Preparing our children for the future is complicated, and teenage substance abuse is not always on the radar. When a teen needs an addiction rehabilitation program, knowing what to expect may help them succeed. If your teen is entering a rehab program, ask these five questions to help them prepare.

1. What can my child take to rehab?

Many rehab centers offer a list of items to bring when entering a program. Typically, this includes clothing, shower shoes, prescription medications, toiletries, reading material, a journal and long-distance calling cards.

There are also several common items that your teen should not bring to rehab. These items usually include anything that contains alcohol or drugs (mouthwash, cough medicine, pain medication), cell phones, laptops and outside food or drinks.

Each facility is different, and asking for a list of approved items will eliminate an awkward first encounter when your child arrives at rehab.

2. What will rehab be like?

Drug rehab programs share some core similarities but can be very different as well. Asking for specifics of the program and amenities offered can help you and your teen decide on a treatment program.

Many facilities offer a daily schedule, so residents know what to expect and what is expected of them. Schedules are very structured and usually include individual and group therapy, 12-step support meetings, educational courses and free time.

3. Can my teen still go to school?

At an inpatient substance abuse treatment program, residents are required to stay on campus and usually are not allowed to leave for school. However, many facilities offer academics as part of the daily schedule. Although your child will be required to miss classes at home, schooling on-site will help continue their education.

4. Can my child talk to family and friends?

There are usually rules and guidelines regarding external communication at substance abuse facilities. Initially, the resident needs to stay focused on treatment, and outside communication is generally discouraged. As time goes on, telephone and other privileges can be earned, and communication is allowed as long as the rules are followed.

5. Will rehab cure my teen's addiction?

Rehab will provide tools to help your teen achieve sobriety, but it is not a magic cure for addiction. Staying away from drugs and alcohol, using the tools gained in rehab, and the desire to remain sober are all part of living a drug- and alcohol-free life. The entire family will likely need to make some overall changes to maintain a sober lifestyle for your child.

Sending your teen to rehab can feel overwhelming, but it is manageable. Opening the lines of communication, especially about their recovery, is a good starting point. Knowing what questions to ask and reaching out to different facilities can help you find one that is best suited for the unique needs of your child.


Jennifer Cousineau is a full-time writer for Addiction Campuses and lives in Northern Michigan. She received her Master of Science in Clinical Psychology from the University of Texas at Tyler, specializing in Neuropsychology. In addition to being employed as a psychometrist and neuropsychology assistant in the private sector, Jennifer has provided diagnostic assessment, intensive outpatient (IOP) services, addiction counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, career counseling, and individual and group treatment programs in a multitude of environments. Jennifer also received training in Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) methods.

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