If you’ve recently arrived in a treatment facility you’re probably angry, confused, scared, and angry. Did I mention angry? Most adolescents are sent to a treatment facility by others without their consent. Sometimes this involves being awakened at a ridiculous hour by burly strangers who load you into a car, drive you to the airport, get you on an airplane, and drop you off at the treatment facility.
Most young adults, on the other hand, are at least partially in agreement with the decision, but may have been presented with limited options that sort of forced the decision, like “you can go to treatment or you’re out of the house and on your own.” Not much of a choice.
However you ended up at treatment, you may feel manipulated, forced, tricked, betrayed, etcetera by the very people you’re supposed to trust the most, your parents.
But regardless of how the process started and how out of control you might feel, you actually have a lot of control over how the next days, weeks, or months will go. In fact, it’s pretty much all up to you. As most teenagers and young adults are aware, no one can really control you. No matter what the circumstances, you, and you alone, are the boss of you.
Even though others may be in control for the time being of your location and some other details, you’re in control of what you do with this experience. Assuming you want it to go as smoothly as possible, here are some tips based on the experience of other teens and young adults who have gone before you and chose to make the most of a difficult situation.
Be Honest With Yourself: This is harder than it might sound. It’s easy when you’re on the verge of feeling vulnerable, sad, disoriented, or out of control, to smother your feelings or just get mad. Anger is a convenient catch-all emotion that can, for a period of time, make us feel in control and insulated from other unpleasant emotions. Anger may be part of what you’re feeling but it’s not likely to be the whole story. And remember that depression is sometimes just another way that anger shows up (they’re often two sides of the same coin). As scary as it may be at first, admitting to yourself how you really feel (sad, embarrassed, out of control, whatever), can make those feelings less powerful while trying to deny them can make them seem more powerful. So use this time in treatment to practice exploring, understanding, and accepting your real feelings.
Be Honest With Others: Like you, most of your peers are pretty perceptive. You can tell when someone’s being fake and guess what, so can they! Similarly, many treatment staff members are perceptive as well, which is why they picked this line of work in the first place. So being honest is likely to earn trust while being fake is likely to do the opposite. Having the trust of your peers and staff will make your time in treatment a lot easier and less lonesome.
Use Your Voice: Speak up! It’s impossible to stay under the radar in treatment. So learn to use your voice. Expressing your feelings, opinions, wants, and requests will feel a lot better than bottling those things up or trying to say what you think others want to hear or will make you look together or cool. Be free. Speak your peace! But remember, it’s easier to listen to someone who listens to you, so be sure that you open your ears to others at least as much as you open your mouth to speak!
Learn to Breathe: This might sound a little weird. But when people get stressed, they tend to hold their breath. Paying attention to your breathing and remembering to breathe slowly and deeply really help you manage yourself and feel better when things get dicey. If your program offers a yoga class (take it!)  Yoga is one of the best ways to learn to relax and breathe.
Make a Friend: You’re in a new place with new people. There’s no way to get to know everyone immediately, so focus in on one or two other students who like people you might get along with. Having a little focus will allow you to build a real relationship more quickly, giving you a support person and helping your first days feel less lonely. A word to the wise: picking someone who’s been there for a while and seems reasonably positive about their experience is probably a good choice as a first contact point.
Pick a Staff: As you relax into your experience and get the lay of the land, pick a staff member just like you picked your first friend or two. Other students who have been in the program for a while are often able to point the way to staff who are particularly approachable.
Ask Questions: Asking lots of questions of students and staff about how the program works can really help you get your bearings quickly and feel more in control. So ask away.  Remember that no question should be off limits, as long as you remember to ask it respectfully.
Get Some Sleep: Sleep is critical to managing your mood. So while other students are up talking, do what you can to get a full night’s sleep. Sleep helps relieve depression, anxiety, and stress. If you’re really having trouble getting sleep be sure to let staff know so that they can help address the problem.
Stay Active: Physical activity is critical to keeping your mood positive. It’s not just good for your body, it’s also good for your mind and emotions. So even if your program has a strong physical fitness component, do as much additional activity as you can, anything from walking to cycling to weight lifting will help.