Teenagers and families struggling with substance abuse problems present a tapestry of problems. At Daytop New Jersey, our primary goal is to help adolescents reclaim lives turned chaotic by all of the problems associated with their substance abuse, and help families to restore stability and harmony to their family structure. Specifically we address and seek improvement in the following areas during treatment: substance abuse, education, employment or vocation (where appropriate), family functioning, mental and physical health and legal issues. We see improvement in all of these areas as critical measures of our success. In addition to seeking improvement we believe that the only way an organization can be effective and continue to grow its service array in complexity and elegance is to measure itself against other providers.
As no person is an island, so no organization can act in a vacuum. The days of individual, anecdotal feel-good stories as a reflection of quality, consistent, effective and efficient services are gone. We consistently hear these stories as ex-residents and teenagers, now grown to young adults, communicate their successes as a result of their treatment in Daytop. Measuring services against state and where possible national benchmarks is the mark of a high performance organization. Daytop continues to stay at the cutting edge of services to ensure that the teenagers and families we serve receive the highest quality treatment and therefore achieve the best possible outcomes.
How do we do it? In a conversation recently, our Vice President of Treatment was asked "Do you believe in the Therapeutic Community as an effective model?" He smiled in response and answered the following:
"If you mean do I believe in the old, outdated, mythical stories of the Therapeutic Communities when they were run without professional input, with no adherence to effective treatment planning and case management coordination, and a refusal to accept that medication assisted therapy had a major impact on positive treatment outcomes? The answer is no.
I do not dispute that those communities where an answer to a absolute dearth of services at the time and changed the live of millions of people turning them away from drug use and helping them find a meaningful way to live their lives. But in this day and age the landscape has changed completely. And the challenge that Daytop has met better than any other agency out there is to keep the core philosophy of the Therapeutic Community while enhancing it with evidence-based therapy models, appropriate and necessary treatment planning and structuring, working with individuals challenged with co-occurring disorders alongside their substance abuse and recognizing particularly in working with teenagers that the most important component of treatment is engaging the family.
Daytop fully embraces as a core belief that the ultimate goal and marker of success is ensuring that teenagers and their families can find, after treatment, that they are again a loving caring and nurturing family. Where as in the past the community was an end in of itself, we now recognize that the Therapeutic Community is a growth medium, a nesting place if you will, wherein the necessary initial development takes place but ultimately its primary goal is the facilitation of family re-unification and integration.
If you mean do I believe that a Social Learning Model and Community as the Method to achieve these goals, to make the teenagers and families that come to us as broken entities find a way back to not just full functioning but real happiness? Then the answer is yes.
Do I believe that if you want to engage and work with teenagers then the most important way to communicate to them is to find their style and fashion and use, then the answer is yes.
Do I believe that peer pressure is the most powerful influencer in a teenager’s life and that while it is often seen as the motivator and cause for negative behavior it can be used to motivate away from chaos then the answer is yes.
Do I believe that all my skill as a treatment practitioner to motivate a teenager can often fall on deaf ears and that peer to peer communication is frequently more effective, then the answer is yes.
And if you ask me can a parent riddled with guilt and shame and fear find comfort, solace and the real strength to move past that and love their child again by being supported by parents who have experienced what their experiencing then the answer is yes.
I do believe in a Therapeutic Community because I believe that we experience life and growth in the eyes of our friends family and peers and without recognizing this and celebrating it we miss the essential validation often necessary to sustain us when we are not as productive or optimistic or motivated. I believe that the systems is which we live are the systems in which we can, if properly organized, grow and thrive."
THE PROOF IS IN THE DATA
Treating teens for successful long term outcomes requires addressing a myriad of life areas that have become affected by substance abuse. While positively affecting and stopping drug use directly is one of our primary goals. In 8 critical areas Daytop shows significant improvements. Education, Employment, Family, Mental and Physical Health and Legal Issues remain key areas of the entire Therapeutic Experience at Daytop. In these areas, working with teens and their families, Daytop exceeds the state average when compared with other providers.
Daytop shows that it is a leader in outperforming state percentages of change as a result of treatment, particularly in drug use change in outpatient services — in some cases as much as 60%. This indicates a real ability to interrupt cycles of dysfunction. As we expand our services, the data we gather is our road map for providing the Therapeutic Community Model in which our kids will grow and prosper.