Young Adults' Response to Residential Addiction Treatment and Long-Term Recovery Success

October 6, 2011 Kendra Sebelius

When I went into residential addiction treatment, I really enjoyed the variety of experiences, backgrounds, ages, and diversity within the group. It helped me feel that no matter how different we were, we had critical things in common that tied us and made us a small community of support to one another. I have been thinking a lot about the importance of a sense of belonging to a community in recovery and life, as well as the benefits gained within residential treatment that helps long-term recovery success.

Getting Sober as a Young Adultcircle-of-people

I hear and read a lot about how people have such high motivation and hope when they enter residential addiction treatment programs, and want to get sober, and live a better life, only to hit a crash upon leaving such a structured environment. I don’t think it is just because residential provides structure, gives tools and treatment, and helps give a start to a new beginning. I think people excel because of the community as well, and the connections they are making in a sober environment, struggling with similar issues, and a level of comfortableness in being vulnerable and open in a way they have never been able to experience or express before.

I know I was in my later 20s when I stopped drinking, and entered rehab, but I felt very young, almost too young to get sober. Looking back at that idea I can see that it was more of an excuse than a reality, but I thought people who got sober had had 20-30 years of drinking.

When I got out of rehab, it was up to me on what to do next. Knowing I wanted to stay sober wasn’t enough; it was just weird to be back in the real world after spending 30 days in a safe environment surrounded by people who understood.

I decided to look for AA meetings, not because I had enjoyed AA, but I needed a community in the real world to help my recovery. I needed to be around people, and really wanted to meet young people who had gotten sober.

Young Adults Want to Recover from Addiction but Need Help to Make it Happenhope_for_alcoholic

There was a recent study titled "Ready, Willing, and (Not) Able to Change: Young Adults' Response to Residential Treatment," is published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence said that young people have motivation to recover from addiction, but need help this process.

"This study suggests that strong motivation to change may exist from the get-go among young adults with severe addiction problems entering residential treatment, but the know-how and confidence to change come through the treatment experience," explains John F. Kelly, Ph.D., of the Center for Addiction Medicine who authored the study with Center colleagues Karen Urbanoski, Ph.D., and Bettina Hoeppner, Ph.D., and Valerie Slaymaker, Ph.D., of the Butler Center for Research at Hazelden.

I believe that residential addiction treatment was crucial to my own recovery, and while I did relapse six months later, I believe that transitional support and commitment to recovery is a struggle for many. I was fortunate to have found a young step house, where there were people as young as 16 who wanted to get and stay sober, and it helped me feel less alone.

Slaymaker of Hazelden adds, "The young people in our study were quite motivated to do well in treatment but lacked the confidence, coping skills, and commitment to AA that are critical to longer-term success. Treatment appears to work by increasing their confidence and ability to make and sustain healthy, recovery-related efforts."

How Can Residential Addiction Treatment Help with Transitional Support for Long Term Recovery Success?

I wish my residential treatment center had focused more time on this transitional support to help give me the coping skills, and tools to be able to have a plan when I left to know what to do to best support my chances in recovery. I know there are a lot of wonderful programs that have extensive transitional support, and knew there was sober housing, but that simply wasn't an option for me. When I left, I at least knew I could go to AA, stay for two meetings a day, and hang out and play games with other sober people, but outside this, the tools I learned in residential were mine alone to carry through.

I had to re-find a new therapist, re-explain my story, and figure out a treatment plan, and go weekly to help also support my recovery. I feel residential gave me the ability to see that therapy was helpful; even if I went only once a week to talk about my struggles. Residential helped get me to a place where I was sober, and had some tools to be able to set up a long-term relapse prevention plan.

I wonder a lot about young people who want to get sober and get help who are unable to get into addiction treatment programs. I wonder about those who go to residential and come out, and feel a little lost without transitional support and a loss of the community they had built to help support them in the process. Self-efficacy is the strongest predictor of abstinence in this study, and I think treatment programs, whether residential or in-patient or outpatient programs would truly help continue the motivation to stay well in the long term if they incorporated long term planning, and support.

I know my experience is different from others, and there are a lot of wonderful residential programs that help support those coming from residential, these are just my musings in recovery, and how we can best support young people to get the tools and self-efficacy to help support them when they have the motivation and want to recovery.

What Can We Do to Help Support Young People in Recovery After Residential Treatment?img_sober_living_for-280x

I think this study shows the benefits of residential treatment to help young people. Residential treatment can help take their motivation and reduce psychological distress while helping to gain healthy recovery focused coping skills they can apply to long term recovery. I hope to see more studies on the transitional support and benefits of providing support after residential treatment to help increase the long term success of recovery.

Have you gone through a transitional program that has helped you? Would love to hear experiences after leaving residential treatment and what helped your long term recovery success!

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APA Reference
Sebelius, K. (2011, October 6). Young Adults' Response to Residential Addiction Treatment and Long-Term Recovery Success, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, February 21 from

Author: Kendra Sebelius

October, 6 2011 at 2:40 pm

This is very helpful to me. My 18 year old son is about to enter an inpatient program. I will pay special attention to the aftercare and find an AA group in town in case he wants to attend.
I cannot make him do anything, but I can have an option available in case of emergency (or to prevent one).

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kendra Sebelius
October, 6 2011 at 2:56 pm

Thank you Kellie for your comment. I truly am grateful you are a supportive person in your sons life and will be mindful of support he may need upon leaving treatment. I know it helped me a lot having the support of my family, as well as finding a community to talk to. Good luck with your journey!

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