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Why Winter Break is a Good Time to Start Treatment for Teens


The winter holidays mean many things for many people.

If your teenager struggles with a mental health or substance use disorder, then this year the winter holidays might mean something you never expected: a realistic window to get your teenager into treatment.

Your teen may have fallen into negative behavior patterns this year at school, such as experimenting with alcohol or drug use. Or, they may have a mood disorder that got worse during their first semester.

Whatever the case, the winter holidays offer a chance to get them the help they need to get control of their lives and start the New Year on a good foot.

Five Good Reasons to Start Treatment Over Winter Break

  1. Cost. Okay, this isn’t a touchy-feely reason, but it’s eminently practical. In terms of insurance, your out-of-pocket and deductible costs will likely reset on January 1st. You can save a lot of money on treatment if you’ve already met those maximums, because your insurance may just cover the entire process.
  2. School. Your teen will be on break. Time in treatment won’t disrupt their academic schedule. If their first semester went poorly because of substance use or emotional issues, this is a perfect time to reboot and aim for a productive second semester.
  3. Supervision. Unsupervised downtime is when troubled teens tend to get into more trouble. Teens who have substance use disorders look forward to time out of school, so they can hang out with their group of substance-using peers. Teens with emotional disorders may isolate, go deeper into depression, or feed anxieties that have been building all fall.
  4. Triggers and patterns. During treatment, therapists spend a lot of time helping teens identify triggers, i.e. external stimuli that lead to drug use or an increase in mental health symptoms. They also help teens recognize non-productive patterns of behavior. Then, they help them develop positive coping strategies to handle the triggers and replace non-productive patterns with productive ones. Treatment during the holidays can help teens build and practice these skills before returning to school in January.
  5. Home for Christmas. If you start soon, you may get your teen home for Christmas. That might be the greatest gift possible. Imagine this: your troubled teen home on Christmas morning, ready to face the world equipped with a new set of practical skills to manage their substance use or mental health disorder.

New Year Reset

One thing about substance use and mental health issues is that they can fly under the radar or exist in that dangerous space known as denial. Parents and teens alike might know there’s a problem, but put off addressing it because of work, school, or several other reasons. The fact is, the sooner you get your teen into treatment, the better. And the winter holidays present a unique time of year to take the critical step to restore balance to your family.

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