Our Treatment

Family First Adolescent Services is committed to providing best-in-class care to teens in a safe and loving environment. Our approach is to treat the underlying issues that are causing destruction and dangerous behaviors in our clients.

Substance Use

We've been helping families heal from the damages caused by adolescent substance use. Learn more about how our staff can help begin the healing process.

Mental Health

There are many warning signs that indicate the presence of a mental health issue, such as depression, anxiety, or a complex trauma disorder. Learn more about mental health disorders and how we treat the disease.

Alcohol Use

Adolescents who start drinking before the age of 15 are 4 times more likely to become alcohol dependent at some point in their lives. Learn more about teen drinking symptoms and treatment.

Problematic Gaming

Problematic Gaming is becoming a common issue in which teens avoid larger issues through the escape of gaming. Learn more about this issue and watch our segment that was featured on Dr. Phil.

Substance Use

Adolescent substance use is a family disease. When you discover that your child is using drugs or alcohol, it is perfectly normal to experience an onslaught of painful emotions. It is also normal to be flooded with questions that don’t have immediate answers. Try to maintain a level head. Laying blame on yourself or your child is not productive and could potentially make matters worse.

substance use

Supportive Research

Sadly, adolescent substance use is more common than you might think. In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that nearly 30% of teens use alcohol regularly. They also reported that nearly 20% of teens use marijuana regularly, and 14% use prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription. It is important to keep in mind that you are not alone. Help is available.

Early Detection

Without treatment, adolescent substance use can lead to a lifelong dependency and poor choices. Early detection is crucial. Enrolling in a treatment program can be the difference between success and failure. In some cases, it can be a matter of life and death.

group therapy

Facts About Adolescent Substance Use

  • The overwhelming majority of adults who are addicted to drugs or alcohol started using before the age of 18.
  • 20% of teens report having a friend that misuses prescription drugs.
  • High correlation between underage alcohol consumption and cocaine use later in life.
  • By 8th grade, 17% of teens have smoked marijuana.
  • Most prescription drugs misused by teens were taken from medicine cabinets of family or friends.
  • In the United States, the average age of heroin addicts in addiction treatment centers is 23 years old.

Signs Of Teen Substance Use

While most of these signs can be the result of normal adolescent behavior, the existence of multiple red flags can signal a problem.

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Chronic coughing
  • Compulsive eating
  • Diminished personal appearance
  • Emotional instability
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Extreme moodiness
  • Isolation
  • Runny nose with no medical cause
  • Secretive behavior
  • Stealing/Theft
  • Sudden weight loss


Adolescents lack the emotional maturity and life experience to comprehend the risks involved with experimenting with substance use or alcohol. As a result, they don’t consider the possibility of causing permanent damage (physical, emotional, legal) to themselves or others. Moreover, adolescents often act as though they are invincible. When making the decision to use for the first time, teens don’t consider the potential for getting hurt or developing a long term problem.

Our goal is to eradicate substance use in adolescents so they are free to live fulfilling lives. We understand that the health and happiness of your child is top priority. We aim to restore the harmony between adolescents and their families.

Why Do Teens Use Drugs?

There are many reasons why adolescents experiment with controlled substances. Most teens are unaware of the high level of risk involved with this type of behavior. Experimentation can easily progress to a substance use disorder if left unchecked. After a while, it is very difficult to stop using without professional help.

Common Reasons For Adolescent Substance Use:

  • Academic pressure
  • Curiosity
  • Escapism
  • Mental health issues
  • Pain relief
  • Peer pressure

Here To Provide Help

Family First Adolescent Services is here to provide help and ongoing support. We believe in early intervention. Treating the problem early can drastically improve the chance of a full recovery. Our adolescent program focuses on treating the underlying traumas that often lead to substance use. This is done within the context of the entire family. Additionally, we prioritize education as an integral part of program. Your child doesn’t fall behind in their studies while taking care of what is most important: their health.

Before seeking treatment for your child, it is important that you know what is going on in their life. How long have they been experimenting? Are they in danger of developing a substance use disorder, or worse, overdosing? Answering these questions is necessary in order to develop a deeper understanding of the situation – and knowing how to proceed.

As a parent, knowing the signs of teen substance use can help you decide whether or not your child is in need of professional intervention.

Mental Health Treatment

Discussing mental health treatment with your adolescent child is a difficult family topic. It is the desire of every parent that their children be happy and healthy. For this reason, Family First Adolescent Services approaches teen mental health challenges with a combination of trauma informed care, a blend of therapies, and education. We teach families how to be whole – through mutual love, support, and acceptance. We understand the struggle, and are here to help.

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Restoring Your Child To Health

The goal of our adolescent mental health program is to restore your child to health, while giving them the tools they will need to successfully navigate life. We understand that every child is unique. Our mental health programs take place in a clinical, stable environment that allows for the building of a strong foundation. This foundation will result in a fulfilling and productive life.

Be Aware Of Warning Signs

It is beneficial for parents to be aware of some of the warning signs. In the event that your child needs treatment for a mental health disorder, early detection is best. Whether your child suffers from anxiety, depression, a substance use disorder, or a problematic gaming condition, we know how to proceed. We specialize in treating mental health issues in young people, and have the experience and expertise to care for your child.

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Facts About Mental Health Problems Among Teens

  • 20% of adolescents have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Mental health issues are a common challenge faced by families. You’re not alone.
  • 50% of all mental health disorders are detectable by age 14. Mental health disorders show up early.
  • Nearly 75% of all anxiety disorders, depression, and impulse control disorders were developed during adolescence.
  • 90% of adolescents who commit suicide have a mental health condition. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among teenagers.
  • 20-30% of teens have at least one major depressive episode before reaching adulthood.

Signs Of Adolescent Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues don’t exist in a vacuum. There are many warning signs that indicate the presence of a mental health issue, such as depression, anxiety, or a complex trauma disorder.

  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Emotional instability
  • Extreme emotions
  • Irregular eating habits
  • Isolation
  • Loss of self-esteem, poor self-image, depressive

Effective Ways To Help Your Teen

Here are some effective strategies for helping your child with their mental health issues. If this is overwhelming for you as a parent, know that it is okay to reach out for professional guidance.

  • Make it a priority to establish open and honest communication. Remember to ask them questions. Actively listening helps to build a bridge between you and your child. Avoid judgments.
  • Show love and understanding.
  • Reassure them that they are not facing these issues by themselves. Make them aware of your own youthful missteps, or share with them the struggles faced by other adolescents. It helps to know they’re not alone in the struggle.
  • Don’t panic or blow things out of proportion. The middle road of balance and moderation takes time and patience to discover.
  • Have a conversation with the other adults in your teen’s life, such as teachers and coaches. Having a different perspective is useful when piecing together the whole picture.
  • Connect with an adolescent treatment facility that specializes in addressing mental health.

Facing the challenge of mental health directly is a positive first step. In the case that your child’s mental health issues are too great to face on your own, consider enlisting the help of qualified mental health professionals. Family First Adolescent Services has a proven track record of helping adolescents rise above their mental health conditions. Our aim is to help your child move toward healing so they are free to live a fulfilling life.

Mental Health Treatment for Adolescents

The Family First Adolescent Services clinical model is organized around treating developmental trauma. We do this through a combination of individual, group, and family therapies – as well as through the adoption of the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM). We prioritize education and skill development so that your child doesn’t fall behind while in treatment.

Types of Therapy

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)
  • NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM)
  • Experiential therapies

Our goal is to eradicate mental health issues in adolescents so they are free to live fulfilling lives. A key step in treating mental health issues is in teaching teens the tools to live gracefully with their condition. We understand that the health and happiness of your child is top priority. We aim to restore the harmony between adolescents and their families. This allows the entire family to heal and move forward into lasting recovery.

Alcohol Use

alcohol use

It is illegal to consume alcohol under the age of 21 in the United States. Underage drinking can result in legal repercussions that could potentially to derail your child’s life. Community service, driver’s licence suspension, legal fees, jail time, and far worse. We are all aware of the negative effects that alcohol impairment has on driving and overall judgement. It results in poor decision making that can have permanent consequences. Drinking underage is irresponsible. It puts your child and those around them in danger.

Adolescents lack experience and emotional maturity. Feelings of invincibility can prevent them from fully evaluating the weight of their decisions. It is not uncommon for underage drinking to be in the form of binge drinking, which is classified as having 4-5 drinks in a two hour period. This high risk behavior results in diminished motor skills, severe lapses in judgement, and can lead to alcohol poisoning. Over time, excessive drinking takes a toll on mental health, school work, personal relationships, and can cause your child to stray from their future goals and aspirations.

Signs Of Underage Drinking

There are several warning signs of adolescent alcohol use. Many of the symptoms are noticeable to teachers, friends, and family members. Other signs are more subtle. The presence of these warning signs should be taken seriously. In some cases, it may be necessary to seek treatment for adolescent alcohol use. Problems of this nature will not conveniently work themselves out. They require the intervention of behavioral professionals that specialize in treating adolescents. Don’t sit by idly waiting for the situation to escalate. The harmful effects will only worsen with time.

Symptoms Of Underage Drinking

When teenagers frequently drink alcohol there will be noticeable changes in their behavior. Mood changes associated with alcohol consumption are anger, aggressiveness, irritability, and being overly defensive. It also carries an emotional volatility that allows for rapid and dramatic mood shifts. Up one moment, down the next. Pay attention to your child’s behavior.

Losing Interest in Hobbies and Activities

Indulging in hobbies and participating in extracurricular activities plays a vital role in the physical, emotional, and communal development of adolescents. This sort of behavior should be encouraged and nurtured. When a teenager begins to develop a problem with alcohol, their attention shifts. They are likely to care less about participating in sports, band, and other activities they may be involved in. This is due to their new focus on satisfying a new urge.

Poor Academic Performance

Underage drinking commonly causes poor academic performance. Be on alert if your child starts inexplicably falling behind in their studies. Students who frequently consume alcohol may skip classes, exhibit disruptive behavior, neglect their homework, and receive failing grades. These are all signs of a potential problem. If you notice any of these behaviors in your child it is important that they be addressed immediately.

Changing Social Circles

Adolescence is a season of change and volatility. There is a finite difference between your child moving from one circle of the friends to another because it’s a good fit, and changing social circles for more sinister reasons. Get to know the people your teenager is spending their time with. Friends exert enormous influence on our behaviors. By taking the time to find out what your child is doing, where they are doing it, and with whom, you will make it more difficult for them to engage in destructive behaviors. If it is too late for that, it is time to seek the help of treatment professionals.

Lack of Concentration

Binge drinking alters brain activity. In fact, it results in a form of brain damage. For this reason, a common side effects of heavy drinking are memory loss and a lack of focus. The adolescent brain is still in the developmental stage. This makes it even more important to avoid substance use during this phase of life. The impact can be huge, and the damage could be permanent. Treating the problem as early as possible is the best practice.

Being Under the Influence

This one is a bit obvious, but the power of denial can be a strong force. If you notice that your child is under the influence of alcohol, it should merit an open conversation. The scent of alcohol is undeniable. Not only is it noticeable on the breath of those who have recently consumed it, but it also sweats out of the pores. When this happens, it is detectable on the clothes and sheets of those who have been drinking. Other signs of being under the influence are slurred speech, flushed face, lack of coordination, and blood shot eyes. If you notice these side effects in your child, let them know that you know.

Underage Drinking Stats

Adolescent alcohol consumption is a serious issue that can derail a teenagers future if not treated promptly.

  • 33% of 12th graders had consumed alcohol during the past 30 days.
  • Adolescents who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent at some point in their lives.
  • 33% of adolescents have had at least one drink by age 15. By age 18, that number nearly doubles to about 60%.
  • There are more than 4,000 alcohol-related deaths in individuals under the age of 21 per year. This includes suicides, car accidents, alcohol poisoning, and homicides.

Consequences Of Underage Drinking

It is not a hallmark of adolescence to be keenly aware of future consequences. Only life experience can teach that. For adolescents, it’s best to get in front of an alcohol problem before it’s too late. Underage drinking leads to many negative side effects – both short term and long term.

  • Poor performance in school
  • Legal troubles
  • Risky behavior
  • Abusing other substances
  • Physical and mental health issues
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • High risk of suicide attempts

Long-term consequences can develop as the adolescent ages into adulthood. Additional health complications of alcohol use can develop as an adolescent ages through life. Many of these conditions are irreversible. The most common examples include:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Respiratory infections

Abstaining from drinking alcohol is the only way to prevent the aforementioned risks entirely. Family First Adolescent Services specializes in treating alcohol use problems with a combination of therapies and trauma-informed care. We prioritize healing family dynamics so that your family can go on functioning in a healthy and compassionate manner. Our education program ensures that your child won’t fall behind in their studies while they are getting the help they need. Contact us to treat adolescent alcohol use.

How To Prevent Underage Drinking

This can be a difficult problem. It is impossible to force your will on your child. However, there are some best practices for preventing your teenage child from consuming alcohol. The most important thing is to talk openly with your child. Talk about the very real dangers of peer pressure, as well as the negative consequences of alcohol use. Oftentimes, substance use is masking a deep trauma or pain. Do your best to find out what is missing from your child’s life.

Note that is just as important to listen to your child as it is to talk to them. Find out what’s going on in their life – who they are hanging out with and what they are doing. Let them know that it is okay to talk to you about anything. The goal is remove barriers, not build them. Over time, this will build a sense of trust and safety which will create a strong relationship.

Lastly, encouraging the benefits of extracurricular activities can’t be overstated. Every hour that your child is fostering a healthy sense of community while strengthening their bodies and minds is an hour spent proactively. Learn about their interests and encourage participation.

Treatment for Underage Drinking

The Family First Adolescent Services clinical model is organized around treating developmental trauma. We do this through a combination of individual, group, and family therapies – as well as through the adoption of the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM). We prioritize education and skill development so that your child doesn’t fall behind while in treatment.

Our goal is to eradicate underage drinking in adolescents so they are free to live fulfilling lives. A key step in treating teen alcoholism is in teaching them the tools of sustainable sobriety. We understand that the health and happiness your child is top priority. We aim to restore the harmony between adolescents and their families. This allows the entire family to heal and move forward into lasting recovery.

Problematic Gaming

Many parents are facing the reality that problematic gaming is a very real threat to their teenage children. What was once an innocent hobby has transformed into an addiction that has overtaken their lives. Additionally, many parents are confused on what exactly problematic gaming is and what to do about it.

At Family First Adolescent Services, we are dedicated to treating the underlying issues that present themselves in our clients’ behavior before coming to treatment. We believe that the behaviors themselves, whether it is substance use, problematic gaming, gambling, defiance, anger issues, or risk-taking behaviors are symptoms of a deeper problem.

What Is Problematic Gaming?

Gaming disorder is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as:

“A pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.”

Like drug addiction, alcoholism, and many other types of addiction, Problematic Gaming is a real disease with real consequences. It is also particularly harmful in teens due to the social acceptance of excessive gaming. Many parents still view excessive gaming as a “childhood” phase, and something their kids will “grow out of.”

Understanding The Problem

The rising issue of problematic gaming forces us to look at what is being gained through a virtual platform that is lacking for the adolescent in his or her life. For example, in a video game there are rules that can be relied on at all times, even the most complicated game has stability that the adolescent can rely on with complete faith. If you press this button, this happens. Success and accomplishment in the virtual world are also simplified and very stable.

This consistency is not reflected in real life because it is in-human. Relationships and society are by nature inconsistent and unpredictable. This creates frustration, anxiety, sadness, and confusion, especially in adolescents, whose minds are still developing. Gaming is a way that more and more adolescents are avoiding the difficulties of being adolescent.

Problematic Gaming And The Teenage Brain

Studies are beginning to show that problematic gaming effects the brain in many of the same ways that drug addiction and other addictions do. This includes:

  • Triggering the sympathetic nervous systems (fight or flight).
  • Increased levels of dopamine from gaming, and a “drop” after gaming.
  • An increased feeling of needing to “escape” the real world.

Additionally, according to the peer reviewed journal Frontiers, researchers have found:

“functional and structural changes in the neural reward system in gaming addicts, in part by exposing them to gaming cues that cause cravings and monitoring their neural responses. These neural changes are basically the same as those seen in other addictive disorders.”

Essentially, the brain reacts to problematic gaming the same as it would drug addiction or gambling addiction.

Signs Your Teen Is Suffering From Problematic Gaming

There are many signs that your teen has a gaming problem. According to Dr. Han Doug-hyun from Chung-Ang University Hospital in Seoul, South Korea, the top 5 signs of Problematic Gaming are:

  • Disrupted regular life pattern. If a person plays games all night long and sleeps in the daytime, that can be a warning he or she should seek professional help.
  • If the potential gaming or Internet addict loses his or her job, or stops going to school in order to be online or to play a digital game.
  • Need for a bigger fix. Does the gamer have to play for longer and longer periods in order to get the same level of enjoyment from the game?
  • Withdrawal. Some Internet and gaming addicts become irritable or anxious when they disconnect, or when they are forced to do so.
  • Cravings. Some Internet and gaming addicts experience cravings, or the need to play the game or be online when they are away from the digital world.

Treating Problematic Gaming In Teens

In order to work effectively with problematic gaming, it is important to not get lost in trying to extinguish the negative behaviors and symptoms, but to address the underlying issues that are fueling these behaviors. If we focus too much on the symptoms we risk further alienating the teens and deepening the guilt and shame that is often already there. Instead, we look to what is lacking for the adolescent in his or her life, the underlying emotions and needs that have been unaddressed, and that are finding outlets through compulsive behaviors like gaming.

In the mental health field we refer to this approach as “Trauma-Informed,” meaning that we focus on the interrelation between unresolved early childhood trauma and later symptoms. This approach seeks to truly understand the inner world of our teen clients, not labeling them as wrong, bad or sick, but understanding that their behaviors – even as dysfunctional as they may be – are attempting to communicate a message to their environment.

Treatment for Problematic Gaming is in many ways similar to treating most other addictions. Early studies are showing problematic gaming is particularly troubling on the neuroplasticity of the teen brain. Family First Adolescent Services utilizes the brain-plasticity assessment and treatment methods founded by Dr G. Frank Lawlis, PhD, ABPP and the Lawlis Peavey PsychoNeuroPlasticity (PNP) Center.