What Can Your Teen Bring to A Teen Treatment Center?

Leaving home and entering a residential treatment facility like Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center in Agoura Hills, California, can be a difficult, confusing, and stressful time for both the parents and the teen going to treatment. Before physically entering a residential treatment program, parents and teens will learn a lot about what to expect from their stay in terms of therapy, activities, duration of the program, etc. One other essential item that will be covered is what a patient is allowed (and not allowed) to bring with them to the facility.

Many parents feel that the most challenging part is behind them now that they have convinced their teen to agree to go to residential treatment. And while that conversation can be challenging, other challenges may arise. Some of these difficulties’ parents are unaware of. One of the most challenging may be the packing process.

While helping your teen pack for residential treatment, it is important to focus on packing items that foster comfort, healing, and a sense of “home” when they will be away. This also means leaving behind anything potentially harmful. A shortlist of these items would include drugs, alcohol, or weapons. Below we have provided a more comprehensive idea of things that may not be allowed at a treatment center.

What to Expect Upon Arrival

When your teen arrives at Hillcrest, they will check-in and begin the admissions process. During this time, a member of the staff will likely search their luggage and items they have brought with them. This is a common practice at all residential treatment centers and is certainly not specific to your teen or the program they are attending. Luggage searches are just one method that residential treatment centers use to help maintain a safe environment for all patients. Some centers may even catalog or make a list of the items you bring to ensure that you don’t leave anything behind when you leave.

To make their stay at a residential treatment facility as comfortable as possible, patients will need to bring with them more than just the bare necessities. Most treatment centers will provide a recommended packing list as well as a list of prohibited items. Policies regarding extra items or “maybe items” will vary by center. So, while the list of approved items can absolutely vary depending on the residential treatment center, some things remain relatively consistent across the board.

Items Most Treatment Centers Recommend

Each treatment centers policies are different, and some are indeed stricter than others. In general, patients at teen treatment centers are usually encouraged to bring the following items with them to treatment.

Identifying Information and Health Documents

While your teen is at a residential treatment center, it is important that they have pertinent identifying information with them. For example, they should bring along a driver’s license or another form of identification, such as a passport. Essential and up-to-date health information should also be packed. Make sure your teen packs all of his or her prescribed medications (in their original bottles with the prescription label still attached) in addition to his or her health insurance card and any other medical information they may need to bring. For note, medications will likely be held in a safe location by the treatment center staff; however, the staff needs to have a clear understanding of the medication regimen your teen is currently on.

Important Contact Information

In case of emergency, it is essential for the staff at Hillcrest and your teen to have access to pertinent contact information they may need. Be sure that this list includes phone numbers and addresses. Patients are also allowed phone calls at various times and, in many cases, the ability to mail letters to friends and family, so an up-to-date contact list will be essential to have.

Comfortable Clothing

The environment at residential treatment centers tends to be relaxed and casual. The focus is on helping to heal the body and the mind. Make sure your teen packs clothing that matches these goals. For example, pack exercise clothes and shoes, jeans, and casual tops. All of the above promote comfort, mobility, and relaxation. It also shifts the importance away from appearance, which can be important for some individuals depending on the reason for treatment. It is also advisable for your teen to bring along appropriate sleepwear such as pajamas, slippers, and a robe.

The Essential Toiletries

Teens entering a residential treatment center should bring their own personal hygiene items. Many treatment centers will request that they bring new (or unopened) items. For example, pack toiletries such as hair care supplies (shampoo and conditioner, hair ties, brush), contact lenses or glasses if applicable, and any necessary feminine hygiene items.

Adequate Outerwear

Depending on the season and the residential treatment center location’s climate, be sure that your teen packs adequate clothing for outdoor events. For example, if it is fall in New England, they should pack a jacket, coat, sweatshirt, etc. On the other hand, if it’s summer in Southern California, these items will not be necessary and, therefore, should be left at home. Your teen may also want to bring along a bathing suit or other outdoor items depending on the center’s location.


Again, keeping in mind the treatment center’s location and climate, your teen may want to bring along certain accessories such as a hat, belt, tote bag, backpack, or purse. If your child wears jewelry, it is advised that they only bring items worn daily, such as medic alert tags or other essential items, with more valuable items remaining at home.


Pens, Pencils, Art Supplies

While many treatment centers provide a variety of art supplies (as part of an art therapy program or simply for general use), if your teen has specific art supplies or writing materials he or she prefers to use, it is acceptable (and in many cases encouraged) to pack them. Your teen may also want to bring along notecards and stamps for writing letters home or to friends if the treatment center permits.

Notebook or Journal

Bringing along a journal or notebook will allow your teen to write about and explore their thoughts, emotions, and feelings throughout the treatment process. Journaling is also a highly encouraged aspect of many treatment programs and self-care techniques.

Books and Magazines

Although treatment is often busy and well scheduled, your teen will likely get downtime during his or her stay at a residential program like Hillcrest. During this time, they may want to read. However, it is essential to remember that the books and/or magazines they bring are considered appropriate reading material. Suitable reading material would include nothing overtly violent or promoting the use of drugs, alcohol, or sexual actions.

Phots and Mementos

It is not uncommon for teens to struggle with feeling homesick while away at residential treatment. For this reason, packing small reminders of home can help make the stay at treatment at little more comfortable and make your teen more at ease in what are likely strange surroundings. Photos of family and friends can also serve this purpose and are recommended.

Items Treatment Centers Do Not Allow

In addition to the list of items your teen should pack for a stay at a residential treatment center, there is also a list of specific things they should steer clear of. Although your teen may feel compelled to bring one or all of the following, it is essential to encourage him or her to leave them behind as they will likely be deemed inappropriate and taken during the luggage search process.


Any items that are overtly weapons or objects that could be viewed as dangerous will not be allowed in a residential treatment center. If brought, they will be confiscated as part of the luggage search requirement during admission. Also, items such as letters, matches, candles, and incense are not allowed.

Alcohol or Drugs

Any alcohol, illegal or prescription drugs not prescribed to your teen are not allowed. For this reason, any medications your teen must take while at treatment need to arrive at the facility in their original containers clearly marked with the prescription label still attached. It is also essential to ensure that any mouthwash or similar products your teen packs for hygiene purposes do not contain alcohol.


Teens checking into a residential treatment center are encouraged to leave valuable items such as jewelry, cash, or credit cards at home. Treatment centers are not held responsible for stolen or misplaced items, and therefore, it is best to leave expensive or items with sentimental (and monetary) value at home.

Revealing or Provocative Clothing

While helping your teen pack for residential treatment, it is important to leave clothing that might be considered revealing or provocative at home, such as strapless tops, excessively short skirts or dresses, short shorts, low cut shirts, or anything too form-fitting. This rule would apply to females and males as males would be asked to leave any excessively tight-fitting clothing at home.

Food Items or Drinks

Part of most residential treatment programs is a robust nutrition component. Outside food, snacks, and drinks are generally not allowed inside of the residential treatment facility. If your teen has specific dietary requirements, they should be discussed with the admission staff when they arrive at the facility.

Teen Treatment Center - Packing - Hillcrest

Items That ‘Might” Be Allowed

Some items might be allowed at certain treatment centers, but not others. For these items, it is advised that you check with the specific treatment center your teen will be attending to be sure before packing. And these include things such as iPods, cellular phones, laptops, musical instruments, makeup, razors for shaving, cameras, hairdryers (or curling irons and straighteners) and knitting needles, yarn or crochet hooks.

Helping your teen pack for his or her stay at Hillcrest’s residential treatment center in Agoura Hills can be difficult. It is best to communicate with the facility before packing. Ask for a packing list or a list of allowed and disallowed items. This will help make the initial packing process and admissions day a little less stressful.