As you’ve learned, treatment programs are designed to be highly structured environments in which a lot of nurturing takes place. Everything in that particular “world,” is designed to encourage growth and nurture improvements along the way. A greenhouse serves much the same function. It’s a place for seeds to sprout, reaching for sunlight, forcing roots into nutrient rich soil, being protected in a climate-controlled environment, safe from crowding, weeds or other destructive forces that would stunt their growth.
Eventually, however, the greenhouse will turn the young plant back over to the caring, but novice gardener, who will take it out into the real world in order for it to reach is full potential. It will experience a challenging transition. Even if the greenhouse staff sends the part-time gardener on her way with detailed instructions, invitations to call with questions and bags full of plant food, she cannot control the environment or conditions outside. The natural environment of a home and family has far more variables than the garden. There are the “weeds”: bad friends, drugs/alcohol, technology, academic stressors and a myriad of other destructive elements that the program has protected them from.
And unlike the program staff–who are replaced every few hours by a completely fresh staff–parents can’t realistically devote all their time to the care and monitoring of their teen. After all that has been invested, it makes sense to gain knowledge, build a plan and have support in the vital process of transition. And while the last ten years have seen a tremendous increase in the level of parent education offered by the best programs, too often much of that great preparation flies out the window when the teen comes home and everyone’s old patterns–and problems–begin to take hold again.
My job–and my vision–has been to educate programs, professionals, and parents on how to prepare families and their teens for that crucial transition, with a plan and confidence to side-step the challenges if possible. I am absolutely convinced it can be done. I’ve seen it hundreds of times.
To Family Success and Happiness!
Tim Thayne, Ph.D.