Residential treatment followed by a supportive, structured transition plan have made a permanent difference in the lives of teens and their families for decades. I’d like to recount the client success story of one teen and his mother who put her trust in the process I outlined for her despite her doubts.
When Jill’s son Matt entered treatment, she made a point of telling friends and family he was at camp. The family was embarrassed by the truth and Matt was intent on keeping this phase of his life a lifelong secret. As his graduation date approached, the plan appeared to be working.
Obviously, my suggestion to invite friends, family, neighbors and any other influential adult to Matt’s graduation celebration caused Jill considerable discomfort. But she swallowed hard and followed my advice, convincing Matt that this was the best course of action.
Looking at it from the perspective of Jill and Matt, you can see how this was fraught with danger. What if no one cared enough to come? Matt was convinced he had no friends. What if people looked down their nose at Jill’s parenting or Matt’s judgment? The events of the day could be mortifying for mother and son.
Matt and Jill underestimated the compassion of their community. The response was overwhelming. More than 40 people showed up to shower Matt in love and affrmation, to hear his story of redemption and celebrate it with him.
More than that, one individual after another expressed their personal interest in helping Matt succeed. Their support buoyed his spirits, so that in no time Matt was avidly demonstrating his activities while in the wilderness. The director of his private school asked him thoughtful questions and counseled him with wisdom. His band director exuded warmth and a mentoring spirit, excitedly engaging Matt in plans for the upcoming year and ways he could develop his musical talents and passion as a teacher’s assistant in the younger grade classes. The mothers of two boys in his class asked me what their sons could do to help.
By the end of the night, Matt was swimming and laughing with five other boys from the school. The principal was pumping my hand and promising he’d do all he could to help the family. Others expressed admiration for Jill, both for her choice to get her son help and for honoring them by asking for their support.
Matt has started to rewrite his story, not only in his mind but in the minds of those who knew him before he entered treatment. His mentors have captured the momentum of treatment through a planned transition process and a powerful social support network.
It turns out that Matt does have friends, and they comprise a powerful and passionate support system determined to help him succeed. And Matt is not alone in this; many of his counterparts in treatment have a passionate support structure at their disposal. All they have to do is ask.