How To Decide On A Teenage Rehabilitation Program

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban, LMFT, IMH-E
Updated April 26, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention substance use-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Support is available 24/7. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Choosing from multiple teen drug addiction treatment programs can involve several factors, from location to whether or not they accept insurance. Whether you're a teen or a parent, choosing to undergo mental health treatment or attend a rehab center is often a significant step forward. Once this pivotal accomplishment is achieved, your next step may be finding a rehab program to meet your needs.

Choosing a teenage treatment center may cause stress

Teenage mental health

Anxiety and stress levels in teens are often elevated. Additionally, teens may deal with unique mental health challenges as they grow up, along with transitional changes and stressors. These changes may be due to a stream of activities and demands placed on modern teens. 

Although teenage substance use is not new, substance use rates have increased among teenagers, according to a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Mental illness and substance use may often be related, and using substances can increase distress in adolescents who are already experiencing an increase in responsibility as they age. 

Teenage substance use

Substance use and addiction are issues that can arise in adults and teens. Teens may turn to illicit drug use for a variety of reasons, including the following: 

  • Environmental factors
  • Peer pressure 
  • Poor mental health 
  • Poverty 
  • Lack of parental supervision 
  • Trauma
  • A desire to escape or dull pain 

American Addiction Centers notes that teenage substance use is often a result of a range of factors, which can be complex to treat. Treating drug abuse as a behavioral or criminal problem may be an ineffective method of addressing the issue. Addiction treatment, such as a teen rehab center, may often focus on underlying symptoms and causes and support a teen through their emotional responses to addiction. 

The purpose of addiction treatment: Rehabilitation programs

Teen drug rehab centers are a form of health treatment that may work on changing a teen's environment, getting to the root of the addiction, and treating their symptoms. 

Changing the environment

An environmental change is often a crucial part of substance abuse treatment and recovery because humans are creatures of habit. Young adults may struggle to recover when surrounded by the same sights, sounds, and stimuli as those they experienced when they developed their addictions. 

Attending a rehabilitation facility may allow teenagers to work toward healing in a safe, controlled, and monitored environment that parents and caretakers may be unable to provide. 


Getting to the root cause

Getting to the root of the addiction may look different at each facility. Some centers might focus primarily on mental health, treating adolescent drug use through the lens of mental health conditions. This practice is often described as dual diagnosis treatment – treating both the addiction and the underlying mental health conditions that may have contributed to its development. 

Other centers may focus more on behavioral healing. Young people may learn how their behaviors, urges, and expressions impact themselves, others, and their environment. They might also learn new behavioral techniques to take home with them. Not all centers focus exclusively on drug abuse issues. For example, some may also treat eating disorders.

Treating symptoms 

Treating substance addiction may also differ from place to place. In some cases, medication is used to manage withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, a young adult may meet with counselors, medical professionals, and support staff during their stay, who may help them in developing treatment plans. 

Choosing a teenage rehabilitation program

Because a rehab facility is often an inpatient, ongoing care facility, parents might want to ensure they select a place where their children will be carefully monitored, supported, and cared for. Before deciding, you may want to contact the facility and ask questions that consider the following factors. 

Distance from home 

For some families, closeness to home is essential. Even if a center has outstanding reviews, many families may feel it counterproductive to send their children to a faraway facility, where they are less likely to get family support. This choice can be personal and may be made based on the options available in your area and according to your budget. 

The type of rehabilitation offered

Different rehabilitation centers may use different therapy models or psychological treatments. Some therapies focus primarily on mental health, while others work on addressing different aspects of a teen’s life. Some centers focus on physical health and use medication as treatment. 

Some centers may have a particular religious or philosophical affiliation. Each of these components could positively and negatively impact your family's choice. 

Qualifications of staff

Addiction treatment facilities should thoroughly vet all employees. You may wish to look for a rehab center that hires only healthcare professionals with university degrees and clinical experience. Research the facility's history, hiring policy, staff, and client experiences before determining if it is the proper fit for you. 

Success rates 

Although a success rate does not guarantee your teenager's individual success in treatment, a rehabilitation facility with a high record of recovery might suggest that the treatment program has been beneficial in the past for other adolescents in similar situations. 

Amenities offered

As addiction recovery can be a stressful and time-consuming process, many rehabilitation facilities offer amenities to improve guests' stay. These amenities could include a dining hall, movie nights, bowling, or a swimming pool. You might look for a program that offers enjoyable activities for your child. 

Some centers also offer equine therapy, a research-based method of treatment that benefits mental health. Studies show that teens participating in equine therapy often report lower anxiety levels and increased positive mood. 

Past reviews

When looking for a center, you might consider reviews from past clients, including adults who were once teens in treatment. If there was malpractice, unkindness, or a lack of services, those who once utilized the services might know. Finding a location with many positive reviews from past clients and parents combined can be a positive sign. 

Improving mental health through rehabilitation

Mental health is often a component of addiction treatment. Addiction may arise because of poor mental health or a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Many addictions are fueled by a desire to numb unpleasant or difficult emotions, avoid intrusive thoughts, or banish feelings of inadequacy.

Including mental health as a critical component of addiction treatment may allow therapists and teens to work through the underlying cause of addiction to increase the likelihood of successful recovery. 

Removing substances from a teenager's reach may not break an addiction. For this reason, treatment centers often pinpoint an addiction’s underlying cause. Many teenage-specific rehabilitation programs work to create a trusting, professional relationship between the patient and the rehabilitation staff, as well as utilizing peer support groups to build community amongst patients. 

Family therapy in rehabilitation

Family therapy may not seem like the most effective method of addiction treatment. However, it may be utilized in rehabilitation centers alongside other forms of treatment.

Often, stressors in family life, such as disagreements, grief, or trauma experienced at home may increase teenage distress. A therapist may act as a neutral observer for teens and families as they discuss mental health, addiction, and treatment. The following family matters may increase the risk of substance use or mental health concerns in teens. 

Parental neglect 

Parental neglect may occur in several ways, including emotionally or physically. With physical neglect, a caregiver might ignore a child's need to eat, drink, or sleep. They might leave a child for several days or weeks without support. 

On the other hand, emotional neglect can look like ignoring a child's emotions, blaming a child for their response to trauma, or refusing to give displays of affection or love, such as hugs, meaningful conversations, or quality time together.  

Parental substance use (past or present)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that children growing up with a parent who engages in drug or alcohol abuse or experiences addiction may be more likely to develop mental health conditions or a substance addiction themselves. Parental substance use also increases the likelihood of parental neglect. 

Unhealthy family dynamics

Authoritarian parenting styles, where parents hold high standards and children cannot fulfill expectations, are often unhealthy for children. Studies show that children raised by authoritarian parents often have unhealthy behavioral patterns as they grow up. 

Other unhealthy family behaviors may include expecting children to act as surrogate partners if one parent is absent (physically or emotionally). A parent might also practice favoritism toward one child, or emotionally or physically neglect a teen. Speaking to a family therapist can be one method of identifying potentially unhealthy or toxic family dynamics that may be contributing to a teenager’s substance use.

Unhealthy home environments

An unhealthy home environment could include a home environment where violence is the norm, children are considered a nuisance, or parents and children rarely engage in loving, supportive, and considerate interactions.

Choosing a teenage treatment center may cause stress

Counseling options 

No matter what rehabilitation facility you and your teenager decide on, you may also look for alternative treatment methods or support options. Additionally, if you are the parent or caregiver in the situation, you may want to reach out for individual mental health support through a therapist so you can better support your teenage child.

While your teen is going through treatment, you may appreciate the availability and comfort of online treatment options. As many adults feel most comfortable at home, online therapy allows you to meet with a therapist comfortably from your bed, couch, office, or anywhere with an internet connection. 

If you are unsure how to proceed with initiating online therapy, speaking to a mental health professional, such as those working on a platform like BetterHelp, may help you gain clarity and perspective. Witnessing your teen experience addiction can feel stressful, concerning, and scary. Caring for your mental health as a parent can be a significant first step toward healing for both you and your child. If your teen hopes to participate in online counseling as well, a platform such as TeenCounseling may be a beneficial choice. 


Substance abuse in teens can be a challenge for families worldwide. If you're looking for a treatment center, consider the options above. If you or your teen requires extra support, consider reaching out to a counselor to discuss your needs further.
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