Attending Rehab as a Teen: What Parents and Their Children Can Expect

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No parent ever expects to send a child to treatment for a substance use addiction. It brings up a host of emotions— fear, anger, guilt, embarrassment, loneliness, sadness. While starting treatment is a big step for both of you, it’s much better than the alternative: letting your child suffer under the weight of addiction.

When you sign your teen up for addiction treatment, you’re sure to have questions about what’s to come. In this article, we’ll give you a brief overview of what treatment looks like from your teen’s end and from your end, plus how to help your teen through the strong emotions that come with this change.

What your teen can expect during treatment

Psychotherapy: The core of your teen’s treatment will be behavioral and psychosocial therapy. This happens in one-on-one or group settings with a trained addictions specialist, which can be a therapist, a social worker or a counselor. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common framework for treating substance use disorders in all ages.

Medication management: According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s 2020 Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders Research Report, over 60 percent of adolescents receiving treatment for addiction also met diagnostic criteria for a mental health disorder, like anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder.

If your teen is affected by another mental health disorder, he or she may be taking medication to manage symptoms. In treatment, your teen will meet with a doctor to review medications and have support taking them according to the prescription.

Life skills support: Most treatment for substance use addictions includes education regarding general life skills, like cleaning, cooking, applying and interviewing for jobs, making financial decisions and so on. 

For teens, there will still be life skills support, but it will be modified to meet the needs of teens. It’s more likely your child will get assistance building study habits, applying for college or technical school and growing in independence.

Accommodations for school: Depending on the extent of your child’s need, a variety of drug rehab programs are available. The services most appropriate for your child will be determined with a level of care assessment (conducted over the phone or on your first visit to the treatment facility), but it’s probable that the intensity of treatment may interfere with school hours.

In some cases, it’s in your child’s best interest to forgo academics for a period of time to focus on rehab and recovery. Schools are able to accommodate for mental health crises, like addiction rehab, but most will require written notification from a facility to excuse absences and plan for re-entry into school.

What you can expect as a parent

A learning curve: When your child enters treatment, the process will feel like a whole new world. The assessments, insurance billing, clinical jargon, medical aspects of recovery and framework of treatment will feel like a whirlwind. When your teen is embarking on the journey to recovery, anticipating a learning curve can help you handle it patiently.

Rules: Each treatment facility operates under strict rules. Some of these regulations are mandated by federal, state or local laws. Other rules were written by the facility to ensure the safety of every patient and promote maximum success in treatment. So while the rules may seem overbearing or even strange, they’re surely established with your child’s best interests in mind.

If your child is attending inpatient (residential) treatment, you can expect firm protocol regarding visiting hours, phone usage, internet access and so on. For outpatient treatment, you may find rules regarding consistent attendance, complete abstinence from substances and the expectation that strict limits will be set in the home environment.

Relief: as bizarre as it sounds, many parents experience a profound amount of relief when they sign up their teen for drug rehab. While there are guaranteed to be ups and downs, it can bring a wave of peace to know your child is on the right track and is getting the help he or she needs.

How teens will feel during treatment

Treatment can bring new emotions to the surface for both you and your teen. Teens may feel angry or judged if sent to treatment against their wishes. They may also feel distrust towards you initially. These emotions are common, and they’re bound to fade even if it doesn’t seem possible at first.

Teens may also feel recognized, noticed and loved for once someone takes their struggles seriously. While expressing gratitude for this attention may be difficult, know that your effort in getting your teen professional intervention shows him or her that you care.


At High Focus Centers, your teen’s struggles will be acknowledged with compassion and treated with the best services available. Moreover, you’ll have help navigating the tricky waters of having a teen in rehab. Contact High Focus Centers to find the healing your family needs.