Elk River Teen Treatment Program

Recognizing Recovery as a Journey Through Stages of Change

September should be the beginning of an ongoing conversation about the dangers of substance use

September is National Recovery Month

September 27, 2021

This year’s theme for National Recovery Month is “Recovery is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community. Using the same therapeutic model to treat every person regardless of age seeking recovery would be a mistake and relapse statistics for adolescents appear to back up that statement.

Parents will be alarmed to learn that some studies report relapse rates within the first year post treatment for ages 12 – 17 years old somewhere between 55% and 90%,” according to Recovery Research Institute.

“Adolescents are not little adults and their treatment should be developmentally appropriate,” said the Director of Clinical Services for Elk River Treatment Program for adolescents, Penny Baker, LPS-S. With 30+ years of experience working with teens struggling with behavior, mental health and substance use issues, Baker emphasizes the importance of treating adolescents with substance use issues with methods appropriate for their age group, versus using older substance abuse models that were designed for adults and are often ineffective for adolescent treatment.

Since it opened in 2006, the Elk River Treatment Program has used individualized treatment approaches when treating substance use disorders in adolescents. The individualized model takes into consideration the developmental stage, emotional maturity, social influences, and family dynamics in the treatment approach.

“Substance use is often the trigger that prompts parents to call our admissions department,” said Kathy Marino, LPC. Marino has worked with adolescents and their families since 1993 and has been the Director of Admissions for Elk River Treatment Program since 2012. “But substance use is almost always the symptom of an underlying mental health issue,” Marino said. Elk River Treatment Program is staffed to care for adolescents with co-occurring diagnoses.

Elk River Treatment Program focuses on the identification of the root cause or core issue that led to the misuse of substances as a maladaptive coping skill. To learn more about Elk River’s Cognitive Behavior Therapy approach, visit On Air with Elk River featuring a podcast dedicated to the Courage Circle.

Baker also pointed out that Elk River Treatment Program utilizes the Counseling Stages of Change to teach adolescents a model that they can implement in any part of their life to assist in making necessary changes.

The Counseling Stages of Change

Providing in depth psychoeducation on the Counseling Stages of Change empowers adolescents to identify their own stage of change. By learning to identify if they are in the precontemplative, contemplative, preparation, or action stage of making a change, empowers them to implement the skills necessary to work towards progressing to the next stage of change.

Increased self-awareness and understanding of the stages we go through when we are deciding to change a behavior, helps the adolescent better identify how to make those changes currently and in the future. The program also teaches parents how to identify which stage of change their child is in, which will assist the parent in adjusting their parenting style to best assist their child in moving to the next stage of change.

This Cognitive Behavior Therapy model (CBT) is even more effective as it is being accomplished with a support group at the residential program at Elk River. “The sense of belonging and experiencing the support of their peers assures teens that they are not alone,” Baker said. In addition to therapy, ongoing participation in a support group like AA, NA, or Celebrate Recovery may provide an adolescent with ongoing support and belonging to a group focused on recovery.

Adolescent development is marked by the increased importance of peer groups and peer influence. The Elk River Treatment Program takes advantage of this developmental milestone by assisting in providing group activities that promote leadership, healthy recreational activities, peer support, and group accountability. This provides additional motivation for maintaining prosocial behavior based on healthy relationships and peer influence.