Treatment, About Treatment, and Other Options

What is treatment?

Our son Ted says treatment is a place where one acquires education and enlightenment as to one’s addiction and is given tools and habits to embrace a new and different way of living apart from substances. Whether it’s a 180 degree change of thinking, a pursuit of one’s goals and dreams or a routine of getting and absorbing help, treatment covers it.

As with anything requiring practice, a longer time in treatment might be better, but 30 days residential seems to be the norm according to insurance coverage. Out-patient treatment may be required first by insurance or may follow residential. Ted did 90 days in residential treatment, 30 days in a half-way house, a summer home working full time and going to meetings under a sponsor’s guidance, and then to a collegiate recovery program at Augsburg College to finish his college education.

In my experience personally and with others I’ve helped I would suggest asking questions of the treatment facility.


  • About insurance coverage. This was a bit vague and murky for us when I checked Ted in and the following week. Maybe I was just mentally vague and murky, but it took tenacity to get straight-up answers. Keep asking or ask for a personal contact who will advocate for you.  See Treatment Specialist Ben Bertsch’s Just Keep Going Parents blog on navigating treatment here. (Have you signed up for my blog of encouragement and education?)
  • About a timetable for your loved one’s tenure. They may not know until they get a feel for where he or she is in his or her condition. There may be twists, turns and tweaks.
  • About your personal contact/visits at the treatment center and their protocol for inquiries about your loved one.
  • About parent/child communication with the treatment center, and also with your loved one.
  • About educational programs for the family and suggested reading.
  • About where you can get help for yourself while your loved one gets the help he or she needs. Remember, we all need to change to bring change. Or, click here on Help for the Family.

And know that…

For me, and as I’ve walked alongside parents whose children are in treatment, I’ve found some things to be common:

  • Most likely the treatment center will not be overly communicative with you. Expect that they won’t. I know, we’re dying to know what’s going on, but we need to trust the process and understand that the treatment center can’t possibly keep in regular contact with parents or there would be no time to do their jobs. It’s so very hard to be hands off, but this is a good time to start letting go and letting God.  Ask questions and voice concerns when you have the opportunity.
  • Don’t micro-manage your child’s treatment. Visit. Ask your loved one questions about the content and if they want to share what they’re learning, otherwise, let them talk about what they want to talk about. I would almost venture to say, don’t have an opinion about how treatment  professionals should be doing this or that. This isn’t their first rodeo.  I remember meeting the treatment spiritual care coordinator off site and taking her arm to give her some advice on Ted. She gently but confidently told me that they know how to untangle addiction, but thank you. :)  Smiley face needed here because now I think it’s funny. She was right. I can only imagine what she was thinking when I gave her advice on how to do her job.
  • Regarding the previous point, if you have a concern, find a place to voice it with the counselor or appropriate source. When I could, I asked if Ted and his counselor had addressed something that concerned me. They had not and the counselor thought it was very important to know.
  • Don’t freak out if your child doesn’t like treatment and doesn’t want to be there. No one wants to be there. That’s normal. It’s a whole different context than using chemicals to do life, and it’s hard work. Take your worries about that to Al Anon, to God and to your journal.  Call a confidant, 12-step sponsor or your own counselor if you need to vent.
  • It’s gonna be awkward at first. No one knows how to act. We’ve never done this before and we’re all walking on eggshells. So just know that and accept it as part of the package. Besides our Friends and Family Program on Saturdays (some have them all at once on consecutive days), I could take Ted to Starbucks off campus for a few hours a week. I was unsure of myself as a parent — what to say, how to encourage. I guess in the end it was just important for Ted to know we supported and loved him. Not a bad idea to come out and admit that we’re all new at this recovery thing. We’ll make mistakes and fall into old behavior once in a while, but if we are gentle with each other, honest and loving, we’ll trudge through to a wide open place. Everyone is practicing how to do our new family normal.
  • Enjoy life while he or she is in treatment. You have earned it. Tomorrow has enough trouble of its own, as Jesus said, so don’t borrow it for today. Go for a get-away with your spouse or friends. See some movies. Read your stack of books or go downtown for dinner. Pay attention to your other children.
  • I remember driving down Pilgrim Road when Ted started treatment and beginning to worry (old habits die hard). Then I thought, “NO. I am going to be happy. My child is getting help and that’s the best thing that could happen and what I’ve so desperately wanted. I’m going to spend my energy thanking God for what is, celebrate the good and rejoice in the moment. And, I’m going to sleep very, very well — and a lot.
  • When a child is approaches the end of treatment, parents have so many questions and some fears. has this continuing care guide available. My Kid Just Completed Addiction Treatment. Now What?  Great resource.

Consider This

Compass Educational Consulting

We found out about Compass while Ted was already weeks into treatment. I called owner Dr. Judi Bessette anyway and was amazed that this resource exists.  Judi helps parents wade through the myriads of treatment options for their troubled teen.  It’s an excellent service for parents who have no idea what help is available, how to narrow down the options and navigate insurance — which is most of us. The process can be overwhelming to be sure.       Compass Consulting

Judi has extensive experience as a professional in the treatment arena and personal experience as well. Her company was born of her own frustrations in finding help for her son. There’s a fee of course, but Compass can save you quite a lot of money by finding a treatment program that is the right fit for your child.  Judi also saves time, anxiety and confusion while you’re in a place of emotional vulnerability. She is well-loved by those who know her — including me.  Not just addiction problems, Compass Consulting works with teens in depression and emotional challenges.

Read a personal note from Judi.

Avoid getting overwhelmed by treatment choices

Treatment facility choices can be overwhelming apart from the quality Midwestern big ones, Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation, RosecranceRogers Memorial and Nova. It’s often a good idea for our loved one to get out of Dodge. Acadia Healthcare has a premier site in Tucson and other sites around the country. For personal service, pick up the phone and talk to our friend Ben Bertsch, a Treatment Placement Specialist. His drumbeat is getting people the specialized help they need at whatever treatment facility is the best fit.

Tentative or freaked out and need a filter? I would encourage you to call Judi Bessette at Compass Consulting (above) to see the broad spectrum of services available here and across the country.  She has seen over 250 of them and she knows them well. She can cater her suggestions to your insurance, budget, the child’s needs of course.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)  has a helpful “Find Treatment” locator page by address, city or zip code.

Financial constraints?

Teen Challenge is a low-cost affordable Christian treatment program (my understanding is that you don’t have to be a Christian, but just know the foundation of their treatment is Christian-based.)  Their centers are located all over the country. Important note: Teen Challenge is not just for teens. They accept adults as well.

The Salvation Army also provides substance abuse help. Explore their website for particulars.

Many treatment centers have scholarships available or financial provisions. It never, ever hurts to ask.

12-Step Programs (Free)

Alcoholics Anonymous

AA logo

Alcoholics Anonymous is not a treatment program, however people can and do get clean and sober here. Whether the primary or supplemental sobriety destination, plain and simple, it’s a place to go for someone who wants to stop  drinking.  There are meetings everywhere, day and night and it’s free.  The only requirement is a desire to stop drinking.

Narcotics Anonymous                        images

For those who prefer to zero in on the difference between alcohol and drug addiction, Narcotics Anonymous is based on the same 12-step principles and traditions.  It is not treatment, but it is free and a place of hope and help.

There’s pretty much an Everything Addictive Anonymous program. A Google search will point you in the right direction.