• Residential Treatment Program for Teens 14-18

Teen Treatment Programs For Substance Use

Teen Treatment Programs For Substance Use

As one of the leading treatment programs for teen girls and assigned female at birth struggling with issues such as substance use and experimentation, Solstice West helps guide teens along their healing journey. Solstice West takes a whole person approach to substance use treatment for teens. We can’t just treat the symptoms of drug or alcohol use – it’s important to consider the whole person and all of their social, emotional, and academic needs. For most teenagers, experimenting with substances is just one way they cope with other unmet needs.

The guide is meant to be comprehensive, but as such, not every section will be applicable to everyone. Instead, we invite you to click on the links in the table of contents to jump to the sections that most interest you.

How Does Solstice RTC Help Teens with Substance Use?

Solstice West creates a loving and caring environment for teens to explore the underlying reasons for their substance use. By utilizing an individualized approach with a variety of modalities, which include Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Equine Therapy, we are able to create a trusting and effective therapeutic rapport. 

Our addictions-specific therapeutic modalities include: 

  • SMART Recovery
  • Women for Sobriety
  • Specialty Groups
  • AA Meetings

It is important to consider the other factors in making a residential program an appropriate choice for our students. One is academics: many students that have substance use issues are very intelligent but have fallen behind in school. With our small class sizes and credit recovery options, our students can get back on track to graduate with their peers. Solstice West also wants to make sure that teens develop interests that replace their substance use behaviors. We teach healthier outlets and use of time with the goal of creating awareness of opportunities for sober fun. Our Adventure Therapy program helps build relationships through shared experience rather than a shared history of abuse.  

What are the causes of substance use in teens?

The specific causes of substance use are unknown and also vary from person to person. In teens, here are some of the common causes of substance use:

  • To feel good: Teens crave instant gratification. Drugs can give teens the pleasure they are craving with a quick response.
  • To feel better: When they are experiencing powerful or heavy emotions, teens want a quick way to dispel these feelings. This can be something like reacting to a failed test or struggling with deeper feelings of depression or anxiety.
  • To fit in: In order to build relationships with peers, sometimes teens turn to substances as a way to bond.
  • To experiment: During the teenage years, the brain is developing and growing. One of last areas in the brain to fully develop is the area that controls impulse control. Until then, a desire for high-excitement and low-effort activities is created. Experimenting with drugs can be the result of this desire.

Other risk factors to consider are genetics, environment, and mental illness. All of these things can contribute to teen and young adult substance use.

What are signs and symptoms of teen substance use?

There are many signs that your teen may be using substances. These include behavioral, mood, social, and academic changes. Here are a few items to consider:

  • Behavioral changes: Chewing gum or using mints to cover the up breath, lying or changing stories, being secretive, stealing medications (or medications going missing), missing money, or cleared internet search history.
  • Loss of interest(s): No longer participating in an extracurricular activity or sport they used to love or excel at. Or they could still be involved in these activities, but not to the same degree or with the same level of performance or commitment.
  • Health issues: Nosebleeds, excessive weight loss or gain, headaches, nausea and vomiting, bloodshot eyes.
  • Changing friend groups: Studies have shown this is often one of the first signs of drug use. No longer spending time with peers that they have previously spent significant time with or that support their best interests. Instead, they could be with those that can support their alcohol or drug habits.
  • Shifts in relationships are also likely: drug or alcohol use can create a lot of unspoken shame, and it is common for individuals to close themselves off from people that they used to be close to.  

Treatments For Substance Use In Teens

There are several important factors to consider when looking at substance use treatment for teens:

  • A person-centered or whole-person focus of care is ideal. An effective adolescent addiction approach also includes attending to the whole person, as opposed to just treating their past or current drug use. A holistic approach will support each client in their own unique process of growth and healing.
  • Also, having a gender-specific program is helpful as single-gender drug and alcohol treatment is the most effective option for all ages working toward recovery, but especially for adolescents and teens.
  • Related to both of these is selecting a program or course of treatment that is going to find ways to effectively replace negative habits (substance use) with positive habits (exercise, yoga, hiking, journaling, etc.). The teenage brain is wired for novelty, so finding a program that works with this natural tendency – by providing a variety of fun activities to participate in – will be more effective in the long run.
  • Clinical options: Working with a clinician or clinical team that has a number of modalities and approaches to pull from will likely be the best option for treatment, as there is not one approach that works best for substance use treatment. It is important that your teen is able to address the underlying issues associated with their substance use.

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Why choose a substance use treatment program for teens?

Making sure that a treatment program and their therapeutic approach is age-appropriate is crucial. Treatment must be tailored to address your teen’s specific substance use issues and underlying issues in order for their to make progress. Having a peer group that they are responsive to will also make their more engaged in the process. Substance use treatment that follows a process addictions model helps teens understand the bigger picture of substance use and connect with others who have a wide range of unhealthy coping mechanisms. This can also serve as a protective factor against learning more about substance use from older people with longer histories of addiction.

Many substance use treatment models are designed for young adults and adults who have experienced greater consequences and do not take into account how substances affect a teen’s development. Teen substance use treatment should take into account how substances can affect one’s brain development and academic goals as well as how it affects the whole family system. Treatment programs for adults assume that the goal is independent living, while treatment programs for teens are more focused on transition planning and teaching teens healthier coping mechanisms to apply to multiple areas of their lives.

Teen substance use programs shy away from labeling teens as “addicts” by focusing on how they have a choice to continue experimenting with substances and facing continued consequences or reclaiming their narrative and finding freedom.

How does Solstice West implement a holistic approach to treatment?

Solstice West takes a whole-person, holistic approach when it comes to helping teens with substance use issues. This means that we consider all the different parts and pieces that may be affecting your child and their substance use, including their social, emotional, academic, medical, nutritional, and spiritual needs. We believe that all of these things contribute to their well-being as well as the mind-body connection. Here are some examples of how we integrate this approach into the program:

  • Mindfulness: Our daily mindfulness practice seeks to help your child recognize what they are feeling and how that is showing up for her. The first step in being able to overcome or regulate strong emotions is being able to name the emotion and recognize how that shows up in your body. Mindfulness is just like any other exercise: doing it daily will help strengthen that muscle.
  • Nutrition: Our dietitian utilizes the Intuitive Eating model which allows students to recognize hunger and fullness cues, as well as provide choices for healthy eating habits. They also provides nutrition classes and approves the menu that is served at Solstice West.
  • Fitness: With daily PE/fitness classes, we want to get our students moving and having fun! We emphasize that fitness is about more than physical activity: it contributes to emotional well-being and also positively impacts brain function.  
  • Being outside: With Adventure Therapy every Friday, we make sure our students have time to get outside and get back in their bodies. Our Adventure Therapy program consists of outdoor recreation, experiential education and community service.

We also want your teen to develop their individual interests and coping skills while they are at Solstice West. They will have the opportunity to work closely with their primary therapist and mentor guide to explore practices and activities that speak to their heart. The curriculum in the Hero’s Journey will also encourage their to address any imbalances that they recognizes or would like to work on.

In order to create lasting change, a holistic, integrated approach to health and well-being is necessary. Read more about our holistic approach at Solstice West>>>