The Addiction Recovery Management Service (ARMS) at Massachusetts General Hospital provides support services for parents of youth between 14 and 26 facing substance use and related problems.

When young people develop substance-related problems, their whole family is impacted. And at ARMS, we strive to support parents.

As the parent of a young person with possible substance use disorder, you need someone you can turn to for information and expert advice, just as you would if your child suffered from any other medical condition. But you may be in even greater need of support, as the stigma associated with addiction often makes parents feel uncomfortable confiding in even their family and closest friends.

ARMS can help you with:

  • Guidance in navigating the treatment system - treatment services vary widely by type, cost, location and duration. Many families lack access to the information needed to make informed decisions. We help families navigate the complicated maze of substance use disorder treatment choices
  • Education about substance use - we can help you understand how addiction functions as a disease of the brain. Understanding how substance use impacts adolescents is an important part in developing a plan for how to best approach treatment. By understanding addiction, families are better able to understand how their loved one will move through the different levels of care available and how to use other recovery supports
  • Empowered decision-making - we can help empowering you and your family to make decisions that feel more supportive of your loved one while encouraging them into treatment and toward recovery

Many families find themselves caught in a pattern of behaviors that don’t feel right yet they don’t know how to change. ARMS can help families understand the difference between support and enabling and can help each family determine a roadmap to change.

Our Model

ARMS uses a treatment model know as "Community Reinforcement and Family Training" (CRAFT). Learn more about CRAFT in this article featuring ARMS director James McKowen, PhD:

"An Underappreciated Intervention", Monitor on Psychology

ARMS Services for Parents

These parent services are available regardless of whether your child is enrolled in the ARMS program.

  • Parent Orientation Group – 30-minute free group to orient parents to resources for parents at ARMS
  • Parent Education and Support Group – weekly free group for parents, 8 week clinician led curriculum providing education and skills to parents of youth with substance use problems.
  • Parent Coaching Group – insurance billed, 6-8 week small parent treatment group providing tailored support for specific issues
  • Parent Long-term Support Group – free weekly after-care group for parents who have completed the parent education and support group

What You Can do for Your Child

If your child has a substance-related problem, you need someone you can turn to for information and expert advice, just as you would if your child suffered from any other medical condition. But you may be in even greater need of support, as the stigma associated with addiction often makes parents feel uncomfortable confiding in even their family and closest friends. ARMS can help you to overcome this shame by educating you about how addiction functions as a disease of the brain, and by empowering you and your child to navigate the complicated maze of substance use disorder treatment choices.

ARMS strives to be an ally for the parents of children with substance-related problems, as we believe that family involvement is crucial for successful recovery. We can offer you information, advice and an outlet where you can address your own feelings and get parent guidance and any treatment you may need.

ARMS is available to offer you guidance in a variety of different ways. We provide one-time consultations to those who do not wish to enroll in our program and provide evidence-based coaching to the parents of adolescents and young adults with substance-related problems who are not yet willing to seek an assessment or treatment themselves.

Substance Use Disorders and Young Adults

Warning Signs: For Parents

If you've wondered if your child has a substance-related problem, but you’ve felt too overwhelmed or frightened to face the situation, you are not alone. Denial is a common and understandable response to teen substance use, as no parent wants to think his or her child may be at risk for addiction. And young people often experience such intense emotional responses to their everyday life that it can be easy to fail to notice, or choose to ignore, signs of substance use.

Does Your Child Have a Problem?

You might not even know if your child has a substance-related problem or is just exhibiting the usual growing pains that go along with being an adolescent or young adult. We can familiarize you with the warning signs that may indicate your child is misusing substances or has a substance use disorder.

Warning Signs

Before you can decide if your child is in need of treatment, we can help you identify if there is a problem or not. While some warning signs of teen substance use or addiction are similar to those behaviors exhibited by healthy teens undergoing typical adolescent growing pains, such behaviors can also indicate the likelihood of a substance-related problem.

Typical warning signs include:

  • Moodiness, irritability, anger, aggressive behavior
  • Depression
  • Incoherence, forgetfulness, slurred speech
  • Clumsiness, poor balance, lack of coordination
  • Rapid speech, uncharacteristic talkativeness, restlessness
  • Irresponsibility, recklessness, bad judgment, secrecy
  • Thefts or sudden requests for money
  • Decreased motivation and lack of interest in former activities, such as school clubs and sports
  • New friends replace old friends
  • Problems at school, such as discipline issues, poor grades and unexplained absences

Confronting Substance User Disorders in Young People

Engaged Parents Are Informed Parents

In addition to watching out for general indicators that your teen may be using alcohol or drugs, you should take advantage of opportunities to check in with your child and make note of anything unusual about his/her appearance or behavior. For example, when your child returns home from a night out with friends, start a conversation in order to see if your child smells like pot, cigarette smoke or alcohol. And make a point of knowing what’s going on in your child’s academic and social life, so any sudden changes will be noticeable.

We strive to involve parents as much as is possible in a child’s recovery as family involvement is essential for long-term stable recovery; however, we are subject to privacy regulations around healthcare information and so accessing information about your child will depend on their age, their agreement to share information, and as well, clinical judgment.

It is not uncommon that a child is resistant or unwilling to come in for an evaluation or treatment. When this is the case, we recommend that parents come to our free parent education and support group to learn about how to engage one’s child in treatment. We can also offer more resistant patients the opportunity for a more informal “meet and greet” type of meeting with a clinician, wherein a child can meet with an ARMS clinician to ask questions about the program, without having to commit to anything.

Learn more about ARMS

Watch this video series featuring clinical director James McKowen, PhD to learn more about our program, staff and treatment options: Addiction Recovery Management Program.

Read our Frequently Asked Questions.

Please call our office at 617-643-4699 for location information and registration.