12 Step Programs for Teens

Addiction of any kind is a complicated and dangerous disease. In teens, it is even more dangerous. Numerous studies have shown that adolescents that begin patterns of substance abuse are far more likely to continue these self-destructive behaviors into adulthood. This increases the likelihood of them committing crimes and being a detriment to the national healthcare system. However, there are ways to combat adolescent addiction. Prevention is the most effective way, but what about teens that have already started down the path of addiction? For them, a 12 step program may be the best option.

How are 12 step programs for teens different?

12 step teens

Peer support helps teens stay sober.

According to the Partnership for Drug Free Kids, there is evidence that many portions of the traditional 12 steps are not relatable to today’s youth. However, with just a few simple adaptations, the 12 steps become an incredibly effective treatment tool for teen substance abuse. These adaptations include:

  • changing the ideas of powerlessness to ones of being more powerful sober,
  • creating age restricted groups so that teens feel more connected to their treatment,
  • changing ideas of surrender to ones of not being in compromising positions while sober,
  • assigning responsible and encouraging sponsors so that teens don’t feel intimidated by the meetings or the 12 step process, and
  • adding more updated methods of seeking 12 step treatment, such as online meetings and the ability to contact other group members and sponsors through text and social media.

All of these adaptations allow the 12 step process to more accessible for teens in the changing world.

Do 12 step programs work for teens?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, states that almost all successful drug treatment programs recommend some form of group counseling and therapy. That is the primary function of 12 step programs. Additionally, there is evidence that group counseling is especially effective in teens, because of their need for peer support and approval. Some of the benefits of 12 step programs for teens are:

  • the support of peers that are going through the same things they are, and understand the difficulties of addiction,
  • an open and nonjudgmental forum to talk about their experiences and problems,
  • the opportunity to hear other peoples stories and know that they are not alone,
  • encouragement and approval from people that are their age, and that they can relate to understand, and
  • adaptive programs and services that focus on their individual needs.

These benefits combine to make 12 step programs very effective for teens.

Why should teens consider 12 step treatment?

If a teen is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, or any other addictive behavior, it dramatically impacts their lives. Especially considering that they have to consider their futures in a way that adults do not. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there is a direct connection between substance abuse and academic achievement. Quite simply, teens that struggle with addiction are far more likely to perform poorly in the classroom, thus endangering their hopes for the future. If you know a teen struggling with addiction, it is imperative that they receive the help they need as soon as possible.

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