Entering a treatment program for teens and young adults for a mental health condition, an eating disorder, an addiction, or anything else can be scary, frustrating, and overwhelming. You might be unsure as to whether you’re getting the right treatment if progress is made more slowly than you were expecting. You might be annoyed by people telling you that what you’ve believed to be true isn’t true after all or you might not see the light at the end of the tunnel right away. Being educated about what you can do to ensure you are successful in your treatment can help you prepare for this new chapter. Here are five ways to be successful in a teen treatment program.
#1. Make Sure You Know Your Treatment Options
Not every treatment option for a particular condition is going to be right for every patient. Get an opinion from your mental health care team, and if you aren’t sure that it’s the right one, get a second opinion. Be sure to ask how effective a particular teen treatment program should be, what it entails, what the risks are, and how long treatment is supposed to last.
If you would like to proceed one way (for example, with outpatient cognitive behavioral therapy) and your doctor suggests something very different (such as inpatient treatment with several medications included), see if you can come to a compromise or find some other way to alleviate your concerns with the doctor’s chosen methods. For instance, if your main resistance to taking medication is that you are afraid of the side effects, work with your doctor to find a medication with side effects that you can live with.
#2. Stay Connected to Your Loved Ones
Although you might be gaining a new support system once in a teen treatment program, it’s important to stay in touch with your friends and family members. They’ve known you for a long time, and they want what’s best for you. They will also be able to cheer you up when you are down and encourage you along the way. Healthy relationships can even keep you healthier overall. If you are in an inpatient treatment facility, talk to your health care team about how you can keep up with your relationships.
One caveat: If you have a toxic relationship with a certain friend or family member, it might be best to cut ties, at least temporarily. A friendship or familial relationship that takes more effort than you’re able to give during your treatment phase is not doing you any favors. Don’t feel guilty about using your energy to care for yourself rather than investing in a relationship that is hurting, not helping.
#3. Be Honest With Your Care Providers
When it comes to mental health conditions, much of what your providers are seeing has to come from you. They cannot run a blood test or take an x-ray to see how you are feeling. It’s important that you are honest with them about how you are doing. If you’re frustrated, angry, or otherwise struggling, go ahead and let them know. They have heard it before and they will hear it again, and they will also have some suggestions for you to make it easier.
You will not be able to get better if you are keeping your true feelings and experiences from your health care team. Answer their questions honestly and if you have concerns not addressed by them, then don’t be afraid to bring them up. Tell them about your symptoms so they can alter your teen treatment program as needed.
#4. Follow the Teen Treatment Program
If you take your medication only half the time or don’t attend all of your prescribed therapy sessions, it shouldn’t take you by surprise when your progress is limited or non-existent. Even if you are confused about why something about your treatment is supposed to help, make the effort to do it anyway. Talk to your therapists about why you’re being asked to do something if you don’t understand, but don’t simply decide not to do it.
Keep in mind that when you are in the midst of a mental health crisis or problem, you might not be able to see the forest for the trees when it comes to your health as a whole. Once you commit to a treatment program, it’s important to see it through. This is one way that you can maximize your chances of being successful with the program and of seeing the improvements that you’re hoping to see.
#5. Have a Plan for Your Aftercare
Once your treatment is largely over and you’re feeling good about the progress that you’ve made, you might be tempted to go back to destructive habits. You can stop this from happening by keeping up with your aftercare. This might include continued individual or group therapy, continuing with medications, seeing your mental health care team regularly, or continuing to monitor yourself and your habits.
During treatment, you might identify some people, places or situations that you should avoid, especially in the period immediately following your treatment. For example, you might need to drop some friends who encouraged you to use drugs or who engage in self-mutilation or other unhealthy behaviors. Maybe you need to find a new Saturday evening hangout place that won’t include alcohol. Depending on the issue that you had treatment for, you’ll need to be vigilant for signs that you are heading toward a relapse. In this case, prevention is the first step toward treatment; if you think you’re going in a bad direction, get the help that you need as soon as possible.
Coping with treatment can be difficult on both you and your family. Be sure to communicate openly with family members, close friends, and others who are important to you. Also, be honest with your therapists and doctors. Remember that it’s great to have people on your side who are willing to help and encourage you as you recover. This support system will help you get through the difficult days of your teen treatment program and once you’re out they will help you stay on a healthy path.