Treating Teens at the Phoenix Academies - An Inpatient Model

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The Phoenix Academies are residential high schools where teenagers in treatment for substance use can make up schooling they have missed. At the Academies, adolescents are held to a strict code of behavior. Living, studying and working together, they form a tightly-knit, highly structured community in which each member is responsible for the well-being of all the others. Treatment focuses on raising self- awareness and acquiring new values and attitudes. Clinical professionals supervise daily life and counselors work closely with teachers to provide seamless integration of treatment and education. The academies engage families in the treatment process and family members take part in educational seminars, group sessions and individual counseling sessions.

There are 11 Phoenix Academies located throughout the country (for location and contact information, see the Phoenix House website. In addition to these residential programs, Phoenix House provides outpatient treatment for teenagers.

Locating Residential Treatment for Adolescents

For many families, a Phoenix Academy may not be an accessible option. But a number of other programs throughout the country provide similar treatment and benefits. To locate them, contact your state or local substance abuse agency or go to the federal government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) website . You may also call the agency's referral helpline at 1-800- 662-HELP.

What to Look for in a Residential Treatment Program for Teens

Suitability - Does the program meet the needs of adolescents?

Is the program clearly designed for teens (most programs have been developed for adults) and are there plenty of kids there the same age as yours?

You want to know about:

  • the program's treatment approach and methods
  • discipline
  • behavioral problems of other youngsters there
  • daily activities
  • how the program helps kids deal with the normal emotional stresses of adolescence

Assessment - Does the program carefully screen candidates for admission to determine if it can provide the most appropriate treatment for your child?

  • What are the criteria for admission?
  • When is admission denied?
  • What does the program do for youngsters who do not fit its client profile?

Treatment Length - How long should residential treatment last?

  • Treatment length depends upon individual need.
  • Residential programs for most teens should generally last longer than three months and rarely more than 12.

Facility and amenities - Is the setting home-like or does it have an institutional character?

  • Is the facility clean and well maintained?
  • How many youngsters share a room?
  • Is the food wholesome and well prepared?
  • Are there adequate recreational resources?

Education - What educational services does the program provide?

  • Is there a full academic program or just tutoring?
  • How will the program ensure that your child will not fall behind in school?
  • What provision is made for kids with special needs?

Holding Power - Because most youngsters who enter treatment programs fail to complete them, you need to know:

  • Will this program be able to engage your child in the treatment process? (It won't be immediate. You should expect resistance at first and be prepared to ignore tearful pleadings to be brought right home.)
  • Is the mood of the program upbeat and positive?
  • Do most youngsters there seem comfortable and at ease with the program's demands?

Family Involvement - Family participation is essential, so make sure:

  • You and other family members will be involved in the treatment process.
  • The program offers family support services.
  • There will be an assigned staff member for you to contact.
  • You should also feel free to ask to speak to parents of other adolescents who have participated in or completed the program.

Staffing - Is the program staff adequate in size and professional qualification?

  • Is there a full-time or part-time psychiatrist or other mental health professional on the treatment team?
  • What professional credentials and licenses do staff counselors have?

Aftercare - Because the danger of relapse is greatest in the first months following treatment, you need to know:

  • What provisions are made for continuing care?
  • Are their support groups for youngsters leaving the program?

Effectiveness - Few programs have long-term outcome studies, but you should be able to ask for some information on completion and subsequent behavior.

  • How many youngsters who enter the program remain beyond three months and how many stay to the end?
  • How many kids who completed treatment during the past year are:
  • Drug-free?
  • Back in school?
  • Still involved with the program?