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A Positive Transition Home After Residential Treatment for Teens

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The goal of a residential treatment center for teens is to help adolescents develop coping strategies to sustain their mental health and lead a fulfilling, healthy life. During a residential therapy program, teens gain the tools they need to pursue their personal goals.

After completing treatment, teens have to apply these lessons to daily life. Returning to their normal responsibilities, relationships, and environments requires adjustment. Furthermore, this is especially true after experiencing the structure and constant support of a residential treatment facility.

It is perfectly natural for teens to struggle with the stress of returning home from residential treatment. However, resources and approaches are available to make this transition easier for teens and for their families.

Newport Academy Treatment Resources How To Help Teens Transition After Residential Treatment Support

Research has demonstrated that after-care is one of the top factors impacting the longevity of teen mental health recovery. After-care can take many forms. For example, day-long programs give teens support during the day and allow them to adjust to their home environments in the evening. Many residential treatment programs, such as those offered by Newport Academy, integrate after-care into their treatment models.

When a teen returns home after residential treatment, families will likely have questions and concerns about how they can assist them in transitioning back to life outside a teen treatment center. Here are six tips for parents and other family members that can help teens make the most of the lessons they learned in treatment and readjust to home life after rehab. Moreover, these tips will help the entire family function more harmoniously.

Newport Academy Treatment Resources How To Help Teens Transition After Residential Treatment Rehab

1. Understand that recovery is an ongoing process.

Residential treatment centers for teenage depression, troubled youth programs, teen alcohol treatment, and teen drug rehab strive to help troubled teens uncover the underlying causes of their self-destructive behavior. Therefore, adolescents can develop self-awareness and coping skills.

Read “Tips for Teen Stress Relief.”

Although troubled teen programs can help teens make a significant change, after-care is still necessary to help them reestablish the aspects of their life that may have been damaged before they entered treatment. After-care resources can reinforce the positive habits teens learn during treatment. Moreover, they may include a variety of resources aimed at providing social, academic, and psychological support.

Newport Academy Treatment Resources How To Help Teens Transition After Residential Treatment Recovery

2. Seek out resources ahead of time.

Parents can explore the mental health resources available in their community before committing to an approach. Teens will be more committed to their after-care if they play a significant role in choosing their after-care treatment strategies. However, it may take time to find programs that suit them well. Therefore, parents’ awareness of the local mental health care landscape will help speed up the process.

Research has demonstrated that, after attending a teen rehab center, teenagers are more successful at avoiding relapse when they attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings. In addition to such support groups, after-care may include tutoring, individual or family therapy, and mentorship programs. These resources are designed specifically to help parents navigate adolescents’ transition home from substance abuse programs for teenagers, residential programs for troubled youth, or residential treatment centers for depression.

3. Provide structure.

The clear and consistent structure of a residential mental health program helps teens regain control over their lives. Furthermore, it provides stability as they acquire new emotional coping skills. However, when teens move back home after rehab, the shift from a structured schedule to relative freedom and independence can often be shocking. Additionally, in many cases, coming home can dredge up familiar emotional challenges.

It is important for parents to provide stability after youth transition home, while at the same time respecting their boundaries and autonomy. Work with your teen to develop a plan for their ongoing therapy, academic expectations, and responsibilities at home to create a roadmap for success.

Read “How Parents Can Navigate Teen Independence.”

4. Be present.

Residential programs, such as those offered by Newport Academy, integrate family involvement into their treatment models to repair and sustain the family system. However, at times it can be difficult for families to restore bonds that have been strained by a teen’s emotional challenges and time in residential treatment.

When striving to create a supportive and enriching environment, parents shouldn’t underestimate the value of spontaneity. There are many things parents can do after their teen returns home to show caring and commitment to their recovery. Taking time out of your day to randomly send a text message, go on an outing, or simply sit down to watch TV together can help your teen feel cared for, while contributing to a sense of normalcy.

5. Prepare for minor setbacks.

As teens transition back to their daily routines after youth drug rehab, after alcohol rehab, or after teen depression rehab, they may struggle to avoid relapse and familiar emotional triggers. The stress of changing environments may cause students to revert to harmful behaviors. Thus, parents must be prepared to help teens adjust, with understanding and support.

Do your best not to be discouraged, and understand that minor setbacks are not an indication that treatment was ineffective. Rather, such setbacks are a normal part of the transition process as teens learn to manage their mental health more independently.

6. Establish trust and respect.

In order for parents to play an active role in their teen’s mental health, they must have their teen’s respect. Therefore, they can learn about what’s going on in their teen’s life without prying or violating their privacy.

One of the best ways to engender trust is to establish mutual respect. Once a teen has learned skills to manage their mental health independently, parents can continue to support their maturation process by listening to and valuing their opinions. Involve teens in family decisions and communicate openly and respectfully. Parents need to make it clear that they care about their teen’s views and opinions and trust their judgment.

Finally, a teen’s return home after residential treatment is a joyful yet challenging time. Knowing what to expect and being equipped with resources can help smooth the transition for the whole family.


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Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2011 Oct; 13(5): 416–421.