Structure + Support = Success


Structure + Support = Success

An adolescent’s successful recovery from substance abuse must include both structure and support. These things help to focus on the problem (mental illness and trauma) and the solution the adolescent is using to cope (substance abuse). Both structure and support are necessary because the problem and solution are so deeply intertwined. If either of these areas are ignored during the adolescent’s treatment, they cannot be successful.

In order to help your adolescent client have the best chance at a successful recovery, it’s important to stress the implementation of both structure and support. There are many ways that you can help facilitate this process.


When an adolescent is participating in inpatient treatment, they adhere to a strict schedule. As they transition away from treatment and return home, it’s crucial that they maintain a similar healthy structure. As humans, we thrive on routine. This is why our brains settle into a habit once a behavior has begun to repeat itself. Our brains jump at every opportunity to create these routines. Unfortunately, our brains cannot differentiate which behaviors are healthy or unhealthy.

Thus, it takes time and effort to break bad habits — and this is why structure is so important. If an adolescent is left with too much idle time, they’ll fall back into old habits. By having a structure to their day, the adolescent’s brain is working hard to retrain their brain into creating healthier habits. Not only does structure help keep the adolescent out of trouble, it also keeps them focused on their responsibilities and goals.

As the professional who is currently treating them, you can help your adolescent client form a healthy structure and make sure that they are allotting ample time for their responsibilities and goals. Their biggest responsibility is usually school, so it’s vital to stress the importance of attending school and making their schoolwork a priority. This routine should include waking up at the same time each morning, eating a healthy breakfast, and arriving to school on time. There should also be a set time for completing homework and projects in their schedule.

Including time for their recovery is also important, such as regularly attending 12-Step groups, attending therapy, or practicing mindful techniques. It’s also important to remember that they are still kids. You should encourage them to make time for play. Whatever they enjoy, encourage them to spend time doing something they love, such as playing a sport, being creative, or spending time with friends. Finding a balanced structure helps them focus on what is important while also giving them the space to be kids.


An adolescent’s recovery should also include support. Recovery isn’t a one-person show, especially for adolescents. They still rely on their parents for many things while also exploring their independence. Finding a welcoming community can be extremely beneficial for adolescents in recovery. It’s not uncommon for peer support to make a stronger impact with adolescents than support that comes from adults.

This is where like-minded adolescents of the same age who are also in recovery can be so helpful. A supportive community of adolescents in different stages of recovery can help them all thrive. If your client is newly sober, finding peers who have been sober for a while can be especially motivating. They’ll see all the wonderful opportunities that have been made available for their peers, which can inspire and encourage them to stay on the right path.

A supportive community can also help with the mental health aspect of treatment. Mental illness and trauma can be so isolating for many adolescents. They feel like they are the only person going through what they are going through, which often leads them to substance use.

By integrating your adolescent client into a supportive community that has gone through similar experiences, they are able to learn from their peers and feel less alone. They can see that their peers have been successful without substances, so they begin to think that maybe they can be successful without substances, too.


You can help your adolescent client reach their full potential by including structure and support in their recovery. When you are working with your client to build a healthy and individualized routine, make sure you include all the necessary elements and keep their routine balanced. Focusing too much on substance use means that you aren’t spending enough time helping them work through their problems or giving them time to be kids.

You can also encourage them to find a supportive community that works for them. Lastly, a successful recovery means that your client gets what they need when they need it, not what they want when they want it. You have the power to help your client transform their life — use that power for good.

Sustain Recovery is here to help you set your adolescent clients up for a successful recovery. This means treating both the root problems and the unhealthy solutions they have been using to cope. You can do this by encouraging your client to make structure a part of their lives and build a community of support. Over time, the adolescent will learn to go from talking the talk to walking the walk. Sustain Recovery is a treatment facility founded upon evidence-based clinical treatment modalities and best practice principles. Let’s work together to help your clients succeed. To learn more, call us today at (949) 407-9052.