What do Continuing Care & Recovery Communities Have in Common? Adolescents.

High relapse rates for youth with substance use disorders (SUD) and a need for addressing what happens when youth are released from inpatient care back into the same environment following treatment are both barriers on the road to recovery for adolescents, however, there are recovery support systems available to aid recovery.

Historically, adolescents were treated the same as adults, whereas now, they are viewed as their own unique and specific population with their own needs that are different than adults with SUD. Adolescents may also present with lower addiction severity, individual motivation and skills for abstinence, higher rates of co-occurring mental illness, and have fewer available recovery-supportive peers.


Recovery support programs are an important bridge that can be used to aid recovery for adolescents and young adults, because they provide continuing care that facilitates successful adaptations and helps buffer the stress associated with the demands of early recovery.

Fisher performed a review (n=19) using Snowball sampling methodology to identify potential articles. Articles were identified and then included references were examined to see if any relevant articles were included. Articles were included if they focused on adolescents, substance use, recovery, program evaluation or evaluation of factors determining post treatment program success. The author wanted to examine adolescent recovery support programs.

Fisher categorized adolescent recovery support programs into either formalized continuing care or recovery communities.


The goal of continuing care is to continue to engage adolescents in some form of formalized aftercare, and it can include case managers or brief follow-up phone calls.


Recovery communities, in contrast, include community-based mutual-help organizations, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and academic recovery institutions (recovery high schools and colleges offer adolescents a safe and sober learning environment that fosters recovery and academic advancement).

Findings have suggested that recovery high schools are successful at facilitating both recovery and academic success for students. While community-based MHOs were originally created for adults, studies have found increased abstinence and recovery benefits associated with greater AA and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) participation. Further research is needed to examine the many facets of the relationship between MHOs and youth with SUD because group composition and other factors such as religion play vital roles in this connection.


Adolescents with SUD possess unique characteristics tied to their developmental status and thus face different challenges and have unique needs following initial intensive treatment.

Unlike adults who may be able to relocate more easily, adolescents often return to the same social situations and environment as pre-treatment. It is known that creating new social connections that encourage recovery is vital to an individual in recovery and adolescents who return to the same situations may struggle with this.

Moving away from the current 50 minute model of psychotherapy and towards alternative recovery support structures that are less substance use disorder (SUD) focused, such as Phoenix Multisport, may be beneficial for adolescents with SUD. While there is limited data about recovery high schools, more scientific research on community recovery supports, such as recovery high schools and collegiate recovery programs is needed to identify if they improve long-term SUD outcomes and to identify mechanisms of change. Additionally, developing and testing methods to engage adolescents with community-based mutual-help organizations is needed. A combination of continuing care services and recovery communities may help to achieve the best outcomes for youth with addiction.



Fisher, E. A. (2014). Recovery supports for young people: What do existing supports reveal about the recovery environment?. Peabody Journal of Education, 89(2), 258-270.