Students take steps towards sobriety in Shelterwood’s Substance Abuse Program

When a teen is facing substance abuse, it is easy to lose hope. At Shelterwood, our substance abuse treatment program combines educational, counseling and experiential elements to lay the foundation students need for a sober, healthy life.

Teens on the substance abuse treatment track at Shelterwood participate in 16 structured weeks of educational groups. During this time frame, students spend time in educational small groups, processing and counseling groups focused on relapse prevention, one-on-one sessions with their substance abuse counselor and more.

During the education portion of the program, students learn how addiction impacts their bodies, minds and hearts. “Someone who is facing addiction issues needs specific information about addiction — from understanding how addictions are formed to what causes a relapse to what steps to take to get sober,” explains Kenny DeBlock, Substance Abuse Program Supervisor. “Students gain the tools and skills they need for sobriety, so they’re headed in the right direction when they return home from Shelterwood.”

DSC8968 1024x683 Students take steps towards sobriety in Shelterwood’s Substance Abuse Program

Substance abuse counseling at Shelterwood is provided by credentialed, specialized therapists. “Shelterwood students work with their counselors to understand the unhealthy patterns in their lives and to learn how to do life differently,” Kenny adds.

A common misconception in other treatment programs is that resolving an underlying issue — like depression or family struggles, for example — can remedy addiction. “Given the intense counseling work done in other areas, it can be easy to allow the addiction work to fall to the side. However, research shows us that addiction needs to be addressed specifically,” Kenny explains. This is why Shelterwood students participate in their addiction counseling in conjunction with their other therapy work.

Students in the substance abuse treatment program at Shelterwood have the opportunity to practice what they are learning in an experiential, hands-on way. “Shelterwood as a whole is extremely relational in the therapy we do here, and relationships are at our core,” Kenny says. “Our program offers that critical experiential piece, so students are able to explore what it looks like to live free of substance abuse and experience the idea that a sober life is not only possible, but can be rewarding.”

With their mentors and their peers, students practice building healthy relationships that do not rely on drugs or drinking. Furthermore, teens experience having fun sober and relaxing sober. “We encourage our counselors to spend time with their teens having a fun evening, like going bowling or getting ice cream for example, as a teachable moment,” Kenny says. “Teens learn that they don’t need to take drugs or drink to enjoy time with their peers.”

Particularly during the teen years, there can be a fine line between experimenting with substances and substance abuse, Kenny explains. This is why addressing substance abuse early creates the best chance for success. “Research supports that the earlier we can intervene in a young person’s life, the higher the chance of remedying that addiction,” he says. “At Shelterwood, we focus on catching addiction early, doing the intense work and then helping the student find some healthy habits and healthy thinking to steer their life in a positive direction.”

Kenny also points to the changed peer culture at Shelterwood as framework for success. “Students often come to Shelterwood ambivalent about sobriety, not sure if that is the path they want for their life,” he says, “So that positive peer culture helps students quickly come to the conclusion that they want to be sober and they are able to be successful in that. Many students who were on the fence have seen the value in this.”

Integral in the Shelterwood substance abuse program is laying groundwork for sober living after Shelterwood. “Our addiction counselors help students build that plan, both behaviorally and emotionally, and then build a support network around them,” Kenny says, even going so far as helping students engage in a peer support group back home.

“Students leave the Shelterwood substance abuse program with everything they need educationally to begin a life of sobriety when they arrive home,” Kenny says. “They are ready with a strong foundation for a healthy life.”