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Community Support for Teenagers

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT
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Drug and Alcohol Help for You

If you’re a teenager and you think you may have a problem with alcohol or drugs, don’t despair: you have options. You probably know the first option is to tell your parents. They will most likely make an appointment with a mental health professional, get you a full addiction and mental health assessment, and then pursue whatever course of treatment the professionals recommend. That might be a residential program, a partial hospitalization program, an outpatient ogram, or some variation of those three.

Quick definitions:

  • In a residential program, you go live at the treatment center and get 24/7 help.
  • In a partial hospitalization program, you go to treatment all day but live at home. You typically don’t go to school when you’re in this kind of program.
  • In an outpatient program, you go to a therapist once or twice a week, and sometimes every day, but typically stay in school or live at home.

There’s another group of you out there we need to talk to: those who may have a problem – or think you do – but don’t want to out yourself about it. You don’t want to tell anyone. You might be afraid of what your parents will do. Maybe you heard horror stories from peers about going into treatment. You could be afraid your life will be disrupted, you’ll lose friends, and basically, your life will be over.

Let’s be clear about something before we go any further. Well, let’s be clear about two things:

  1. Our position is always get professional help. Decades of scientific research prove that if you do have an addiction problem, the sooner you get help the better. So that’s our default advice, and we’re sticking to it.
  2. If you think – even for a fleeting second – that you have a problem with alcohol or drugs, you should pay attention to that thought. You should follow up on it. You should find out if you really do have a problem. Better to know sooner than later.

That said, if you think you have a problem but don’t want to go to your parents or a professional, there are resources out there for you. An adult in your situation – with a problem but not ready to get professional help or treatment – would most likely go to an AA meeting.

You know about AA, right? Alcoholics Anonymous? AA is what’s called community support. Meaning they’re group meetings in the community where you go to get support to help you work through your problems with alcohol and/or drugs.

But you might not want to go to an AA meeting. You might think it would be weird: full of adults talking about their problems. And you’re right. That’s not a situation tailor-made for you. But did you know there are groups out there designed specifically for teens?

Teen Community Support Programs

We can’t help but say it again: your first option should be getting professional help. If you don’t do that, there are two well-established community support programs that exist solely for you:

  • Teen Addiction Anonymous. Basically this is teen AA. They’re not an official part of AA, but AA approves of their approach and has no problem with their Teen AA 12 Steps, which are adapted from adult AA. Click that link to read what those 12 steps are, click this link to visit their home page, and click this link to take their Addiction Self Help Test. Teen AA is always free, just like adult AA.
  • SMART Recovery Teen and Youth Program. If you’ve never heard of SMART Recovery, here’s what it stands for: Self Management And Recovery Training Click here to visit their homepage, click here to download resource articles on addiction and recovery, click here to find a meeting in your area, and click here to find an online discussion board or message group. Like AA, SMART Recovery meetings are always free.

There’s another community support group that may interest you also: Refuge Recovery. They don’t have a program designed specifically for teens like Teen AA and SMART Recovery. But their approach is interesting: they base their recovery method on Buddhist Principles. Click this link to learn about Refuge Recovery and learn about their approach to getting and staying sober. If Teen AA and SMART Recovery don’t click with you, perhaps the Buddhist angle will.

We have to end by repeating for the third – or is it fourth or fifth – time: if you think you have a problem with alcohol or drugs, the best choice is professional help. Barring that, consider the groups presented above. Whatever you do, get help – or at very least, explore your options – sooner rather than later.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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Connect with Other Parents

We know parents need support, too. That is exactly why we offer a chance for parents of teens to connect virtually in a safe space! Each week parents meet to share resources and talk through the struggles of balancing child care, work responsibilities, and self-care.

More questions? We’re here for you.