May 18, 2023 – “I thought that the only way to get out was to tell them what they seemed to want to hear,” she said. “When I did try to tell the truth, I was told that I was a liar and a manipulator.”

At the time, Alice believed that once she got out of rehab, it would all be over. What she didn’t know then was “how much their assessment of me would follow me home and impact the rest of my life.” 

“Despite knowing that I didn’t belong there initially, with everyone around me telling me otherwise and no one believing me, I felt trapped in that identity,” she explained, “and eventually began to doubt my own reality.” 

Taught that she was “ill,” Alice came to believe it. “I couldn’t trust my own thoughts, emotions or experiences.” 

And in her case, she said, “the treatment itself became a self-fulfilling … prophecy, as I did go on later in my adolescence to develop a problem with substances, partly to find some relief from the feelings of worthlessness and lack of control over my own life, and partly to feel I wasn’t living a lie.”

The experience also damaged the trust between her and her parents, and “set me up for additional traumatic treatment experiences in my adolescence and normalized unhealthy relationships in my adulthood.” 

“I continue to live with the impacts of the trauma from this experience to this day,” she concluded.

Alice’s story illustrates how traditional treatment can pathologize normal behaviors of adolescence, thereby reinforcing stigma and existing low self-esteem. She’s only one of countless adolescents who have been traumatized by the traditional treatment industry as a result of the medicalizing and pathologizing that is standard in one-size-fits-all programs. 

The majority of substance use disorder treatment programs—ranging from outpatient, to intensive outpatient and residential/inpatient—are still 12-step based, and conduct therapy on the premise that the patient has a disease.