Mountainside Offers Guidance to Parents of College-bound Sober Teens

Published on August 18, 2016
Mountainside Canaan Aerial Shot

Family Wellness Manager Tina Muller gives parents strategies for helping teens in addiction recovery transition to college life

Canaan, CT — For parents of a child in addiction recovery, the thought of sending that child off to live independently on a college campus can be frightening. After all, college campuses can be an area where there are strong temptations to use, even if a young adult has a strong commitment to their recovery.

Statistically, four out of five college students engage in alcohol consumption and about half engage in binge drinking. There has also been a rise in prescription drug misuse as well as in illicit drug use on campuses across the nation. If a parent is now looking into colleges for their teen in recovery to safely attend next fall, Mountainside’s Family Wellness Manager Tina Muller has some advice.

“Remember, the whole process of finding the right school for your teen in recovery doesn’t have to be an overwhelming one,” said Muller. “Once you know what elements to look for that will make their college career a success and their recovery stronger, your teen’s transition to college will be a seamless one you will both be proud of.”

Muller suggests parents with teens in recovery take the following steps when searching for the right college environment for their child:

  1. Consider “dry” colleges. Sober campuses don’t allow alcohol and make sure the rules are strictly followed by its students. As an alternative, parents and their teens in recovery can explore colleges that support sobriety by offering AA programs, on-campus support, sober housing, or have connections with local organizations that assist young adults in their sobriety.
  2. Look for colleges with sober clubs. Certain college campuses offer students the opportunity to join on-campus sober clubs that will provide them with additional recovery support from their peers. Through these clubs, they will find a wide variety of activities that are sponsored by the college and that will promote academic as well as non-academic fun and entertainment without alcohol or other substances.
  3. Encourage honesty about being in recovery on campus. There is nothing wrong with living a sober life and students in recovery should never feel ashamed to share the truth about their sobriety with people, no matter what college they choose. By being open and honest about their recovery on campus with friends, academic advisors, and housemates, sober teens will be able to quickly gain support from individuals as well as benefit from resources that are available to them, both when they are in need and when they are not.
  4. Visit the campuses and their neighboring area ahead of time. Parents and their teen in recovery should visit the campuses to get a feel of the culture, environment, and options for sober college life. They should also explore the town it is located in ahead of time to identify good sober hangout spots and areas that the teen could possibly visit if they attend the school. Finally, the family should be sure to check for local chapters of AA and NA meetings that are convenient to campus.
  5. Remember what is in their “circle of control.” Once the family has settled on the college for next fall, parents must be sure to keep an open dialogue now that will last throughout the student’s years in college. Parents are advised to talk to their child about and encourage their child to have positive interactions with other sober youth on campus. It is important for parents to be consistent with expectations for their child’s behavior and should express those expectations to their child. However, it is up to the child to choose the friends that support their value system and their recovery.

“When your child is attending college and a conversation you are having with them points to the possibility that they may be engaging in activities that could jeopardize their recovery, steer the conversation back to the things they value in their goals,” Muller further advised. “This will help them take responsibility for their own choices, not you.”

About Tina Muller

Tina is a Licensed Clinical Social worker and a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor. She has extensive training and experience in the treatment of families affected by addiction, including those with co-occurring disorders, PTSD and attachment disorders. With a deep understanding of how to develop effective and innovative addiction programs, Tina leads our Family Wellness team, ensuring that each client has the opportunity to explore familial relationships and understand how these relationships affect their recovery. She also offers support and connections to the families of our clients struggling with addiction.