Treatment for Substance Abuse & Behavioral Issues in Teens

Why the ‘Boot Camp’ Approach Doesn’t Work

Punitive methods are not very successful in treating teens and young adults who are struggling with substance abuse and behavioral issues. Punishment as the basis for treatment fails to focus on the underlying issues that contribute to certain conditions, such as ODD, ADHD, anger problems and drug addiction. A more effective therapeutic approach is a non-punitive method that seeks to educate and empower individuals to become responsible for their own success. For an alternate method to assist with treatment for substance abuse & behavioral issues in teens, aside from boot camp, consider the following.

The punitive approach

Punitive programs are punishment-based and attempt to correct behavior by using fear and intimidation to establish authority and set rules. Certain “boot-camp,” “military style” or “tough love” programs employ this type of approach. This confrontational technique focuses on changing negative behavior by establishing strict parameters for acceptable conduct and enforcing negative consequences when those constraints are broken.

This kind of approach is much less effective for a number of reasons. It does not address the underlying causes of mental and behavioral issues. It does not provide individuals with an opportunity to develop the skills needed to self-manage their symptoms. Teens and young adults who are subject to punitive discipline can be more likely to develop feelings of resentment, distrust, anger and hostility. By using techniques such as ultimatums as a vehicle for altering behavior, treatment does not focus on personal growth and develop, and thus does lend itself to long-term success. In punitive programs fewer people complete treatment, relapse rates are higher, and addiction and behavioral issues can even be aggravated.

The benefits of a non-punitive approach

Non-punitive approaches to treatment for substance abuse and behavioral issues are much more successful in seeing lasting results. They are predicated on the idea that treatment is a learning opportunity for an individual to develop the skills to thrive in the world. Treatment is not a punishment for negative behavior. An approach that is centered on personal empowerment and growth is preferred over an approach that takes a hard line because it focuses on adjusting defective thinking as well as behavior.

In a non-punitive approach to therapy, teens and young adults:

  • Respond to reward based incentives
  • Are involved in their own decision making
  • Build tools to cope with temptations and struggles of daily life
  • Learn to overcome challenges and accept consequences
  • Build relationships and develop interpersonal skills
  • Learn to communicate
  • Experience independence and self-reliance

It is important to look for a program that is non-punitive when choosing the right course of treatment for a teen or young adult struggling with behavioral or substance abuse issues. A positive reward-based program accomplishes much more than a punishment-based program. Long-term effects see participants of non-punitive programs being able to better manage their individual issues and become productive, positive adults.

When information regarding a more effective approach and treatment for substance abuse & behavioral issues in teens is needed, contact Rites of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980.