With Jim Savage, LCDC


Some Straight Talk About Adolescent Drug Rehab

January 22, 2017


2. The family in treatment

A second issue I see has to do with the family's participation in treatment with the client. It's not uncommon for parents to regard drug treatment like taking the car into the repair shop. Drop it off, pick it up later, and expect the problem to be fixed.

Straight talk: Parents who remain stuck in this view have a dramatically lower chance of treatment success for their child. To the contrary, those who understand their child's success is largely impacted by their own involvement in the treatment process have a much greater chance for treatment success.

Solution: Be prepared to participate in treatment with your child.

     • Learn everything you possibly can about how addiction treatment works.

     • Follow through when you are told about the importance of establishing your

       own recovery.

3. The importance of outpatient treatment

For teens who begin treatment in a residential program, a common dynamic that occurs at the time of discharge is, “Whew, glad that's over!”, and the importance of ongoing care at the outpatient level is minimized and discounted. After all, it's only a few hours a week, right? Piece of cake! The reality is that most treatment failure occurs during outpatient treatment.

Straight talk: IOP treatment is a big deal and needs to be taken seriously.

     • Make sure you have a program that is providing adequate structure and  

       fulfilling the needs for this important level of care.

     • Make sure you are following through with all treatment recommendations.

Solution: Use the continuum of care as a guideline for where your child is in the treatment process and don't quit before your done. (See diagram below)

Treatment success is the obvious hope for every parent who has a child in treatment for substance use disorder. When talking about success rates, I frequently say that treatment success is either 0% or 100%; it depends on the individual. The good news is there is much parents can do to impact the outcome. Regard “treatment success” as an interactive process in which the family has much more to do than is generally realized and give your child the best chance for being in the 100% category.

It's becoming an all-to-familiar scenario: A teen is placed is in treatment for a substance use disorder. The family spends lots of money, invests lots of time, and becomes hopeful that they are “getting their child back.” The teen is discharged, and within weeks everything has blown up and they're right back to where they were a few months earlier.

It doesn't have to be this way.

In over 20 years of working with teens in outpatient substance abuse treatment, I've learned a few things about what works and what doesn't work when it comes to helping a young person achieve successful recovery. Here are a few key points I'll offer for parents who want to give their child the best chance for treatment success.

1. Take back control

When addiction occurs in a family system, the family ends up revolving around the addict. (See video below) He or she is the one who is in control. It all starts with taking control back from the addict. Placing a teen in rehab is a big first step in this process, but this is just the beginning of setting new boundaries that will need to be maintained over time. Parents will continue to be tested along these lines.

Straight talk: One of the first problems I see that contributes to treatment failure is the inability or unwillingness of parents to take control back from the teen.

Solution: Make it a top priority to continue learning and getting feedback about how you are doing with regard to taking control back and restoring healthy family boundaries.

Valuable treatment resources for parents and teens:


The new book by Jim Savage spells out everything parents need to know to navigate the road to successful adolescent drug treatment.



Journey To Recovery is a new adolescent substance abuse program at Dallas Recovery Center.



The Rehab Works! Parent Support Program is a weekly group designed for parents of adolescent and young adult treatment clients to attend while your child is in treatment. LEARN MORE >>