with the Therapeutic Process

Experiential therapy takes this conclusion and incorporates active experiences into the therapeutic process to unlock a person’s introspective capabilities and help them translate lessons from therapy into their day-to-day thinking.

It’s not just about introspection. Experiential therapy also taps into the human mind’s innate abilities to translate, recontextualize, and re-experience trauma and joy through wordless actions.

While some of us are able to work through our thoughts and emotions purely through language, whether in our mind, in dialogue, or on paper through journaling, words alone aren’t always enough to explore our emotions, or we might lack the words needed to truly express ourselves. Experiential therapy helps tap into something more primordial, something more accessible than language.

Different Types of Experiential Therapy

Experiential therapy does not come with strict guidelines as to categorization and type. But most forms can generally be categorized into one of the following types:

Art-Based Therapy

Art therapy refers to an experiential setting where patients are encouraged to use different artistic processes to work through inner conflicts, such as painting, sketching, drawing, or sculpting.

Outdoor Therapy

Outdoor therapy utilizes wilderness excursions, hikes, and adventurous activities with therapy sessions, helping patients break through emotional barriers in the therapeutically conducive environments of nature.

Animal-Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy helps patients open up and engage in therapeutic conversation through the care of animals, often dogs and horses.

Play-Based Therapy

Play-based therapy is a form often used in the treatment of younger children, who might experience difficulties talking about negative thoughts or trauma, but often re-enact or re-experience it through play.

Music-Based Therapy

Music-based therapy is similar to other forms of art-based therapy, using composition and musical arrangements in place of physical mediums.


Psychodrama or drama therapy involves immersive acting and roleplaying to re-experience and release suppressed or negative emotions associated with a past event or recurring anxious thought, thereby helping patients work through their issues in a safe and healthy environment.

When is Experiential Therapy Used for Teens?

Experiential therapy may be applied to teens who do not respond well to traditional talk therapy. Experiential therapy may help in the treatment of multiple different conditions, including:

Experiential therapy will be more helpful for teens who struggle to express themselves in other forms of therapy, but “open up” through their art, their creative endeavors, their acting, or other forms of self-expression.

Experiential Therapy as Part of a Larger Treatment Plan

As with any other form of therapy, experiential therapy will usually be offered as part of a larger treatment plan involving multiple modalities, including medication. It may take time, and multiple sessions, for the effects of the treatment process to become noticeable.

For relatives and friends alike, patience and understanding become important. Therapeutic treatments can help patients identify signs of illness and cope with them more effectively, but they aren’t a “cure”. There will be good days and bad days. Sometimes, returning to therapy – or continuing therapy even after the bad episodes have stopped – is an important key to keeping up against negative or unwanted thoughts and behaviors.

What Parents Should Know

Experiential therapy can be intense. Patients are encouraged to express themselves, which can result in painful or uncomfortable forms of self-expression and displays of emotionality.

Your teens might not want to talk openly about what they went through in early sessions, and it may take time for them to explore their emotions. You and your teen can prepare yourselves by looking at footage of sample experiential therapy sessions online, or through other online resources.

Contact Visions Treatment Centers today to learn more about experiential therapy for teens and how it can be used in a residential treatment program.


When Does Teenage Rehabilitation Become Necessary?

Teen substance use is a serious issue affecting a significant portion of the adolescent population. An estimated 15 percent of 8th graders, 30 percent of 10th graders, and 36 percent of 12th graders have tried an illicit drug in the past year alone. Although there are no statistics for teen substance abuse, it is known that teens are more likely to try drugs and are much more likely to struggle with repeated drug use over time. One of the biggest risk factors for lifelong addiction is the age of onset – the younger a person starts, the earlier their brain is affected by drug use.

But there is still a significant difference between having used a drug once and being addicted. There is no such thing as hooked on the first toke, and although our insights into brain chemistry do confirm that drugs affect us in a way that makes us more likely to give them another try each time, addiction takes time to develop. Sadly, it’s not always easy to draw the line between drug use and addiction. It’s a slippery slope and a hazardous one for teens especially.

What Exactly Is Teenage Rehabilitation?

What do you do when you’ve found out that your teen is struggling to control a drug habit? First, you make sure they get all the support they need – especially from you. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a complicated brain disorder that affects how teens think, feel, and behave. It can cause irritability, co-exist with severe depression and anxiety, and bring with it an incredibly powerful societal stigma. The last thing your teen needs is judgment for an addiction they cannot control alone.

However, they can overcome it with help. Teenage rehabilitation programs help adolescents equip themselves with the therapeutic tools, experiences, coping skills, the resources needed to fight their cravings, and the ability to seek out help in their darkest days. Most teenage rehabilitation programs are split into two types:

    1. Outpatient programs (OP) or intensive outpatient programs (IOP)
    2. Residential treatment programs (RTP)

In a residential treatment program, teens spend time living in a residential setting with other affected teens, surrounded by attentive and experienced therapeutic staff. Doctors, therapists, and nurses help teens adjust to a life without drugs and slowly transition into a life they want to live. Residential programs include:

    • Detox and physical care.
    • Day school and skills training.
    • Group and one-on-one therapy.
    • And a transitory period.

Inpatient programs differentiate themselves from partial hospitalization programs (PHP) or internment in a medical setting by focusing on life skills and a drug-free but comfortable environment.

Is Teenage Rehabilitation Necessary?

For some teens, yes. These programs are intensive and help monitor teens as they make their transition into a sober life. Addiction is invasive and can be exceptionally difficult to fight back against. Teens in these programs are there because they need interventive help to heal and find a better, healthier, and more fulfilling life path.

These programs also have a proven track record of efficacy. Addiction therapies take time, structure, and repetition to work – and an inpatient program helps teens set themselves up for continuing their sobriety at home and elsewhere through the help of family and friends, as well as the skills they picked up and internalized during their treatment.

Of course, not all adolescents need teenage rehabilitation. There are various flexible programs designed to help teens while giving them and their parents the choice to seek treatment from home while visiting therapists and doctors on an appointment basis. These outpatient treatments still require teens to come in on a strict schedule, but rather than live and get treated in a residential treatment area, teens can continue to live at home.

Outpatient treatment programs are not usually recommended when addiction is severe enough that a teen struggles to stay sober even during treatment due to the cravings and constant reminders triggered by their environment. Sometimes, just walking down a certain street in your neighborhood or talking to an old friend can trigger the urge to use again.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

When does a parent know that their teen needs professional help? Most of the time, your gut feeling is a good metric to go by. Parents know when something is wrong with their kids. But some specific signs and symptoms can help parents identify a potential addiction, accompanying mental health issues (often known as a dual diagnosis).

    • Drastic weight change.
    • Increased irritability.
    • Lying about drug use.
    • Drug paraphernalia.
    • Sudden loss of interest in old hobbies (without finding new ones).
    • Stealing money or drugs.
    • Self-loathing, repeatedly talking about suicide.
    • Signs of self-harm.

A dual diagnosis is often harder to treat than the addiction itself. Still, most who struggle with substance use disorder either already have a mental health issue like depression, anxiety, or a stress disorder or developed one as they started using. Therefore, a multimodal approach tailored to each teen’s situation and circumstances is needed to treat a dual diagnosis effectively.

“Aging Out” of Addiction

The risk of becoming addicted again remains in everyone, just as the risk of becoming addicted, to begin with, is in us all. Long-term management of addiction and the possibility of a true relapse involves identifying the risk factors that lead us into using drugs excessively again (such as extreme stressors, availability, and exposure, certain genetic traits) and the protective factors that help keep us from overdoing it or using drugs again (from regular exercise and a good diet to a strong support system). Addiction is a temporary state that can reoccur, especially without adequate physical and mental healthcare and plenty of social support. By focusing on those protective factors, you can help your teen (or yourself) lead a long and fulfilling life.

Aftercare and Support Are Key for Sustainable Recovery

Regardless of what kind of treatment you find for your teen, most treatment programs are only the beginning of a much longer road centered on trust, support, patience, and time. Unfortunately, addiction can be an exceedingly difficult thing to beat, and there is no real surefire cure for it.

All we can do is help each and every teen struggling with substance use issues get themselves into the best possible circumstances to foster long-lived sobriety and a better relationship with their mental, physical, and social health. If you or someone you love struggles with addiction and other mental health issues, don’t hesitate to seek help.


Components of an Effective Teen Residential Treatment Program

Regardless of whether your teen has come forward about struggling with drug use, or you have convinced them that you’re all going to need help to get through this as a family, finding the right teen residential treatment program is a critically important and difficult process.

Private treatment facilities are relatively unregulated, and there are no strict standards set in place for these facilities nor the programs they espouse. Parents are required to do their own research and rely on other qualifications and accreditations to ensure that their teen is in the right hands, and that is no easy task.

The FTC asks that all parents go through a step-by-step process when identifying and vetting potential teen residential treatment programs, beginning with a thorough online search, proof for claims regarding qualifications and state- or nationwide accreditations, and a site visit. Here’s what some of the things you should pay attention to when looking for the right teen residential treatment program.

Accredited Program and Trained Staff

While there are no federal standards or guidelines for residential treatment programs and outpatient treatment programs, multiple non-profit organizations provide several regulations and accreditation options for addiction treatment facilities, outpatient facilities, and behavioral health programs. Teen treatment programs offering academic curriculums should also be accredited to offer these educational programs and adhere to the standards set by relevant national and international organizations.

These include organizations such as The Joint Commission and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. When reviewing a facility’s staff and clinical director, consider giving each member their own individual search. The Federation of State Medical Boards website, for example, lets you search whether a medical professional in the team has the board certifications they claim to have through

The Internet will be invaluable for learning as much as you can about the people running the show and their reputation in each given field. Any teen residential treatment program should have at least one accredited and trained child and adolescent psychiatrist, as well as multiple medical doctors and nurses. These treatment programs, particularly ones specializing in addiction and co-occurring mental health issues, are equipped to handle certain medical emergencies, from the aftermath of a self-harm episode to a serious physical withdrawal.

Reliance on Evidence-Based Treatments

Dual diagnosis and mental health treatment are evolving research fields, but certain treatments have a larger body of evidence to support them than others. Most treatment programs will rely on a combination of specific pharmacology and targeted psychotherapy, particularly:

Alternative therapies and treatments may also be offered and play a role in the treatment process, yet would not typically take center stage, including equine and pet therapy, acupuncture, and more. You can learn more about what therapies are most often recommended for teens struggling with drug use and co-occurring mental health issues through resources such as the American Psychological Association and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Long-Term Ongoing Support

Another important predictor for the quality of a program’s treatment process is its emphasis on long-term and ongoing support, even after treatment. Addiction is not wholly addressed within a 1–3-month period, and it can take months or years for a teen to remain reliably sober and learn to cope with co-occurring mental health issues.

Look for programs that offer and encourage extended care, as well as ongoing support, family therapy, referrals to other therapists for ongoing care, and access to community resources so teens can continue to seek help after the treatment period has ended. Programs that focus on promoting sustainable positive change in teen behavior and health, and offer realistic outcomes, are preferred.

Skills Training and Specialized Care

Teen treatment programs often cover care for many complex and varied conditions, with circumstances including a history of trauma, victimization, and more. These treatment programs must be tailored to each teen, based on their respective circumstances and risk factors, symptoms, and more, on a case-by-case basis.

This means programs must often work together with local specialists or include a staff of trained psychiatrists and doctors with experience in these special or unique circumstances to create an environment and treatment program conducive to each teen. Programs that include staff with multiple specialists are recommended.

School and Tutoring Services

Outpatient programs and residential (inpatient) programs might offer various academic programs to help teens enroll in treatment, keep up with their classmates and continue studying. An acknowledged accreditation body must usually accredit these programs.

Questions for Parents to Ask

When determining which of your options is the best fit for your teen helps prepare a few questions.

  1. What sort of accreditations does your program have?

While no federal regulations are surrounding residential and outpatient treatment programs, accreditation programs are the next best for setting an industry standard.

  1. What kind of qualifications does the staff have?

These treatment facilities work with children dealing with many serious mental and physical health crises, so having multiple licensed and experienced medical professionals on-board is important.

  1. What is the site like?

Is it spacious and private? Does it have homely accommodations for each teen in the program?

  1. What is your reputation like?

A program’s online reputation can be a great source of information. Be sure to go over multiple different local forums and groups for a big-picture impression.

  1. Do you provide an academic curriculum?

Teens are usually still in school when they are enrolled in a treatment program, and to this end, many residential treatment programs offer day schools.

  1. How thoroughly vetted are your staff?

Find out what sort of background checks the facility runs on its staff and how thorough these checks are.

  1. Can I keep in contact with my teen?

Some programs heavily restrict or forbid contact with the outside world, including parents. Find out what the rules and limitations are around having contact with your teen during the treatment process.

  1. How will my child’s needs be assessed and reassessed?

Most programs utilize rigorous psychiatric evaluations to determine a teen’s needed level of care and an appropriate treatment program. These evaluations may need to be performed multiple times throughout the program, depending on a teen’s progress.

Finding the right teen residential treatment program will be a multistep process. Understandably, you would want the best possible care for your child, and taking every measure to ensure you make the right choice is worth the time spent on working through the options available to you.


How to Choose the Right Teen Treatment Program

Choosing the right teen treatment program for your child can be very difficult. We are often torn between doing the right thing and wanting the easiest and most comfortable path for our teens. Still, sometimes, specialized or intensive care is the only appropriate measure for ensuring that your child gets the treatment they need. Furthermore, mental disorders come in all shapes and sizes, with a dramatically vast array of associated problems and symptoms. The offer for teen treatment programs is beginning to mirror the complexity with which mental health issues can manifest. It would help if you were as informed as possible when making this choice.

Different Teen Treatment Program Types

Teen treatment programs are focused on providing a flexible treatment plan to match your teen’s needs. To that end, most treatment facilities offer multiple programs depending on:

  • The severity of the disorder.
  • The level of danger a teen might pose for themselves or others.
  • And the appropriate level of care that their specific condition calls for.

Some cases are best treated without much upheaval from everyday life through an outpatient program that focuses on remote monitoring and support, for example. Other issues require a much more rigorous intervention and can involve housing a teen in a residential treatment facility for several weeks or months. It is always best to consult a professional and get a firsthand recommendation for what kind of treatment your teen might need, depending on their diagnosis and symptoms. We will go over some of the most common and basic teen treatment program types you are likely to encounter.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Treatment

Mental health treatment programs are most often differentiated by being either an inpatient or outpatient program:

  1. Inpatient or residential treatment programs require a teen to live inside the facility throughout the treatment process, always caring for professionals and living alongside other teens.
  2. Outpatient programs are less intensive and focus on providing greater flexibility, allowing a teen to live at home and go to school or work while visiting the outpatient center on a scheduled basis, usually once or twice a week. Outpatient programs are also typically more affordable.

The pros and cons of both serve to skew inpatient programs as more favorable for teens with conditions that require long-term professional care and oversight, especially if their parents are typically at work throughout the week. In contrast, outpatient programs are often more appropriate for teens with moderate symptoms who do not need a more structured residential program. Inpatient programs are typically set in either a clinical or residential property, where teens are given individualized routines to address symptoms and group-based activities to promote healthy social relationships.

Sometimes, inpatient programs serve to take a teen out of a stressful or troubling environment, such as in addiction or trauma cases, where specific triggers could lead to relapses and should be avoided in the early months of treatment. In other cases, a professional might decide that a teen’s family dynamic could be antithetic to their treatment process. In this case, situating them in an inpatient program while addressing family strife through therapy would be far better for the teen’s recovery than an outpatient program that doesn’t serve to address the stressors at home.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)

When teens need a treatment program that transitions them from an inpatient setting into outpatient treatment or need a step up from outpatient treatment before requiring 24-hour care, some professionals might recommend a partial hospitalization program (PHP). This is often a short-term program aimed at providing care for teens who have a hard time at school or work because of their condition but are not a danger to themselves or others. Partial hospitalization is also usually specialized towards teens with co-occurring disorders. Teens are expected to visit the facility during a partial hospitalization program, much like an outpatient program, but for multiple hours a day, often three to five days a week.

Extended Care Treatment

Mental health and addiction treatment programs are usually designed to be the first significant step in a teen’s path towards a better life quality. They are not the A-to-Z of recovery – instead, teens are expected to take what they have learned and experienced and, with the help of their friends and family, leverage this knowledge to cope with future problems, seek help during stressful times, and adhere to a long-term treatment plan that works for them.

But in some cases, the first steps of a teen’s treatment last longer than a few weeks, and extended care is needed. Some facilities provide comprehensive care programs that last several months, helping teens ease out of a residential setting, preparing them for the challenges they will have to overcome in addition to their symptoms and personal difficulties.

Extended care programs usually coordinate with a teen’s school, community, friends, and family to ensure a transition into a healthy and informed support system while helping the teen find their role in life and take on greater responsibilities. Teens will continue to take classes and study on the same level as their classmates while in an extended inpatient care program. These programs often coordinate with educators to adapt the teen’s curriculum into their daily schedule.

Specialty Clinics

Certain mental disorders require specialized care due to the nature of the illness. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), trauma disorders, and eating disorders may require specific or additional features to accommodate better teens with a dangerous or complicated condition that is more likely to lead to self-harm or might otherwise not be fully addressed in an environment that isn’t necessarily equipped with the staff and tools to help these teens.

For example, eating disorders carry the highest risk of death among all mental illnesses. They require a program tailored to a teen’s mental and physical needs, including access to emergency care, nutritional expertise, and physical therapy. Specialty clinics can address such disorders and help teens who might otherwise not get the help they need.

Teens with Mental Disorders Require Professional Help

The treatment process for any teen differs significantly depending on their circumstances and conditions. When choosing a treatment provider, it is essential to consider professional advice and choose based on your teen’s individual needs above all else. There are many different options out there, but often just a handful that is right for your child.


How Does Teen Addiction Treatment Work?

Addiction treatment usually involves several different therapies and modalities, but the vast majority of facilities have moved away from the traditional “one-size-fits-all” model and towards an individualized approach. Teen addiction treatment programs tend to place great importance on understanding the circumstances surrounding a teen’s addiction. Because most teens are not long-term users, and because adolescents differ from adults in behavior, thorough assessment and careful consideration of teen-specific treatment options is important.

The physical effects of drug use manifest differently in teens who have only been using drugs for a few months or years versus adults who have been struggling with addiction for decades. Teens who use drugs also tend to be struggling with a co-occurring mental health condition that may have tied into their addiction, further complicating treatment. However, while every teen’s treatment is unique, there are several elements that remain common between cases.

Understanding Addiction

Treating an addiction requires a holistic approach that determines how a person’s biopsychosocial profile feeds into their drug use, and how both short-term and long-term support will be necessary to help a teen remain drug free. This means:

    • Looking at a teen’s family history.
    • Taking into context previous instances of drug use and/or addiction.
    • Taking into account potential risk factors at home and/or at school.
    • Working with parents and educators to better understand how the addiction began, and how to treat it.

Substance-use disorders are distinct from behavioral addictions and refer specifically to disorders caused by and characterized by the repeated and compulsive use of addictive substances despite clear and recurring negative consequences, as defined by both the APA and the DSM-5. Addiction begins in the brain, and in the context of substance use, it is at least partially tied to a drug’s “addictiveness”.

Some drugs are addictive, and some aren’t, which is understood to be tied to how certain substances interact with pathways in the brain related to pleasure, motivation, and decision-making. Different drugs affect the brain via different drug mechanisms, many of which rely on the release or amplification of dopamine, one of many neurotransmitters responsible for reinforcing behavior.

What Does Teen Addiction Treatment Entail?

Treating an addiction often begins with abstinence, cutting into how recurring use reinforces a drug’s effects on the brain. Treatment providers work with teens and their parents to identify contributing factors, such as triggering events, recurring stressors or diagnosed mental health conditions.

From there, they work on providing patient-specific therapy (and medication, if needed) to combat these issues and provide teens with more constructive coping mechanisms. In cases where repeated relapses or a history of issues may make outpatient treatment difficult, teens and their parents can opt to seek more intensive care.

At this next level of care in residential or inpatient treatment, teens learn how to:

    • Better cope with elements in their life that might drive them to use again.
    • Seek support from peers and adults.
    • Foster behavior that can help them avoid relapsing while continuing their treatment outside of the program in the long-term.

Some teens do well with individual therapy, while others might respond better in a group. Experiential therapy techniques, and therapy aimed at helping teens hone interpersonal skills to combat feelings of isolation, can also have a positive effect on their overall mental state and likelihood of relapse.

Other important elements that are taken into consideration include helping a teen get through their schoolwork, promoting physical wellness via healthier habits (from better sleep and more exercise to a better understanding of diet), and more.

Some research also indicates that teens are less sensitive to withdrawal symptoms, and less likely to relapse because of drug-induced withdrawal problems. If they do relapse, many treatment programs work to help teens preempt and understand that relapsing can be part of treating addiction, as it helps identify a trigger point or stressor that should be avoided or further addressed in therapy.

Differences Between Adult and Teen Addiction Treatment

Teen addiction treatment differs insofar that addiction may present itself differently in teens than it does in adults. In many cases, treating adolescent cases of substance abuse requires not only an approach that focuses on reducing harmful compulsive use, but also identifies the factors contributing to the behavior such as high risk mental health issues, childhood trauma, and victimization.

Diagnostic criteria may differ for teens as well, as research points out teens may require a different or developmentally bound definition of hazardous use and have very individualized and non-standardized definitions of cravings. An individualized assessment is necessary in every case to differentiate between mild use and a substance abuse disorder and determine whether treatment required would entail an outpatient program or something more intensive.

Types of Teen Addiction Treatment Programs

Addiction treatment is generally split between inpatient and outpatient treatment. More distinctions are applied based on factors such as the focus of the treatment, length of the program, and more. A few examples of different types of treatment programs include:

Co-Ed and Gender-Specific Programs

Some teen addiction treatment programs allow teens of all genders to enroll, while gender-specific programs are tailored to each gender.

LGBTQ+ Programs

Non-conforming gender identities and sexual minorities experience a host of unique issues which can exacerbate or affect their substance use disorder. Treatment programs that cater to LGBTQ+ teens specifically may be more effective for them.

Residential/Inpatient, Intensive Outpatient or Outpatient Programs

Residential (inpatient) and outpatient programs utilize different levels of care to cater to teens requiring different kinds of treatment. Outpatient treatment will involve less contact with treatment providers but allows teens stay with their family and continue to go to school, while residential treatment offers a more intensive experience, particularly if teens are a danger to themselves or those around them.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)

Partial hospitalization is a treatment type that is a step down from inpatient care but provides a more intensive care than most other outpatient programs. Teens are instructed to visit the outpatient facility on a more regular basis and follow a strict schedule.

Extended Care Programs

An extended care program serves an alternative for when teens require inpatient treatment for longer than the standard duration of roughly 30-60 days. Extended care programs are usually a minimum of three months.

Addiction vs. Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs

Addiction treatment and dual diagnosis treatment (a diagnosis of both substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental disorder) are two distinct types of care. While both programs require a holistic approach, facilities that cater to cases of dual diagnosis more heavily rely on trained psychiatric staff members to provide critical mental healthcare.

The Importance of a Strong Support Network

Both in and out of treatment, teens must rely on a strong support network. Friends and family, especially family, play a role in helping a teen stay accountable and continue to work on their mental and physical health after treatment.

As adolescents are usually in daily contact with their parents or guardians, one of the most important protective factors against relapse is a strong, positive relationship between teens and their family. Teen addiction treatment can provide a recovery toolset to combat addiction, but it’s the continuum of care and support that plays the greater, long-term role.

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Alcohol Abuse and Sexual Assault: Is There a Link?

Alcohol abuse is a common problem on many college campuses today, but even more frightening is the realization of just how much heavy drinking is tied to the incidence of sexual assault. A new poll from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation showed new evidence of that link, finding that heavy drinking is a significant factor in predicting sexual assault during the college years.

Women More Likely to be Victims

Women that drink more than they should are twice as likely to be the victims of sexual assault as women who never or rarely drink, the poll found. Alcohol was also a factor for the men that were responsible for the assaults. The poll included 1,053 current and recent college students that were living on or near their college campus.

According to this survey, one in five women reported being sexually assaulted during college. More than half of those women – 14 percent – said they were assaulted while incapacitated. Most students that experienced unwanted sexual contact during this time admitted to drinking alcohol shortly before the incident, according to interviews conducted with many of the students that had responded to the poll.

Other Dangers of Alcohol Abuse

Despite the association between alcohol consumption and sexual assault, college students in the poll saw drinking alcohol as the bigger problem of the two. Nearly 40 percent of the students surveyed said that when they drink alcohol in social situations, they sometimes or often drink more than they should. Only three in 10 said that happens rarely, while another three in 10 said it never happens or they don’t drink at all.

Sexual assault is not the only danger associated with excessive drinking during the college years. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), other consequences of college drinking include:

  • Unintentional injury (affects nearly 600,000 students annually)
  • Other types of assault (occurs in around 696,000 students annually)
  • Academic problems (affects around one-fourth of all students annually)
  • Unsafe sex (occurs with approximately 400,000 students each year)
  • Drunk driving (more than 4.8 million students drive under the influence annually)
  • Death (affects around 1,825 students annually)

The College Drinking Problem

College students that drink abusively are also more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder. According to a survey by the NIAAA, 19 percent of college students met the criteria for an alcohol abuse disorder. However, only five percent of those students had sought help for their substance abused within the past year.

Drinking alcohol is not a normal rite of passage during the college years. It is a dangerous practice that can turn into a dependency within a relatively short period of time. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, help is available. Contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers today at 866-889-3665 to learn more about your treatment options.

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Risk Factors for Substance Abuse for Teens

While there is no way to definitively predict which teens might develop a substance abuse disorder, there are a number of risk factors that considerably increase the likelihood an abuse problem will occur. By understanding these risk factors, parents and others involved in a child’s life can employ effective protective actions to minimize the risk. Below are a few of the common factors that raise the chances substance abuse could become a problem by the time a child becomes a teenager.

Family history of substance abuse is one of the biggest risk factors for children develop a substance abuse disorder by the time they hit the teen years. Prenatal exposure to alcohol may also make a person more vulnerable to substance abuse later in life.

Children that are around substance use, either by parents, friends or members of their community, may regard drugs and alcohol as a normal part of life. They may not recognize the dangers of using these substances, which puts them at increased risk of addiction.

Children who are impulsive or aggressive in the early years of life may also be more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Aggressive behavior could lead to anti-social tendencies, while impulsivity is an individual risk factor that involves the inability to set limits on one’s behavior.

Mental Health
The connection between a substance abuse disorder and a mental illness is very high. In some cases, the person may use substances to cope with the painful symptoms of the mental illness. Other times, regular substance use may trigger the symptoms of a mental disorder.

Family Life
Children with parents that abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to use the substances themselves. In addition, a home life that is stressful due to conflict or other difficult situations can also make a teen more likely to use substances as a way of dealing with the stress.

Social Life
Children that do not socialize well with their peers are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their loneliness. By the same token, teens who choose friends that use are more likely to use themselves as well.

Struggles in school, whether academically or socially, can also lead to substance abuse. The earlier the school problems begin, the more likely it is that substance abuse will become an obstacle over time.

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we have seen teens turn to drugs and alcohol for a wide range of reasons. While prevention should always be the primary focus in keeping this age group safe and healthy, sometimes prevention efforts are simply not enough to keep a potential addiction at bay. The good news is there are also effective methods of treating substance abuse that help teens move away from their abusive behaviors and into a healthier, sober way of life. To learn more about our treatment programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

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ROOTS: A 10-Week Re-Entry Program

ROOTS is a 10-week re-entry program geared to assist adolescents with transitions. The creation of individualized treatment plans benefit all variants of treatment needs.

ROOTS, Our Los Angeles outpatient program supports teens reintegrating into the home environment after long-term treatment and/or therapeutic boarding schools. Our curriculum addresses family dynamics, renewed relationships, as well as re-established boundaries and redefined roles. The treatment modalities we apply garner the cultivation of healthy change and encourage internal growth.

If more intensive reintegration is required, we also offer our 1-year Intensive Outpatient Treatment program. This IOP track includes:

  • 1 year of clinical support;
  • Primary Care Phase (Months 1 to 2);
  • Continuing Care Phase (Months 3 to 6);
  • Aftercare Planning (Months 7 to 12);
  • Individual and Family sessions;
  • Group sessions;
  • Parent support groups, and;
  • Drug testing

We also offer the first gender-specific extended care program, where clients can live in a therapeutically supported sober living environment during their reintegration. NeXT, which is the 1st licensed adolescent extended care facility is for teens 15-18 years of age. The program requires:

  • Parental involvement
  • A 90-day minimum length of stay
  • Day staff supervision and transportation
  • 24-hour crisis intervention

Also works in synchrony with:

  • Therapists
  • Therapeutic resources, and
  • Local educational environments

The staff at extended care facilitates an environment of respect and dignity while cultivating a sense of family and emotional safety for the clients.

Regardless of which track your adolescent and family take, Visions encourages healthy change, and an ability to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. By supporting healthy peer interactions, implementing self-regulatory awareness, and nurturing one’s own ability for self-care, teens learn to thrive without perpetuation of dysregulatory and self-destructive behaviors.

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In Recovery, We Lean In to Let Go

Being in recovery from mental illness, substance abuse, alcoholism, eating disorders, behavioral issues, et cetera, require that we lean into some things that make us uncomfortable. Let me tell you, “leaning in” isn’t easy. Our brains like pleasure and revile pain. In fact, finding ourselves in rehab tells us that our habitual patterns of trying to put an elementary salve on a gushing wound weren’t working very well. It means that drinking, drugging, stealing or lying our way out of our feelings doesn’t work — at least not permanently. Frankly, none of these “solutions” ever work. Not in the long or short term.

By suggesting that we lean into our difficulties instead of leaning away, I am asking for you to embrace your courage. I am also asking you to trust in your exemplary clinical team, your support team, and in your own ability to do this difficult work while you are in treatment and beyond. Positive thinking or praying for it all to magically go away are both examples of temporary, feel-good actions that don’t provide a long-term solution. It’s wise to also recognize that the recovery process often requires legitimate, clinically supported psychological care.

Recovery is about change. It’s about shifting perspectives and learning how to redefine and revise old paradigms in order to create healthy ones. When we face our old thought patterns and old ideals, we offer ourselves the opportunity to let go. We often find ourselves able to walk through our issues not around them, recognizing that while they are present, ready and willing to make us miserable, we don’t have to take the bait. When we begin to look at our issues with some awareness and compassion, their negative influence has a chance to dissipate.

Our ability to recognize the negative for what it is allows us to invite the positive experiences and influences into our lives. In our recent blog, “How do You Stay Motivated,” I quoted Dr. Rick Hanson, Ph.D., who addresses this very thing: “The remedy is not to suppress negative experiences; when they happen, they happen. Rather, it is to foster positive experiences – and in particular, take them in so they become a permanent part of you.”

Negative experiences do not have to own us; in fact, they can be part of the landscape without being part of our foundations.  This is emblematic of recovery.

The process of recovery is not something you have to do alone. In fact, you can’t. There are support groups, clinicians, treatment facilities, therapists, et cetera, as available resources to you. Yes, there are things you may have to face and work through, but coming to an understanding that you don’t have to ride through that storm alone is a welcome relief.