For many teens, the transition to high school can be a stressful time. This is especially true for teens who are struggling with substance use disorders.
Fortunately, the burgeoning recovery high school movement offers a compelling alternative where teens can complete their coursework while also receiving the support they need for continued healing and recovery.
What is a Recovery High School?
Recovery schools first appeared in the late 1970s and now about 40 exist nationwide, including in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and more than 20 other states.
A recovery high school is a secondary education program that meets the needs of teens who are in recovery. Students may be suffering from substance use disorders or co-occurring conditions like anxiety and depression. In a recovery high school, students can receive supportive services for substance use and mental health issues while completing their high school diplomas. These schools may also be known as sober high schools.
Who Can Attend?
Teens who are in treatment for or are struggling with a substance use disorder are eligible to attend a recovery school. According to research conducted with recovery high schools, many of these institutions require that students have a clinical diagnosis of substance use disorder. It is also common for students to sign a contract agreeing to remain sober prior to admission
Students who have previously received treatment for addiction often find recovery high schools to be beneficial, as they provide a safe option for students who are transitioning back to school after receiving treatment. Some sober schools require students to complete treatment elsewhere prior to being admitted. Most schools require that students simultaneously attend therapy outside of the school setting during their enrollment.
What to Expect
Recovery high schools can be separate from other schools, be housed within another high school or an alternative school program. Many recovery schools are linked to the public school system, but students in recovery programs are often separated from traditional students.
A key difference is the access to supportive services in the school setting. While traditional high schools employ guidance counselors who provide academic advice and teen resources, they are not specially trained to treat substance use disorders. Staff in recovery school settings are trained to meet the needs of students who are struggling with addiction.
The curriculum at recovery high schools can also differ from traditional programs. While following state standards, the course of study is individualized to meet each student’s unique needs, as youths attending recovery schools may have experienced significant absences from school due to substance use and/or treatment and now find themselves behind academically.
Offering Hope, and Success
Recovery schools offer numerous benefits to students with addictions. Individualized academic programs assist students who have fallen behind educationally to complete a program that meets their needs and make progress toward high school graduation.
Most importantly, the focus on abstinence aids in long term recovery. Teens who attend traditional high schools may have access to drugs and be around peers who encourage their substance use. In a recovery school setting, students are separated from mainstream peers and these pressures or temptations are thus, less likely to relapse.
Evidence supports that the recovery high school model increases the odds that teens will stay in recovery by making sure they are surrounded by like-minded students in a supportive environment. By integrating counseling and other support into the school day, the programs offer hope, and proven success, in helping teens stay sober and on track to earn their diplomas.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or a substance use disorder, call Spectrum Health Systems today at 1-877-MyRehab.