“Addiction” is a strong word that often carries with it a life sentence of being “in recovery.” While we observe a variety of unhealthy behaviors in our teens, we believe that it is rare to see an adolescent that is truly “addicted”. During adolescence, the brain is highly neuroplastic, or flexible. High levels of neuroplasticity yield both positive and negative features. On one hand, adolescents display greater impressionability, but on the other hand they have a great capacity for healing, and the creation of newer, healthier habits.
For these reasons, at Equinox, we will never tell your child that he is an “addict” because we believe that all adolescents have the capacity to heal from addictive behaviors. We also recognize that adolescents are often seeking for identity, and we do not want them to take on the identity of an addict.
Almost all of our students suffer from some form of depression or anxiety. These challenges lead to overwhelming feelings of sadness and worry, which our teenagers seek desperately to escape from—often finding unhealthy means to fill their emptiness. Such means include use of substances, self-harm, suicidality, pornography, overuse/misuse of technology, and several other maladaptive behaviors.
In primary substance abuse treatment facilities, the goal is to focus on overcoming the addiction by creating support systems for clients to commit to sobriety and avoid their substance(s) of choice. This often takes place through a focus on the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous which can mistake the secondary symptoms of addictive behaviors as the primary problem. Furthermore, while extremely successful for adults, many of the 12-steps are very difficult for teenagers to identify with. Because of this, our addictions program at Equinox seeks to provide therapeutic support for addictive behaviors using a variety of non-12-step methodologies that we have experienced to yield greater success for teenagers. We also maintain a primary focus on the underlying issues that have led teenagers to engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms. When these underlying issues are addressed and healed, our experience is that the addictive behavior falls away, because they it longer serves a purpose.