Why Activities Are Critical for Adolescents in Addiction Recovery

Adolescent boys canoeing during addiction recoveryEven amidst recovery, adolescents need the time and space to engage with others in the present moment. For many pre-teens, overwhelming thoughts and emotions can hold them back from embracing what is the “here and now” – and for many pre-teens, this is the time when mental health conditions – such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and more start to develop. If your pre-teen is currently struggling with substance abuse, treatment at Cumberland Heights is the next step for them.

What Adolescents Experience

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that half of all mental health conditions arise by age 14, yet many are left untreated and undetected. When adolescents are faced with serious mental health symptoms such as panic attacks, anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, depressive thought patterns, loneliness, isolation and more, they may feel too uncomfortable turning to their parents for help. One teen shared their story of mental illness through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Here is an excerpt from their story:

“…Every night I would run it around in my head, what and how will I tell my friend that I’m crazy and can’t control it? Will she be OK with it? Will she laugh? Is she going to stay being my friend?”

Because of the fears behind reaching out for help, adolescents may turn to substances. Drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and more may quickly feel like the only solution to an otherwise unbearable problem.

If teens experience difficult circumstances at home – such as divorce, abuse of any kind, heavy substance abuse or other concerning circumstances, they’re going to need to find an outlet – and substances may seem to mask some of the most painful feelings in such a quick way. WHO notes that adolescents and teens are at high risk for abusing harmful substances as a way to cope with poor mental health – and that’s why treatment should address these concerns in ways that allow adolescents to discover for themselves their place in society.

Activities in Addiction Recovery

Fun-filled activities have purpose in addiction recovery. They create a safe space for adolescents to be present, in the moment, having fun. For teens who are under a lot of stress at home or school, fun activities give them a chance to bring out their inner kid – to explore, to learn new things, to harness their skills, to connect with others and so much more. A 2016 study published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review found that these youth components can even foster family relationships and provide a more positive outlook towards the future as adolescents fully submerge themselves in activities that they wouldn’t otherwise engage in.

Examples of fun activities for teens in recovery include:

  • Canoeing
  • Horseback riding
  • Rock climbing
  • Ropes courses
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Bowling
  • And more

While it may seem that these activities don’t promote healing deeper than the surface level, they truly do. Thoughts and emotions that are difficult for adolescents to communicate may easily be understood through group activities, and pre-teens may find that they’re able to explain what they’re feeling after they’ve had a healthy amount of time to process their thoughts.

The University of Chicago states that treatment for teens should focus on both competence enhancement and social influence models – because teens heavily rely on how they fit within society to navigate their lives. Experiential therapy (the activities listed above and more) help adolescents build their decision-making skills, along with being better able to relate to others – which places them in a better stance for making friends who promote their mental, physical and spiritual health. Through bonding activities, teens are likely to understand that they’re not alone – and that there are others who have gone through similar pains and who also want to make the most of their lives.

Helping Your Adolescent Recover

Your teen may not fully understand the effects that addiction has on their mind, body and spirit, and that’s why it’s crucial for them to seek helpful from a team who truly cares about them – such as the team at Cumberland Heights. If not treated early, adolescents may go on to experience addiction for years to come; if treatment is sought early on, there are many cognitive, behavioral and social tools that pre-teens can learn to better manage some of the hard emotions they’re experiencing.

Emily Fisher, now a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, shared on her blog, Your Teen Mag, how thankful she was that her parents stood up for her health when she couldn’t. She stated,

“So, I want to say to parents, ‘Be that person. Be that protector, that guardian that you want to be, in the most innate way you know how. Connect with your children. Communicate with them.”

Be the voice for your child – you never know just how much of an impact it could have on them.

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.