A few months back, Homeward Bound Clinical Director, Kelly Olsen and I recorded a podcast discussing the challenges that arise when a teen returns home from treatment.

All families experience different phases of recovery that can be difficult to navigate through. One particularly challenging phase is the testing phase. During this phase, there will often be a resurgence of old behavior three to four weeks after the teen comes home. To date, 100% of our families have gone into this testing phase and it’s essential to understand that it’s natural and normal.

Prepare for the Testing Phase

Part of your preparation for the testing phase is understanding and recognizing it for what it is. Parents falsely assume that maybe things haven’t changed and that they’re back to square one. But the reality is that family members are testing each other.

Testing a new reality involves trying to understand new boundaries, and it’s a messy process. When parents start to change routines after treatment, it’s scary for kids because it’s new territory. Also, as you increase consistency with the new changes, the first response will usually be increased chaos.

There will not be a perfect path where every single thing goes right. You will face challenges, but as you approach the situation with the right perspective, you will avoid the impulse to abandon the change and persevere.

Be sure to also prepare by strengthening yourself and finding a home team. Don’t be afraid to reach out when you feel shaky. If you’re prepared with an informed and empowered support system, you’ll be set up for greater success.

Find Your Support System

Having a home team, a professional–or preferably both–can give you the perspective and strength to keep moving forward. It can feel isolating having a teen in treatment because it isn’t talked about in the open very easily, but secrecy is toxic. If you get stuck in that secret-keeping, it’ll be nearly impossible to move forward.

Although reaching out to others will involve some risk and vulnerability, you will find an added measure of strength in their ideas and encouragement and increase your chances of success by tapping into the power of human connection. It’s important to remember there are people who love and support you and want your teen and your family to succeed.

Be Patient with the Timing

It can be hard to persevere through the testing phase when you’re not sure when or if it will ever end. Each family is different so you can’t predict exactly how long this phase will last. Look for markers of change rather than focusing on the setbacks. Small positive changes–like shorter arguments, less recovery time from mistakes, and moments of connection–are indicators that you are moving in the right direction.

If you would like to hear more about this topic, you can listen to the podcast episode “Recognizing the Testing Phase” with Dr. Tim Thayne and Homeward Bound Clinical Director, Kelly Olsen on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

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