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adolescent and young adult treatment Q&A

Children and drugs. Not a good combination for many reasons. Many teens and young adults experiment with drugs and alcohol and end up developing normally. But some get caught up in ways that may have disastrous consequences. There are many different problems and many different ways to approach the issue of drug use. The following questions are common and hopefully will give you a number of options to guide you in making a decision about your situation. 

How can I tell whether my child is doing drugs?

What are my treatment options?

What is the first step if we have a problem?

What programs do you offer?

Ask about our drug treatment programs for young adults

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How can I tell whether my child is doing drugs?
Answer the questions on our Parent Questionnaire and follow the recommendations at the bottom of that page.

What are my treatment options?
Basically, any treatment should match the problem. It could be simple outpatient counseling or a more structured program. Additionally, we need to differentiate between substance use problems, behavioral problems, or other psychiatric problems. The underlying question is, “Is my child developing in an appropriate way – is she or he moving towards adulthood successfully?”  And if the answer is "no," then we need to seek help.

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What is the first step if we have a problem?
The first step is to get an assessment with an addiction specialist who is also a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist. What is the advantage of the professional having both backgrounds? An addiction specialist will be able to assess and offer treatment for substance usage and the family therapist will be able to establish and support the role the parents play in the problem. Some of the questions that will be asked include the following. What level of problematic substance use is occurring? Is it Abuse or Dependence? What parenting styles are occurring? Is it simply an issue of supporting the parents is setting appropriate limits? Is your child experimenting? Does a prevention program make sense? Has his or her their use progressed to addiction or alcoholism? Does the child or young adult need an intensive outpatient drug and alcohol treatment program? Does he or she need a residential treatment program and if so, what kind?

And sometimes an assessment, all by itself, is all that is needed to focus the teen or young adult and the family on the issues at hand. The assessment process will wake everyone up to the options. The young person does not want to be in a “rehab,” and the parents would just as soon avoid the trouble and expense.  Many families leave the assessment meeting and are able to get it together on their own. Regardless, it makes a lot of sense to get everyone together and see a professional.

The problem has usually been going on for some time. Take your time exploring the options. Most likely, your child’s drug or alcohol issue will be with your for some time, and it makes sense to choose help that will meet your needs.

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What programs do you offer?
We believe that Larry Fritzlan Recovery Services provides one of the most comprehensive and effective drug and alcohol treatment programs in the Bay Area for treating individuals suffering from substance-related disorders. Our goal is a success rate of 100%.

The key elements of our yearlong Optimal Recovery Program include the following:

  • Intervention to initiate the process
  • For Teens and Young Adults: Comprehensive Intensive Outpatient Program, or Residential or Wilderness Programs
  • Sober-living environment
  • Professional counseling for the individual
  • Professional counseling for the family or marriage
  • Medical and psychiatric evaluation and treatment as needed
  • Drug Testing
  • Social Support Groups – like AA
  • Relapse Prevention
  • Successful school or full-time employment in a low-stress job
  • Have fun doing this!

Within the Optimal Recovery Program, we offer three basic programs: 

  • Prevention Program – For families where drug use is its earliest stage or perhaps has not even started. The goal here is for the teen or young adult to acquire the tools he or she needs to stay off drugs, while the parents get the help they need to help their child make this happen. The program includes education, individual and family counseling, and drug testing. Read more about this below.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – For families whose teen's or young adult's substance usage has become problematic. Read more about this below.
  • Extended Care for families returning from residential treatment. Read more about this below.

Other services we offer include the following:

  • Assessment Is your teen or young adult involved in normal experimentation (using only once or twice, not more than once a month) or are they facing the beginning of a Substance-Related Disorder and the life-shortening brain disease of addiction and alcoholism? The goal here is for the teen or young adult to acquire the tools he or she needs to stay off drugs, while the parents get the help they need to help their child make this happen. The program includes education, individual and family counseling, and drug testing.
    Part of every new-client intake.
  • Drug Testing Our half-hour training in reliable, effective drug testing is for all parents who test their children, no matter how extensive the teen’s drug use may be. Most teens and young adults can foil their parents unless the parents are trained and competent in administering fool-proof drug testing.
  • Residential Placement The 5-10% of addicted teens or young adults who fail in an IOP will require a more intensive, structured Residential Treatment Program. We help you find the right program for your child, then coordinate the work with your family, both while your child is in placement and during the critical period of re-entry back into their peer culture (see Extended Care). Read more about Residential Placement below.
  • Interventions The addicted teen or young adult and his or her family have often been caught in a long, downwards spiral. An intervention can be the turning point at which the process reverses and movement toward health and wellness begins. Please visit our sister site at to learn more.

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What is the Prevention Program?
Other than an extended assessment, this is the lowest level of treatment that we offer. It is appropriate for a family that is experiencing any level of drug use in their child, or even no use yet, but wanting to make sure that it does not even start. Some families choose this program if there is drug addiction or alcoholism in the genetic family tree. Treatment consists of education, drug testing, individual and family therapy. The program lasts six months and is intended to accomplish five things:

  • First, there is a “time-out” from all substance usage. A teen or young adult is often embedded in a peer culture where drug use is not only available but also encouraged by their friends. Peer pressure today in Marin County often includes using drugs to fit in. Many teens and young adults are vulnerable and need support to make the right decisions. Comprehensive drug testing is part of this program. 

  • Second, as Family Therapists, we help the parents learn skills that will support them doing the work necessary to “rope in” their young person. This may include better communication, boundary setting, appropriate consequences (positive and negative), and anything else that is getting in the way of normal and healthy development. 

  • Third, we help the teen or young adult adjust to a clean and sober lifestyle. This will include teaching them skills for navigating their social world and how to make better decisions when they are around other kids who use drugs. We sometimes introduce them to the other teens in the Intensive Outpatient Program who will give them tips on how to deal with friends who are still using.

  • Fourth, we work with the young person to make up for any developmental delays that have occurred. Drug use almost always retards normal development.

  • And lastly, the Prevention Program will include whatever is necessary to support your child in their quest for autonomy and independence as they move into their adult lives and separate from their families of origin. 

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And what is the Intensive Outpatient Program for teens and young adults?
This is a serious program for a serious problem. Substance Dependence, also know as drug addiction or alcoholism, usually starts in the teen years. Nationally, alcoholism and drug dependence affect 10% of our population and 15% will experience this at some time in their lives. Some people are able to find a way to stop on their own, but most addicts need some outside help in order to stop. “We define Substance Dependence as a physical, psychological, social, emotional, and spiritual disease, characterized by continuous or periodic loss of control of usage, preoccupation with usage, use of substances despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, particularly denial” (Stephanie Brown, The Alcoholic Family in Recovery; 1999).

And alcoholism and addiction are very treatable. 

One of our proudest achievements is the creation of this program. Over the last 15 years, we have developed a comprehensive program that has treated many families successfully. The goal of this program is to not only establish sobriety in your teen or young adult, but to educate him or her to the realities of addiction so that they will be “inoculated” and aware as they move into their adult lives and make their own decisions about substance usage. We conduct this program much like we do our adult program. The intensive outpatient program will include family, individual, and peer group counseling, drug testing, education, involvement in social support groups like AA, ruling out any medical or psychiatric issues, and attending to any educational, behavioral, legal, developmental or vocational issues that may be relevant to your child’s ongoing development. Graduation from this program is accomplished when the teen or young adult has been clean and sober for one year and completed the twelve steps in a 12 Step Program.

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What is the Extended Care Program?
This program is similar to the Intensive Outpatient Program and is intended for families that are returning from a residential treatment program. Ideally, the “hand off” is coordinated. We work with a number of programs and coordinate their discharge recommendations with our treatment contract so that the family and their child continue the progress made in residential treatment. Sadly, many parents mistakenly think that the residential program “fixed” their kid and are surprised as the teen or young adult returns to the unchanged peer culture and family dynamics and resumes problematic prior behaviors. 

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What about Residential Placement for my teen or young adult?
We are blessed in that there are many wonderful placement options for a wide variety of problems that teens and young adults experience. Profound positive changes usually occur when we remove a young person from a troubled environment and place him or her in a healthy and supportive setting. However, we need to understand the role residential treatment plays in the treatment continuum. Teen and young adult substance treatment is integrally linked to the role parenting plays in the problem. All teen and young adult drug treatment is always about the parents first. The parents are the legal holders of privilege and need to jump with both feet themselves into the treatment process. Shipping a kid off and thinking that they will be “fixed” is an illusion. Treatment needs to start with the parents first in an outpatient setting. We support the parents in effective parenting methods so that, regardless of treatment, when their child returns home they have learned how to be more effective in carrying out the treatment recommendations. 

Residential placement is a component in the treatment continuum. Initial treatment typically starts in an outpatient program. Only when a young person or their family has failed an outpatient program should we consider residential program. Competent residential programs always include the family in the treatment process. And they typically recommend a “step-down” or aftercare program to integrate what has been learned while in residential treatment back into home life. There are a number of good programs besides our Extended Care Program that offer this reintegration support.

One word of caution. There are really good residential treatment programs, and there are some that should be avoided. It is best to consult with good educational counselors or experienced interventionists before making a decision.

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What about the role of Educational Consultants?
Educational Consultants are a group of specialized paraprofessionals who help in the placement process – specifically, coordinating the handoff from local outpatient treatment to the most effective residential treatment for your son or daughter. Over the years we have worked collaboratively with The Bodin Group, Molly Baron & Associates, and Virginia Reiss & Associates. These professionals spend a good part of their time on the road visiting various placement options.

The quality of residential treatment is always in flux and the quality varies from excellent to awful. The program may have had a good reputation, great website, and your neighbor’s family had a wonderful experience at that placement. However, since then, the director may have sold the center and the entire staff quit. Sadly, I have known of three cases where the placement went out of business while their child was still in treatment! The families who used these programs did not use an Education Consultant. 

Typically, we will recommend an Educational Consultant (EC) when a teen or young adult is failing an outpatient program. We will work together with the parents, the EC, and the counselor at the Residential Setting. This integrated support maximizes the effectiveness of a coordinated and comprehensive treatment program. 

A good EC will work collaboratively with your family, as well as other outpatient providers, in developing a plan both locally and residentially, if warranted. They help guide a family in a very thoughtful, planning and decision-making process. A good EC will also maintain a family-systems orientation, attending to the needs of the entire family and addressing dynamics and patterns that, if not dealt with, will substantially minimize the chances for success in a plan.

Most ethical Education Consultants will recommend that a client seek local outpatient treatment if it is appropriate (versus residential placement). It is usually good to get a second opinion before sending a teen or young adult away. Our experience is that only 10-15% of teens in our outpatient program actually need a residential placement; most are able to get back on track in an outpatient setting. We are actually one of the pioneers in using EC’s in outpatient work to both bolster a family and to help encourage the child to take full advantage of outpatient and other home-based resources.

Depending on the family’s needs, some EC's stay actively involved on an ongoing basis after we have transitioned the case to them, helping with aftercare issues, coaching a family, and helping to advocate for the best interests of the child or young adult.

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What about drug testing?
Just as blood testing is central to treating diabetes, drug toxicology is central to drug and alcohol treatment. When it comes to drug testing an addict or alcoholic, it is essential that it be done professionally. Home testing is not recommended because someone dependent on drugs will always find ways to foil the testing process, test clean, and continue their substance usage. 

What is my next step?
Your next step is to schedule a private consultation with one of our counselors that includes one or both parents, or your whole family. A new life can begin with your phone call. We look forward to talking with you.

Call us at (415) 945-0923 or email to make an appointment.

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Larry Fritzlan Recovery Services is dedicated to helping restore people of all ages to health and well-being.
Call us today at (415) 945-0923.

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