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Processing Painful Emotions in Teen Rehab

One of the significant roadblocks to avoiding drug or alcohol use is emotion. Adolescents usually have a harder time than adults in coping with difficult emotions. Emotions may be harder for teens to process and navigate.

Some examples of overwhelming emotions that can lead to addiction are:

  • Depression: from being targeted with insults from peers or not receiving affection or romantic attention
  • Anxiety: from worrying about their grades or their popularity at school
  • Anger: arising from stressful home life or failure at school

Though these emotions tend to be categorized as negative feelings, but they aren’t inherently bad or evil. Emotions help teens absorb what is happening in their lives and environments. These feelings are an integral part of adapting and thriving in the ever-changing situations that teenagers experience

Additionally, emotions vary depending on teens’ backgrounds, past experiences and views of the world. It’s not unusual for different teenagers to react differently to the same set of circumstances.

In some cases, adolescents may not be fully aware of the emotions that they are experiencing. For teens struggling with substance misuse, the intensity and variability of these emotions can play a significant role in shaping their treatment plans at rehab centers like Next Generation Village.

Therapies to Help Teens With Their Emotions

One of the most effective tools for counselors and psychologists who are treating teens is an approach known as emotion-focused therapy (EFT). The goal of EFT is to help teens recognize and process the wide range of emotions they experience, especially the ones intertwined with their addiction.

EFT teaches teens that emotions are not to be ignored, suppressed or feared. Instead, teenagers are encouraged to understand, embrace, express and regulate their emotions so that they can make better choices and resist harmful behaviors (like using drugs or alcohol).

In addition, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often provided along with EFT in teen rehab programs. As the name implies, CBT represents the next step in emotion management. Teens are taught ways to process their emotions, alter the ways they think about or react to certain situations and ultimately change their behaviors.

The Pain and Gain Cycle

Perhaps the most daunting challenge for teens in rehab is to reverse the pain and gain cycle involving emotions and substance misuse. Teens who face addiction may use drugs or alcohol for a short-term emotional gain (like the euphoric feeling or the ability to escape life’s stresses) at the expense of the long-term emotional pain (such as regret, guilt, shame or embarrassment).

In contrast, people in recovery are urged to embrace the short-term pain in exchange for reaping the benefits of long-term rewards, or gains. This translates into forgoing instant gratification (like drinking at a bar) and proactively addressing a problem (like confronting a toxic family member or working a 12-step program) with the knowledge that they will enjoy feeling confident and hopeful after overcoming their emotional demons.

For teens, emotional improvement is hard work which is best guided by experienced drug treatment professionals in a rehab setting. Once teenagers learn the coping mechanisms needed to regulate their emotions appropriately, they’ll be much better equipped to fend off temptations to misuse drugs or alcohol.

Emotional management is a key aspect of addiction recovery for teens. If your teen is struggling with addiction, contact Next Generation Village to find out more about our accredited teen rehab options.

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