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So, You Don’t Want to Go to Teen Rehab

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
Meet The Team >

So, you just heard you need treatment at a teen mental health or addiction treatment center.

Your first thought is NoNo way.

That’s understandable.

Maybe you don’t think you need treatment. Maybe you can’t imagine your life being any better, or don’t think going for treatment will even help. Perhaps you’re embarrassed of the “stigma” around mental-health treatment centers, and are worried about what your friends or neighbors will think. Maybe you’re nervous about missing too much school. Or you’re too afraid of leaving everything behind to go. Perhaps you think you can recover on your own.

Whatever the case may be, we get it. It’s difficult to wrap your head around the idea of going to a professional treatment program. Even if you’re already pursuing once-a-week therapy (or have tried that before), being admitted to a mental-health treatment center is a more intensive step to take.

You’ll be in an environment that’s unfamiliar to you, and, if a teen residential facility is recommended, you’ll have to eat, sleep, and live there. You won’t enjoy the same level of privacy you’re used to. You may not be able to communicate with friends or family, except at specified times. At a teen rehab center, you’ll be told what (and what not) to do, where to go, and when to do it.

That’s crazy, you think. Why would anyone go?

Why You Should Go to a Treatment Center for Teens

Take a good, hard look at your current life situation.

Chances are, there are things about it that you wish would be different.

Maybe you wish you could be happier in general. Or that you could finally be free from drugs. Maybe you wish you had more friends, or better friends.  Maybe you wish you were doing better in school. Maybe you wish your family would understand you better, or become more flexible.

Believe it or not, all of these are understandable hopes and goals. And the secret? Teen rehab can help you achieve them.

So, to answer your question:

Teens attend treatment centers to improve their lives.

Chances are, if your therapist/caregiver recommended a treatment program for your depression, anxiety, addiction, or other mental-health/behavioral issue, they know you have the potential for a better life.

And you may feel this way, too.

Wanting a Better Life

At an adolescent mental-health treatment center, everyone is there to help you with your long-term hopes and goals. That means: whatever emotional, mental, or interpersonal issue are getting in your way, this is the opportunity.

If you’re trying to improve your relationships, or meet better people, you will learn exactly how to do that. If it’s family issues you want to detangle, your twice-a-week family therapy sessions with your parents are the times when you can air out all your grievances and have them seriously considered by a professionally trained clinician whose job it is to try and find ways your parents can compromise with you to achieve mutually agreeable solutions in your life. If you hate the fact that you self-harm when you’re depressed, or entertain thoughts of suicide, or have anxiety attacks whenever anything goes wrong—a treatment center can help you fix that. If you know you have to address your addiction to drugs and alcohol, and have tried stopping on your own, but can’t—a treatment center can help you fix that. With hard work during treatment, you’ll be able to eventually deal with all these issues. And you’ll be able to practice all your newly learned skills in a safe space: the teen treatment center.

Ok, fine, you admit begrudgingly—I could use the help. But why a residential facility? Why not just regular therapy once a week?

We’re glad you asked. Think of a teen rehab center as a kind of pressure cooker for recovery. A residential treatment center (RTC) is a fully-integrated, immersive experience: You’ll eat, breathe, and sleep recovery (metaphorically, of course). Because you’ll be spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in such a therapeutic setting, free of any outside obstacles that may interfere with treatment, recovery should progress faster than if you just kept going to your private therapist once a week. Sometimes, when things have gotten so bad, you just need to take a pause from everything at home and school to focus solely on getting better.

Here, not only will you have individual therapy sessions three times a week, you can speak with your therapist whenever you see them onsite. In addition, you’ll have trained residential counselors there for you at all times, even in the middle of the night, whether you need help coping with an overwhelming emotion, have an urge to engage in negative behaviors, or just can’t shut off the negative self-talk.

At a mental health treatment center, you’ll get to the root of the difficulties in your life, and will be given the tools to fix them—not just now, but when you leave treatment, too. You’ll learn what to do to prevent relapse and steps you can take to achieve your personal goals (such as graduating from high school or pursuing a certain career.) And you’ll do it all together with other adolescents on similar recovery paths.

You also won’t be distracted by any outside factors that may have the potential to interfere with your progress, such as family members, friends (especially those who aren’t such good influences), social media, or school (although most programs have dedicated hours for remote schoolwork).

Work Hard, Play Hard

Keep in mind, though, that treatment isn’t just hard work; it’s also, at times, enjoyable…dare we say even fun? Some adolescent programs offer surfing (especially if they’re on the West Coast), interaction with horses (equine-assisted therapy), music (like Rock to Recovery), art, dancing, yoga, swimming, boxing, drama, hiking, cooking, social outings to local restaurants, movies, fun activities and more…We could go on and on. (Just make sure that these perks are in addition to evidence-based treatment offered, not instead!) In addition to the wealth of experiential activities offered in various programs, most residential treatment centers are fairly comfortable and have a professional chef onsite preparing you healthy meals.

In fact, some teens love being in rehab so much that once they come, they don’t want to leave. (Seriously… Just ask some of our former clients!)

While it’s normal to be apprehensive, afraid, or even resistant when you consider the thought of attending a treatment center for teens, it takes a lot of courage to accept the fact that you need professional help…and it takes even more courage to enter such a program to help yourself.

Keep in mind that your parents can’t force you to recover. Only you can engage in the hard emotional, mental and physical work required to get better.

But we’ll all be here cheering you on, every step of the way.

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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