Moving On After A Troubled Teen Program

Now that your teen has successfully completed a troubled teen wilderness program or a residential program, what’s next? Graduating from a program does not mean that the work is done. The way towards healing has only just begun. The program will guide the teen towards self-discovery – knowing what his negative behaviors are and why he does it, as well as what to do to positively deal with it.

As parents, you have the important role of supporting your teen with his progress and in preventing any relapses from happening. Otherwise, the teen may most likely find himself going back to the downward spiral of troubled teen issues. Remember, you are in this for the long haul. Look for a program whose troubled teen services include an aftercare plan.

To ensure that the teen “hits the ground running,” here are some elements that can help the teen move on and move forward after completing a troubled teen residential program:

–          A positive home environment. The troubled teen program will equip your teen with coping skills and stress and anger management techniques. However, if he returns home with the same “toxic environment,” it can be quite easy for the teen to return to his previously problematic behaviors. If the teen is struggling with some addiction (drugs or alcohol), parents should provide an environment where the teens are not easily tempted into a relapse.

–          The family’s commitment. Ideally, all family members should talk and be united and committed to providing the teen with the support and understanding he needs. That is why the rest of the family should also have some form of training with regards to the coping skills and techniques that the teen learns. That way, the family is “in sync” as they provide the kind of environment the teen needs. This includes:

  • Modeling behavior. Parents can model anger management techniques, goal-setting skills, open communications, as well as having the right attitude in dealing with situations. As the teen sees the changes in his family, it can be easier for him to continue with the disciplines he learned from the program.
  • Providing structure and responsibilities. One goal of therapeutic school for teens is for the teen to learn to respect structure and ground rules. The parents should reinforce this at home, by giving the teen responsibilities, laying down the new ground rules, as well as implementing consequences for infractions. With some training, parents can be more aware of how they can actively avoid manipulations by the teen so that any gains made are not undermined.
  • Facilitating further treatment/interventions. After the program, the teen may still need to continue with therapy. As parents, work towards providing a smooth transition from the troubled teen program to the new therapist. This includes apprising the new therapist with any progress and insights the program’s therapist had while the teen was undergoing the program. If the teen will not get further therapy in the near future, it is also helpful for him to have a support group that can bolster his confidence.

–          A positive peer environment. Parents can work towards assisting the recovering teen to integrate into the community and with his peers by encouraging his involvement in sports, music or other interests. The teen can then begin to build a new set of friends, friends that can also serve as his “informal support group.”

–          After care support. When looking for a program, find one that provides aftercare support. The program should have a well-thought plan that provides parents with the new tools. For instance, it will be beneficial for parents to be equipped in guiding their teens to identify stressors or factors that may trigger a relapse in a recovering teen. Some factors include low levels of self-esteem, poor motivation and peer pressure.

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