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Making Their Mark

A personal tragedy sets a California family on a mission to help young adults achieve a life of sobriety and become independent.

For almost a quarter of a century, Benchmark Transitions, a Redlands, California-based family-owned and -operated residential treatment center, has provided a continuum of care for young adults aged 18 to 28.

Offering specialized treatment for this demographic and bringing families into the fold is key, according to this expert team who know from personal experience how addiction can envelop a family and how young adults require a different approach than the over-30 set.

They place a focus on teens and young adults who are poised for independence but need some assistance getting there and create an effective strategy for clients to resume their lives at this crucial point. By embracing the whole family and being sensitive to individual needs, Benchmark offers personalized treatment options for young adults with substance abuse and co-occurring disorders and for those with behavioral health issues.

Recovery Campus spoke with Shelley Skaggs, the company’s admissions and outreach certified parent coach, to learn about what makes specialized treatment for people in this demographic most effective.

Recovery Campus: How is working with young adults different than providing treatment to more mature ages?

Shelley Skaggs: Treating this demographic is unique because individuals over 18 can make decisions for themselves, yet they are still dependent on their families for financial and emotional support. We are cognizant that they want some autonomy but are still very connected to their families.

In addition, families often have provided a level of oversight for these adolescents, and when they turn 18, the parents find it difficult to let go. We are working with young adults who are looking to individuate while also helping the families who are concerned about the direction that their young will go in to let go.

RC: What are the obstacles you see with youth seeking treatment?

SS: Financial obstacles are major. Because people in this age group have little resources and are dependent, they need families that can financially support them or help them with insurance benefits. They also need an advocate helping them traverse how to find the appropriate care that is specific to them and fits their financial abilities.

RC: Why is specialized treatment for people aged 18 to 28 important?

SS: Although there are many programs that treat adolescents and people over 18, we are the longest running, young-adult-specific program. Programs for people over 18 treat all clients like they are adults who can make their own decisions. Often, they will place young adults with clients in their 30s to 70s — people who are in completely different stages of life. Most of our clients fall in the 18- to 25-year-old range, so they are truly among peers.

RC: How is being among other young adults effective in promoting a new, healthy life?

SS: Peer support is important, especially when clients move to transitional living and extended care. They get a lot of feedback from their peers. They go hiking, visit the beach, boogie board or whale watch together — fun, young adult activities with a peer group that is supportive and not using substances. Once they are in a healthy place in their recovery, they can even learn how to date again. The peers help them see that they can be sober and still enjoy a fun, meaningful life after treatment.

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