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Parents: Consider Treatment for Teens Over Christmas Break


2020 has been a year to remember.

Or forget.

We can’t decide.

Either way, everyone will be glad to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. This time last year, we were gearing up for the second half of the winter holidays, highlighted by Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Day. This year, things are completely different. In California, the pandemic is triggering a new wave of shelter-in-place orders. Around the country, states, cities, and local municipalities are deciding how to handle the winter surge in COVID-19 cases. And in the middle of all that, people everywhere are deciding how to have Christmas. To travel or not to travel. To gather or not to gather. For the record, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises that we neither gather nor travel this holiday season, unless it’s for essential reasons. To read the CDC guidance, click this link for holiday travel and this one for holiday celebrations.

There’s good news on the horizon, though: several vaccines that appear viable passed clinical trials and are on the verge of approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The CDC is working on who gets the vaccine first. By all accounts, it appears that by springtime, the vaccine will be available to people who aren’t high risk and people who aren’t frontline healthcare workers. That means the end – or at least the end of this phase – of the coronavirus pandemic is in sight.

Until then, though, we still need to follow local public health guidelines and do our best to keep ourselves, our friends, and our families, and our loved ones safe. And parents with troubled teens have another important thing to figure out as they approach winter break: what’s best for their teen.

We have an unconventional suggestion: consider residential treatment.

Treatment Over the Holidays at Evolve

This may seem like the last thing you want your teen to do this year. Away from home, away from family, away from their routine – we understand.

But hear us out.

First, if your teen is in a rut – with mental health issues or with alcohol and drug use – time away from their routine might be exactly what they need. Yes, they’ll be away from home. But many teens have basically been at home since March – and that could be part of why they’re in a rut, or having problems, if that’s what’s going on with them. Second, the holidays are a natural break in the year. We all like to reset, re-evaluate, think of how our year went, and make plans for the new year. Third, and finally, remember that if your teen has a mental health or alcohol/substance use disorder, evidence shows that the sooner they get the treatment they need, the better chance they have at long term recovery.

Those three reasons are good – and we have five more that are better.


Here they are.

Treatment Over Christmas Break: Five Good Reasons

1. Insurance

On most insurance plans, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums reset at the beginning of the year. For families that have already met their maximum deductible and out-of-pocket maximums, policies may reimburse the full cost of residential treatment. This can reduce your overall financial burden, which would increase if your teen initiates treatment when your maximums reset in January 2021.

2. Academics

COVID-19 means many teens around the country currently attend school online or in a hybrid of in-person/online learning. In addition, most school districts offer a choice between in-person, virtual, and hybrid learning. During a residential program, treatment takes priority – that’s the reason for making the commitment to residential treatment. At the same time, our team of counselors can work with your family to keep up with school, which is more possible now than in the past because of the virtual options most school districts offer. Timing residential treatment with Christmas Break means fewer missed instructional days than any other time during the school year. For a teen who may have had academic challenges this fall spring and summer because of substance use, alcohol use, mental health issues, or pandemic stress, then Christmas Break offers a realistic opportunity chance to reset for an better second half of the year.

3. Safety and Adult Guidance

Too much free time for troubled teens can lead to problems – especially during the holidays, when parents may be busy with work or other responsibilities and teens are not occupied all day with schoolwork. Teens who experiment with alcohol or drugs may look forward to the holidays because they give them more time to experiment. If their parents are not home, they may have increased access to alcohol, and the freedom to seek and use drugs. Teens with mood or psychological disorders may experience an increase in symptoms, exacerbated by social isolation and other restrictions caused by the pandemic.

For both groups – teens at risk of alcohol/substance use disorder and teens with mental health issues – treatment over Christmas can prevent the problems caused by increased free time with lack of supervision. Also, when a teen is in residential treatment at Evolve, there’s no risk they’ll put themselves at risk by ignoring social distance guidelines at unsupervised holiday gatherings.

4. Identify Old Patterns and Learn New Coping Strategies

Adolescents in residential treatment spend a considerable amount of time learning about triggers, which are stimuli – sights, sounds, environments, and people – that lead to emotional states or patterns of behavior that result in drug use or an increase in mental health symptoms. They also participate in group therapy that helps them identify behaviors that interfere with treatment or degrade their quality of life. Teens who learn to identify triggers and describe the things they want to change can in their lives work with clinicians to create strategies to handle the triggers and replace counter-productive behaviors with productive behaviors. A teen who participates in a residential program over Christmas Break can develop a new set of coping skills to prepare them for a successful second semester.

5. Back for the New Year – or Maybe Christmas Day

If you decide to initiate treatment for your teen now, before Christmas Break starts, they may be home in time for Christmas Day and/or New Year’s Eve. That would be a wonderful gift: your child home with you with the experience of intensive treatment and support fresh in their memory. They’ll have a new set of coping skills – developed under the expert guidance of skilled, experienced clinicians – that can help them manage the symptoms of their substance use, alcohol, or mental health disorder and make 2021 a year to remember for all the right reasons.

Treatment is a Positive Step

There’s one last thing we want you to think about, as you consider whether you should seek residential treatment for your teen over the holidays. Seeking professional treatment and support for your teen might be the kindest and most loving thing you can do for them. If your teen has tried outpatient treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, or partial hospitalization treatment without success, then residential treatment could be the choice that makes the difference. The time spent in a residential program may be what they’ve needed all along. When you find and commit to a program that can help them overcome the things that prevent them from living life on their terms – such as a mental health or alcohol/substance use disorder – then you’re doing what’s best for them.

It may be unconventional.

It may be something you’ve never thought of.

In this most unconventional year, though, it may be exactly what your teen needs.

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