Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Terminology Guide: Teen Rehab Centers

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 >

What’s the Difference Between a Mental Health Treatment Center and a Teen Rehab Center?

Teen Treatment for Mental Health: A Guide to Terminology
Terminology Guide: Teen Inpatient Treatment
Terminology Guide: Adolescent Mental Health Treatment Centers
Inpatient Treatment for Adolescent Depression
DBT Residential Treatment For Teens
Behavioral Treatment Centers for Youth[/seriesbox]
When your teenager has a mental health disorder, a behavioral disorder, or an addiction disorder – i.e., an alcohol use disorder or a substance use disorder – you often find terms and phrases online that seem to mean the same thing.

In some cases, they do.

For instance, although most of us associate the word rehab with recovery from an alcohol or drug addiction, a teen rehab center and an adolescent mental health treatment center are often the exact same thing, in the same place, with teens receiving treatment for mental health disorders right alongside teens in addiction recovery.


Because in the 21st century, we understand that addiction is a medical condition – a mental health disorder, to be precise – that responds well to evidence-based treatment provided by skilled mental health professionals.

Teen rehab centers that focus solely on addiction do exist. However, they’re less common than rehab centers that support teens with mental health issues, addiction issues, or both.

In these teen rehabs, psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors who specialize in adolescent addiction treatment help teens achieve long term sobriety from:

One reason teen rehabs and teen rehab centers for addiction and mental health treatment centers are often the same thing is what we mention above: addiction is a medical condition that has both physiological elements – changes in brain chemistry and function – and emotional elements, just like a mental health disorder.

Addiction Treatment and Mental Health Treatment: What’s Different and What’s the Same?

In fact, many teens who enter addiction rehab discover their disordered use of substances – that’s the clinically correct way to say addiction – originates in early trauma, the presence of a mental health disorder, or extreme stress that results in painful, difficult emotions. Therefore, teens in addiction treatment most often participate in the following types of therapy with teens who are not in treatment for addiction:

  • Individual Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Experiential Therapies (yoga, mindfulness, exercise)
  • Expressive Therapies (art, music, drama, writing)
  • Academic time
  • Treatment-friendly evening activities
  • Treatment-friendly weekend outings

These evidence-based therapies and treatments help teens identify the root cause of their addiction, which, as we hinted at above, often originates in an attempt to handle the painful emotions associated with a mental health disorder or past trauma. This is called self-medication, which is a short-term attempt to remedy a long-term problem. In most cases, self-medication causes more problems than it solves. That’s why rehab is essential: it helps teens find out the why behind their addiction. Their therapists and counselors teach them the how behind getting sober and achieving long-term sobriety.

In addition to the therapies listed above, adolescents in teen rehab at a teen rehab center will participate in the following:

  • Individual addiction counseling with addiction specialists
  • Group addiction counseling with addiction specialists
  • Group classes and educational workshops on the science of addiction
  • Classes and educational workshops on the effect of addiction on relationships with family and friends
  • Classes and educational workshops on effective communication to repair relationships damaged by addiction
  • Relapse prevention workshops
  • Trigger identification and management*
  • How to build a healthy lifestyle after addiction
*Triggers are environmental cues like sights, sounds, smells, locations, or people that elicit emotional and behavioral patterns that can lead to relapse*

If your teen experiments with alcohol or drugs and you think they may have an alcohol or substance use disorder, read our article on how to tell if they need teen rehab.

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.

Related Posts

Enjoying these insights?

Subscribe here, so you never miss an update!

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.