In a far-ranging study conducted to identify the essential components of high-quality substance abuse treatment programs for adolescents, twenty-two subject matter experts, including ten researchers, nine clinicians, and three senior policy-makers determined that the following components must be present:
- Assessment and Treatment Matching: Treatment centers should conduct comprehensive assessments that contribute to the formation of a full biopsychosocial picture of the teenager’s life. Screening instruments must be evidence-based, time-tested, and accepted by the mental health community. They should be capable of identifying co-occurring disorders, family situation, social factors, and any other salient issues in the teenager’s life. The center must then form a treatment plan that addresses all the issues revealed during the assessment process, not just the substance use disorder.
- Comprehensive, Integrated Treatment: The treatment plan, based on the comprehensive assessments, must provide evidence-based therapies that help to heal all aspects of the teenager’s biopsychosocial evaluation.
- Family Involvement: Treatment plans must include the participation of parents or primary caregivers. Research shows family engagement increases the likelihood of better treatment outcomes.
- Age-Appropriate Program: Treatment must include therapies, activities, material, and support tailored to meet the needs of teenagers. Adolescents and adults have different treatment requirements and capabilities. What works for adults will not automatically work for teenagers, a fact that must be recognized and acted on by the treatment center.
- Engagement and Retention: Treatment programs must work to establish trust, cooperation, and total buy-in from their teenage clients. This means altering therapy styles, activities, hours, and the therapeutic environment to meet adolescents where they are and in a way that’s likely to resonate with them. This increases time in treatment, which in turn increases the likelihood of positive outcomes.
- Qualified Staff: Treatment center staff must be trained in adolescent-specific therapy. Staff must be trained in adolescent development, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and have experience in treating co-occurring mental disorders in teenagers, not only adults.
- Cultural and Gender Sensitivity: Treatment programs must understand and serve the divergent needs of their entire population. Staff must be aware of and trained in therapeutic requirements specific to boys, girls, LGBTQ individuals, and cultural/ethnic minorities.
- Full Continuum of Care: Treatment programs must include robust and proactive aftercare plans and sustainable sobriety strategies. Successful aftercare plans include strategies for family engagement, ongoing therapy, positive peer involvement, and ongoing community-based support such as 12-Step programs or other similar resources.
- Treatment Outcomes: Treatment centers must commit to an ongoing, rigorous, evidence-based evaluation of therapeutic methods and outcomes in order to allocate resources responsibly and improve quality of care.
Be sure to read: How to Choose a Teen Rehab Center