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Rehab Options: How to Choose the Right One for Your Teen

When choosing a treatment center for your child, you need to consider myriad factors — and you may have only one chance to get it right. With more than 14,000 rehab facilities in the United States alone, this task can feel overwhelming. Your child's situation is unique — get help picking just the right place for your teen to recover.


9 min read

Why Get Treatment?

Around 2 million kids in the U.S. qualify as needing help for their substance problems. Some problems won’t solve themselves. An addiction to drugs or alcohol is one of them. It usually begins innocently enough. Experimenting with substances is common among young people — more than a quarter of 16–17 year-olds drink alcohol, and 1 in 10 kids aged 12–17 are currently using illicit drugs.. But even a one-time experiment can beget more serious substance abuse. And sometimes, abuse can be a cause of addiction (a physical and psychological dependence).

It’s okay to admit your family needs help. Unfortunately, only 7% of addicted teens get a chance at rehab. And young men and women who go untreated are more at risk for additional woes, such as difficulty in school, trouble with the law, health problems and polysubstance abuse (i.e. abusing several substances at once). At the first signs of a substance problem, get your teenager to a doctor. If professional treatment is recommended, follow through on it and seek out rehab options. Every teen struggling with illicit drugs or alcohol has specific needs. There’s often no substitute for the personalized care that a treatment staff can offer.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab

The rehab options for teenagers are divided into two main categories: inpatient and outpatient drug rehab. The details can vary from program to program, which you’ll learn more about during your research of specific rehab centers. First and foremost, you’ll need to decide which avenue is the best fit for your teen’s recovery.

What Is Outpatient Treatment?

Outpatient rehab

Outpatient rehab allows the patient to continue living at home, while attending therapy and counseling sessions as often as possible. This rehab option is the more affordable one and, for teens with less substantial substance abuse patterns, is comparable in its success rates. Teens who choose outpatient treatment can usually continue going to school — at least semi-regularly — and not have to leave the comforts of their every day.

Your local clinic can explain what outpatient rehab options they offer. If your teen has a stable home life, momentum in their school progress and a strong sense of purpose, an outpatient program may better suit their needs and keep them on track. But if their addiction is more destructive — and their home, school and social lives are only fueling the addiction — their doctor may suggest inpatient treatment.

What Is Inpatient Treatment?

Inpatient rehab

Inpatient rehab is a rehab option known as “residential rehab.” This is a far more exhaustive, all-encompassing way for addicted teens to get help. Long-term residential treatment for drug addiction requires teens to leave their home and put their schooling on hold. They’ll stay onsite at a rehab facility, with comfortable amenities (e.g. bed, bathroom, clothing) and access to leisure activities as well. In fact, recreational time is often an integral part of the residential treatment process, in addition to therapy and the other facets of their program.

For teens with a serious problem, the day-to-day is often a constant battle — whether it’s a stressful time at home, difficulty fitting in at school and friends who influence their habit. An inpatient rehab program offers them an escape so they can eliminate distractions and focus only on getting better.

Other Types of Rehab Options

Alternate rehab

When choosing the right treatment for your teen, the options available to them depend on other factors surrounding their mental health. Around half of teens who struggle with substance abuse have a second, simultaneous psychiatric disorder. This is referred to as a dual diagnosis. If the doctor determines this to be the case, you need to seek out rehab options that accommodate this problem.

Teen Drug Rehab

Inpatient or outpatient teen drug rehab is designed to tackle adolescent substance abuse — by addressing its impact on the brain, and reshaping each patient’s attitudes towards this destructive habit. Around 9 out of 10 rehab facilities in the U.S. provide screening, assessment and diagnosis of these problems. Many of these 14,000 facilities specialize in treating adolescent substance abuse. Treatment for teen alcohol abuse is offered alongside treatment for other drugs. This is especially pertinent because alcohol trails only marijuana as the most commonly abused substance among teens. If your teen has a clinical substance use disorder, but is otherwise healthy, teen drug treatment can provide the most focused care and well-structured programs possible.

Dual Diagnosis Rehab

If your son or daughter suffers from dual disorders — a co-occurring substance problem and mental health disorder — drug rehab alone might not be the answer. Research shows that dual recovery programs are necessary to address both issues, as they are equally problematic and are somewhat intertwined. Nearly 70% of treatment centers provide screening for mental health disorders, but only specialized dual diagnosis treatment centers have the tools necessary to treat co-occurring disorders.

Dual recovery programs offer an integrated approach at every level. This includes:

  • Organizational – the staff is thoroughly trained and prepared for handling dual diagnosis patients
  • Assessment – the clinic approaches dual disorders as being interconnected, and tests the chemical and psychiatric health of patients accordingly
  • Delivery – rehab methods (e.g. therapy, counseling, medication) are structured to treat both disorders in equal measure

It’s critical that your teen is diagnosed by a doctor you can trust so that you can avoid misdiagnosis (i.e. an incorrect assessment of disorders). If your teen has dual disorders but is only diagnosed with one, this can set them up for failure when they attempt rehabilitation. Dual recovery programs are the only ones fully equipped to treat dual diagnosis in teenagers.

What to Look For

Mixed in with the many quality treatment facilities out there are companies that are simply out for your money. Just as with any industry, teen rehabilitation is not safe from untrustworthy people or companies that just aren’t up to par. Don’t put your child in the wrong hands — especially during this fragile, emotional time. Look for these characteristics when researching potential rehab options:

  • Licensing – licenses are required by federal law when a facility provides any aspect of treatment (e.g. detox, treatment planning, therapy). Ensuring that a facility is licensed right off the bat is an absolute must.
  • Accreditation – the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) assesses most major treatment centers for high standards of care. Their resources can let you know if the program you’re considering is accredited.
  • Success Rates – the success rate of teen recovery depends on a number of factors, including the region of the country, the number of patients, and the quality of both the staff and the facility. You should inquire about each rehab facility’s success rate when narrowing down your choices.
  • Quality Facilities – particularly if you’re considering inpatient treatment, you should tour the clinic and the living quarters where your teen will be staying. The quality of the facilities and the variety of amenities can play a large role in your teen’s experience and their likelihood of success.
  • Excellent Staff – if you don’t have a good feeling about the treatment staff, it’s likely your teen won’t either. Speak with as many doctors and other staff members as you can, and be fastidious — these are people you may eventually trust with your son or daughter’s future.

Things to Consider

consider these after rehab

In some cases, insurance can cover the cost of rehab. Some form of insurance is accepted at two-thirds of U.S. substance abuse treatment facilities. But if you don’t have insurance, you shouldn’t rule out rehab if your teen is in need — there are still other rehab options out there. More than 60% of rehab clinics use a sliding-fee scale. This takes into account your family’s economic status when determining the cost of care. You can also reach out to loved ones for help in putting the finances together. Take into consideration that your son or daughter’s mental and physical well-being is invaluable — it’s worth pulling together your resources to find them the best care.

Once rehabilitation is over, your child will need a good deal of guidance. Discuss aftercare options and other supplements to treatment (e.g. educational courses or skills training) when you meet with their doctor. Approximately 94% of clinics offer discharge planning and 69% offer follow-up meetings as part of their standard operating procedures. Continuing care services are offered by around 84% of rehab programs. These can include transitional housing (i.e. sober houses), prescription medications and referrals to local counselors or support groups. Consider the full scope of the rehab options available and how far the clinic is willing to go to help your teen.

Life After Rehab

Even if you get your child rehab, the journey is just beginning. Addiction and other mental health problems do not go away that easily. These are potentially lifelong ailments. While a successful treatment can minimize the effects, patients still have psychological impairments that may linger. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40–60% of addicts suffer a relapse at some point after rehab, meaning they slide back into substance use — even if only temporarily. And symptoms of mental health disorders (e.g. such as those of depression, anxiety or personality disorders) can creep back up when patients least expect it.

No matter which rehab option you choose, your teen will need your help long after it’s over. The four major dimensions that foster recovery are home, health, purpose and community. Many rehab clinics address these issues by:

  • Promoting healthy behaviors and social skill development
  • Encouraging community outreach
  • Offering employment counseling
  • Assisting in locating housing (in cases of broken homes, etc.)

But once rehab is over, it’s up to you to instill positive lifestyle changes. You should also see to it that your teen attends community support groups, such as Teen Addiction Anonymous and Dual Recovery Anonymous, and avoids high-risk situations or friends that are a bad influence. Your teen has the opportunity for a fresh start after rehab, but it won’t be a walk in the park. Your continued support will mean the world, and could be the difference between relapse and maintained recovery.

Does My Teenager Need Rehab?

If you notice signs that your teenager may be abusing substances, take action immediately. Whether or not your child is dealing with full-on addiction, now is the time to address this behavior, before it burgeons into a bigger problem. We at have spoken with many parents who wish they had acted sooner, when they first saw signs of substance use.

Your first order of business is to contact a professional, such as your child’s doctor, guidance counselor, a hotline, or one of our addiction advisors here at We offer free, confidential guidance for parents who are concerned about their child’s substance habits. If you believe your teen’s situation may require rehab, we can even provide you with a free list of facilities that specialize in your child’s issue, and give you details on preparing for rehab.

Whatever the situation, any signs of substance abuse merit a call to a professional. Be sure your child’s substance abuse is addressed the right way — call now, and we can help you get started.


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