Today's question is on what you can do to help your teenager's recovery when he or she returns from rehab.
Hello, I am a recent mother of a teenage addict to marijuana and alcohol. My son will be going to a treatment facility for six months out of state. He was a sophomore in high school, but didn’t pass his sophomore year. I'd appreciate any suggestions about how to work with him when he returns home. I know its going to be a tough road ahead but I will do what I can to help him. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions or insight you may have to help prepare for his return home.”
Doreen Maller: As with any and all issues, my general responses here do not replace individual support and should not be considered medical management for any individual or family. Any answers here are for informational purposes only. Personal treatment, interventions and case management are between you and your medical care providers.
That said, as a general rule, treatment is best considered as a family issue and not just rehabilitation for the child. Most programs include various aspects of family sessions, family training and psychological education, family support, and peer-to-peer counsel. This might include face-to-face forums, on-line chat and support forums.
Outside of programmatic support, personal support is helpful, including personal therapy, peer support, co-dependency support groups and groups such as NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), which supports families dealing with the co-occurring disorders of mental illness and substance abuse.
As your family begins its relationship with recovery, it is important to remember that each person and each family navigates recovery differently. The intention of residential treatment is to return positive control back to the client, teach behavioral and coping skills and create positive alternatives for stress management, addictive behaviors, as well as identify and address underlying emotional issues. It is helpful that family members use the time apart for their own healing, learning and recovery. Find restorative time and rest for yourself, carve out time for positive experiences with other family members, and obtain professional support for yourself if you have not already. Engage in your son’s program, learn about addiction, co-occurring disorders and cross addiction, and fight isolation by participating in peer to peer support.
It is hard to predict re-entry needs this early in your son’s recovery but, in general, moving from a residential program back home is a process that will require additional support. Lining up services for yourself and your child in anticipation of his return can provide a system-of-care safety net.
Residential treatment provides structure 24/7; returning to a less structured environment can be a challenge to all. Setting clear ground rules and expectations should be part of your son’s exit from rehab and of your re-entry protocols, and these should inform your dialogue with your child upon his return. Establishing a clear sense of routine and expectation is important. Some families utilize a step-down process where children return into an intensive outpatient program or a sober living environment before their full return back home. Typically, inpatient programs will provide guidance in these transitions.
Re-entry into the family and home environment can be a particularly triggering time so making sure services are in place for yourself, other family members and your son to cushion the stressors of return.
Doreen Maller, MFT, PhD, began her practice in community mental health with a specialty in high-risk children and their families, including numerous families coping with addiction issues. Dr. Maller is the series editor of the three-volume Praeger Handbook of Community Mental Health Practice. See www.doreenmaller.com Full Bio.