September 10, 2013 —

Shane Stamas is the primary counselor at the Full Circle Treatment Center, a non-profit facility in Roseville, Calif., that provides intensive outpatient adolescent drug and alcohol treatment with a family component.  Recently, we chatted with him about working with teens and how parents can prevent medicine abuse in their families before it becomes a problem.

1. Tell us about yourself and what you do.
I’ve been sober for five years, and I’ve been working as a counselor at the Full Treatment Center for almost four years now. Every day on the job, I work with teens and parents and have seen how drug and medicine abuse can affect families.

2. What do you think is the most challenging aspect of the Full Circle program for teens?
To build an identity. The teens I work with are so lost in high school; they may not have known exactly who they were and what they wanted to do, so they turned to drugs and medicine abuse. Teens have to learn how to be social and to have fun without being under the influence of a substance.

3. What is the most challenging aspect of the Full Circle program for parents with teens in recovery?
Many parents have trouble comprehending that their child is abusing substances such as drugs, medicines or alcohol. No parent wants to see their child in that light, and accepting the new reality and loving them anyway can be difficult.

4. What is the most rewarding part of your job as a counselor?
This job is a gift, and it’s so rewarding. I can see my younger self in so many of the kids who walk through these doors. It’s amazing to watch kids who come in with little confidence in themselves become vulnerable, gain self-respect, and develop self-worth throughout the one year program. It’s truly incredible to be able to go to their graduation and see their progress over the course of the year.

5. What advice would you give to parents who believe their teen may have a substance addiction or want to prevent medicine abuse in their homes?
Create an open relationship. It can be uncomfortable to talk to your teens about these topics, but if you lead the way, they will go there with you. Treat your children with respect – avoid being overly  authoritative; just sit down and have an open dialogue.

Be in tune with your teen’s friends, what their friend’s home life is like, and get to know their parents. If you’re afraid your teen or their friends are abusing substances, voice your concern and expectations.

Lastly, as a parent, you should always practice consistency – communicate your rules and expectations and make sure to follow through if your teen experiments with substance abuse. Teens will often call your bluff so don’t just “talk the talk.”