What to Expect at a Teen Residential Treatment Center

If your adolescent child is going into a teen residential treatment center, it is understandable that you might feel worried, anxious, hopeful, sad, optimistic, or a combination of many different emotions. Knowing what to expect ahead of time can ease your feelings of apprehension and help you manage your own feelings while helping your teen to manage his or hers. Read on to find out what to expect while your teen is at a treatment center as well as what you can do to boost his or her chances of recovery during and after the stay.

Minimized Contact with Home

While you will be apprised of your teen’s progress and will be attending family therapy sessions (more about that later!), you might find it difficult to cope with not being able to get hold of your teen whenever you want to. At many residential centers, smartphone and tablet use is monitored and minimized. If you have been used to simply sending a text or a Messenger message when you wanted to tell your child something, this might be a hard transition not only for your teenager but also for you.

It is important to recognize the benefits of this minimized contact with the outside world while your child is in a teen residential treatment center. First, it will give him or her the space to focus on their own growth and recovery. Secondly, it will reduce the chances that your adolescent will be negatively impacted by family members, friends, and acquaintances. It is likely that there are people who might have been enabling your teen or encouraging addictive or unhealthy behaviors, and the break from these relationships will give your teen some time to overcome the unhealthy patterns.

Ups and Downs

Many parents expect that once their teen enters a treatment center, things will get better and there will be smoother sailing ahead. While it is true that the goal is a trend toward more positive behavior, it is important to understand that there will be ups and downs along the way. Recovery from substance abuse or mental health conditions can be a two-steps-forward, one-step-back type of progression. Try not to have unrealistic expectations or think that setbacks and obstacles are failures. They are just part of the process.

At the same time, your teen will be accountable to him- or herself and to the staff of the treatment center to do the hard work involved in healing and overcoming an addiction or a mental health issue. So while nobody will be expecting perfection, everyone should expect effort and a commitment to the recovery process.

Various Types of Treatment and Therapy

Every inpatient teen residential treatment center will be a bit different. Your teen will have individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and also various types of activities that are therapeutic in nature. Types of therapy employed might include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), didactic behavioral therapy (DBT), and incentive-based therapy. Some of these, your teen might like, and others, he or she might dislike. You can talk to his or her case manager to learn the benefits of the different types of therapies, but for the inpatient stay to be worthwhile, your teen might need to open his or her mind and participate in therapies that are hard work and not a lot of fun. This is part of the process, and you can help by encouraging your teen to do his or her best.

You can look for a residential center that has therapeutic activities that your teen enjoys. For example, if your teen loves art, horses, being outdoors, or music, you can ask about the possibility of these activities being an option at your chosen teen residential treatment center.

Expectations for Schoolwork in a Teen Residential Treatment Center

Depending on the length of your teen’s inpatient stay, he or she will likely be attending school while in treatment. The teaching generally takes place in the treatment center. While your teen might have struggled with academics prior to being admitted, the counselors and tutors will do all they can to help your teen catch up and keep up with similarly aged peers. This can allow your teen to go back to school where they left off, if possible.

The Need for Your Open-Mindedness and Communication

Something that might surprise you or even make you uncomfortable is that you, as your teen’s parent, will need to be open-minded when it comes to the therapy that you will be participating in. Family therapy is often vital for a teenager’s long-term recovery. You will need to learn how to communicate better and to address anything going on in your household that might have exacerbated or enabled your teen’s mental health or addiction issue.

It can be very difficult to realize that something that you have been doing or not doing has contributed to your teen’s troubles, but it is also extremely important that you not only acknowledge these issues but also address them as fully as possible. Nobody expects you to be a perfect parent, and the staff at your teen’s residential treatment center want to help all of you to meet those issues head-on and change what can be changed.

It might be helpful for you to have individual therapy (without your teen) in addition to the family therapy sessions. If you have other children in the home, they can benefit from therapy, too. Learning to adjust your expectations and lifestyle to accommodate a family member who needs extra support can be a difficult transition, and counseling can help ease your burden.

Having a child in a teen residential treatment center for mental health issues or addiction is an obstacle that the entire family will need to work together to overcome. By keeping an open mind and encouraging your teen to do the same, you can help him or her set off onto the long road to recovery. Remain in contact with your teen’s counselors and support their efforts to assist your child through this journey.


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