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Sober Companions

Sober CompanionsIn a fascinating study in the journal Developmental Psychology, researchers attempted to determine when teens felt the sting of peer pressure most acutely. More than 3,600 teens were studied, and in the end, the researchers said children ages 10-14 seemed to be most at risk from pressure from peers. Once these teens got a little older, they were able to put their needs above the wishes of their peers. But when they were younger, they were vulnerable. Clearly, young people are malleable. They listen to others, even when they claim that they don’t care what others think. And sometimes, that willingness to listen can be used to help them. Parents can find that out firsthand if they hire sober companions for their teens. These professionals can work with teens in close relationships, applying a sort of pressure that can help teens to make better decisions concerning drugs and alcohol.

A New Relationship

Most people who work as sober companions aren’t trained therapists. They can’t write out prescriptions, provide formal therapy, or otherwise handle the tasks that are routine in a teen addiction treatment program. But they can fill a role that is vital to teens – that of coach. A sober companion’s job is to stay with a teen, day in and day out, and provide guidance and support. Sometimes, that means sober companions move right in with the family and stay with the teen around the clock. But sometimes, sober companions step in only when the teen has no other form of supervision. These companions might help teens in the afternoons, for example, when school is over and parents haven’t yet arrived home.
When sober companions are on the clock, they’re doing hard work. In an article about the industry, a sober companion suggests that his primary job is to tell his clients the truth, whether they want to hear that truth or not. That means these sober companions might ask their clients questions, such as:
  • “What are you thinking about?”
  • “Where are you going?”
  • “How are you planning to stay safe right now?”
  • “How could this put your sobriety at risk?”
They work a little like a conscience for a vulnerable teen. The questions they ask help teens to slow down, so they can think about their choices instead of simply reacting.
Sober companions might also work a little like security officers, patting down the teen and looking for hidden drugs or alcohol. They might administer drug tests periodically, just to make sure that there are no hidden relapses lurking. And they might be the first to remove friends and dealers who hope to prompt the teen to relapse. In a second article about the work, a sober companion suggests that he develops a connection with clients that’s a little like a friendship. And that might very well be true, but these companions have a primary duty to help the teen stay sober. They’re not at all concerned with hurting a teen’s feelings in order to bring that about.

Qualifications for a Teen Sober Companion

Doctor talking to her male patient at office Again, sober companions don’t need a specific type of education in order to get to work, but those who work with teens should understand the specifics of teen addiction and relapse. Often, those prompts are very different than the prompts adults face. For example, in a study in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, researchers found that only 8.8 percent of adults relapsed to drugs due to the urge to enhance a positive mental state. But 41 percent of teens used drugs to boost a happy mood. Stats like this prove that adolescents aren’t just small adults. They’re different creatures altogether, and they need different approaches as a result. Those who work with teens should understand those differences, and ideally, they should have prior experience with teen assistance. Also, the teen should have some sort of say in the hiring process. As a column in Psychology Today points out, teens need to develop an internal motivation to change. They need to find solutions that fit in with their worldviews and are easy for them to apply in their own lives. That means teens need providers that allow them to talk, to share, and to open up. Dominating, bossy approaches don’t help make teens adjust their internal processes. That’s why teens should pick their providers. They can find providers they like and relate to, and that makes treatment more effective. If you’re struggling to find a sober companion for your teen, or you’re just wondering what you should do to help your teen get on the right track, we’d like to help. At Next Generation Village, we provide a full spectrum of solutions to adolescents with addictions, mental illnesses, or both. Please call the number at the top of the page to find out more about the help we can provide your child and your family.

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