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Transitional living centers have offered an established service for teens and society at large since the 1970s and 1980s, as programs and clinics centered around promoting self-sufficiency and helping teens from all walks of life, whether through indigency or great wealth, find the means to transition into living independently. 

Today, many transitional living centers have moved on to help teens who have recently been in treatment for mental health issues, often through the services of a psychiatric hospital or a residential treatment facility for substance use. These transitional living programs aim to bridge the gap between treatment and day-to-day living, offering the resources and tools teens need to return to school, return to their neighborhoods, reintegrate socially, and continue to seek care for their ongoing mental health concerns while leading normal lives. 

It’s not all on the teen. Transitional living centers often involve family members and peers to help create a support network for teens returning from treatment, and to emphasize that, most of the time, it really does take a village

How Does a Transitional Living Center Help Teens?

Transitional living centers offer an additional recovery program for teens who have recently gone through an inpatient treatment program, at a residential facility or psychiatric hospital. Common cases where a teen might need residential or inpatient care include severe episodes of depression or psychosis, self-harm, hospitalization, or recurring illicit drug use

The idea behind a transitional living center began with the need to address the country’s growing problem of teenage runaways, and a growing homeless population. Today, transitional living centers often dedicate their resources to helping teens who feel lost after treatment, or for whom the switch back to day-to-day living from one day to the next might be too jarring. 

Many residential treatment facilities, such as our Visions Treatment Centers, offer transitional living programs for teen patients who wish to receive additional care or require a transitional living program for the framework it provides.

Transitional living centers are not exclusive to teens in rehab. They help teens by:

  • Creating a temporary safety net. 
  • Providing an emotional and psychiatric framework for self-improvement and healthier coping mechanisms. 
  • Establishing and strengthening a teen’s bonds with their community through friends and, if relevant, family. 
  • Coordinating with maternity group homes, support groups, young adult communities, and other elements of the community to help teens transition away from homelessness. 
  • Provide the means to develop basic life skills, improve interpersonal skills, and help teens with important executive functioning, such as day planning, job-seeking, budgeting, navigating financial systems, and developing emergency plans. 

While residential or inpatient treatment facilities offer many transitional living programs, others are offered through separate transitional living clinics. These clinics often receive teens from residential treatment facilities, however. 

What Do Teens Do at a Transitional Living Center?

Transitional living centers differ in their services and structure of their programs. While the gist of any transitional living center’s programming is the same, different facilities utilize different methods, seek different forms of accreditation, and hold themselves to different standards. When seeking a transitional living center for your teen, it is important to look for teen testimonials and reputation. 

Some transitional living centers limit how long a teen can stay. Others allow teens to stay for as long as they need. Some of the basic elements of a transitional living program include: 

  • Medication management.
  • Ongoing direct therapy and group therapy.
  • Continuing education through an accredited program, often with accelerated learning.
  • College planning and ACT/SAT preparation.
  • Ensuring the continuum of care past the transitional living center via local support groups, mental health resources, and other forms of community help.
  • Continued experiential treatments for teens who require special therapies.
  • Helping teens continue to develop their coping skills to manage with life’s oncoming daily stressors.
  • A low teen-to-staff ratio to ensure that teens are safe and supervised within the center and receive the care they need.
  • And more.

Is a Transitional Living Center a Halfway House?

While a transitional living center is often analogous to a halfway house, many transitional living centers move away from being seen as halfway houses as a means to emphasize that they provide a more in-depth service. The main difference between most halfway houses and transitional living centers is the ratio of patients to staff, and the time staff can give to any given patient between the two types of facilities. 

Another term used for transitional living programs is extended care. Some residential treatment facilities provide extended care services or an extended care program as an in-between step, between inpatient treatment and being independent, or at least leading a normal life at home again.  

What Should Parents Expect from a Transitional Living Center?

Transitional living centers are places where teens can begin to acclimate themselves to a daily routine, the responsibilities of young adulthood, and some of the many skills they might need as they begin to achieve independence. 

But that does not mean that a teen will leave a transitional living center as a fully accomplished and self-sufficient adult. Teens who go through transitional living programs are still teens who were recently in long-term inpatient treatment and who suffered from mental health issues that led to this situation. They need support, they need patience, and they need compassion. Parents should expect to see their child more often but should also consider communicating with a professional to ensure they know what they should prepare for at home and to better understand their teen’s progress through therapy, treatment, and transitional living. 

When Does a Transitional Living Center Become Relevant for Teens?

You or a loved one should consider a transitional living center or program if you have recently been in training for a severe psychiatric health issue or long-term history of a substance use disorder and need help readjusting to life outside of treatment without the rigidity and structure of a mental health facility or a residential treatment facility. 

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