Many parents feel uncertain and ill-prepared when their child has completed inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment. You probably have many questions about how to best support your teen’s recovery and you may be feeling extra pressure.
We put this guide together to answer those questions. We want to give parents hope that they can find tools and supports to make their families stronger, and deal with the complex and challenging situations that parents and children experience during the days, months and years after treatment.
Unfortunately, there is very little scientific evidence for parents on how to best support their child’s recovery. All of the information you’ll find here, however, is based on well-established behavioral principles, clinical experience and related research.
Keep in mind that each parent, child and family is unique. You’ll need to take into account your family’s strengths and weaknesses, the severity of your child’s substance use and the presence of co-occurring disorders. Most families will benefit from support and other professional help after their teen finishes treatment, including family therapy.
Sometimes the situation is complex and requires the help of a skilled professional who can help you learn about the options that are best for your family. Please note that the information you’ll find here does not take the place of a health professional whom you should collaborate with to help your teen manage his or her addiction.
We hope this guide will help you figure out what might best support your recovery journey together.
This material is the copyrighted work of The Treatment Research Institute and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. All rights reserved. Limited use and reproduction of this document is permitted for personal purposes only. Development of this tool was funded through grant #P50-DA02784 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Treatment, when it works well, does three things:
Continuing care is the phrase used to describe the activities that can occur after someone finishes addiction treatment. Sometimes the term “aftercare” is used. Continuing Care can involve:
Optimal but less frequently available continuing care options include:
Usually the nature and extent of continuing care varies by treatment facility. Some treatment centers offer very little continuing care, others will offer more. Most recommend a continuing care plan, often a 12-step program or less intensive care.
Ideally the time to start thinking about continuing care services is during treatment.
“Continuing Care is the support plan following addiction treatment.”
A month of treatment is, of course, a milestone for one suffering from substance abuse, however, it is only the beginning of recovery for an individual – the first step. The tools they learn in treatment have yet to be applied in the real world, the pressures of school, relationships, sports and work, all of which can sometimes be overwhelming.” - Denise Mariano
Definitely. When choosing a treatment program for your child, be sure to ask if continuing care is offered. Parents should discuss the treatment program’s policies on developing a continuing care plan and the details of that plan.
Ask the treatment staff questions about what will happen after the program ends as early as possible during the treatment process. This way, you will know what to expect and can explore alternatives to continuing care and community support services if the treatment program is not able to provide the needed support or give you referrals
“When choosing a treatment program for your child, be sure to ask if continuing care is offered.”http://continuingcare.drugfree.org/category/continuing-care/#174save this answer
An ideal continuing care plan should involve:
Better plans would include:
If the treatment program does not provide a continuing care plan, then you and your child will need to develop one, preferably with a counselor or medical professional. If your child has a probation officer, you may be able to work with this individual.
It is not always easy for teens to stick to a continuing care plan and it will likely require effort and support from all involved.
“Sticking to a support plan is not an easy thing to do, and will require effort and support from all involved.”http://continuingcare.drugfree.org/category/continuing-care/#176save this answer
The amount of care required after finishing a treatment program depends on the severity of the individual’s addiction.
More severe cases — indicated by perhaps earlier onset, dependence on multiple types of drugs, experiencing prior treatment episodes and relapses — might require more intensive and frequent outpatient continuing care sessions.
The continuing care plan should be adjusted periodically based on progress.
What the treatment program offers usually depends on its level of resources.
“A continuing care plan should be adjusted periodically based on progress.”http://continuingcare.drugfree.org/category/continuing-care/#178save this answer
Some treatment programs do offer support groups for parents after their child finishes the treatment program.
Some parents find family support groups — such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Families Anonymous and Smart Recovery — to be helpful, so consider looking for support groups available in your area.
As parents, we have to change our thoughts on what use to be — what OUR plans were for our children.” - Denise Mariano, parent
Just being with other parents who are experiencing the same things that I did, was very empowering…You need to take care of yourself too because you’ve got to stay strong; you’ve got to be stronger than your kid through this. Because if you don’t …how are you going to help your child?” - Carol Allen, parent
Research shows better outcomes for adolescents who attend AA/NA meetings after completing an initial treatment program. The tricky thing is finding a meeting that is geared toward a younger age group.
You can start by asking for referrals – here are some places to start:
Also keep in mind that the AA/NA central office – as well as an organization called Young People in Recovery – can arrange to have a young person who is well-established in recovery contact your child, and take him or her to a meeting.
What’s most important is that your child finds a meeting that he or she likes. Often it may take visiting several meetings to find a good fit.
“Help your child find a meeting that is geared toward a younger age group.”
For most people, maintaining recovery requires supports and services after formal treatment is completed.” - Anonymous