Commentary: How To Choose The Best Treatment Center for Your Teen

conversation with a therapist

One of the most difficult moments you can face as a parent is learning that your child suffers from addiction. You’ve already experienced the sleepless nights, the fear in the pit of your stomach that something isn’t right with your child. You’ve held on to the hope that their behavior was a “teenage phase” or an issue that could be easily and quickly remedied.

However, you’ve since learned that you’re dealing with addiction – a disease you never expected to encounter. You’re under enormous stress to make a decision about where to get treatment for your child, which could impact the rest of his or her life. We know that feeling, we understand the tremendous pressure, and we believe no parent should have to go through it alone.

For that reason, Caron Treatment Centers partnered with other leading adolescent treatment centers, Cumberland Heights, Hazelden, Rosecrance, and Visions Treatment Centers, to offer what we collectively believe are the essential criteria for adolescent treatment.

Our recommendations are designed to help in understanding critical success factors and empower families to make life-saving decisions for their teenager.

• Aftercare: Centers should offer long-term engagement including alumni and follow-up services. Caron, for instance, provides Recovery Care Services to adolescents and their parents. Specialists meet with teens during treatment and establish a relationship that continues through one year after treatment is completed. The goal is to assist in the transition of early recovery, continue a connection with Caron through alumni events, and provide parents with the opportunity to join a support group.

• Continuum of Care: Addiction is a chronic disease. A continuum of care supports long-term management of the illness. Services should include assessment, detoxification, treatment, primary care (first 30 days of residential treatment), extended care (residential treatment beyond 30 days), and follow-up sober living accommodations, strategic recommendations, and/or specialty and ongoing educational programming.

• Credentials: Centers should be accredited by CARF International. Organizations that are CARF accredited demonstrate their commitment to continuous improvement of their programs and services and must conform to the behavioral health standards established by CARF. Additionally, their treatment locations are audited by their local state departments of health services.

• Evidence-Based Practices (EBPs):  Facilities should use EBPs that have been researched and validated to have positive outcomes on recovery. Motivational interviewing, for example, is a technique used by clinical staff to engage and motivate an adolescent to make positive changes. Another evidence-based practice, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), teaches people how their thoughts affect their feelings and how their feelings affect their behaviors. This allows individuals to make changes that can significantly improve quality of life.

• Family Program: Addiction affects the entire family. Therefore, families must be included in the treatment process, which starts during the pre-admission process and extends through recovery. Leading adolescent facilities offer family programs that educate, offer therapeutic support, and ultimately improve the wellness of the entire family.

• Gender Separation: Teens entering addiction treatment are in a vulnerable place. Centers that separate genders offer healthy and safe environments for their recovery.

• Highly Trained Clinical Team: Not all mental health professionals are alike. Top centers offer highly skilled mental health professionals trained for all aspects of treatment, including assessment, treatment, and co-occurring issues management.

• On-site Education: Facilities should offer on-site and individualized education. This gives patients the opportunity to achieve and maintain an acceptable academic status during treatment.

• Quality Medical Detox: The first stage of the treatment process involves detoxification. A safe withdrawal requires a quality medical setting with a highly trained team who are regularly monitoring patients, capable of managing complicated medical conditions, and can offer medicated interventions.

• Secure Environment: When choosing a center, it is critical for young patients to feel comfortable and safe in their residential treatment environment.

• Specialty groups: Myriad issues impact addiction. They’re often triggers for relapse if not addressed in the treatment process. When teens are able to work on issues like grief, body image, and anger, they develop important life skills that support them in long-term recovery.

• Spirituality: EBPs show that spirituality is a core component of successful recovery. It’s a deeply personal experience that doesn’t require a religious affiliation. Spirituality offers the previously isolated addict a connection to themselves, their loved ones, and society. Centers with a foundation in the 12-Steps empower patients to make a commitment to their recovery and provide a roadmap to nurture and practice that commitment daily.

• Wellness: Engaging in exercise and having a healthy diet are important habits to develop in treatment. They help heal the body and remain important behaviors at the heart of daily recovery. Facilities should offer programs for exercise – ideally both a gym and fun recreational activities. Likewise, facility cafeterias should offer healthy food and nutritionist guidance on creating a balanced diet.

Parents would take considerable measures to choose the right college for their child. We recommend applying the same level of analysis when choosing a treatment center. Stay tuned for additional insights in my next article. You can follow Caron on twitter @CaronTreatment.

Doug Tieman, President and Chief Executive Officer
Caron Treatment Centers

Mr. Tieman has been the President and CEO of Caron Treatment Centers since 1995. Under Mr. Tieman’s direction, Caron has taken leadership roles in treating addiction in young adults and adolescents, sponsoring research, and participating in national conferences on addiction and recovery.