How Service to Others is Therapeutic for Teens Struggling with Addiction and Trauma
Chances are at some point in your life you’ve heard the expression, “the best way to help yourself is to help someone else”. And for teens struggling with addiction and trauma, this couldn’t be more true.
These teens often have trouble regulating their emotions and have fallen behind in empathy development and impulse control. But there is hope to overcome these obstacles. The answer lies in the power of service to others.
Revised version: To some extent, every kid lives in their own little universe. You and the rest of the world revolves around them. But for your kid who has suffered from trauma and drug abuse, it’s even harder for them to see how their behaviors affect others. They have a harder time thinking through and regulating their emotions, controlling their impulses and developing empathy towards others. This is what service towards others targets during addiction treatment.
As a parent, you want your child to have a fulfilling life and be caring towards others. In this article, we’ll explain the importance of serving others and how it can turn your hopes of your teen overcoming addiction into a reality.
Revised version: In this article, we’ll explore three reasons why volunteering and serving others is so beneficial for adolescents who are recovering from trauma and addiction.
1. Living for a Future Moment
For teens suffering from addiction, the mindset of living for the next high is a common occurrence. But, the power of service to others can help break that cycle. By volunteering, your teen will start to exercise the parts of the brain that manage social connection and empathy.
As your teen develops new relationships and sees how their work benefits others, their empathy, responsibility and maturity increase. These new experiences help your teen feel valued and find purpose and joy outside of drugs and alcohol. After all, the root of joy often comes as a product of a shared experience. And becoming linked to something bigger than yourself is how serving others helps in addiction recovery
2. Creating a Pathway to Healing
The limbic area of the brain is what stores everyone’s fight or flight response. And for teens who’ve experienced addiction and trauma, that area is lit up on a constant basis. By taking drugs to help relieve stress, your teen has inadvertently created a neural pathway between stress and the immediate desire to use. So, whenever stress hits, the default response is substance abuse.
But, service to others can help break that cycle. The way to fix this pattern of behavior is to create new neural pathways. And that’s exactly how serving others helps in addiction recovery. The meaningful emotions that stem from volunteering can become the foundation for overpowering the desire to use. By creating new neural pathways through meaningful social connection, your teen now has healthier ways to cope with stress and trauma that don’t involve drinking or drug use.
3. Seeing the Big Picture
Finally, service to others can open horizons and put things into perspective for your teen. That’s why teen recovery centers like Kokua Recovery take service trips to Guatemala. Service peels back the walls your teen has built up around them, so they can finally see what life is like for people less fortunate than them. They start to realize how their behaviors have affected others and that there is a way to improve and get better.
When dealing with addiction and trauma, it’s easy to feel like you’re on an island. But by using the power of service to others, your teen starts to see their problems put into perspective. Realizing that you’re not the only one facing challenges sparks hope that change is possible. Every teen has the ability to replace addiction with healthy interests and social connection. And that’s exactly what service to others can help achieve, while making a positive difference in the community.
Is Your Teen Struggling with Addiction and Trauma?
At Kokua Recovery, we specialize in healing the trauma that underlies addiction. Through trauma-specific treatment backed by adventure therapy and services trips to Guatemala, we know that lasting change is possible. If you’re ready to get your teen the help and give yourself hope, contact us today to get started.