Guiding Teens Toward Healing: The Role of Substance Abuse Counseling for Teenagers
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Recovering from a substance use disorder includes many types of treatments, one of these being counseling. Substance abuse counseling for teens plays a pivotal role in the healing process and for teens looking to reach long-term sobriety. During counseling, teens receive professional guidance as they talk about their addictions and the problems that lead them there.

We will look closer at the objectives of substance abuse counseling for teenagers, the different types of counseling, and how teens can benefit from this type of treatment.

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Objectives of Substance Abuse Counseling for Teens


When a teen enters a teen substance abuse program, they will first face an assessment so that the professional staff can see exactly what is going on. During this assessment, they will be asked questions about their substance use. The evaluation will also determine the extent of their use and any underlying mental health concerns.

The assessment will allow the care team to establish a baseline, build a tailored treatment plan to suit the patient’s needs and give them the best shot at recovery.

Treatment Planning

Once the care team is more familiar with the patient’s needs, they can begin treatment planning. This can include a variety of therapy sessions as well as other types of treatment. Some teens need to undergo a detox program before any counseling can begin.

During treatment planning, counselors will consider the teen’s age, level of substance abuse, co-occurring mental health conditions, trauma history and any personal circumstances that can impact their recovery.

Many teens may receive a “dual diagnosis.” This means they are struggling with a mental health illness and a substance abuse disorder. For many, these mental health problems existed before or contributed to addiction. The goal is to treat both issues at the same time to have the best rate of successful long-term recovery.

Therapy Sessions

The primary purpose of counseling and therapy during substance abuse counseling for teenagers is to address the underlying causes of substance use to prevent relapse. Different therapy treatments are available that can help teens in different ways. The care team aims to find the right therapies for each patient.

Relapse Prevention

One goal of substance abuse counseling for teenagers is preventing relapse. Studies have shown that one-third to one-half of all teens who have undergone substance abuse therapy will experience one or more relapses within one year of completing their therapy program. [1]

Counselors are trained to look for relapse factors, including mental health issues, that can affect treatment and recovery.

Tailoring Treatment Approaches

Studies show that treatments such as family-based counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and other multi-component approaches are the most effective methods of treating substance use disorders. [2] Several different therapeutic techniques can be used during these treatments. These include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

This therapy aims to uncover what leads to a teen’s addiction and work to avoid these patterns and prevent relapse. Therapy sessions can encourage them to develop coping skills by helping them know what can lead to temptation. They can also develop skills for communication and problem-solving as they work through their addictions.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a type of counseling that helps teens develop motivation for treatment. It is typically used in conjunction with other therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. The principles of motivational interviewing are described as [3]:

  • Expressing empathy through reflective listening
  • Discovering any discrepancies between the patient’s goals and their behavior
  • Avoiding arguments
  • Adjusting to client resistance
  • Supporting self-efficacy and optimism

The goal is to use these principles to help teens overcome substance abuse.

Family Therapy

During family therapy, the goal is to improve the relationships among family members. Because poor relationships and/or lack of connection between parents and their teens may lead teens to turn to drugs or alcohol, family therapy can involve any combination of family members.. By examining these relationships and working through any issues, the goal is to overcome addiction and get on the path to recovery.

Group Therapy

Group therapy involves several patients talking about their problems together. During group therapy sessions, teens can see that they are not the only ones dealing with the same problems. They can receive help and give help, if they choose, at the same time.

Benefits of Substance Abuse Counseling for Teens

There are several benefits of substance abuse counseling for teenagers. These include:

Developing Coping Skills

During substance abuse counseling, teens receive the coping skills they need to manage triggers and cravings. They learn how to build resilience to fight these triggers when they arise.

Relapse Prevention

Part of the goal of developing coping skills is to prevent relapse. When teens know they have a support system behind them and someone to talk to, they may be less likely to give in to temptation.


Teens learn how important it is to take care of themselves as part of the recovery process. They learn about eating right and exercising, as well as other techniques to help them feel healthy and work on their sobriety.

New Perspective

Substance abuse counseling for teenagers can also provide a new perspective. They learn to identify behaviors or habits that make them want to use drugs. Through counseling, teens can learn how to change these patterns and learn new approaches that don’t involve drugs or alcohol.

Substance Abuse Counseling for Teens at Ember Recovery

Ember Recovery provides extensive treatment programs that focus primarily on teens. Counseling is just one of the many techniques used to help teens battle their substance use addiction and begin recovery. At Ember Recovery, teens not only learn how to overcome their addictions but also receive the aftercare and ongoing support they need to remain sober. Call us today to learn more about how we can help your teen reach sobriety.