When to Consider Therapeutic School

Different therapeutic and rehabilitative methods require that patients are interned in a healing environment that allows them to be immersed in the appropriate treatment culture they need to get better. This includes residential rehab for people recovering from addiction, or facilities to treat severe cases of psychosis and other mental health issues. 

But for teens diagnosed with these issues, treatment often needs to be balanced with the ongoing academic requirement of middle school and high school life. Sometimes, teens may need more than one or two therapy sessions a week, or an online support group. 

Treatment facilities that offer both treatments and a strong, accredited curriculum for teens are considered therapeutic schools. They come in many different forms and offer a variety of modalities and treatment approaches. 

Some specialize in non-residential treatment programs, where teens receive treatment like an outpatient clinic, while others provide an inpatient experience – from small residential programs to therapeutic boarding schools, which involve a campus rather than a second home environment.  

What is a Therapeutic School?

A therapeutic school is any facility that provides both an accredited integrated curriculum (or day school program), as well as a few modalities aimed at treating mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, personality disorders, and more. 

Therapeutic schools help teens who struggle to balance treatment and school by integrating both into their lives via an outpatient or inpatient approach. This means that teens can continue to keep up with their peers and work their way towards college while focusing on their treatment and continued mental wellbeing. 

Therapeutic schools are generally categorized as either inpatient or outpatient. The difference between the two is that inpatient programs effectively describe residential facilities with daily classes or specialized alternative boarding schools, whereas outpatient programs serve more to better balance mental health treatment and a teen’s academic responsibilities. 

One question parents may ask themselves when reviewing these schools is whether they’re schools first and treatment clinics second, or vice versa. 

It’s important to remember that if your teen needs a therapeutic school to learn how to cope with their diagnosis and develop a resistance to the ongoing and upcoming stressors of life, then they are much better served to sacrifice a little bit of an investment in their academic track record now, for a much better shot at good grades and a future in higher education later down the road. 

As they get older and progress through school, the mounting pressure to succeed will only compound with the symptoms they’re struggling with now. 

In other words, therapeutic schools help teens with mental health issues develop the toolset they need to cope with their condition in everyday life and live a life they can enjoy to the fullest in spite of their diagnosis and past, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the responsibilities of regular day-to-day school, and the absence of the kind of treatment framework they might need to thrive. 

Factors to Consider

Whether or not a therapeutic school is right for your teen depends on many different factors. Overall, it’s a matter of how they’re doing right now, given the circumstances. Ask yourself: 

  • Is your teen coping with the workload and requirements of their current school? 
  • Are they managing well, or struggling behind the scenes? 
  • Do you think they could burn themselves out juggling their own academic future and their needs as a teen in treatment? 
  • Have they been neglecting their self-care and mental health needs to meet deadlines, finish projects, and study? 
  • Are their grades going down despite a steady increase in the amount of time and effort put into their studies?
  • Is your teen becoming more irritable, less confident, and far more neurotic over the last school year? 

Aside from these factors, there are also the matters of availability, affordability, and matching your teen’s needs to the offers around you.

Is a boarding school really the best choice? 

Or are they better off in a residential treatment facility? 

Or an outdoor camp experience with professional counselors and therapists, physicians, and teachers? 

Or, perhaps, an outpatient treatment program that offers educational programs for teens and helps them gain academic credit while focusing on their treatment? 

The Admissions Process

Regardless of the type of school that might best serve your teen, admissions are a little different for therapeutic schools than they are for regular schools, boarding or otherwise. Aside from academic performance, these schools primarily focus on a teen’s current mental health, as well as their mental and physical health histories, and family histories. 

Teens are diagnosed professionally by a resident physician, and their admission may be based on currently available modalities and therapists, ongoing treatments, other teens at the facility, and related factors. Unlike other schools, therapeutic schools generally don’t have specific admission periods and will accept students year-round. 

How Does a Therapeutic School Work?

Therapeutic schools generally develop curriculums based on each student or group’s individual needs, helping teens continue to keep up with the topics and level of education of their peers while shifting focus onto treatments for a variety of mental health issues that teens in a therapeutic school may be facing. 

Modalities can range from skills training and outdoor activities to cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectic behavior therapy, group therapy sessions, family therapy, experiential therapy (through music, art, and more), and individualized treatment modalities depending on a teen’s diagnosis. 

Picking the Right Therapeutic School for Your Teen

Therapeutic schools are not all the same, and their programs and structure vary wildly based on what kind of environment a family is looking for their teen. And of course, reputation, cost, and treatment availability all play important roles.

Whether you are looking for an outpatient clinic, a transitional residential program, a day school, a boarding school, an outdoor program, or a residential treatment center, there are a number of different therapeutic schools and programs across the country accommodating teens from all backgrounds and circumstances.


Teletherapy and Today’s New Normal

Teletherapy has been a studied modality in the treatment of mental health issues for years, especially with the rise of affordable and accessible telecommunication tools, via smartphones, tablets, laptops, and home computers. Even older smartphones can handle video calls with multiple parties halfway across the world at any point in time – there’s no reason that the very same technological advantage can’t be used in medicine. 

With the ongoing pandemic, however, telemedicine and teletherapy went from being alternative modalities to central means of treatment for many teens and adults. Immunocompromised patients, in particular, couldn’t afford to go visit their therapist or doctor during the height of COVID, and regions with ongoing lockdowns or limitations in public transport would have had to rely on teletherapy options in order to access mental health resources and get the help they need. 

Given these circumstances, one of the most important questions asked during the onset of the pandemic was: how effective is teletherapy, really? And can it provide the same kind of efficacy as face-to-face treatment, in a time when most people are experiencing a peak in anxiety and depression

How Effective is Teletherapy?

A systematic review of teletherapy research conducted in 2017 found that from among 156 different research articles published on the topic since 2000, 25 eligible articles and 55 credible articles provided an overarching conclusion that “telemental health care can provide effective and adaptable solutions to the care of mental illnesses universally.” 

In particular, the analysis praised teletherapy as being “particularly advantageous and inexpensive through the use of current technologies,” especially for isolated communities and underprivileged patients. 

Among other findings, the studies focused on advances in the use of technology and patient interfacing through telemedicine and teletherapy tools. Advances made include the ability to

  • Systematically analyze facial expressions on patients. 
  • Track and study bodily versus cognitive arousal. 
  • Provide improved clinical outcomes and patient education. 
  • Provide feedback via online counseling, and easily facilitate distant treatment. 
  • Enables rapid mental health diagnosis, while drastically cutting both patient costs and healthcare costs. 
  • Enables the easy and safe exchanging and creating of mental health information within professional networks. 
  • Can make use of interfacing features to enable treatment for deaf patients, providing equitable care. 

The distinct advantages provided by teletherapy included: 

  • Easier and improved access to care. 
  • Excellent results in both individual and group therapies. 
  • The creation of social networks between patients and healthcare providers. 
  • Flexible interactions, easier scheduling, and better convenience. 
  • Automated questionnaires made both diagnosis and treatment easier. 
  • Potential for future innovations in the field. 

That being said, a few challenges were also identified. The most common ones include the following: 

  • Cost of setting up an online telehealth service (for clinics and practices). 
  • Quality control in communication. 
  • Limited professional (trained) skills in online communication. 
  • Information privacy. 
  • Regulatory concerns. 

Telehealth, while effective, is still relatively new in the world of psychiatry, and medicine in general. It can take decades for a modality to be thoroughly explored, and for unique or problematic use cases to arise. The pandemic massively accelerated this process, forcing telepsychology into the homes and phones of thousands of Americans who rely on therapeutic services over the course of the government’s stay-at-home orders. 

Medicare, Medicaid, and different private insurance companies relaxed their rules on telehealth services and made it much easier for practices to offer teletherapy and other remote healthcare tools while making it easier for insured patients to seek care online. 

As a result, many practices ran into hurdles and roadblocks on the path to proper implementation, as they struggled with the scale of managing multiple patients via teletherapy, introducing group telehealth services, and translating in-person communication skills into screen-to-screen contact. 

Some felt they lacked the competence and confidence they had when discussing topics with patients on a face-to-face basis, while others were finding themselves struggling to adapt to the technological hurdles and troubleshooting requirements that arise when dealing with telecommunications technologies. 

Nevertheless, teletherapy is not just a crucial tool during the pandemic, but a useful modality for countless people who want easier and cheaper access to mental healthcare, the ability to consult a doctor from the privacy of their home, greater convenience, and for those who lack the means to get themselves to a healthcare professional’s office physically. 

In conclusion, most research finds that, even in the most conservative light, teletherapy is an incredibly useful tool for elevating conventional mental healthcare, granting access to a wide variety of alternatives for at-risk youth, and lowering the barrier of access to care

Teletherapy for Teens

One of the unique challenges associated with teletherapy is engaging with younger adults and teens. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America suggests some of the following for teens, parents, and healthcare providers on the topic of teens seeking therapy online: 

  • Some kids and teens might feel more comfortable talking with a therapist while mildly occupied. Speak to teens or parents about bringing a stress ball, fidget spinner, toy, or another object to therapy to give a child or teen something to physically preoccupy them while they’re talking. 
  • Some teens respond well to creative exercises. If you don’t already do so, consider incorporating drawing, sketching, writing, or other forms of art and creativity into your therapy sessions. 
  • Consider encouraging notetaking. Therapy is something teens might want to revisit and study, especially when it takes the form of certain mental exercises. 
  • Make a plan as to who will be joining the call, and how they’ll interact. Will you be hosting the call with both the teen and their parent? Is it a one-on-one? Is it group therapy? Be sure everyone involved – including yourself – has the right expectations when going into any given session. 
  • Consider some therapy games. Surprisingly, there are online teletherapy games and worksheets/template activities for kids and younger teens. These may help patients be more responsive to treatment and therapy, and learn better.
  • Encourage asking questions. Kids and teens alike are curious, some more than others. But they may not always be comfortable, especially when discussing their mental health struggles for the first time with an adult stranger. Encourage the asking of questions. 

Mental health has always been an important yet maligned topic in society, but it’s taken the spotlight during the COVID pandemic as one of the most severe issues facing teens and adults alike because of the stress, the death of loved ones, a record economic downturn, and worries for the future as we find ourselves in the second long year of the pandemic. If you are struggling, or know a loved one who is having a hard time, consider seeking teletherapy services.


How Group Therapy Empowers Teens

Individual talk therapy is when a patient and their therapist can discuss and overcome unwanted and negative thoughts and behaviors through self-reflection and insight-oriented work. Talk therapy is complicated and challenging, and it nearly always requires a willing and cooperative patient. To that end, it can be challenging to apply individual talk therapy to teens without a thoroughly established relationship and plenty of rapport, as many teens tend to favor a contrarian attitude and are unlikely to be cooperative.

Helping a teen in a one-on-one setting requires a specialized and experienced therapy that knows how a teen’s mind operates and responds and can best relate to them. When a therapist can finally get on the same page as their teen patient, the progress they can make together can be incredible. But often, finding an alternative approach is productive in the early stages of treatment. This is where group therapy becomes a powerful tool when treating adolescents for multiple essential reasons.

Offers Peer Support and Encouragement, Helps Teens Feel Less Alone or Isolated

The first thing group therapy teaches a teen is that they’re not alone with their thoughts and struggles. Teens are inexperienced and naturally self-centered (this is not a bad thing). They are preoccupied with the rapid and complicated changes they are experiencing on a nigh-daily basis. When they realize that they are “different,” one of the significant issues they face is the crippling isolation experienced by feeling cut off from their peers due to their condition and the treatment process. It is fun to be unique, but it is lonely and terrifying to be “weird.”

Group therapy can help teens realize that they’re not alone at all and that while there might not be too many people out there who can completely relate to their experiences, there are still enough people out there to fill a room and talk about it. It also helps them remember that struggling with a mental health disorder does not make someone less of a person or somehow alien. People are people, and even with a variety of different problems, there is always some way in which different people can relate to one another and make each other feel a little more “normal.”

Addresses Unique Teen-Specific Substance Use and Mental Health Issues

Teens aren’t just self-centered; they’re also famously and painfully self-aware. With that comes a great deal of social anxiety, particularly among teens who feel shy and nervous around strangers and struggle with serious communication issues. These issues and fears are easily masked in a one-on-one session. Still, for teens with social anxiety and communication problems, group therapy becomes a safe space to practice critical social skills and overcome many fears amplified by inexperience or victimization.

Often, teens resort to absorbing other identities into themselves to figure out who they are. It is part of the process of becoming an adult and might involve suddenly gaining ultimately new friends, looks, and interests overnight. However, there are cases when this kind of behavior is maybe contributing to an inner conflict stemming from guilt or shame over one’s immutable characteristics or flaws.

Teen insecurity is nothing new. It’s a natural part of being in that “awkward” stage, but learning to overcome them – not by transforming into someone else, but by developing the self-confidence to be oneself – is an essential part of growing up. A safe and healthy group therapy environment can help empower teens to identify with what makes them unique and stand out, rather than seeking solely to blend in with others or adapt to whatever is most popular.

Provides a Platform for Peer-to-Peer Connections and Discussions

A group therapy setting is not just a place to listen to others talk, but it is also a place to be heard. It can feel validating and empowering to finally sit among other teens who are capable of reacting empathically and with understanding, who have likely gone through similar experiences or, in the very least, know what it can feel like to be alone or ostracized because of specific symptoms or behaviors. Being heard is something we all yearn for, whether we are children, adolescents, or adults.

And the best way to feel like you truly belong somewhere is to tell your story and feel like it resonates with those around you. Getting the chance to talk about one’s anxieties and struggles can also help confirm to the speaker that these are real issues they need to address, and not just quirks or things to be belittled for. Teens can begin to contextualize and even better understand their thoughts and behaviors and compare their experiences to those around them and gain insight into how others have dealt with their problems.

Offers a Safe, Structured Place for Teens to Experience Positive Social Interactions

Consequently, group therapy also becomes a place where positive experiences and learning experiences are shared and discussed, and it becomes a place where those teens who have had more experience with therapy can help guide others through the early stages of the treatment process and become part of their path towards understanding their condition. These relationships go both ways – while newcomers feel welcomed and understood, those who have had more time in therapy can reap the benefits of helping others through their own experiences.

Helps Teens Develop Social Skills and Effective Coping Tools

Through group therapy sessions, teens are encouraged to practice their social skills, engage with their peers empathically, learn to reflect on their own experiences by way of reviewing or recontextualizing what happened to others, and gain a chance to help one another by giving advice, sharing stories, and being there for each other.

Group therapy becomes a place where teens with various issues learn to identify similarities and work out their differences, making a lot of progress in developing stronger self-esteem, a more concrete identity, communication skills, and relationship skills.

The Bottom Line

Group therapy may be ideal for teens because it’s a setting where they can interact with and help their peers, work on their social skills, and develop a stronger sense of self amid a group. These improvements and skills can carry over into individual therapy and day-to-day life outside of treatment. Through other people’s experiences and stories, teens can also better understand their thoughts and behaviors. It is still hard work – all therapy is – but it may help many teens in ways unique to adolescence.

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Do I Have Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

We’ve all done it: called the arrogant, self-righteous, unsympathetic person we know a

Narcissus (oil on canvas) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“narcissist” and we may have even felt pretty confident that they are most certainly suffering from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  It’s a buzzword for the selfish and self-indulgent people we have difficulty with. We may even be right on occasion. I know I have, much to my chagrin. We never really want our laymen’s assessment to be true, do we?


While it’s true that someone can have narcissistic tendencies, to receive a diagnosis for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you have to meet some significant traits and they have to have been present for some time. Because of this, adolescents aren’t typically diagnosed with this particular personality disorder because their brains are changing so rapidly. However, if an adolescent presents with the traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, they have to be actively present for at least a year.  I do think it’s important to remember that Narcissistic Personality Disorder is diagnosed as a result of it being a long-standing, enduring behavior.


It’s not common for someone with any personality disorder to seek help. Often times, one ends up in treatment or in a therapist’s office for something else and it’s determined then. Rather than trying to diagnose someone who is innately selfish, ensure that you have firm boundaries and limits around this difficult person.


I asked Noelle Rodriguez to give me some clinical insight on Narcissistic Personality Disorder:


“A narcissist is only interested in what reflects on them. All she/he experiences is a reflection of self, denial of profound feelings and grandiose fantasy as a shield from unworthiness caused by not feeling truly loved by their parent. A narcissist attacks separateness in everyone with whom he must have a relationship; either they fit into his ego-supporting mold or they are excluded from his life.

Narcissistic rage and aggression is based on fear. His entitlement and absolute control over others must go unchallenged.”

Noelle went on to expand on part of the child’s development that may contribute to Narcissistic Personality Disorder and where parental neglect or denial is a factor, “The child’s natural growth sets off a parental alarm: he or she is blamed for their emerging individuality as if it were a crime. He is made to feel that there is something wrong with such development.”


According the DSM-V, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is described thusly:


  • A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
  • Requires excessive admiration.
  • Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
  • Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).
  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.”

For more information about personality disorders, please speak to a therapist, or medical professional skilled in working within this genre of mental illness.



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A Brief Overview of DBT – Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

In this brief overview of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), we are illustrating the efficacy of  DBT for the treatment of patients with suicidal behavior, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. DBT has been shown to reduce severe dysfunctional behaviors in clients. DBT uses validation has a tool to the client accept unpleasant thoughts and feelings rather than react to them in a dysfunctional way.  Simply put, dialectical means that two ideas can be true at the same time. Validation is the action of telling someone that what they see, feel, think or experience is real, logical and understandable. It’s important to remember that validation is non-judgmental and doesn’t mean you agree or even approve of the behavior you are validating.


Over the last year, Visions has effectively trained the staff to be DBT informed. We hold regular DBT skills groups at our residential and outpatient facilities. We have adopted and incorporated DBT skills into our day-to-day interactions with clients and are finding it to be incredibly beneficial.


I took some time to speak to Jesse Engdahl, MA, RRW, about his observations and experience with running the DBT skills group. He said, “We are happily surprised that it’s (DBT) become a community within a community. It’s set itself apart through the kids’ commitment to not only use the skills but in their support of each other. There is a high level of trust. We have kids coming into IOP who’ve felt marginalized and who hadn’t felt a broader amount of support, but find their place in DBT.”


The emphasis on validation in DBT is profound. Someone suffering from borderline personality disorder often has a movie playing in their heads and when the validity of that “movie” is denied, it can create a waterfall of dysregulation which can include anxiety, depression, anger, and fear. Taking a counter-intuitive stance and validating one’s reality is has been shown to be particularly efficacious. It deescalates the anxiety, and it teaches the client to self-regulate.


Joseph Rogers, MDiv-Candidate and DBT skills group facilitator and mindfulness teacher succinctly illustrates the value of our DBT groups, “Our DBT skills group gives our clients the confidence that they have the ability to meet their difficulties with skills that can be found within themselves and their capabilities.  By utilizing daily skills diary cards and reporting on their results, clients are able to see where they are being effective and can acknowledge the positive outcomes they are responsible for through their actions.  DBT has the ability to move clients out of their diagnosis toward a confidence in their personhood.”


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Healthy Boundaries Make for Healthy Teens

© sarit z rogers

What steps can you take to ensure that you aren’t in violation of someone’s boundaries? For example, not everyone enjoys being hugged, nor is it always appropriate to express that level of touch. From the perspective of a teacher or a therapist, one must understand the innate power differential that exists between teacher and student or therapist and client. One is looking to the other for advice and pedagogic elucidation, and one is holding the power to elicit such information. We therefore need to be thoughtful in our approach to employing touch in these situations.


In a therapeutic environment such as Visions, we address more than substance abuse and mental illness; we are facilitating the excavation of trauma and creating safe boundaries. It’s important to maintain awareness around our own sense of boundaries and how execute them. Asking ourselves these questions and contemplating the answers through talking to our peers and writing them out will help you discern where you may need some work, and where you are strongest:


  1. What does it mean to set boundaries?
  2. Is it hard to say “no”? If so, what does saying “no” feel like?
  3. How do I feel when my boundaries are crossed?
  4. What is my reaction internally and externally?
  5. Am I afraid to set boundaries? Why?
  6. What is my history around setting boundaries?


As clinicians and teachers, it’s imperative that we know and understand where our weak spots are so we can work on them. For some people, it’s not uncommon to wait until someone pushes us to our edge before we set a limit. The desire to please others or to be liked plays a part here, and our own backgrounds and upbringing will also effect how we interact with others. Perhaps we come from a family where hugging and touch is part of the norm. It may be natural for us to reach out and hug someone when they are suffering, but it’s not always appropriate.


Hugging a client may be a violation of a boundary, but if the client has been traumatized in some way, they may not know how to set that boundary. Likewise, if a client persistently tries to hug you, you have to maintain a firm boundary so they learn to understand what is and what is not appropriate. I was volunteering at my son’s school recently, and a kid came up and hugged me, not wanting to let go. It was a child I don’t know and it was a clear violation of my boundaries and the school’s rules. I gently moved away and held a boundary with this child until he moved on. Teens look to us as examples to learn from and to emulate. If we don’t show strong, safe boundaries, they won’t be able to either. Understand that the boundaries we create encourage freedom to be who you are while creating a safe container for healing and recovery.

Respecting boundaries applies to parents too. If the family dynamic has been compromised, parents have to work to rebuild a healthy and safe family structure. Creating solid boundaries is key in that process. Adolescents love to push buttons and stretch boundaries; they are smack dab in the center of their individuation process. That doesn’t mean you, the parent, have to give in. Remember: “No” is a complete sentence, and when it’s said with certainty and conviction, it makes all the difference. A wishy-washy, non-committal “no” may as well be a “maybe” or a “yes.” Poor limits leave room for negotiation where there shouldn’t be.

We all have a part to play in creating safe limits whether we are parents, teachers, or clinicians. Kids, in their infinite wisdom and testing behaviors, demand strong limits, whether they admit it or not. Boundaries create safety. They provide defined parameters in which to develop and grow. So as much as a teen may push, inside, they really do respect a firm “No” and a defined environment.

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Redefining Your Emotional Landscape With DBT

mindfulness 1.0 (Photo credit: Mrs Janet R)

The ideology behind therapeutic tools like DBT is to facilitate and encourage an emotional and psychological paradigm shift towards a more sustainable relationship to one’s mental health challenges. The foundational tenant of DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) is mindfulness training. By using core mindfulness skills, one becomes personally active in redefining their relationship to their suffering.  Using these tools, one can learn to be non-reactive to their discomfort while staying emotionally present.  In a nutshell, they are taking what is a learned response to stress and dismantling it. DBT teaches you how to put it back together in a healthier, more sustainable and manageable way.


Are we programmed to fix things? Is being present with “what is” simply too much? For many, the answer to these questions is a wholehearted “Yes!” We come to recovery in deep suffering, and often times, this suffering is precluded by failed attempts at “fixing” what was “wrong” with us. Substance abuse, sex, shopping, self-harming, video games, the Internet, and gambling are used as ways to mollify our pain; these things are temporary and eventually, they cease to work. What we are left with are the frayed shadows of unaddressed traumas, hurt, loss, shame, sadness, depression, anxiety, et cetera.


Redefining the way we approach our difficulties takes patience. It takes effort. It takes acceptance. It requires us to sit with our discomfort without trying to fix it or change it in any way. Imagine someone clutching something with all of their might, because letting go would be unfathomable. But their grip is so tight, what they are holding onto is crushed, creating sheer devastation and heartbreak. What if we look at our difficulties the same way: if we hold onto them so tightly, we create heartbreak and devastation. Instead, we can hold them gently, giving those same difficulties room to breathe and change.


There is no magic bullet. There is work to be done, and it takes effort and patience and support. With tremendous tools like DBT elicited by skilled clinicians, it’s clear the temperature of mental health recovery is changing; it’s more inclusive and collaborative.

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Mental Health Care: The Only Way Out is Through

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mental health is not something to be meddled with. It’s not something that can be fixed by prayer or meditation or going to yoga or by thinking positively. It requires legitimate clinically supported psychological care.  For some that may require a long-term in-patient program, for some, that may require an intensive outpatient program, and for some that may require weekly meetings with a therapist. The spiritual practices of prayer, meditation and yoga can and ought to be integrated into any therapeutic work but they are not the end all be all.


Stepping onto the path of recovery is about change. It’s about shifting one’s perspective and learning how to redefine and shift old paradigms so we can create new ones. We must first begin with our old thought patterns and old ideals, which are heavily ingrained in us. The older we are, the deeper the planting, and often the more difficult the change, though not impossible.


It is imperative that we seek help for our mental health needs when we need it. If we are confronted with clinical depression, anxiety, OCD, panic disorders, or PTSD, this is where a skilled psychologist or therapist or possibly a psychiatrist should come in.  Bypassing it is dangerous and causes us more harm than it does good. Often times, we seek that magic bullet that will make everything just go away, but it doesn’t. We have to walk through it, or stumble through it, whatever the case may be.


I am reminded of my newcomer years: I was a mess. And when I say mess, I mean, a real mess. I was angry, resistant, but I was full of fire. I was ultimately convinced that I was going to be killed by my feelings (clearly, that didn’t happen!), and I would wax poetic dramatically that it was so.  If it weren’t for people pulling me out of myself and into reality, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Part of that process was also learning to walk through my issues not around them, because wherever I went, they were right there with me, like a trusted companion, ready and willing to make my life miserable.


You don’t have to do this alone. In fact, you can’t. There is a network of mental health care that avails you and a network of support groups at the ready. One step at a time, one breath at time, one minute at time, recovery is possible. Mental health care is possible but one thing is for sure, the only way out is through.


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Boston Marathon: Emotional Care During Tragedy

Boston Marathon Finish Line.1910. Author: Unknown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are once again faced with the darkness of another tragedy: the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Events like this inevitably bring up our past traumas, leading to feelings of deep sadness, and often confronted by some of our unfettered grief. There is also a huge sense of confusion when we are faced with the unanswerable question of “Why?”


As parents, it is important to be transparent and honest with our kids in times like this. This does not mean sharing gruesome photographs of the event with them or feeding them gory details. Talking to our kids and allowing them to have a voice in a traumatic time is important. When the bombing at the Boston Marathon happened, we sat down with our son and talked to him about it. We wanted to make sure he heard it from us and not from the rumor mill of middle school, where hyperbole and fear mongering are the norm. He felt shock, confusion, and sadness. For parents, it was and continues to be our responsibility to honor the feelings of our kids and provide a safe container for them to express themselves. The world can be a scary place, especially with the effects of random acts of violence. Our son had many questions about what happened in Boston, many of which mirrored the questions of so many—kids and adults alike: “Am I safe?” “Why is there so much violence?” “Why would someone do that?” “Should I be worried?” “Will it happen here?” It’s important that his questions are answered and that he is allowed to process what he’s heard, lest we create another environment of trauma.


The tragedy those in Boston are confronted with never should have happened; but it did. It is real and it is heinous. Those directly affected by the devastation at the Boston Marathon will have deep trauma and grief to process and they will need support. When I see and hear of things this atrocious, I am reminded of a few things we can and should do in times like this:

  • lean into our circles of support,
  • be of service,
  • remember and honor those thrust into sudden loss and tragedy of senseless acts of violence.
  • Look at the positive: the people helping, the survivors, the community that reaches out to strangers.


In his book Trauma-Proofing Your Kids Dr. Peter Levine talks about the ways Somatic Experiencing is used in a crisis. Somatic Experiencing is focused on “symptom relief and in resolving the underlying ‘energy’ that feeds those symptoms.” (p.214)  Instead of asking kids to “tell the story” of what happened, they are asked to share their “post-event difficulties,” i.e., the physical or emotional fall-out they are experiencing after the event occurred. For example: fatigue, headaches, difficulty sleeping or eating, stomach aches, spaciness, emotional numbing, worry, guilt, et cetera.  The goal is not to re-traumatize the individual, but to help the process of self-regulation and emotional discharge.


Please make sure you are getting what you need if you are experiencing emotional difficulty since the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. If you find that you are having a hard time:

  • Take a break from the media.
  • Do some movement: jump rope, hike, do yoga, just move your body.
  • Be kind to yourself.

“Trauma can be prevented or transformed; it does not have to be a life sentence.”

Dr. Peter Levine

Addiction Recovery Therapy Treatment

The Value of an Outpatient Program

Outpatient programs have a unique position for those seeking treatment. They are sometimes looked upon as a softer way to approach treatment when a family is seeking help for their teen. There are some who think they can recover via our outpatient program alone, only to find out they need the more intensive care of our residential facility.  There are those who resist our outpatient program after spending time in residential only to discover that it is through our outpatient program where they learn to apply the tools they learned in our residential program.


Our outpatient program provides a therapeutic and safe container to continue the inner work that was being focused on at residential as well as to discover and tangibly experience how to live and love life as a sober, recovering person.  We treat males and females, 13-18 years of age and require the involvement of a family member. The first level of our outpatient program is called First Step. It is an introduction to treatment and takes place over an 8-week period. Here a teen will be provided with clinical support, group support, an individual session, a family session, and drug testing. The next level of our outpatient program is our Intensive Outpatient Program, and that takes place over the span of 1 year. This really is the continuation of our programs and provides a higher level of focused, outpatient care, which is broken down into 3 phases: Primary Care, Continuing Care, and After Care. In this way, your teen is being provided with the roots of treatment and wings of recovery all in the same, clinically supported environment.

For more information about our outpatient program, please read here. We can recover, one step at a time.