What Adolescents Need from Treatment: Your Ultimate Guide

Understanding What Adolescents Need from Treatment

A few years ago, the National Public Radio (NPR) addressed the concern of adolescents in addiction recovery. The article emphasized the fact that teens and adolescents simply cannot receive a “one-size-fits-all” form of adult treatment; in fact, this age group needs specialized treatment that suits their learning and development stage in life. Jennifer Weiss-Burke of Albuquerque, N.M., told NPR about her own adolescent who struggled with heroin addiction – and later died of an overdose. She stated,

“It was never enough. Thirty days here, 30 days there, maybe detox for five days. It was never long-term, and that’s what he needed. Recovery from heroin addiction requires long-term treatment.”

The Needs of Adolescents in Treatment

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that part of adolescent treatment is guiding adolescents to understand the effects of substance abuse and its consequences for the individual, family and society as a whole. There are many treatment options that can be used to help teens – and supervision is necessary to ensure they adhere to the rules. The following are some of the most evidence-based treatment approaches:


  • Group Therapy – adolescents can gain peer support while engaging in meaningful discussions related to myths of drug use, recovery goals and more.
  • Adolescent Community Reinforcement – by replacing negative influences in their lives with positive ones, teens can adapt to greater communication skills as well as enhanced participation in recovery activities.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – an evidence-based practice, CBT can help teens identify negative thought processes and discover new ways of approaches thoughts for both relapse prevention and happier living.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) – some teens are ambivalent about seeking treatment, and this type of counseling aids them in exploring the benefits and costs of obtaining help.
  • 12-Step Programs – the 12-Step program has helped many people in strengthening their sense of spirituality, and many teens find that once they focus on others more than themselves, their life becomes more fulfilling.


  • Brief Strategic Family Therapy – over 12-16 sessions, a counselor observes how families and adolescents interact with one another; from there, the counselor can help families adjust to healthier patterns of interaction so as to improve the family dynamic.
  • Family Behavior Therapy – families and adolescents work together to select approaches to treatment while learning new strategies for working together. Then, they’re able to apply what they’ve learned outside of treatment and reconvene to see what works and what doesn’t.
  • Functional Family Therapy – behavioral techniques for families and adolescents are covered, such as communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution and parenting skills.
  • Multidimensional Family Therapy – this type of therapy may integrate schooling and family therapy into one, so that families may gain an understanding of how their adolescent is performing in academic settings alongside recovering from addiction.
  • Multisystemic Therapy – a therapist will work with the family as a whole, as well as with the adolescent and family alone; a comprehensive look will explore characteristics of the adolescent and how they’re performing in all areas of life.

Recovery Support

At Cumberland Heights, adolescents are offered a number of recovery support services to make their stay an easy transition:

  • School and support services – adolescents can attend an accredited private high school designed to help specifically adolescents recovering from addiction
  • Meditation – teens can learn breathing techniques and stay in the present moment, which will help them better manage difficult thoughts and emotions
  • Prepared group meals – these “together” times can help build a teen’s social support network
  • Recreation – fun activities, such as ropes challenges and adventure therapy, can get teens out of their comfort zone and into the present moment
  • Group or individual therapy – adolescents will engage in meaningful discussions that open their heart – and mind – to what others are going through and how their behavior impacts those around them
  • Personal time – to reflect and practice self-care in recovery

A Tailored Program: Obtaining Education In Recovery

Time Magazine emphasized the importance of allowing teens to earn their GED while in addiction recovery – because adolescents’ lives shouldn’t be put to a halt just because they’re in treatment. A 2017 study conducted by researchers from Vanderbilt University found that students in recovery schools – such as the one provided by Cumberland Heights – are significantly more likely to maintain abstinence from alcohol and other drugs 6 months into the program than those who don’t. Furthermore, students are likely to be less absent and are more likely to participate in their treatment program.

Many adolescents elsewhere are unable to attend school while in treatment due to the harsh climate and judgment cast on them. At Cumberland Heights, however, there’s a supportive environment that fosters open communication and healing – and teens who attend this school are working towards healing and restoration. If you believe your teen could benefit from this type of program, speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights today.

Adolescent Recovery of Cumberland Heights (ARCH) originally began in 1985 when there were few other adolescent programs like it in the country. In 2019, we’re expanding our continuum of services with ARCH Academy, a unique program located in Kingston Springs that offers 60 days to 6 months of residential care to adolescent boys ages 14-18 who are struggling with alcohol and/or drug addiction. This new program stems from Cumberland Heights, which has been around since 1966, and is located in Nashville, Tennessee. The adolescent age is a critical time for development, making this a crucial time of positive influence. For more information, call us today at 1-800-646-9998