Choosing the right treatment for our youth

Whatever you decide is best for your child, make sure you do due diligence.

Mother and child at the lake (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Mother and child at the lake
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
 Many parents are faced with deciding what is best for their kids who need treatment.
This presumes that parents know what their child needs. They are forced to take the advice of friends or professionals who don’t necessarily know their kids well enough to determine what is best for them.
Whether it is a hospital stay, residential drug rehab, outpatient program, day program or counseling in a youth center, the impact is critical for our youth; we need to know if a place or program is what they need.
Often Anglo parents opt for private psychologists and psychiatrists. While it is important to feel confident about our children’s professionals, when choosing a psychologist or psychiatrist outside the mental health system, you are less apt to hear about what facilities are available.
You may reap the benefits of that professional only.
Parents who take advantage of their local mental health social service center have access to more than one psychologist or psychiatrist and social worker, and there are often outpatient and day-treatment programs on location. All services are free of charge. Services are also often provided for families to help cope with their child’s illness – be it addiction, mental illness or emotional instability.
The team will discuss your child’s case and determine the best course of treatment.
If they conclude the child needs medication, this will be monitored by the staff. Young people on medication are eligible for disability payments, providing a monthly stipend for expenses.
This information is confidential, though it might be available to the army; we want to make sure our kids are not confronted with challenges they cannot handle, so it is best in such circumstances to be transparent.
With a percentage of disability in place, even a small percentage, social workers can apply for a sal shikum (rehabilitative basket). This procedure includes appearing before a committee to help you and your child decide what services are best for future treatment. Social workers at longterm facilities such as hospitals and staterun drug rehabs can also provide this service.
Sal shikum is an invaluable tool for ensuring that your child has options for cost-free follow-up treatment.
When choosing a program, know what to ask. To what degree are the other patients in the program afflicted with the same issues as our kids? What is their average age? What is the average stay? What is the success rate? What kind of program is provided on a daily basis? Who will spend the most time with our kids? What kind of staff do they employ and which of them will be involved in the child’s treatment? What other facilities are they associated with? Who is the head of the department? What is his or her background and to what extent will they be involved in the treatment? Are there other parents we can speak to who will share their experiences? How many patients are in the program now? Is the program co-ed? Can we tour the facility? These are just a few of the questions that need answers before we consider a particular program.
There are the questions about parental involvement: Are parent support groups provided? How often do they meet? Are there weekly groups including families and significant others? What guidance do they provide for families and others who make up the child’s support system? How are we included in our child’s treatment process? A program that does not include parental involvement is not a place we want to care for our kids; without our involvement we cannot support our children during or after treatment.
The final issue is preparation for mainstreaming back into a normal life. Parents often complain that there is no preparation whatsoever. Kids graduate from the program and are expected to mainstream, but parents generally don’t know how to help their kids reenter society in a healthy way. If the child is in a residential facility for a year, which is standard for drug rehabilitation centers in particular, the program needs to start preparing for the child’s release three to six months beforehand.
If they are in a hospital program shorter than a year, patients need to begin preparing two months in advance of their transition.
When leaving a residential program, it is usually best to have young patients enter a follow-up program, such as a day-treatment or outpatient program. This can be challenging; for example, there are few creative settings for patients in Jerusalem.
One is the Mechina Hacognitivit in Talpiot.
The Mechina day program provides creative programming for patients in need of preparation for the real world, be it school or the workplace. Daily groups are provided, using music and the arts to promote communication. The atmosphere is warm and the staff embracing.
Some hospitals and drug rehabilitation centers have their own follow-up programs.
This is an option, but not the only one. Knowledge is power, so investigate all of your options.
If your child can go from a treatment facility to a work setting, it may be best to begin by working in a protective environment related to the institution. The staff will evaluate what kind of work atmosphere is most appropriate for the young patient. Working in a protective environment provides many advantages, such as learning how to work as a teammate, communicate needs and concerns, learn a skill that is needed at their workplace and discover what their strengths and weaknesses are on the job.
Once they have begun to feel confident that they have the basic skills to maintain a job – such as getting up and arriving on time, functioning responsibly, getting along with workmates and communicating needs – they will feel more ready to attempt a job in the community.
Sometimes workplaces are provided that allow the patients to continue to work after leaving their facility. One of those places in Jerusalem is the second-hand store Haboydem, which doubles as a social business that provides transitional employment for people with mental illness.
Located in Talpiot, employees are paid a nominal wage, but are given invaluable tools in dealing with customers, inventory, store maintenance and more.
Whatever you decide is best for your child, make sure you do due diligence. Be involved! Ask questions, go online and research – if possible together with your child. Let them know that needing professional support is very common in the teen and young adult years and nothing to be embarrassed about, and the sooner they get help the sooner they can mainstream back into life, feeling happy and confident that whatever they are going through will build their emotional and mental muscles and provide them with skills that will be with them always.
In light of the importance of empowering parents to support their teens and young adults, I am forming a mothers’ support group in May. All interested parties can contact me by email.
The writer counsels families and their troubled youth; she is an addiction counselor and the founder of the Sobar alcohol-free live music bar project for teens and young adults.,