There’s no arguing that Adolescent Treatment affects the adolescent’s whole family. For people struggling with Teen Mental Health and Substance Abuse disorders, treatment at any age often affects and to some extent, disrupts, the lives of those closest to the person. However, for teenagers, the affects can be even more profound, especially on immediate family. Though this is true for a number of reasons, one of these is simply that the majority of the teen’s struggles occur, and/or are exhibited at home. Almost always, many of the symptoms of this struggle (such as a desire to isolate and disengagement of responsibilities) inevitably lead to conflicts, which lead to overall stress and unrest of the parents, and furthermore, the whole family. In this sense, we recognize that adolescent treatment is uniquely connected to the experience of the teen’s family members and to this end, offer a number of support services to meet these needs.
Our Sibling Support Services are specifically designed to help support siblings with teens in treatment. For siblings of teens that are struggling with Mental Health or Substance Abuse Disorders, it can be an overwhelming time of frustration, fear, anger, and confusion. It’s common for siblings to feel neglected or overlooked as their siblings get so much negative attention for the struggles they’re facing. Siblings might also feel like, despite their positive efforts and good behavior, the other teen continues to get more of the focus in the family, which can lead to frustration and resentments, over time. When the sibling is younger than the teen, he/she will probably have a lot of questions about why certain things have changed, what the problem is, and why the parents are upset. And in still other cases, where teenagers might have already had multiple attempts at a treatment setting, siblings might feel tired and discouraged about continuing to pour out time and effort, hoping the sibling will change and things will improve. All of these feelings can lead to the sibling relationship becoming particularly strained, which contributes to the tension in the relationships with parents as well.
In addition to group and individual family sessions, we offer Sibling Support Services to help meet the specific needs of siblings of teens in treatment. These services involve sessions with therapists, as well as guidance through family sessions and even specific sibling sessions. The goal of this program is for the siblings to have the direct and intentional support of our treatment team members, in helping them work through their own thoughts, emotions, and conflicts, due to their siblings’ Mental Health or Substance Abuse struggles.
What we find is that often, just the mere opportunity for siblings to have intentional support, outside their parents, can be extremely encouraging for them. Having the opportunity to express their own experience of their sibling’s struggles and share “their side” of the story can alleviate any fears or insecurities they might have about how their siblings and/or others perceive them, within the family context. Furthermore, in working with our therapists, siblings feel more prepared and equipped to deal with their siblings and families, both during the treatment stay, and upon being back at home together. Lastly, including the siblings in their own unique realm of the treatment process can help them to feel less alienated and separate from what’s happening in the house, and can even help them to develop more sympathy and compassion for the struggles their sibling is facing. This, in turn, can help to make family sessions more productive and healthy, as the siblings can often play a very powerful role in encouragement and acceptance, once the groundwork for that support is provided.
All in all, our individual teen sessions are designed to work synergistically with our individual family and group family sessions, and our Sibling Support Services. We believe that by addressing the teen both independently and within the family, we help to provide the whole family with the support and resources necessary to help support the teen’s recovery, while also remaining healthy and capable of supporting themselves.