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Mental Health Recovery School Therapy

Teen Academic Support During Therapy

In both inpatient and outpatient cases, teens undergoing treatment for a psychiatric condition will face daily challenges and undergo a long-term transformation. Yet, in inpatient treatment cases, teens will often be asked to leave behind their friends, school, and family to spend time in a completely different setting, whether for just a few weeks or several months. And while this is happening, it’s natural to ponder about continuing academia or teen academic support during therapy.

This can be a reason for some teens to reconsider or worry about the implications of mental health treatment. Is it worth putting everything on hold to “get better”? And what if it doesn’t work?

Not Being Left Behind

Life is challenging as it is – juggling relationships, family, and school responsibilities can be daunting, and for many teens, seeking help might mean having to forego some of these responsibilities. Teens don’t want to be left behind, whether it’s academically or socially.

Assuaging these fears is important. And this is why academic support is crucial.

A New Setting Can be Overwhelming

Residential treatment centers usually entail taking a teen out of their usual environment and putting them in a completely new setting, with new peers, new therapists, and different faces. This can be overwhelming – but it’s not all new. Teens in residential therapy will still have school responsibilities, they will still have teachers, they will still have lessons and curriculums, and they will still have peers to talk to.

Consistency is Key

Having these elements stay consistent in a teen’s life, both within and outside the context of therapy, is important. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and even psychosis can thrive in chaos and confusion. Consistent schedules, ongoing responsibilities, and opportunities for self-improvement can help teens focus on the day-to-day task at hand, avoid rumination, and build up their self-esteem – while keeping them on an equal playing field with their friends and peers back in school.

Should Teens in School Go into Treatment?

This is a trick question – mental health treatment needs to be made available to everyone who needs it and wants it, and everyone who needs or wants it should be able to confidently seek help from a mental health professional and get a treatment plan tailored to their circumstances and symptoms.

Teens are no exception, and in fact, adolescence is one of the most important periods to tackle mental health issues, as it provides greater opportunities for therapists and mental health professionals to impart the importance of healthy coping skills, and help teens tackle their symptoms before they grow worse in adulthood or lead to co-dependent health issues later in life.

However, treatment for teens needs to take their circumstances into account just as much as it does for adults. Adults who cannot afford to leave work won’t be able to consider residential treatment as an option, for example.

Teen Residential Treatment and Therapeutic Day School

In the case of teen treatment, residential treatment can be made possible through a robust and accredited academic program that continues to instruct teens as per state- or school-specific curriculum, offering them the opportunity to keep up with their peers while seeking help for their symptoms.

It’s still work. Teens in treatment will be expected to show up to lessons, do homework, and prepare for exams – all while continuing to attend treatment sessions, both individually and in groups, and participating in group activities. Preparing for your SATs or college application deadlines while going to therapy for a dual diagnosis can be tough.

But a day school in a residential treatment facility sets itself apart from a regular day-to-day classroom in that teens in treatment can seek individualized tutoring and may be better able to learn within the setting of a residential treatment clinic versus a conventional classroom.

Synergizing Academic Achievement and Mental Health Treatment

Meanwhile, there is synergy between promoting academic achievement and the mental health treatment process. Just as doing better mentally can help you study, an individually tailored academic program can help you feel better mentally.

Some teens don’t respond well to the typical structure of a school day or haven’t managed to find a way to study that suits them, especially if they’re struggling with the symptoms of a neurobehavioral disorder like ADHD.

Individualized Support and Education

Individualized support in the form of a day school at a residential treatment center can help teens balance studying with their mental health, improve their ability to cope with stressors while retaining information, and find alternative ways to prepare for tests and learn without the pressure and classroom setting of a normal school. Furthermore, day school programs help teens ensure that they aren’t left behind while in therapy and synergize treatment with a teen’s day-to-day academic responsibilities.

Helping teens improve their responses to stressors and prepare for the challenges that lie ahead are important parts of therapy. Some teens are too afraid to speak up about their depressive feelings or anxiety symptoms because they don’t want these things to jeopardize their chances at college, affect their relationships, or be a burden on their grades. But they are – if left untreated.

Teens with mental health issues have a much harder time retaining information and doing well at school – and these issues can continue to be exacerbated later in adulthood.

Furthermore, adolescence is a crucial chapter in the rest of a teen’s life – academic performance can have an impact on career options and college opportunities. Helping teens improve their grades through residential treatment serves as a major boon for the rest of their lives.

Choosing a Residential Treatment Clinic

Residential treatment centers differ in the modalities they offer and the facilities they have. Not all residential treatment clinics offer a day school and teen academic support programs for teens. When choosing a treatment clinic for yourself or your loved one, choose one with an accredited academic program and a reputation for helping teens continue their studies while in treatment.

A residential or inpatient treatment clinic is often just the first step in a longer journey. In many cases, mental health isn’t about curing a defect, but about learning to cope with one’s unique circumstances, and living a full and happy life in spite of the challenges one faces.

Teen Academic Support During Therapy at Visions Treatment Centers

If you or your teen is considering entering into residential treatment but worried about falling behind in academics, contact us today.

At Visions Treatment Centers, we offer Day School for teen academic support while receiving therapy. With a consistent schedule and custom-made curriculum plan, you or your teen will get the professional help they need while maintaining grades, social activities, and more.

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Adolescence Therapy Treatment

Breaking the Silence with Talk Therapy

Teens can benefit from talk therapy just as much as adults, whether it’s for mood swings and anxiety issues, or exam blues, relationship troubles, and school pressure. Talk therapy is not limited to people with mental health conditions and can be a powerful tool to enable introspection and a healthier outlook on life even when a person considers themselves mentally healthy.

The argument for talk therapy can be summed up as preventative care: making sure minor problems don’t brew into major issues down the line, while helping teens build life skills that will continue to serve them as bastions of resilience and strength against mental health issues in the future.

What is Talk Therapy?

Talk therapy is another term for psychotherapy or individual therapy. In talk therapy, a patient and a therapist discuss a patient’s thoughts, concerns, experiences, worries, ambitions, and more.

The point of each therapy session is to make progress on the patient’s mental wellbeing, which may involve thought exercises and “homework,” such as writing a daily journal entry or making observations about one’s responses and emotional states at work or at school.

Combining Talk Therapy with Therapeutic Methods

Different forms of talk therapy apply different questions and therapeutic methods to help a patient make progress. Nearly all therapy centers around introspection, wherein a therapist helps their patient reflect on their way of thinking and their coping methods in order to think healthier, more positive thoughts and develop better, more effective coping skills.

As an example, a therapist treating a teen with depression through cognitive behavioral therapy may teach their patient to identify and isolate self-deprecating and negative thoughts, to dissociate from them, and use positive affirmations to negate these thoughts. These positive affirmations will be rooted in truth, focusing on the teen’s strengths or positive attributes.

It might not feel convincing or effective at first, but reinforcing this type of mental work can, in turn, change the way a patient feels, creating a stronger self-image and healthier self-esteem. This can take as few as five or as many as 20 sessions.

Talk Therapy isn’t Always Used Alone

Talk therapy is not always used on its own. It may be reinforced through medication, helping the brain dull severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, or another mental health problem while training a teen to refute and replace unwanted thoughts when they arise.

How Does Talk Therapy Help with Depression?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most used talk therapy method for cases of depression. Depression in teens can range from a mild or temporary issue to a long-term chronic condition, or a severe and debilitating mental health problem. Regardless of severity, talk therapy is often a central part of treating a depressed patient.

It is true that you cannot “talk your way out” of a depression. It is also true that conditions like depression do not have a cure. Mood disorders are mental health conditions that may resolve themselves over time but are often chronic and long-lasting. For teens with depression, this might mean struggling with dark thoughts from time to time, for years or decades.

Talk Therapy Builds Reinforcements Against Depression

The point of talk therapy is to reinforce habits that help a teen build resilience against these thoughts, anticipate and isolate them, learn not to listen to them, and learn how to refute them with real-life examples of joy and happiness.

We also know that conditions like depression are exacerbated and disarmed by risk factors and protective factors alike. Excessive stress and poor physical health can make depressive symptoms worse and more frequent. Taking care of oneself, spending more wholesome time with friends, and insisting on a healthier work-life balance can help keep depression at bay.

In many cases, talk therapy involves helping patients lay the foundation for the habits and mindset that will keep them safe from depressing thoughts in the future.

Therapy and Addiction

Substance use is another condition where talk therapy, both individual therapy, and group therapy, plays an important role in treatment. Substance use disorder or addiction is a very complicated health problem with compounding social, physical, and psychological factors.

While talk therapy alone does not address all these factors, it can be key to helping patients re-establish themselves in the aftermath of addiction, reaffirm their interests, reclaim their hobbies, and emphasize their newfound lives in sobriety.

There are very few medications for addiction – some medications help cut down on alcohol cravings, for example, while others block the effects of addictive substances like opioids, eliminating the high.

Most of the work in overcoming and surviving addiction relies on guided introspection through one-on-one therapy and group therapy sessions, positive affirmations, healthy coping mechanisms to avoid or defeat cravings, and a long-term support plan.

How Can I Convince My Teen to Try Therapy?

More than half of those who are diagnosed with a mental health problem are not getting the help they need. In many cases, it’s a matter of misinformation, fear of judgment, financial worry, and other factors. In your teen’s case, they may be worried about what might happen if news got out about their therapy. Or, they might be worried that it won’t work and that you would be wasting your time and money.

Sometimes, just talking to your teen will be enough to get them to try it out. Letting them know that you’re in their corner and want them to get the best possible care is important. At other times, it may take more than a single heart-to-heart. Consulting with a therapist beforehand might get you some important pointers on how to bring your teen to therapy.

Being a teen represents being at a major crossroads in life physically, socially, and mentally. Teens are at the cusp of their transformation into adulthood, which brings with it a set of responsibilities and new authorities they need to learn to manage.

Meanwhile, becoming an adult means teens will be expected to do more, first at school, then in the workplace, introducing more sources of overwhelming stress. While all this is happening, teens are struggling with their own emotional and sexual identity and maturity, learning to develop as individuals and cementing their personality traits.

Talk therapy can help teens navigate these issues and accompanying life stressors, before they’re further complicated by anxious or depressed thinking, or other symptoms of illness. In teens who are already struggling with a condition like depression, talk therapy can help them navigate their thoughts and develop better habits.

For more information, contact us today. We are here to help you and your teen. At Visions Treatment Centers, we offer residential treatment programs for teens that address various mental health conditions and diagnoses.

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Therapy

How to Tell Your Parents You Need Therapy

Talking things through the right way can solve a lot of problems, and it can be key to a lot of happy endings. Yet it’s never as straightforward as it sounds, especially in households where peace is always a delicate balance that hangs in the air.

If you’re a teen struggling with symptoms of a mental health condition, you may know and understand the importance of getting the right kind of help. But teens usually don’t have the means or resources to access that help without the permission (and financial backing) of their parents.

And if your parents are skeptical about the usefulness or effectiveness of therapy, it can put you in a difficult situation. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to talk to them about it, either.

Approaching the Topic of Therapy

Therapy is often the first line of treatment for mental health conditions. It’s not a one-and-done process, but spans multiple sessions over weeks, months, or years, involving introspection, thought exercises, and the use of support methods – from healthy coping skills to the support of your friends and family – to tackle conditions such as anxiety, depression, OCD, and PTSD.

If you’re anxious about approaching the topic with your parents, it may be because you aren’t sure if they’re open to it, or because you know that they aren’t. In this case, preparing yourself is crucial.

1. It Starts with Yourself

Check-in with yourself first. Even in a fractured household, if you believe that your parents are primarily interested in what they feel is best for you, you will need to seriously and convincingly articulate why you feel that therapy is what’s best for you.

Begin by asking yourself what led you to believe that you need therapy. Recount experiences you’ve had in the near past that are emblematic of a mental health problem. Go into detail about how you’ve been feeling – without necessarily including your parents or blaming them – and how you need help.

Talk about why you feel therapy is the next step. Be confident in your answers. Write them down and consider how you want to word your reasoning. Even for conditions where medication can greatly help improve symptoms, such as schizophrenia or ADHD, a therapist may help a teen further explore their thought processes by practicing mindfulness and utilizing exercises to identify and differentiate between normal and disordered thinking.

Yes, therapy can also be a place to truly talk about traumatic experiences and troubles at home. But it may not be a good idea to use that as a selling point for seeking treatment, especially if you feel that your home environment is a major contributor to your mental health issues. Focus on why you feel you need help and why seeking a therapist’s help is a good idea.

2. Pick the Right Time

People are more or less receptive to things they might not necessarily agree with, depending on their stress levels. It’s obviously not a good idea to bring up the idea of getting therapy while your parents are arguing or after a long day’s work.

Consider bringing it up when you feel they’re at their happiest, sometime during the weekend, during a vacation, or when you’re having a nice dinner together.

3. Plan and Practice

You don’t need to follow a strict script, but it’s still a good idea to collect your thoughts and plan your reasoning. Write down your arguments and the pros and cons you anticipate your parents bringing up. Consider what they might say or ask you, and come up with a few ideas for answers beforehand.

Don’t assume your parents will say exactly what you expect them to. They might be much more open to the idea than you had anticipated, and you might not even need to go through the entire conversation you had planned beforehand. But it’s not a bad idea to be prepared anyway.

4. Offer to Involve Them 

If your parents are skeptical about the efficacy of therapy, you can suggest family therapy. Even if you have your differences in how you go about mental health, your parents will ultimately want the best for you, and including them in the process might help persuade them to give it a try alongside you.

The Stigma of Mental Health Problems

The stigma of a mental health condition can dissuade teens from getting the help they need to feel better – but it can also dissuade parents from getting teens the help they need. This stigma comes from three different angles: the public, institutions, and one’s own thoughts.

Public stigma is what others think of you. Mental health conditions like anxiety can amplify the already prevalent teen issue of peer perception. Thankfully, mental health advocacy and awareness means most teens are aware of the prevalence of these conditions and the importance of treatment and therapy.

Because conditions like anxiety and depression are so common, it’s no longer socially unacceptable for many teens to openly discuss their therapy. But that differs from group to group. There are still many who might use a diagnosis as ammunition to victimize someone – and there is still a lot of prejudice in the public around mental health patients. Your parents might be worried about what a diagnosis can mean for you – but that stifling stigma can be even worse.

Self-stigma is just as powerful. Teens with anxiety, for example, aren’t just worried about what others think, they’re also unlikely to feel like they deserve treatment. They blame themselves for every failure and double down on self-loathing when things don’t go right. Victories are underplayed, and mistakes are highlighted. Understanding that you need help is a massive step towards finding a way to grapple with your diagnosis and live a fulfilling life.

Institutional stigma is dangerous because it severely penalizes progress in addressing mental health.

For example, there may be legal stigma against people with a mental health diagnosis, such as parents with anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions fighting for custody. There is institutionalized prejudice against mental health patients in the way they may be treated by police. People with anxiety disorders will have a harder time getting treatment for other conditions, as many symptoms might be blamed on their anxiety. They may be less likely to receive proper care than patients with physical conditions.

Negative media representations of people with mental health problems can exacerbate prejudices in the public and magnify self-stigma, delaying treatment.

All of these different forms of discrimination and prejudice can affect teens as well as adults. It makes it harder to come forward with anxious thoughts and seek proper help. Teens struggling with a mental health condition need reassurance that they’re valued, that they deserve proper help, and that they are much more than their struggles or failures.

The Importance of Treatment

Yet despite the stigma, the effects of an undiagnosed or untreated mental health condition are far more dangerous.

Depressive disorders can last years and lead to suicidal ideation and worse. Eating disorders and body dysmorphia share some of the highest mortality rates among mental health conditions. Untreated anxiety disorders can lock a person out of their dream profession or field of study because they have no healthy way of coping with the stress.

These are debilitating illnesses that carry social and physical consequences, and seeking help for them during adolescence can empower teens to adopt healthy coping skills early on, combat symptoms with effective, low-risk medication and therapy, and find a support system that allows them to power through and reach for the stars despite their diagnosis.

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Therapy

The Benefits of Teletherapy for Teens

Between the onset of the pandemic and calls for digitalization throughout the world of healthcare, the rise of teletherapy for teens and adults was inevitable. Yet while teletherapy has picked up in adoption, it’s been around for decades in the form of phone therapy, all the way back to the 1960s.

More modern forms of teletherapy conducted via the Internet and through CDs have been researched for years as well, yielding interesting results in favor of those who prefer to receive their therapy at home.

The newest research specifically looks at teletherapy and telepsychiatry during the COVID pandemic, finding that, for example, young people have taken to online therapy quite naturally and that many patients who have had to transition to online therapy, as a result of the pandemic, continued to attend their sessions and seek help online.

To understand how teletherapy can be just as efficacious as the face-to-face counterpart, and how teens can benefit from it, it is important to understand how teletherapy works.

What is Teletherapy?

Teletherapy, telepsychology, online therapy, or even e-therapy are all names used to describe remote therapy, usually applied through the Internet. Therapists stay in touch with their patients via private messaging or email, and schedule sessions via voice call or video call, usually anywhere from once a week to several times a week.

These sessions largely play out the same way conventional face-to-face therapy sessions would, addressing a patient’s concerns and thoughts, and utilizing different activities and exercises to help them cope.

Teletherapy has been around for about as long as modern-day conventional talk therapy, usually in the form of telephone therapy sessions. With the birth of the cellphone and the Internet came the opportunity to engage in therapy via text message, email, voice-over-Internet-protocol, and video conferencing.

While most therapists are primarily educated to treat patients face-to-face, more and more therapists are specializing in providing remote therapy via the Internet. The skillset required for both is quite similar, with there being very few differences between applying therapeutic knowledge online or in person.

Teletherapy is Effective

There is no lack of data supporting the efficacy of teletherapy versus placebo, teletherapy versus in-person therapy, and teletherapy for specific conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disordersdepressive disordersobsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and concurrent disorders or mixed diagnoses.

We know that teletherapy works. But there are still considerations that every patient must be reminded of before they begin. Some patients are more comfortable with face-to-face therapy, while others prefer teletherapy. In some cases, therapists might even recommend a mixture of both.

In addition to proven efficacy, we also know that teletherapy is a popular treatment model among teens, both as a means of seeking general help or advice and as a modality for serious mental health conditions.

COVID also proved that our mental healthcare infrastructure was not wholly prepared for the shift towards digital. Therapists were less prepared to provide online therapy in the United States than in some other parts of the world.

The forced acceleration of digitalization because of the pandemic has pushed digital options like telehealth into the forefront of psychiatric medicine, making it a more viable option for patients throughout the country, provided they have an Internet connection–which brings us to the other benefits of teletherapy for teens.

Teletherapy and Access to Care

The greatest benefit of teletherapy is accessibility. Teletherapy is a triumph for patients who struggle with mental health issues, which are often aggravated or compounded by chronic illnesses that might prevent face-to-face treatment, from auto-immune conditions to debilitating pain conditions.

By making therapy accessible from any device that can manage to connect to the Internet, teletherapy opens the doors to teens who otherwise would not get the help they need, whether due to time constraints or location. This can be a real barrier of entry for teens who might not want to go through the “trouble” of therapy because it also means worrying about scheduling conflicts and transportation, especially in places where public transport isn’t a valid option for getting to the therapist’s office in time.

Teletherapy Grants Privacy

In addition to being accessible, teletherapy can help teens conduct their therapy in private.

Teens can opt to discuss and talk to their therapists largely via text, eliminating the fear that their parents or relatives might be listening in, while allowing them to seek help independently and schedule their therapy sessions without their parents or guardians.

This isn’t about withholding information from parents so much as it is about helping teens feel more comfortable with their therapy in general, and less anxious about being overheard, stigmatized, judged, or otherwise spied on by their family members.

Teletherapy Can Be More Affordable

Because teletherapy cuts a number of costs for patients and therapists alike, it is often cheaper than face-to-face therapy. This is another important point of accessibility.

Things to Beware

While teletherapy holds a lot of benefits for teens, it isn’t perfect. There are a few things to keep in mind before opting for teletherapy for yourself or your teen, and it’s important to decide whether these things are relevant in your case. For example:

  • Teletherapy may not be covered by your health insurance. While a lot of things have changed since COVID, there are still many health insurance policies that only cover in-person face-to-face talk therapy.
  • Teletherapy may be generally as effective as face-to-face treatment, but some teens might respond better to in-person therapy. Teletherapy doesn’t always make it easy to interpret a teen’s body language or carefully observe their reactions to certain questions. This can leave important social and context clues unseen for both the patient and the doctor.
  • Online therapy isn’t just video calls and audio messages, a lot of it is written. This requires good written as well as verbal communication skills, which your teen might struggle with.

Teletherapy can be an excellent fit for many teens in need of help, but without the means or access to a nearby therapist. Teletherapy even enables teens who may not necessarily have their relatives’ or parents’ support to seek help. Teletherapy is a vital tool, especially in the post-pandemic world, and will continue to be an important alternative for millions of people around the world looking to get help for their mental health conditions.

Try Teletherapy for Teens Today

If you are considering teletherapy for your teen, be sure to talk to them about it. Ask them what they think and take their opinion into consideration as well. It’s always important that the person getting therapy is comfortable with whom their therapist is and is willing to invest their time and energy into pursuing therapeutic goals with them.

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Therapy

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.

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Therapy

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.

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Therapy

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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Mental Health Personality Disorder Recovery Therapy Treatment

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.

 

 

Categories
Bipolar Disorder Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Mental Health Recovery Therapy Treatment

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.”

 

Categories
Adolescence Communication Mental Health Parenting Recovery Therapy Trauma

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.