Are 12-Step Programs Appropriate for Teens?

Are 12-Step Programs Appropriate for Teens?

If you have a teen child who is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, you may want to find all the supportive resources for your child that you can. Many parents feel lost, confused, or concerned when it comes to incorporating a 12-Step program into their child’s recovery.

It is widely known that the 12-Step group has been used to help adults manage substance use disorder (SUD). However, you may wonder if it is appropriate or effective for teenagers. There are young people’s 12-Step meetings that cater to the specific needs of teenagers and young adults.

Is a 12-Step Group Spiritual?

Although the 12-Step structure originated among religious people, it has been adapted to serve a more diverse population. The genius of 12-Step programs is in their universality. Anyone who has an addiction, including non-substance-related addictions, can find use in the principles and philosophies of these groups.

The tenets of 12-Step groups promote honesty, humility, action, hope, and accountability. Participants do not need to hold religious beliefs to receive these benefits. Anyone working through these meetings can create a foundation for recovery from addiction and healthy living.

Why Do Young People Need Their Own Support Groups?

Teenagers experience life differently from adults, mainly because their brains are still in development mode and their struggles and experiences are different from adults’. As young people create and grow into their self-identity, they are under stronger peer influence. In fact, peer pressure is one of the biggest influencing factors for teen addiction. Because peer pressure has such an effect on teens, positive peer influence can also be used to help young people recover.

12-Step groups can greatly benefit teenagers in fostering positive peer influence. Young people are empowered to lead and model for each other. They are given a voice to speak their concerns and triumphs. Like all 12-Step meetings, participants have a safe space to share their emotional journey in regular group meetings and exercises.

What Happens in 12-Step Meetings for Teens?

Apart from regular discussions about how ongoing recovery affects their life, teen 12-Step programs may include activities to get them moving. This is where the flexibility of the 12-Step program comes in handy for incorporating other types of therapies, such as experiential therapy, adventure therapy, and nature therapy.

Young people can have 12-Step group outings. They can participate in group sports or hike, bike, and canoe together. Community service work is another good option as teen 12-Step group members can be a part of and give back to their community.

Young people who are more stabilized in their recovery can move up through the program and become sponsors to newcomers. Serving others is a great motivation for continued recovery. All these activities can foster a sense of solidarity that many may not have experienced before.

How Do I Prepare My Teen for a 12-Step Meeting?

You can first educate your teen about the benefits of support groups. It is also helpful to share the tenets of 12-Step programs. While encouraging your teen to participate, explain that a 12-Step group is a voluntary safe space. Nobody will be expected or coerced to share personal experiences.

You can accompany a nervous teen to their first few 12-Step group sessions until they become more comfortable with the group. Make sure to inspire them to attend the group meetings regularly. Encourage them to work with a sponsor who can take them to sessions and hang out with them outside of meetings.

How Can Health Professionals Support My Teen?

The professional therapist who runs the 12-Step program will gear each meeting toward the needs of teenagers. For example, they may revise certain concepts so that teens can better relate. As a parent, if you hear any concerns from your teen, you can communicate these with the facilitator.

Know that adaptations to the 12-Step program are welcome. In the past, many changes have been made to the 12-Step format so that they can better serve the needs of teenagers. Below are a few examples:

  • The idea of “powerlessness” has been changed to empowerment
  • The idea of “surrender” has been revised 
  • Sponsors are screened for responsibility so that teens do not feel intimidated or endangered
  • Online meetings have the ability to connect group members 
  • Using text messages and social media to connect group members

Do 12-Step Groups Work for Teens?

As a form of group therapy, 12-Step groups are highly effective for teens because they provide powerful peer support and solidarity. Because most of their peers are going through the same things, they understand the difficulties of battling with addiction. Teens do not feel alone in the recovery process.

Having a safe, non-judgmental space to talk about their experiences is a healthy way to release negative emotions. Simply verbalizing struggles can be liberating. Having the opportunity to hear stories from other people helps increase empathy. These are just a few benefits teens can gain from regular participation.

People recovering from substance use disorder can find many benefits from joining a recovery support group like a 12-Step program. Recovery is a journey of personal growth, and group members with shared experiences can help you achieve this. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our team of licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists can guide you through recovery with an emphasis on the importance of group support. Finding strong bonds with people in recovery who have similar struggles as you is an essential part of the process. While we don’t serve the teen population, we can help you find resources and groups that do. Our full medical and residential facility offers a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, and 12-Step group meetings. Early intervention is key. Act now to help your teen overcome addiction by calling us at (866) 906-3203 today.