What to Expect at a Teen Rehab Center

If your teenager is going through an addiction or a substance abuse issue, he or she might be referred to a teen rehab center for treatment. Since the fear of the unknown is very common, it can be helpful to visit and to talk to the counselors about what your teen (and you) can expect from the experience. While every program is different, most have a few features in common. Here’s a rundown of some things you can expect at a teen rehab center.



Many teens who go to a teen rehab center are dealing with the mental and physical effects of whatever substance or substances they’ve been using. In order to make sure that they are safe and ready to focus on recovery, they need to go through the detoxification process. Your teen might go through this process off-site or at the actual rehab center, depending on their policies and what substances your teen is using.


The detoxification process can be uncomfortable and might need medical supervision. Your teen will be monitored and will have support to help them get through the process with as little discomfort as possible. Your teen might be the most worried about the detox process, but you should assure them that it’s not punitive; measures will be taken to minimize negative side effects.


Rules and Routines

For a teen who hasn’t been following a healthy routine in his or her days, getting used to the routines and rules of rehab might be difficult at first. Routines are very important for someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol; getting a routine down as a matter of habit leaves them the mental fortitude to focus on getting better rather than wasting it on making decisions about what time to get up, whether to eat breakfast, and what time they should perform basic tasks.


One common rule that many teens balk at in the beginning is a “no cellphones” rule. Limiting outside contact during rehab is often a mainstay of the program; it helps teens focus on what is going on within the teen rehab center and within their minds.


Individual Therapy

Your teen will attend individual therapy several times per week or even daily during his or her stay at the rehab center. The therapy will center around his or her addiction, but they might also have therapy for any other mental health problems that might be present. Because many people who have addictions are also struggling with anxiety, depression, OCD, or other types of mental health issues, it’s important to get those under control if recovery is to be successful.


Group and Family Therapy

In addition to individual therapy, your teen will attend different types of group therapy. One type will consist of other teens and young people who are in recovery. Some will be just starting the recovery process and others might have been in recovery for a longer period of time. There are several benefits to this type of therapy. One is that teens will be able to bounce ideas off of one another and learn from different perspectives. Another is that they will have a ready-made group of friends who have similar goals upon leaving the teen rehab center. For a teen who hasn’t had friends not involved in the drug or alcohol scene for some time, this can be very helpful.


Another type of group therapy that is often used is family therapy. This means that family members will come together to learn how they can support their loved one who is going through recovery. Some issues within the family might be explored, too. Learning how to communicate better and how to support each other is an important part of the recovery process.


Recreational Therapy

Recreational therapy can run the gamut from art therapy to animal therapy and lots of things in between. Your teen might be able to choose between many different activities, depending on the program that you choose. Participating in enjoyable activities can help your teen to decompress and learn more about him- or herself as they go through this journey toward recovery.



Once the inpatient phase of recovery ends, your teen’s experience is by no means over. He or she will understand that the recovery process is very long and will span months, years, and, in some cases, even longer. Aftercare is an important part of recovery and will not end when your teen walks out the doors of the rehabilitation center.


Your teen will need to make new friends and avoid the people and places that enabled him or her to become addicted and to continue the addiction. They’ll also need to stay in close contact with therapists and mentors who can help them navigate tricky situations. For most teens, part of a successful recovery will include continuing group therapy and support group sessions. They will also probably continue with individual therapy. If they have a mental health concern that is separate from the addiction, it’s important to continue with treatment for that, too.


In addition to your teen’s aftercare program, you as the parent should seek support. Caring for and supporting a teen with an addiction is very trying and can be frustrating at times. A support group for you can help you continue to communicate well with your teen. It will also provide you with a sounding board and with different perspectives on the struggles that you are having. Being the parent of an addicted teen is also socially isolating; your friends might not understand, but your support group participants will.



Knowing what to expect as your teen enter rehab can make an uncomfortable situation less scary and overwhelming. Talk to your teen’s mental health or addiction specialist to find out more about what to expect, both from your teen’s perspective and from yours. Also, if you have questions or concerns during the time that your teen is in rehab, you can always reach out to the center to find out more about what’s happening and what the benefits and outcomes should be. Remember that as your teen’s advocate, you are in a great position to provide the love and support that your teen will need as he or she completes the recovery process.