Keeping Your Teen on Track in School While in Treatment

One challenge that teens in treatment will face that most adults in similar situations will not is staying on track in school while in treatment.

For outpatient treatment, the teen will have to be away from home and out of school for a specific period of time and will ultimately fall behind in their studies. Luckily, with good communication between the teen’s doctors, treatment center staff, parents, teachers, and school counselors, a teen in treatment can stay on track academically, potentially doing better than they would have at home, and even graduate on time.

Talk to both your teen’s teachers and school counselors/administrators prior to your teen entering treatment. Try to keep them informed about what is going on with your teen and the treatment path your family has chosen for them. If possible, you can even suggest setting up a meeting with the treatment center staff and school staff so that all parties involved in helping your teen can begin on and stay on the same page.

Make sure to ask your teen’s doctors and other treatment center staff what to expect so that you can relay this information to the school.

Questions for the treatment center:

  • How long do they expect treatment to last?
  • When will your teen be back in school?
  • Will they be able to study at all while in treatment?
  • Will they be allowed internet access for a supervised period of time each week in order to send assignments to teachers?
  • Will there be tutors available to help them while in treatment if needed?
  • Will your teen be able to leave the center in order to take an important test?

Keep in mind that the questions you will need to ask and the plan you will come up with will be different depending on what type of treatment center your teen is entering. Outpatient programs may be more flexible, and your teen may still be able to attend classes during treatment. Inpatient programs, on the other hand, require the patient to stay in the treatment facility for the duration of treatment. Still, special accommodations may be made for a teen or child who is still in school.

You should also have a list of questions for your teen’s teachers and other school staff as well.

Questions for your teen’s school:

  • What will be expected from your teen while in treatment?
  • Are there any big tests or projects coming up that cannot be missed?
  • If these things are missed, can they be made up later?
  • Will your teen be able to make up for his/her multiple absences by doing extra credit or staying after class or on weekends (once out of treatment)?

Once you have talked to both the treatment center and the school, you can sit down and come up with a plan to help your teen stay on track in school while in treatment.

Some parents choose to pull their teens out of regular public high school altogether and enroll them in a “recovery high school” or a “sober high school”. These types of schools may be more understanding towards your teen’s treatment plan and might have a solid plan already in place to keep them on track in school. Typically, these schools are more geared towards teen addicts. If addiction is something your teen struggles with, this might be an option for you to look into. Try doing research to find out if there are any recovery schools in your area. If so, consider going in to meet with the staff there to find out if it would be a good fit for your teen. For drug addict and alcoholic teens, it can be helpful for them to be surrounded by other sober teens while they go through recovery and try to stay sober themselves. Pulling them out of their regular school can have a negative impact as well, however. Sometimes a big change like this can worsen symptoms, especially if your teen is suffering from multiple mental health disorders at once. During recovery of any kind, trying to keep some type of normalcy in a teen’s life can help. For this reason, a special recovery school will not be the right fit for everyone.

Many school districts also offer online K-12 educations for students in specific circumstances. If this is an option at your teen’s school, ask the treatment center to find out if this is something they would allow. Some treatment centers – especially those specializing in teen treatment – will even have teachers on staff to help make sure your teen stays caught up on their schoolwork. This is another helpful question for you to ask.

Options for Keeping Your Teen On Track in School While in Treatment

  • Online education
  • Extra credit
  • Summer school
  • Recovery high school
  • Leaving treatment (with permission) i.e. for important tests
  • Teachers on staff at the treatment center
  • Reaching an understanding and agreement between you, the school staff, and treatment center staff
  • Formulating a plan that works for all parties involved and is best for your teen

Your teen’s education is of utmost importance, of course, but it is important to remember during this time that their health is even more important.

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact an individual for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769.