A Qualitative Study of Parents' Experiences of Having Had an Adolescent Son in a Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Program

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Virginia Tech

Despite the fact that much information is available in the literature regarding adolescents with a substance abuse problem, little exists that focuses on the parents' personal experience dealing with this problem. Not many researchers actually interviewed parents--when they did, it was usually for parents' observations of their adolescent or their views of treatment success--and seemingly none did so for the purpose of allowing parents to tell their own story in their own words. Furthermore, most of the existing literature has tended to see such parents in terms of their deficits, even when advocating the importance of their being included in the treatment process. Through the lens of a Family Systems perspective and by allowing parents to speak for themselves, this preliminary study explores what it was like for three parents to have had their sons go through a residential substance abuse treatment program. Six categories emerged from the semi-structured interviews: initial departure, settling in, homecoming, resources, costs and losses, and advice to other parents and professionals. The findings expand the primarily negative view of such parents to include a richer and more complex understanding.

Residential Substance Abuse Treatment, Parents of Adolescents