Substance Use Program Helps Teens Make Changes

February 27, 2019

Fights at home. Fights in school. Drinking. Drug use. Sam’s** situation deteriorated over time. Until finally – the last straw for his mom – Sam encouraged his younger brother to smoke pot.

Several months ago, desperate for a solution, Sam’s mom looked for answers online. And found The Barry Robinson Center’s Intensive Outpatient Substance Use program (IOP) for teens.

“He’s a lot more cooperative now, and he’s listening to people,” his mom said. “He wasn’t happy at first, but now he loves the program. And he has somebody he can relate to.”

To provide the best possible care for teens like Sam, the Center uses an evidence-based model called The Seven Challenges®. It’s designed specifically for adolescents, to help reach and engage them with something beyond a “one size fits all” approach.

“The Seven Challenges® uses cognitive therapy, motivational interviewing, skill building and relapse prevention to help youth take a look at what’s happening in their lives,” said Jennifer Stolpe, program director. “It avoids the pitfall of teaching adolescents to be drug free before they realize that they want to be drug free.”

Barry Robinson group room sign
Motivational message in the IOP group room

Teenagers like Sam do not enter treatment by choice, Stolpe explained. It’s hard for adults to discern where the teens are, based on the stages of change. No definition exists to show when a teen is ready to change. This often leads to teens simply telling counselors what they want to hear. They rush through treatment, with no positive outcome.

“The Seven Challenges® helps us engage teens in actively thinking about their use of alcohol or other drugs, and its effect upon their lives. We help them understand what needs they are meeting by using drugs, what harm they are causing, what risks they are taking, and what it entails to make changes,” Stolpe said. “We raise consciousness, inspire hope and motivate informed, sincere decisions to change. We empower teens to make decisions and ensure they have the tools to support their success.”

Barry Robinson group room sign
Motivational message in the IOP group room

Sam recently completed his treatment program. Stolpe and his mom report progress, while acknowledging that Sam still has work to do. And, The Seven Challenges® program has helped equip him to continue making healthier choices and positive changes.

“Now he has a better relationship at home. School is better, but still a work in progress,” Stolpe said. “He has goals and can have a conversation and admit when he was wrong, which was not the case in the beginning.”

The Seven Challenges® successfully educates and teaches skills that teens can use throughout their lifetime. Independent studies funded by The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment in Washington, D.C. and published in peer reviewed journals provide evidence of effectiveness. The program significantly decreases teen substance use and greatly improves their overall mental health status. Data also show the program has been especially effective with the large number of substance abusing youth who have trauma issues.

“If you’re a parent with a teen who’s struggling with drug use, speak with staff at The Barry Robinson Center,” Sam’s mom advises. “We worked together to come up with a treatment plan. I like that Sam could speak freely and spend time with others in a safe place where he got the help he needed.”

Learn more about The Seven Challenges®.

** Name changed to protect identity

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