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What Teens Should Expect


When you hear about a teenager being addicted to drugs or alcohol, one of the common courses of action is to enter an inpatient drug rehabilitation facility for several weeks. But most teens don’t know what actually goes on in rehab.

The short answer: a lot.

One of the goals in rehab is to keep residents busy for most of the time they are there. The idea is if they are focusing on day-to-day activities, they won’t have to stop and think about getting drunk or high. Though every rehab facility is different, here is a basic idea of what a typical day in rehab looks like for teenagers.

Rise and Shine

Residents in rehab start every day early (perhaps around 6 a.m.). Often, their first activity will involve some type of exercise or relaxation technique so they can begin their day with a clear head. This can take the form of yoga, meditation, running, or lifting weights in a gym.

After an hour or so, teens will clean up, shower, dress, and complete their daily hygiene routines before gathering for breakfast. Obviously, rehab personnel want the teenagers to begin their schedules on full stomachs.

Hitting the Ground Running

Although morning schedules can vary, it’s quite common to engage in a “light” therapeutic activity around 9 a.m. or so. This may consist of simply setting goals for the day, writing in a journal, or partaking in basic affirmation therapy in a small group. Some facilities require teens to complete some light chores like dishwashing, bed-making, or cleaning.

Other rehab centers give residents the chance to participate in alternative forms of therapy during the morning hours. Examples of these offerings may include art therapy, dance therapy, equine therapy, or a similar activity. Another option is for teens to undergo individual biofeedback or neurofeedback therapy so they can learn to control their breathing, muscle tension, and mental activity on their own.

This time of day may also be ideal for teens to complete some of their academic assignments. Whether this is done in a classroom setting or through individual tutoring, the point is to help these students keep up with their studies so they are not left behind their peers when they exit rehab and return to school.

Teen rehab

Getting Their (Emotional) Hands Dirty

After gathering for lunch around noon, the residents usually experience some of their most intensive therapy sessions of the day. For teens, they may undergo:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – one-on-one talk therapy sessions with a counselor
  • Group therapy – therapy sessions with one counselor and several teens
  • Family therapy – therapy sessions with a therapist, the teen, and one or more family members
  • Addiction counseling – defining tactics and approaches to combat addiction in the future
  • Anger management or coping skills training – a therapist provides tools and strategies to help teens control their emotions
  • Self-esteem therapy – a counselor gives affirmations and helps teens see themselves in a positive light
  • Process therapy – group therapy which concentrates on applying what was learned in other therapy sessions to real-life situations

Work Continues After “Business Hours”

In the late afternoon, residents may be given some free time to do what they want before they assemble for dinner. Then during the evening hours, the residents may convene for a 12-step meeting or a similar instructive or collaborative session to help them address their addictions. Around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., teens are often encouraged to write in their journals or complete some assigned rehab exercises before they get ready for “lights out” around 10 p.m.

This schedule is repeated every weekday and the basic structure remains in place on weekends. But some facilities may organize recreational activities, group outings, movie night, or other social events on Saturday or Sunday. This is often when teens can visit with their parents or family members as well.

Contrary to what many people believe, rehab is not a “vacation” from the outside world. Teens are expected to put in a lot of mental and emotional effort, which is necessary if they want to stay sober and start their progress on the road to recovery. The hope is for rehab residents to emerge from their stint with the tools they need to vanquish their addiction and return to a life of normalcy.

If you need more information on rehab for your teen, contact us today.

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