How is Adolescent Treatment Different than Adult Treatment? - PBI
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How is Adolescent Treatment Different than Adult Treatment?

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What Makes Adolescent Treatment For Substance Abuse Different Than Treatment For Adults?

There are special challenges concerning drug treatment and the adolescent population.  Attempts to modify existing drug treatment programs for adults and utilizing it with adolescent populations would be largely ineffective.  Adolescent populations have special needs that require special considerations when it comes to both treatment and aftercare.  Understanding what makes adolescent treatment different from adult treatment programs is crucial in finding the most quality drug treatment programs for this population.

Differences in Treatment Between Adolescents and Adults

Attention to Development—adolescents and young adults are experiencing a critical stage in both body and brain development.  Substance abuse can have the potential to cause significant impediments in these developmental areas.  Those who work in adolescent treatment facilities recognize that because an adolescent’s brain is still developing into their 20’s, chances that a “pro vs. con” approach in substance abuse treatment would be difficult to process.

Importance of Family—in general, the adolescent population in treatment may not have the resources when it comes to building recovery networks which they can turn to for support.  Family engagement is a critical piece in what makes adolescent treatment different since they are largely dependent on their parents or caregivers for financial and emotional support, transportation, and other basic needs.

Building Rapport with Adults—many adolescents may have past negative associations and experiences with adult figures in their lives.  Adolescents may come from environments in which trusted adult figures may have been verbally or physically abusive or may have experienced other forms of neglect.  In turn, being put into a situation in which it is perceived as punitive may present formidable challenges.  Counselors and therapists who work in adolescent treatment facilities make rapport building and earning trust critical cornerstones of the recovery process.

More Focus on Multidisciplinary Treatment—while the multidisciplinary approach is an important component of both adolescent and adult recovery, there are more considerations for adolescent populations.  There is not only focus on the medical and psychological aspects, there is an increased emphasis on academics as well as recreational aspects.  There are also special considerations when it comes to issues such as self-esteem, peer pressure, eating disorders, depression, self-harm and other psychological issues that had significant impacts on adolescents, especially females.


Questions to Ask When Looking For an Adolescent Treatment Center

Knowing the differences between adolescent treatment and adult treatment provides the basic framework in regards to finding the best possible treatment options.  There are also other questions that need to be answered, which can include the following:

  1. What types of treatment do you have? Have there been any research studies of this type of treatment?
    2. What evidence do you have that your program is effective?
    3. How do you specifically address the needs of adolescents?
    4. Can you assess and treat my child’s mental health problems at the same time as his/her substance problem?
    5. How is the family involved in the treatment process?
    6. How long will this treatment last?
    7. What things do you do to help adolescents engage and stay in treatment?
    8. Do you have aftercare or a continuing care program for when this treatment ends?
    9. What happens if my child is not successful here? What other options do we have?
    10. How much does this cost and how much will I have to pay? Are there any state, county, or grant funds to help pay for this treatment?

With these differences considered and questions in mind, finding the best option for adolescent substance abuse treatment can be a more rewarding endeavor.


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