Medically Reviewed

How to Choose a Recovery Center for Your Teen

2 min read · 4 sections

How to Choose a Recovery Center for Your TeenOnce you’ve come to the conclusion that your teen needs help with a substance addiction, the type of treatment center to choose for their recovery can be daunting. There are several things that can play into your decision on which recovery center you select.

Dual Diagnosis

If your child has been diagnosed with a mental-health condition that is being affected by or affects their substance abuse, treatment facilities need to be carefully assessed with the help of your child’s physician. Not every recovery center may be able to provide exactly the right combination of care and attention that your teen may need.

Criminal Justice System Involvement

If your teenager has been ordered to seek treatment in lieu of incarceration, there are treatment facilities that have programs geared towards helping your teen resolve the issues that led them to substance abuse.

Type of Facility

There are two general types of recovery treatment centers to explore. Outpatient treatment centers allow the individual to remain at home while residential treatment facilities provide a long or short-term experience away from home.

  • Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is typically considered for people who have day-time obligations (i.e.: school or work) and have a large and solid social base that can help provide support. Outpatient recovery centers offer many of the same types of programs as residency-based centers, but the intensity of treatment is not always the same. Typically, low-intensity outpatient centers are modeled to provide drug education and group counseling, so one-on-one treatment should not be expected.

  • Short-term Residential Treatment

Originally founded to treat alcohol abuse and therefore based on a modified 12-step approach, short-term residential programs provide a short-term but intensive treatment option. In most cases, patients can expect to reside on location for a duration of three to six weeks. This hospital-based treatment phase works to help your teen to overcome the addiction and properly deal with any side effects while detoxing. Participation in therapy sessions, either individually or as part of a group, is a central component of the time spent at the facility while working to recover. 

  • Long-term Residential Treatment

With planned stays ranging between 6 to 12 months, long-term recovery centers offer the most comprehensive care to their residents. Centers provide round-the-clock care, usually in a non-hospital setting often called a “therapeutic community” (TC).

This type of treatment facility employs the use of everyone there (staff and other residents) to help the individual to overcome their social and psychological deficits. Through highly-structured and sometimes confrontational treatment, residents are encouraged to be socially responsible and productive while developing their personal sense of accountability – all considered critical components of a successful recovery. Therapy is also mandated here as well as it “examines damaging beliefs, self-concepts, and destructive patterns of behavior and adopt new, more harmonious and constructive ways to interact with others.” 1

Following stays in residential treatment programs, it is important for individuals to remain engaged in outpatient treatment programs and/or aftercare programs. These programs help to reduce the risk of relapse once a patient leaves the residential setting.

Other Considerations

Choosing a rehab center for your teen
There are many other things that need to be considered when choosing a rehab center for your teen. Just some examples include the following:

  • What are the types of treatment offered (behavior modification, pharmaceutical administration, a combination of the two)?
  • Will my child have the opportunity to continue their education (if your teen is in a long-term facility)?
  • What involvement will family and friends have in the treatment?
  • What is the facility’s cost and will the location add to my expenses (trips to and from can add up)?

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “no standard definitions exist for specific types of programs. The programs are not regulated by the federal government, and many are not subject to state licensing or monitoring as mental health or educational facilities, either.”2

They advise visiting potential rehab centers and asking lots of questions. To help you with knowing what to ask, they have put together an excellent document Residential Treatment Programs for Teens (accessible online – see footnote #2) that address things you should be asking of the treatment facility and its staff to help you make a decision on what type of recovery center would be best for your teen.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).
  2. Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information (2008). Residential Treatment Programs for Teens.
Need more info?
American Addiction Centers Photo
Take the first step towards recovery.
American Addiction Centers Photo
Make the process simple. Ensure your benefits cover treatment.
American Addiction Centers Photo
Explore American Addiction Centers locations nationwide.
View Our Treatment Centers