Adolescent Rehab Defined and Explained

When you hear the word rehab, you might think of a certain type of treatment for addicts and even criminals. As in She’s had an addiction to alcohol for years but now she’s in rehab. However, rehabilitative services have grown extensively over the last 50 years and the types of these services vary.

Adolescent Rehab

First, adolescent rehab typically refers to a live-in residential treatment center. Or live-in health care facility, also known in the drug-counseling field as RTC. An adolescent rehab might offer services such as drug counseling to address substance abuse, therapy to treat mental illnesses, and other forms of treatment to address behavioral issues. Some rehab centers are beginning to employ behavioral health therapists so they can address behavioral concerns. Additionally, the public education system in the United States has Behavioral Health Specialists who work with youth in special education whose behavior are interfering with their education.

In addition to a live-in facility where adolescents would participate in a variety of services, rehabilitative services can also include sober living homes, sometimes referred to as halfway houses. These are an extension of care for those recovering from addiction. Who already participated in and lived at a traditional rehab center. At these centers, although patients live there, they have significantly more freedom to be able to go to work, school, or family events. Another rehab-like service is an outpatient treatment center. Patients live in their own home but attend the center at regular intervals for treatment. They might attend the center for group therapy, individual therapy, drug counseling, or mental health treatment. Regular attendance to the center depends on their need, and can be daily, weekly, or bi-monthly.

Finally, rather than attending or living at a formal center for treatment, rehab might also include community-based services such as attending an Alcohol Anonymous (AA) meeting. AA meetings and others, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Overeating Anonymous (OA) are based on the 12-step model of treatment.

Address Mental Health Issues

Clearly, adolescent rehab can include a variety of forms. More recently, it has become a common trend that they also address mental health issues. It is frequent among teens that a drug or alcohol addiction will accompany a mental illness. Could be that the addiction began because of the illness. Approximately, 60-75% of teens who abuse drugs or alcohol also have a mental illness.

For instance, among adolescents who have not used substances before, the incidences of first time drug use is higher among those who experience a major depressive episode than those who have not. Mental illnesses that co-exist with substance use are Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

When this is the case, rehab treatment must thoroughly address the addiction, the mental illness, as well as any underlying issues that might also be contributing to substance use. Most adolescent rehabs are clinically oriented. They do attempt to address both the substance addiction as well as the mental illness. However, there are facilities that do not.

A Cycle 

This usually leads to teen chronic relapse because the primary cause for the addiction was not addressed and treated. When an addiction is a means for a teen to self-medicate, treating the addiction alone will not permanently resolve the problem. You must also treat the underlying issues. This means not only the mental illness, such as depression. But also the factors that might have led to the depression in the first place.

In addition to a clinically oriented adolescent rehab center, there are also lock-down facilities. They severely restrict the behavior and mobility of a teen. Here, they lock adolescents within the premises and perhaps even to one room. These centers are typically for severely at-risk youth who have already exhibited acute forms of behavior. Such as harm to self and others.


Finally, don’t confuse adolescent rehab centers  with an educational type program that youth might attend regularly or in some cases reside at. These programs provide psycho-education and support for shaping their behavior towards being socially acceptable and healthy.

There are indeed a variety of treatment facilities for adolescents to participate in, depending on their needs. Specifically, rehab adolescent treatment can vary in its services, also depending on need. Fortunately, research indicates that having a treatment plan and knowing the  duration of that treatment is strongly correlated to positive outcomes and recovery.