Categories
School

2020 Back-to-School Emotional Wellness Checklist for Teens

We’re all going through a rough time with the ongoing pandemic. Some of us have lost close friends and loved ones. Many of us have lost work. The stress of isolation can take its toll quickly, and even after lockdowns have lifted, the restrictions we must impose on ourselves can have a tremendous effect on our mental and emotional wellness and health.

Our children are heavily affected, as well. The teenage years are already quite tumultuous and stressful for many growing young adults but add to it a break in routine and learning, and cabin fever, and we’re faced with a generation experiencing a profound impact on their emotional development.

As we continue to navigate this difficult situation and remain cognizant of the dangers of the virus, it’s important to take our children’s (and our own) mental and emotional wellness and well-being into consideration, and work together to stay sane and safe while dealing with the day-to-day effects of the crisis. To help parents and teens alike, here’s our 2020 back-to-school emotional wellness checklist.

Spending More Time With Friends (Safely)

Social contact is important, especially for teens. But what shape or form that contact will take depends highly on the options at hand. As dangerous as COVID-19 is, it’s not the most obvious or looming threat – and we’re only reminded of it when it invariably strikes, either in the news or within the community. This can make it difficult for teens to uphold and remember social distancing guidelines, particularly if they’re hanging out together.

Teens do want to keep each other safe – but that’s not always easy, or possible when interacting socially. Consider encouraging your teen to continue hanging out with friends after lockdowns have ended, but safely and without as much danger of physical contact and viral transmission. While visits to the mall or theater might be out of the question, and activities like basketball or hiking greatly increase the risk of infection, biking (with masks) offers fun while minimizing contact.

There’s always virtual interaction. Chances are your teen already has a group chat or two, and they might even be calling their friends regularly. But if they aren’t, why not bring it up as an idea? Video and voice-only group calls can act as a great substitute to face-to-face meetings, especially when combined with a degree of interactive fun. Video games can oftentimes be a much-needed source of fun, safe social interaction.

There are, of course, risks to overdoing it in the virtual world – most notably cyberbullying and the effects of negative online media. But when used as a tool to stay in touch with friends, the Internet can be a critical tool in keeping sane during these strange times.

Creating and Maintaining Routines

The risks of rumination are greater than ever, especially at a time when routines are falling apart and it’s becoming difficult to keep track of time. Whenever we aren’t keeping ourselves busy, it’s easy for the mind to slip into a bit of despair and anxiety regarding the current state of affairs.

Whether it be from abstract worries to the more immediate complaints of missing out on a tournament due to cancelled events, or missing one’s partner and friends after weeks and months spent apart. Encourage your teen to structure their week, making sure they’re waking up and falling asleep at the same times, and keeping busy with chores, schoolwork, exercising, and socializing.

They might need a little help and a little encouragement, and it’d be a good reason to create and keep up a routine of your own. Having a routine not only lets you keep track of time as the week progresses, but it helps keep your mind busy and active during times where isolation and inactivity can lead to ruminating thoughts, negative feelings, and the fear of being “stuck”.

These feelings can be especially disastrous for teens, as they’re in the middle of learning to form important habits and becoming self-reliant, and they need consistent and healthy sleep schedules to ensure proper emotional and neurological development. Routines also help both teens and adults develop a sense of normalcy and calm any emerging anxieties.

Practicing Self-Care and Improving Emotional Wellness

Self-care is a term that can seem confusing at first, but it generally boils down to anything you can do for yourself to take a break or destress, without necessarily being destructive. That rules out happy hour drinks or going through several bags of junk food, and instead focuses on things like skincare, exercise, cooking, baking, painting, writing, or reading a new book.

Just as routines develop and promote a sense of normalcy and help deal with feelings of anxiety or ruminating thoughts, incorporating these things into your day-to-day can help stave off some of the effects of social isolation and stress, and let teens create a definite boundary between their responsibilities (chores and schoolwork) and the time they use for themselves.

Seeking Teletherapy Related Options and Solutions

For teens who require ongoing physical or mental healthcare, the pandemic crisis may have had a drastic impact on the frequency and level of your teen’s care. It’s important to prioritize effective teletherapy related services to help them continue to deal with the symptoms of their chronic condition.

Some teens have also recently developed mental health problems as a result of COVID-19, including (but not limited to):

    • The recent and sudden school closures.
    • The loss of a loved one.
    • Worries due to financial instability and job loss in the family.

Such problems can include depression, panic attacks, and anxiety. Teletherapy can be an important part of dealing with these severe mental health issues and developing the toolkit to stay safe during the pandemic.

Providing Calm and Steady Support

It’s important for teens (and all of us) to understand that it’s normal to feel anxious in these times, and to lean a little more heavily on those around us as a source of support. Just as it’s important to support one another, stay connected, and maintain self-care routines. With the crisis exacerbating all other stress, balancing mental and emotional wellness is critical.

Categories
School

School Is Changing…Now What?

Understanding Student Fears

As we step into a school year of uncertainty, expect that your child is most likely experiencing one primary emotion: fear. Fear of the unknown. What will their school experience be like? Can they keep up with remote learning? Will I ever see my friends again? What will happen to their sports, clubs, extracurriculars, etc.? What about college?

The list goes on, as do the myriad of shifting variables impact student performance and vitality. While the Spring semester was largely sporadic and disorganized, students collectively assumed that by the Fall, it would be back to normal, and as we know, it is not. The looming permanency of their alternate learning model and school experience can be deeply unsettling for students, and we must validate and recognize their emotional realities.

Starting Conversations

The best defense when confronting and unpacking student stress is a good offense. In this case, that strong offense is communication. Effective parents will learn to ask questions without smothering their child with their adult interpretations, impressions, and opinions. Remember, a conversation with a student needs to be dialogue, not a parent monologue. Ask your students what emotions they are experiencing. For example:

    • What are they fearful of?
    • How would they assess and rate their level of intrinsic motivation?
    • What supports do they need (both tangible and intangible) from their parents?
    • What learning model do they prefer?
    • What environment do they feel would best allow them to succeed?

Rather than rebutting or attempting to immediately pacify or explain-away their responses, simply hold space and allow them to process and vent.

Redefining Your Relationship With Learning

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that not all kids miss comprehensive school. Contrary to our assumptions, many students actually prefer the opportunity to learn at their own pace, in a smaller environment, void of the social pressures and larger environments that lend themselves to mental health struggles. Yes, as kids, we adults went to school in-person, are experiencing the more traditional experience.

The world has changed, however, and your student’s potential, vibrancy and response to learning might actually increase in an alternative setting. On the other hand, students who are missing that traditional school experience, but are lacking their normal extracurricular activities, can grow disengaged; simply stated, the Zoom life is not for them. In these instances, I strongly recommend thinking outside the box and looking for methods to capture real-life learning opportunities.

Some examples include (but not limited to):

    • Learning to invest in the stock market
    • Learning to cook
    • Reading the classics
    • Taking a college course in a curricular area that is purely based on their intrinsic passions

Keeping It Simple

During this season of uncertainty, it is best to operate in the here and now. Avoid talking about academics in the long-term. Instead, carve out structure in your home that will increase reliability, predictability, and ease tension. Think:

    • Eat
    • Sleep
    • Exercise
    • School
    • Play

Collaborate with your child to establish an expected routine where there are clearly defined times and spaces for your child to live their whole life (safely of course). Simply winging-it will result in a breakdown both in productivity and family dynamics.

Changing the Narrative

Children don’t always listen to you, but they are always watching you. Yes, this is a time of unending stress and turmoil, but no, that is not what we need to focus on with our children. I am not suggesting that you dismiss the world’s reality, but as far as education is concerned, remaining positive and optimistic will pay great dividends than constant complaints.

If kids hear a continuous narrative that remote learning is ineffective, that the teachers are horrible, that the school is negligent, etc. those opinions will seep via osmosis into the paradigm of your children. Together, we need to work with what we have, and curate opportunities to optimize the hand we have been dealt.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Alcohol Alcoholism Bullying Communication Depression Family Feelings Mental Health Prevention School Substance Abuse Treatment

Risk Factors for Substance Abuse for Teens


While there is no way to definitively predict which teens might develop a substance abuse disorder, there are a number of risk factors that considerably increase the likelihood an abuse problem will occur. By understanding these risk factors, parents and others involved in a child’s life can employ effective protective actions to minimize the risk. Below are a few of the common factors that raise the chances substance abuse could become a problem by the time a child becomes a teenager.

Genetics
Family history of substance abuse is one of the biggest risk factors for children develop a substance abuse disorder by the time they hit the teen years. Prenatal exposure to alcohol may also make a person more vulnerable to substance abuse later in life.

Environment
Children that are around substance use, either by parents, friends or members of their community, may regard drugs and alcohol as a normal part of life. They may not recognize the dangers of using these substances, which puts them at increased risk of addiction.

Behavior
Children who are impulsive or aggressive in the early years of life may also be more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Aggressive behavior could lead to anti-social tendencies, while impulsivity is an individual risk factor that involves the inability to set limits on one’s behavior.

Mental Health
The connection between a substance abuse disorder and a mental illness is very high. In some cases, the person may use substances to cope with the painful symptoms of the mental illness. Other times, regular substance use may trigger the symptoms of a mental disorder.

Family Life
Children with parents that abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to use the substances themselves. In addition, a home life that is stressful due to conflict or other difficult situations can also make a teen more likely to use substances as a way of dealing with the stress.

Social Life
Children that do not socialize well with their peers are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their loneliness. By the same token, teens who choose friends that use are more likely to use themselves as well.

Academics
Struggles in school, whether academically or socially, can also lead to substance abuse. The earlier the school problems begin, the more likely it is that substance abuse will become an obstacle over time.

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we have seen teens turn to drugs and alcohol for a wide range of reasons. While prevention should always be the primary focus in keeping this age group safe and healthy, sometimes prevention efforts are simply not enough to keep a potential addiction at bay. The good news is there are also effective methods of treating substance abuse that help teens move away from their abusive behaviors and into a healthier, sober way of life. To learn more about our treatment programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

Categories
Adolescence Dual Diagnosis Mental Health Recovery School Treatment

The Benefits of Blending School and Treatment

(Photo credit: theirhistory)

There is tremendous value in combining school and treatment. Many clients come to us having fallen off-track in their education as a result of substance abuse and mental health issues. There may also be undiagnosed learning disabilities that need to be addressed. Falling grades and school pressure can create another layer of stress and panic for a teen. When an adolescent comes to treatment, it is our responsibility to provide them with both treatment and educational support that fosters an environment of safety and encouragement around learning and healing. At the same time, providing school and treatment simultaneously allows us to notice where an adolescent needs extra support so we can provide that client with adequate educational and clinical support.

 

I looked to Daniel Dewey, our Residential Director of Education, and Joseph Rogers, our Educational Coordinator at our Outpatient Day School for some insight and perspective, particularly since they each see both sides of the education/treatment pendulum. Daniel sees our clients from their initial point of treatment, while Joseph spends time with our clients during their aftercare process. Both of them promote and create foundational pieces to add to the bedrock of an adolescent’s recovery; they invite curiosity about learning, provide support during times of difficulty, and provide individualized methods of teaching to facilitate and nurture a healthy outlook on education.

 

Daniel gave me some wonderful insight when he said, “School is important for treatment success; when a resident can stay on track (or in many cases gets back on track) they will have a stronger foundation for their aftercare. School can be a big stressor, so if school can work with treatment, we feel residents will be better equipped to leave Visions and follow their academic path. Additionally, doing well in school tends to be a source of self-esteem for adolescents.  We want our clients to feel good about learning. Many of our clients come into treatment hopeless. It is our goal to help them see the intrinsic value in education and to guide them toward a meaningful life.”

 

Joseph gave us similar insights, which also help identify the continuum that occurs with school and treatment. He said,  “The practical piece of joining treatment and education is having the benefit of rolling enrollment – clients can enroll at any time, increasing their opportunities of getting back on track. Additionally, students may not be emotionally able or prepared to go back into a normalized educational setting. Having them in a setting that is therapeutically structured for their safety gives them the chance to practice their new behaviors before they go back to their regular school, and because we have clinicians on staff, we can react to and notice a change in behavior quickly and effectively.”

 

We understand the importance of creating a therapeutically alive and nourishing environment for our clients and their families. Placing school in the treatment arena allows us to support our clients at optimum levels, and it provides a multi-level aspect to the healing process. School and Treatment from the residential and outpatient perspective is a necessary stone in the path to wellness. It is beneficial to the adolescent, building confidence and self-esteem, and it is advantageous for parents to see their children simultaneously succeed in their education and in their substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Categories
Family Feelings Mindfulness Recovery School Service Spirituality

Well Wishes As Visions’ Joseph Rogers Moves On

Joseph Rogers has been with Visions since 2005, first as a recovery mentor at our Mulholland facility and later becoming the Director of Education at the Outpatient Day School. Joseph has run the Mindfulness Meditation/11th Step, Spirituality group since 2007, exploring how developing spiritual practice is applicable to recovery. He also co-facilitates the Outpatient DBT Skills group with Jesse Engdahl on Wednesdays. Two and a half years ago, Joseph stepped down from the Director position in order to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree and begin the process of stepping into his new role of Chaplain. This has been a long-time coming: Joseph has been in facilitator/teacher training with Against the Stream Meditation Society for the last 5 years, and has built a remarkable community of cohorts and students.

 

It with great pride and excitement, as well as a bit of a heavy heart, that we bid Joseph farewell as he steps onto a new path. Joseph will begin his residency at UCLA, earning his CPEs (Clinical Pastoral Education) at the top of September. As sad as we are to see him leave the Visions nest, we are excited to see where this takes him. Joseph offers a sense of calm assurance to the deeply suffering, and he is able to hold space for vulnerable people in a profound manner. UCLA has a priceless jewel on their hands.

 

Joseph has been a consistent members of the VTeam for almost a decade, seamlessly blending boundaries and compassion, while encouraging a love for learning. He has created a foundational resource for the kids and staff to look to for support as well as leadership. Many alumni and staff alike will joyfully reminisce about learning history through the various comedic voices Joseph uses.  He has been the rock for many, and the quiet storm of compassion for all.

 

Joseph isn’t completely leaving Visions, however. He will continue to run the Mindfulness Meditation/11th Step, Spirituality group and he will continue to co-facilitate the outpatient DBT Skills group. Despite our denial that he won’t be with us every day, we are really excited for him and grateful for his dedication and commitment to Visions. Joseph has carved out a thoughtful, compassionate path of service, dedicating his life to help others recover and find peace with their suffering. Reverend Joseph Rogers, M.Div as a nice sound to it, eh?

 

“A kind, gentle soul. I will miss seeing Joseph’s smile everyday. I always look forward to his gems and guidance. A true friend I have found. I wish him the very best as he sets out on his journey. The world is a better place for him being here. Thank you for the honor of working with you.”– Noelle Rodriguez

 

“Ahhh! JRO! We will miss you and your gentle ways. Throughout the years, you have been a driving force for our school. You provide so much more than a basic education to our kids; the love you have put into it has been so good for us and the clients. We are so proud of your hard work and making it into the UCLA program, you truly lead by example. We will miss you very much. Thank you for the years spent together!” Amanda Shumow

 

I befriended Joseph years ago while I was studying at CSUN in the credential program. I told him that I worked at a little place called Visions and he was immediately interested. Soon after being hired, he took the position at IOP as teacher. Over the years he has made his mark as a calm leader with a fierce passion for his work. Joseph is wise and knows enough to always be learning. He is an educator in the truest sense of the word and will be missed by staff and students alike. His contribution to Visions has been, and will forever be, immeasurable. Joseph embodies the words of Bruce Lee: “A teacher is never a giver of truth; he is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself.” – Daniel Dewey

 

“​Joseph is an amazing person, teacher and soul.  He is someone that you meet and instantly feel that you are in the presence of someone wise, calm, and fearless. I wish him all the best, in all that he does!” — Jenny Werber

“I’ve never known anyone to be more universally liked by clients and parents than Joseph. Joseph is the rare person with whom you can disagree, but still feel your view was thoughtfully considered, while not feeling imposed by his own.”  – Garth LeMaster

 

“Joseph, you are a man with great insight and gentle wisdom. I have seen you live your convictions, tenderly heal wounded children and be the doorway of understanding for lost souls. I wish you peace, joy, challenges and love. Thank you for your part in my crazy art lady journey.”  Ever faithfully yours — Susan “The Art Lady” O’Conner

 

“Joseph has not only been an amazing role model as a productive co-worker but has become an amazing friend and mentor for whom I will dearly miss. I wish nothing but the best for him and all the experiences to come. You will be missed and loved always ” — Nick Riefner

 

“Joseph’s energy is contagious in every way possible. Every time I see him, no matter what is happening, he seems calm and at peace… For someone as anxiety driven as I am, being around someone so serene is refreshing. I have so much respect for Joseph and aspire to one day walk with as much dignity as he does.” – Ashley Harris 

 

“Joseph will be missed.  He has a very special way of relating to our clients that involves, at times, an extraordinary amount of patience.  I often sit out here at my desk and listen in to the conversations going on between Joseph and the kids.  I am equally entertained, amazed, and grateful to have been a fly on the wall of Joseph’s classroom.” – Natalie Holman

 

“I’ll miss Joseph terribly, I think it’s been so beneficial for our teens to see strength in a man shown through kindness, non judgment and calmness.” Roxie Fuller

 

“Thank you, Joseph. Thank you for helping to create an environment for learning, healing and recovery for Visions kids and families. Thank you for your unique perspective for leading the education and meditation groups and classes. There is some thing very special about the way you gently lead the kids with confidence and class. Thank you, Joseph!” – John Lieberman

 

“Joseph has been teaching me since my first day – a friend, a mentor, and a big brother all in one.  I’ve been afforded so much of his wisdom and care from this relationship, it will be really hard not to have him here all the time.  Riding shotgun while he teaches mediation, DBT, or most importantly sober FUN, he constantly helps me take care of the kids and myself in the kindest and simplest ways.  No one can really imagine Visions without him; I’m just grateful for all the time I’ve had with him and that he will still be doing groups with me.” – Jesse Engdahl

 

“Joseph has been such a huge part of my Visions experience and I think I’m the saddest to see him go. He is my friend, my teacher, my mentor, and my right hand. He has always been so supportive and understanding of things only us Visions teachers would understand. He has a strange yet peaceful way about him that makes any day a good day. He always seems to have the right words of wisdom in any situation and it’s hard to imagine he won’t be around. After years of morning check-ins about life, love, and the pursuit of sanity I’m going to miss him dearly. I wish him the best in his new endeavors and I am forever grateful for the time, wisdom, knowledge, and random facts he’s passed on to me. I’ll continue to make you proud, Jofes… thank you for being my shoulder to whine on, my ear to vent, and my rock to keep me sane.” – Adriana Camarillo

 

“With a heavy heart, I bid farewell to an amazing man, father and colleague. I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Joseph for nearly a decade and it’s hard to imagine my day-to-day without him. Joseph represents a quiet force, guiding his students with conviction and offering hope where there may be none. While he continues to be a spiritual inspiration to both staff and students, we will miss the man who, for so long, has been the core of Visions Day School.  The feeling is bittersweet. Selfishly, we want him to stay. But the truth is, he has another calling and with that, I honor his path and I am always grateful for this experience.” – Fiona Ray

 

Categories
Adolescence Parenting Recovery School

Teens Are Going Back to School

School is back in session! This means that the unstructured schedule of summer has ended and the wild teen energy requires a shift toward focus and effort.

 

It’s tough because you go from a veritable free-for-all (Summer) to a highly focused environment where there are higher expectations, firmer schedules, and of course, the dreaded homework. Kids who spent the summer in camp may have had some structure, but the truth is, it’s nowhere near as rigid as school. Bedtime has been later and waking up took on a leisurely state. School starting is a definite shift.

 

The positives about returning to school, according to one anonymous teen are, “You get to see your friends again and you get to learn.” In middle school and high school, friends hold a lot of power over each other. Often more important than classroom connection is the forming of social groups outside of class: in the halls, on the yard, et cetera. This is where the real influence, be it negative or positive occurs, and for kids more akin to following than leading, this can represent a shift toward bad decision making. Conversely, a child who is processing a lot of personal conflict (eg, family) may be drawn to kids who are acting out or whose behavior is outside of the norm. On the contrary, some kids are extremely skilled at creating the equivalent of work/life balance, both in maintaining good grades and in having a healthy social life.

 

Socialization can be tough, especially in adolescence. I often refer to teens as messy, and I say that because their emotional and physical terrain is rapidly changing and unpredictable. Even a kid with little to no conflict is still going to experience the messiness of adolescence. I find that one of the biggest things these kids need is validation: a confirmation that what they are going through is normal. I keenly remember how rough adolescence was. It was downright confusing and miserable at times. And at others, it was pure, unadulterated excitement! I remember thinking some kids “had it made” because they had all of the “stuff” I thought I needed, but later finding out they were suffering as much as I was.

 

Some teens can’t stop the summer fun, though. They want to carry on with late-night shenanigans far into September and October. It’s true: we do see an increase in clients during that time. Don’t wait until the first bad report card to do something; pay attention from day one to the way in which your teen is acclimating. Are they struggling? Is getting back to the “grind” harder than usual? Maintain an open, transparent place to have discussions with your teen.

 

  • Listen: Sometimes teens (and kids in general) just want to vent without receiving advice. “I hear how frustrating that is” or “That sounds difficult” can go a long way. Kids are actually skilled at coming to a healthy solution on their own if we allow them the opportunity.

 

  • Be present: Create a technology free period where you are together as a family and be willing to participate in each other’s lives.

 

  • Don’t take it personally:  Teens love to push buttons. If you can let the small stuff roll off your back, do. An eye roll can be ignored. Choose your battles.

 

 

Lastly, encourage your teen to avoid and/or ignore the kids whose choices are questionable, and to choose friends who are dedicated to their education and making positive choices.  Our teens look to us as parents to be their guide. We are their first teachers. If our attitudes about school and learning are positive and healthy, they will inadvertently adopt them (most of the time). If our attitudes about learning and school are mercurial, then guess what, our kids will adopt that same, fickle attitude toward learning.

 

 

 

“If you want your children to improve, then let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.” Dr. Haim Ginott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Alumni Events Recovery School Service

Visions Cultivates Community

Walking into our Day School is emblematic of the cultivation of community. The kids are in support of each other, bonded by difficulty and a desire to change, and they are aptly supported by a team of a deeply compassionate clinical and support staff. On a given day, you may encounter laughter, tears, struggle, and frustration, joy, triumph, and accomplishment. And regardless of which of those experiences is present, they are held in a safe container of support; a container which is ultimately community.

 

A fear that is often present for teens in treatment is the suggestion that their peer group will need to change.  In a successful environment of recovery, that peer group does need to change. However, part of the recovery process includes the cultivation of a healthier, more supportive community of peers–a community that is desirous of shifting the old paradigm to one that is conducive to the mental health and stability they seek.

 

I asked Joseph Rogers, MDiv Canditate and teacher at Visions for 5 ways in which Visions helps teens cultivate community:

 

1: Engaging in social activities together. Visions supports weekly sober fun activities and recovery fun groups. Clients in our extended care have regular weekend activities such as paintball, beach trips, gardening, hiking, et cetera.

 

2: Having a spiritual support community such as Young People’s AA, where the young people are in charge of their own groups. This creates a sense of empowerment and encourages healthy independence.

 

3: Allow the clients to support one another. When a client asks if they can check in with another client, we almost never say no. It’s important that the clients see each other as a support system, especially post treatment.

 

4: Alumni activities. Keep our former clients in contact with each other and remind them of the support system they have in place. Our annual Alumni Weekend is a prime example of this. Additionally, all alumni are encouraged to come to the Friday night recovery meeting.

 

5:  Visions encourages alumni to sponsor current clients and to come back to work at Visions as employees. This way, clients can see the full cycle of recovery.

We are looking forward to seeing alumni and current clients and their families at the upcoming Alumni Weekend.  This community is at the core of what we do, and supporting families in their recovery is our heart.  It is always a joy to see our alumni thriving in their recovery and reconnecting with them.

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Recovery School Treatment

The Benefits of Blending School and Treatment

There is tremendous value in blending school and treatment. Many clients come to us

(Photo credit: theirhistory)

having fallen off-track in their education as a result of substance abuse and mental health issues. There may also be undiagnosed learning disabilities that need to be addressed. Falling grades and school pressure can create another layer of stress and panic for a teen. When an adolescent comes to treatment, it is our responsibility to provide them with both treatment and educational support that fosters an environment of safety and encouragement around learning and healing. At the same time, providing school and treatment simultaneously allows us to notice where an adolescent needs extra support so we can provide that client with adequate educational and clinical support.

 

I looked to Daniel Dewey, our Residential Director of Education, and Joseph Rogers, our Educational Coordinator at our Outpatient Day School for some insight and perspective, particularly since they each see both sides of the education/treatment pendulum. Daniel sees our clients from their initial point of treatment, while Joseph spends time with our clients during their aftercare process. Both of them promote and create foundational pieces to add to the bedrock of an adolescent’s recovery; they invite curiosity about learning, provide support during times of difficulty, and provide individualized methods of teaching to facilitate and nurture a healthy outlook on education.

 

Daniel gave me some wonderful insight when he said, “School is important for treatment success; when a resident can stay on track (or in many cases gets back on track) they will have a stronger foundation for their aftercare. School can be a big stressor, so if school can work with treatment, we feel residents will be better equipped to leave Visions and follow their academic path. Additionally, doing well in school tends to be a source of self-esteem for adolescents.  We want our clients to feel good about learning. Many of our clients come into treatment hopeless. It is our goal to help them see the intrinsic value in education and to guide them toward a meaningful life.”

 

Joseph gave us similar insights, which also help identify the continuum that occurs with school and treatment. He said,  “The practical piece of joining treatment and education is having the benefit of rolling enrollment – clients can enroll at any time, increasing their opportunities of getting back on track. Additionally, students may not be emotionally able or prepared to go back into a normalized educational setting. Having them in a setting that is therapeutically structured for their safety gives them the chance to practice their new behaviors before they go back to their regular school, and because we have clinicians on staff, we can react to and notice a change in behavior quickly and effectively.”

 

We understand the importance of creating a therapeutically alive and nourishing environment for our clients and their families. Placing school in the treatment arena allows us to support our clients at optimum levels, and it provides a multi-level aspect to the healing process. Blending school and treatment from the residential and outpatient perspective is a necessary stone in the path to wellness. It is beneficial to the adolescent, building confidence and self-esteem, and it is advantageous for parents to see their children simultaneously succeed in their education and in their substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Recovery School

School Is Back In Session!

education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Despite the heat, School is back in session, marking the end of the Dog Days of Summer. It’s time to leave the sandy beaches behind and hone in on your academic prowess. If you left school in a state of emotional disarray because of substance abuse, mental illness, or both, this is your opportunity to revamp your experience. Sure, the wreckage of your past will be there, but the opportunity to shift the perspectives of those you encounter is available to you. You can clean up the mess, so to speak. The bigger question is how does one traverse the landscape of school…sober?  Here are some tips:

 

  • Continue to go to meetings and work with a sponsor: This is your lifeline to sustainability in sobriety. 
  • Join a sober club or start one if there isn’t one already!
  • Make new friends—your using buddies have to go.  You are changing your life for the better: find friends who have the same moral fiber as you.
  • Ask for help. It’s a sign of courage and strength to reach out. If a subject is too hard, or if you have difficulty with a teacher or assignment, advocate for yourself.  Suffering needlessly benefits no one.
  • Get excited about school. Education is the ultimate brain food!
  • Follow your dreams! Going to school is the first step to reaching them. Give it your all!
  • Make your emotional and physical wellness a priority. Meetings, therapy, and self-care: those are all supportive tools. Use them.

While going back to school can be met with apprehension, despair, excitement, joy, and even complacency, meeting those emotions with some compassion and openness can make them easier to work with. Changing your lifestyle, perspectives, and emotional temperature takes effort, but it is well worth it in the end. Choosing to be present and awake for your life is a true gift. Approaching school with curiosity and an open mind will make a difference in your life. Try it!

Categories
Adolescence Recovery School Self-Care

It’s Cool to Go Back to School: Sober

As summer fades, we begin to feel the pull of school and all that it entails. Walking into any store right now will confirm this, hook, line and sinker. Target has their entire back section stocked to the brim with back to school supplies. Seriously. It’s happening right now and we can’t avoid it. It’s time to wipe the sand from beneath our feet and get ready to rock our backpacks once again.

Often, the dilemma for those who got sober or stayed sober through the summer break is this:  How do we navigate going back to school without getting sucked into the rabbit hole of drugs and alcohol, or stress and anxiety, or all of the above? Is it even plausible to keep our old friends or is moving on safer? Will we still be hip or cool now that the crutch of a bottle or a pocket full of pills has been removed? For some, yes, it’s possible to go back into those spaces without falling down, for others, perhaps not. The answers to these questions are really contingent on the individual. Just as addiction and mental health don’t fit into a one-size-fits-all category, neither does recovery. There are definitely some suggestions that might help you find the way to your own answers and help you get back to school using a safe, sober strategy.

  • Make sure you are going to meetings. Now, more than ever, you will need the security and support of a recovery community.
  • Do you have a sponsor? If not, get one, stat. If you do have one, make sure you continue to work with him or her and continue to check in on a regular basis.
  • Ask your school advisor or counselor if there are any sober clubs or groups at your school. You are more than likely not alone in your recovery.
  • If there isn’t a sober group or club at school, start one!
  • Make new friends. Some of your old ones may, in fact, have to go. It’s for the best anyway. You are on a new path now.
  • Stay connected. There’s nothing worse than finding oneself in a situation where you feel emotionally alone and unsupported.
  • Ask for help–no matter what. It is not a sign of strength to suck it up; it’s a sign of strength to ask for help. (Took me forever to “get” this one!)
  • Get excited about school and about learning in general. You are feeding your brain, after all.
  • Make school your full-time job, in other words, give it 100% of your energy.
  • Keep your sobriety your priority and make school your driving force.

Don’t forget to have fun! Life is so much better when you have a sense of humor.