Teen Challenge was founded in 1958 in Brooklyn, New York by David Wilkerson, a pastor of a small church in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. Wilkerson tried to provide faith-based intervention to six gang members who were on trial for the murder of a young boy. After he was denied access to the murder suspects, Wilkerson shared the Gospel to other gang members in Brooklyn and eventually opened the first Teen Challenge in that borough.
While its name might be misleading, Teen Challenge also provides substance abuse and addiction services to adults. Teen Challenge Philadelphia was established in 1964 to provide Christian-based, long-term residential treatment for men and women suffering from chemical dependency.
Accommodations and Food
Teen Challenge Philadelphia has two gender-specific houses, each accommodating 20 residents. There are between three and four clients in each dorm-style, furnished bedroom.
Cigarettes, tobacco, e-cigarettes and other nicotine products are prohibited. Outside food, except for gum and wrapped candy, are also forbidden. Residents are asked to pack a New International Version Bible and personal CDs are limited to praise and worship music. After an initial two-week blackout period where outside communication is not allowed, phone privileges are granted based on a clients’ progress in the program.
Residents eat three daily meals served cafeteria style inside dining halls.
Treatment and Staff
Applicants begin the intake process at Teen Challenge’s Harrisburg Crisis Center. While detox, along with faith-based services are offered at a local facility, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is not available.
The women’s program includes a six-month induction phase followed by a six-month residency. The men’s program is a four-month induction phase followed by a 10-month residency. During induction, which takes place at one of Teen Challenge’s phase one training centers in Pennsylvania, enrollment includes about 200 clients. By the time induction is completed, 20 men and 20 women are admitted into the gender-specific homes in Philadelphia. The intensive induction phase is comprised of faith training, life skills, education and job skills training.
Teen Challenge’s strong Christ-centered approach includes a modified version of the 12 steps. Its belief is that addiction is a secondary malady and that life can only be transformed through a relationship with Christ.
During the first two weeks, the blackout period is strictly enforced, limiting all outside communication except for medical emergencies. Residency follows a highly structured curriculum. Clients wake up between 6 and 7 am and participate in devotions between 7 and 7:25. Breakfast is served between 7:30 and 8 am, followed by house chores, which must be completed by 8:55. The rest of the day includes group prayers, faith-based classes, free time, outside group therapy and devotions. Lunch is served from 12 to 12:30 pm while dinner is from 5 to 5:30 pm. Lights out is promptly at 10 pm.
Faith-based classes include Temptations, Successful Christian Living, A Quick Look at the Bible, Attitudes, Obedience to God, Anger and Personal Rights, Bible Study, Relationships, Love and Acceptance, Spiritual Power and the Supernatural and Rejection.
Teen Challenge Philadelphia has 18 employees on staff. The team includes a pastoral counselor/program director, direct care staff/interns and Christian counselors/teachers. The staff-to-client ratio is almost one-to-two.
On Sundays, residents attend services at a local Calvary Church.
Teen Challenge’s aftercare is a four-month Restoration program offered at a training center. While the program is fee-based, clients can work off their hours, by providing residential volunteer services.
The male-only graduate program includes discipleship opportunities. Program length is two and a half years.
Teen Challenge Philadelphia’s New for You Thrift Store accepts donations and all proceeds benefit the program.
Self-dubbed a “spiritual boot camp,” Teen Challenge Philadelphia is a highly intensive program for clients seeking a strong Christ-centered approach to alleviate chemical dependency. For those in need of dual diagnosis support or interested in evidence-based treatment, Teen Challenge may not be an ideal program. However, for those looking for a Christian-based foundation for recovery, Teen Challenge Philadelphia could be a great fit.
Teen Challenge Philadelphia Locations
156 West Schoolhouse Ln
Philadelphia, PA 19144
329 E. Wister St
Philadelphia, PA 19144
Teen Challenge Cost: $1,350 (30 days). Reach Teen Challenge Philadelphia by phone at (215) 849-2054 (men’s), (215) 843-2887 (women’s), or by email. Find Teen Challenge Philadelphia at Facebook and YouTube
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