What is evident in any recovery practice is the encouragement and urging to be of service. The call to be of service starts in treatment and continues into aftercare and beyond. Service work is a foundational piece in recovery, and it is something that provides a salient way to recognize we are not alone.
Often times, someone comes into recovery with a sense of feeling alone, unheard, empty, vulnerable, and emotionally and sometimes physically shattered. Parents and loved ones are often worn down from the negative impact of their child’s poor actions and disruptive behavior that resulted from their addiction and untreated mental illness. Essentially, the entire family system is dysregulated. Coming into treatment or walking into a 12-step meeting means learning to recognize this in order to begin the work of putting the pieces back together.
We talk about being of service a lot in this blog and at Visions, whether it’s at our residential, outpatient, or extended care facilities. We understand that being of service creates a sense of self-worth; it takes us out of ourselves and allows us to see that we are not alone, illuminating the fact that others are suffering too.
When we struggle with our emotions, and our fears loom over us, it feels overwhelming. It can feel like you are standing in the shadow of a great mountain. And if you are in the midst of this alone, it’s even more overwhelming. When we reach our hand out to someone else, we take a step out of that shadow and out of the mindset of self-pity and self-deprecation. We allow ourselves to help others and in the meantime, our own hearts begin to heal. Being of service shows us the way to compassion and kindness and encourages selfless acts.
Take a commitment at a meeting
Offer to drive someone home whom you know always takes the bus
Volunteer at an animal shelter
Say yes when someone asks you for help (within reason, of course)
Take the trash out or wash the dishes…without being asked
Reach your hand out to someone newer than you in recovery
Addiction is a disease of loneliness. We isolate when we get high, we isolate when we drink, and we isolate when we are depressed or anxious. Being of service shifts that isolation into inclusive action. It allows us to be a part of instead of apart from.
During graduation time, it’s not uncommon for many teens to fall under great pressure from parents and teachers to exceed in academia or to get accepted into the ideal university. Stress tends to be high at the end of the year, no matter how you spin it. Often times, stress is somaticized (converted into physical symptoms) and it shows up in the form of : stomach aches, headaches, difficulty sleeping, eating more or eating less, and even mood swings.
Unfortunately, some kids turn to drugs and alcohol to attempt to quell the anxiety and physical manifestations of their stress, while others may sink into depression. Under stress, our nervous systems go on the fritz, thrusting the body toward a fight/flight/freeze response. If there is no healthy outlet to discharge that stress, it manifests physically.
At the end of the year, when graduation looms, there’s a very real potential for an increase alcohol and drug use, anxiety, and depression. We know that adolescent substance abuse tends to rise in the summer months of June and July. According to a report recently released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “approximately 11,000 adolescents use alcohol for the first time, 5,000 try their first cigarette, and 4,500 begin using marijuana” during the months of June and July. But facts aside, what can we, as parents, educators, and mental-health professionals do about it? Can you commit to this:
Create safe, open spaces for our kids to talk to us.
Create a safe, open environment to facilitate healthy dialogue.
Be present for your kids, emotionally and physically.
Take care of your own needs and make sure your history is not spilling onto your kids’ present.
For teens already in recovery, managing that end-of-year stress around graduation is crucial:
Use your resources and ask for help from parents, teachers, your sponsor, mentor, or another safe adult.
Create prioritized lists, checking things off as you go.
Create a schedule.
Make time for self-care. Healthy physical activity is great for getting the endorphins going, a bubble bath is self-soothing, yoga or meditation will help you get grounded and settle in.
Take breaks. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take short 10-minute breaks every half hour and stretch, get up, walk around. You’ll notice an increase in your productivity.
Hang a picture of something or someone that inspires you near your workspace.
Try and remember that graduation is something to celebrate. It’s a wonderful accomplishment and something you’ve been working toward since childhood. All of the scraped knees, tears, trophies, reports, dissections and memorization got you to this place. Celebrate it healthfully!
Beginning in June of 2014, Visions will launch our Three-Day Family Intensive program. It is a small, intimate program, which will facilitate therapeutic and clinically supported opportunities to help parents view their current roles and reactions within their family systems. To heal, all pieces of the familial puzzle need to come together.
Terra Hollbrook, MSW, LCSW, CADC and her husband, Jeff Hollbrook, BRI-III, have been working closely with our clinical staff to review and expand our family program. Their experience ranges from personal to professional, and as a result, their contribution to the Family Program has added experiential depth and weight. Within the context of the Three-Day Family weekend, families, with the help of clinical staff, will address:
The Three-Day Family Intensive will provide experiential learning meant to facilitate the recognition of similarities while adeptly addressing differences within the family dynamic. Visions’ Three-Day Family Intensive program will also provide the family with the experience of being the identified patient, a necessary tool when one is doing this kind of work. Understanding what it’s like to be in someone’s shoes can create a profound paradigm shift.
Day one is designed to be purely educational in which participants will gain a more salient understanding of their own powerlessness.
Day two will allow for a deeper divulgence into that powerlessness as families are broken up into small groups facilitated by clinicians guiding them through the emotional process of looking inward. On days one and two, parents are without their teens.
On day three, families come back together so parents and teens can reconnect in a therapeutic and supportive environment. Families will do group work together, which will include sculpting a more therapeutic and functional family environment from that point forward. In addition, families will participate in group activities together. Finally, the weekend will culminate in a closing circle and a therapeutic process facilitated by a clinician where families are able to discharge from the emotional stimulation.
Family work takes time and dedication. There are no magical buttons that will make everything suddenly line up the way we want them to. However, with practice, and consistent work unpeeling the layers of internal stories and traumas, healing will happen. Families do find their way back together.
The heart is an amazing thing: it heals even when we believe it’s broken beyond compare. Our goal with the Three-Day Family Intensive Program is to teach families that they can heal and that they can create new, healthier root systems from here on out—that their hearts can, in fact, heal.
Healing a family from addictive behaviors and emotional dysregulation takes work.
It takes willingness from all parties involved and a moment of clarity from the addict as well as the family in order to get the ball rolling. It takes dedication and a commitment from the entire family system. When someone says, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” it helps us to recognize that this is the brain’s way of taking a breath of fresh air. That “breath of fresh air” is the internal shift an addict or alcoholic needs to embrace and encourage them to move toward the next level. In our last blog, we noted the following 4 things a family needs for recovery. I thought it wise to break it down further:
1. A healthy home
2. Mental and physical health
3. Sense of purpose
4. To have and build a sense of community
What does a healthy home look like?
When when Visions’ Noelle Rodriguez, Psy.D. is working with families and helping them heal broken or disrupted family systems, she stresses the importance of “having an intentional culture in the home that supports open communication, boundaries that are well defined, and have mutual respect.” In this way, home can become a refuge instead of a place of commotion.
Mental and Physical Health:
If a mental health diagnosis has been made, it is imperative that there is consistency with medication, consistent medical and psychological follow-ups, and that the family as whole is on the same page. Recovery requires a broadening net of support. It often begins with the clinical support in treatment, and expands to include a network of sober, healthy peers, and often reparation of the family system.
Sense of Purpose:
Find something that inspires you: Something that is positive and supports your path on recovery. Remember, purpose is another word for motivation: take commitments at meetings, be of service, volunteer somewhere that you love, take a morning walk. Joseph Rogers, Assistant Education Director at Visions’ IOP says, “If students/clients don’t have a light at the end of the tunnel, something to look forward to, it is hard for them to see why they should continue making an effort.”
To have and build a sense of community:
One of the most amazing things about treatment and the path to recovery is fellowship (community). Knowing that you have a net of like-minded people in your corner is a powerful salve. How often do we hear the John Burroughs quote, “Leap and the net will appear”? I have to tell you from my own recovery experience, building and sustaining a healthy community of support and care has shown me truth in that very quote. I have leapt often and each time, I have been met with an incredible “net” that I call community. Your community will tell you the truth, love you when you can’t love yourself, and hold you accountable when you make a fool of yourself. Community aka fellowship is a glorious thing.
I recently heard something I found revolutionary from an addiction psychiatrist about hitting bottom, saying that it’s important that we as professionals and families “eliminate rock bottom as a condition of recovery and find the right conditions for recovery.” This moved me because it encourages taking action sooner, it encourages destigmatizing what recovery can look like, and it provides a sense of hope. Families need hope. They need to believe that recovery is possible. They need to know and understand in the fiber of their being that there is light at the end of the tunnel. UCLA’s Dr. Tim Fong said, “Addiction and mental health are not necessarily curable conditions, but they are controllable conditions.” In other words, recovery is attainable.
Visions knows that a family in crisis needs requires an intensive family program. It doesn’t benefit a family to be viewed as having individual branches that need to be removed, trimmed or repaired. We are thrilled to be building out our 3-day intensive family program with the help of Jeff and Terra Holbrook. They have been doing family work for almost two decades and are deeply committed to healing the family system. Their insight and experience are invaluable and in line with the culture of Visions. Visions wants the family to heal from the inside out; We require all families to go to:
Weekly parent support groups;
Weekly multi-family groups; and
Individual family sessions.
Families are also encouraged to go to outside support groups (Al-Anon, AA, ACA, Refuge Recovery, et cetera). When we meet with families, we address issues of attachment, enmeshment, codependency, and we assist families in creating healthy boundaries. The recovery process requires a level of willingness and curiosity on everyone’s part and it is particularly important to do family work because addiction and mental health are rooted in the family system. It is not uncommon for parents and loved ones affected by their child’s addiction or mental illness to become angry, place blame, distance themselves from their child, or try to fix the problem themselves; often times, the focus remains on the addict. Here’s where an intensive family program comes in.
Think of the family system as a garden. Imagine the roots of everything in the garden weaving their way through nutrient rich soil containing love, respect, healthy boundaries, positive attention, and connection to healthy resources. Now imagine what happens when that same soil becomes fallow: The roots begin to suffer from neglect, abuse, abandonment, deprivation, and entanglement; the garden begins to whither away, grasping onto whatever is closest to try to survive. Family systems need to be nurtured from their root systems all the way up. Removing one unhealthy part won’t allow the entire system to heal. In fact, the entire root system will malfunction as a result.
Our intensive family program provides salient educational tools for parents to learn to face addiction and mental health in a healthier way. Families must begin to unpeel their own layers, and begin looking deeply within themselves and at the origins of their own root systems. Parents must also understand what they are asking their kids to do to recover, and more importantly, it’s invaluable for parents to show their kids they are willing to do the same hard work. For example, if a family is asking their kids to look at how they are powerless, that same family needs to ask themselves the same question. Addiction and mental health are a family disease; they are not isolated incidents wherein one family member goes rogue. As David Sheff, author of Clean says, “The addicted are not morally bereft, they are ill.”
An intensive family program will also help parents move away from the stigma of mental health and addiction and move toward acceptance and healing. Families are often surprised to find out that their feelings are in line with their child’s: Both may feel angry, betrayed, ashamed, scared, resentful, frustrated, tired, and so on. When parents are able to shed a light on these similarities, the willingness to look at the hows and whys of addiction and mental illness becomes more palpable. Recognizing this similarity also elicits compassion and empathy for their child and for themselves. When a family can recognize that everything is connected, recovery can truly bloom.
Continuing our week of honoring Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I spoke to Visions’ Michelle Gross, MA, LMFT who has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders for over 18 years. Her passion is in treating the eating disorder community both individuals, and their families. Eating Disorder Awareness is something we encourage and support via groups, individualized therapy, and nutritional support. I asked Michelle for some insight into what she tells families with a loved one who is suffering from an eating disorder or disordered eating behaviors. She says,
“When assisting a family who have just learned that their loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, I want them to know that eating disorders are a coping mechanism that tend to occur in individuals who suffer from anxiety and/or depression. Eating disorders numb pain (overeating), release feelings (purging), and create a feeling of control (counting calories). Eating disorders, although not always identical in form, tend to run in families. Family members need to know that the way in which they respond to their loved one is critical to the recovery process; however, they are not responsible for the development of the eating disorder itself. Eating disorders are an illness. Eating disorders are not about weight.”
Families who are confronted with this issue have to re-learn how to communicate with each other in a non-triggering way. I recently had to have a discussion with someone about their perpetual food talk and how triggering it was. Every meal was punctuated with negative commentary about weight gain, etc. So, eating with this person was becoming treacherous. Michelle Gross has wonderful insight and suggestions for situations just like this:
“It is important for family and friends to know how to be supportive. Unfortunately, the best of intentions to assist the eating disordered individual tend to backfire. Telling an anorexic that recently gained weight: ‘You look so much healthier,’ is easily misconstrued as being told one is ‘fat.’ Attempts to make sure an anorexic eats or a bulimic does not purge, create feelings of powerlessness that intensify the desire to feel in control by minimizing calories or purging. Innocently mentioning one’s own need to lose weight or recently enjoying a vigorous workout, leave the eating disordered individual feeling inadequate and more dissatisfied with herself. Loved one’s need to learn the ‘language’ spoken by the eating disordered individuals. Eating disorders are competitive.”
And what about triggers? Remember, what triggers one person may not trigger another, but some things are similar across the board. Michelle provides some salient advice here. If we begin to understand the psychological mechanisms of the eating disorder, our awareness and ability to support someone who is suffering increases. By opening our eyes, we can be supportive without judging the individual.
Michelle tells us that, “Family and friends also need to learn what triggers or intensifies eating disordered thoughts and behaviors. Shopping for clothes, going to restaurants, exercising to reduce stress, can all intensify the eating disorder. Eating disorders are reactive. The more one learns how their loved one’s eating triggers them, the more helpful one can be.”
Recovery is a family process, and that includes recovery from substance abuse, mental illness, eating disorders, or processing disorders. Treatment must include all facets of the family system. Learning how to do this is a process and a practice; and as Michelle illustrates, it is not one-sided affair:
“It is extremely valuable for family members to be part of the treatment. Family sessions in addition to the individual therapy offers all members the opportunity to learn how to be supportive, to share concerns in a controlled environment, and gives the eating disordered individual an opportunity to express their feelings in an appropriate way vs. through the eating disordered behaviors.”
We need to unite as a recovery community, championing Eating Disorder Awareness Week and encouraging others to do the same. We can facilitate supportive environments and spaces for healing so those suffering from an eating disorder can begin to recover and find freedom from the devastating anguish caused by their eating disorders.
can be an important part of a company, school or drug rehabilitation center’s policy. Some parents have even taken it upon themselves to initiate drug testing in their own homes in the interest of keeping their children drug free.
And while most drug testing programs use the urine drug testing method, there are other ways of testing for substance abuse. We will look at the three most common drug testing methods and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Instant drug tests and lab drug tests
All drug testing falls into one of these two categories.
Instant tests, as the name implies, can be done on the spot and give you instant results in just a few simple steps.
For laboratory testing, you of course have to go to a laboratory where the tests are performed with sophisticated equipment. Samples can be collected either at the laboratory or collected off site and taken to the lab for testing.
Drug testing programs in business or institutional environments will usually include a two step process that includes both instant and laboratory tests. An instant test will be performed initially and if that returns a positive result, a follow up test on the sample will be performed at a laboratory. These lab tests are important because instant test results aren’t admissible in court. If the test result is to be used for a legal matter, such as termination of employment, for example, the sample must be laboratory tested for confirmation purposes.
The obvious advantage of instant drug testing is that it gives you instant results. The instant drug testing kits are also inexpensive compared to booking laboratory time for drug testing. With many kits, it’s also possible to test for multiple drugs at the same time. Some of them can even test for over a dozen drugs that include all the common street drugs, plus prescription drugs.
As for disadvantages, aside from the fact that the results are not admissible in court, another knock on instant drug tests is that they do give the occasional false positive reading. Even worse, they also give the occasional false negative reading.
On the laboratory side, the advantages are that the testing is handled by professionals and the results can be used in court, as they confirm the presence of drugs. The expense, plus the time it takes to get results, which ranges from hours to weeks, are disadvantages to laboratory testing.
By combining instant drug testing and laboratory testing, costs can be kept down by primarily using the instant tests and only sending the samples that give a positive result away for laboratory confirmation.
Different Types of drug testing
Although you may occasionally see blood and sweat referenced in terms of drug testing, and both those bodily fluids can be used, the three most common ways of drug testing are by using samples of urine, saliva or hair.
It is possible to use an instant testing kit when using urine or saliva to drug test. With these kits, you can collect a sample anywhere (you’ll need a private place for urine, obviously) and test the substances right on the spot. Or, you can collect the samples and have them sent away to a laboratory for testing.
Hair testing cannot be done instantly. Hair samples can be collected any place, but the actual testing will have to be done at a laboratory.
As far as the most common way to drug test, urine reigns supreme. It’s used in the majority of employment testing, pre-employment screening, military and sports drug testing.
Depending on the type of drug and other factors like a person’s body composition, urine tests can detect drugs in a person’s system from a few hours after they’ve ingested them until about a week afterward, maybe a bit longer.
The instant urine drug tests require a person to give a sample of a certain size and then seeing how that urine reacts with specific chemicals meant to detect drug metabolites.
Tests come in different formats like testing strips, where you dip the strip into the urine, or testing cassettes where you have to transfer some of the urine onto the cassette. A popular instant urine test for obvious reasons is the all-on-one cups where you get the sample donor to fill a cup and you put a lid on the cup and push a button to enact the test, never needing to actually interact with the liquid.
Laboratory urine tests will involve doing an instant drug test (known as immunoassay tests) and if the results are positive, running a more sophisticated (and expensive) test that usually involve gas chromatography–mass spectrometry or a similar type of test.
Obviously the advantages are that this type of testing can be done quickly and relatively inexpensively, plus, because it’s the most common type of drug testing, most people are familiar with it already.
The disadvantages of urine testing are that the sample collection can’t quite be done anywhere. The collection process is also a bit invasive. In some organizations like the military, sample collection must be watched.
And urine tests can be cheated. Some common forms of cheating include:
swapping in someone else’s clean urine,
drinking excessive amounts of water or other liquids to dilute the sample, and
adding a foreign substance (salt, vinegar, bleach etc.) to the sample.
Fortunately, these types of cheating can be easily thwarted. Temperature strips can detect when urine isn’t body temperature, which a fresh sample would be. Also, observation of the sample collection prevents swapping. Many tests can detect watered down samples and properly trained testing technicians will be able to spot a diluted sample, not to mention that most drugs aren’t water soluble so this won’t help people cheat in a lot of cases anyway. Many modern instant tests are also equipped to detect adulterated samples, as well as the aforementioned properly trained drug testing technicians. Laboratories will have safeguards in place to detect cheating.
Often referred to as oral fluid tests, they involve taking a swab of fluid from the mouth of the sample donor. The results are available instantly and these tests can detect drug use from about an hour after usage to a few days after usage depending on the type of drug.
The relatively short period of detection is one of their disadvantages.
However, a clear advantage is that the collection process for saliva testing can be done anywhere and can be observed without privacy concerns.
As far as cheating, it has been noted that gum and cigarettes can interfere with the results of these tests, so precautions have to be taken to ensure no gum is chewed or cigarettes smoked immediately prior to the test.
Hair testing involves cutting several dozen strands of hair from a person’s head or body and sending them to a laboratory for testing (the sample collection can also be done in some labs). Short hair is perfectly fine to use and, as mentioned, body hair can also be used. And while cutting off a person’s hair is obviously somewhat invasive, the hair is cut from the back of the head from a few different spots so as to not be obvious.
In the lab, the hair will be liquified and then split into its various components to check for drug metabolites. A huge advantage for hair testing is that it can check for drug use as far back as three months prior to the date of the test. And, not only can it detect the type of drug used, but also how frequently it was used.
Another huge advantage is that it is impossible to cheat. The internet is full of “advice” for people on how to cheat a hair drug test, but no shampoo, dye or bleach can change the molecular makeup of the hair, which is what the tests look at.
However, aside from the aforementioned invasiveness, hair testing has other disadvantages. It’s more expensive than either urine or saliva testing, there is no instant option and drug metabolites won’t show up in hair until about a week after usage. So, for example, if a person used cocaine on Tuesday and a hair sample was taken from them the following Thursday, the cocaine usage from two days beforehand would not be detected.
Whether used in a professional environment or in the home, drug testing can help keep employees, students, children, athletes and others free from the harmful effects of drugs. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and which one is best for any given situation will depend on cost and other factors.
Now, that may seem like an odd question but it makes a lot of sense. Sometimes, we fear happiness because we don’t think we deserve it, or because we chalk it up to being something for those “other people”—the ones who “have it all” or so we think. A fear of happiness may also be a residual effect of systemic trauma and abuse, which subversively sends us messages to say we don’t deserve happiness. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for someone to feel unworthy of love, joy, serenity, wellness, and safety when they enter recovery. It takes a community of consistent support, via clinicians, peers, and family to be able to transform the attachment to misery.
It’s easy to get stuck in what is familiar and therefore comfortable. Conversely, it’s incredibly difficult to confront that perceived comfort to ask yourself if you deserve better. According to a recent article in Scientific American, Paul Gilbert, a psychiatrist at Kingsway Hospital in England, and his colleagues found that “a fear of happiness correlates highly with depression—but that the dread manifests in numerous ways.” Paul Gilbert goes on to say, “Some people experience happiness as being relaxed or even lazy, as if happiness is frivolous and one must always be striving; others feel uncomfortable if they are not always worrying. It is not uncommon for people to fear that if they are happy about something, it will be taken away.” Research is showing that there is a correlation between a fear of happiness and a decline in mental health. Avoiding happiness can lead to depression. Findings have shown individuals with a major depressive disorder are apt to repress any emotions associated with positive or negative stimulus more than a healthy subject would.
One of the interesting things I’m seeing in this research is the urging for clinicians and clients to work through the fear of happiness as they would any other fear. Much like anything else you are afraid of, overcoming that fear takes a process of taking consistent baby steps. In the case of happiness, learning how to experience glints of happiness and or moments of pleasant emotions is an essential component in finally discovering the ability to be happy.
I also want to acknowledge there are some who view happiness as a luxury—something for those who don’t have as much to suffer from. This is particularly the case when happiness is directly associated with “stuff,” ie., having a smart phone, a fancy car, that guy or that girl, the “right” clothes, or being part of the popular crowd. When we attach happiness to things, what we may find instead is disappointment. Here, happiness isn’t so much feared as it is resented. Working on that resentment is a different process and one that still requires unpeeling the resentment piece by piece to get to its core. The fact is, we all deserve to be happy.
How have you overcome a fear or resentment of happiness?
Developing tools for self-regulation allows us to tap into our internal resources so we can be less reactive. Self-regulation will increase our ability to navigate difficult situations or work in challenging environments. Self-regulation requires us to tap into our mind and body connection. When someone is dysregulated, they are disconnected. One of the steps to self-regulation is learning to connect with our physical sensations and our bodies. Think of it this way: When we are dysregulated, we are reactive rather than responsive. Likewise, when we are self-regulated, we are responsive rather than reactive.
Often times, parents have a tough time regulating their emotions. Imagine this: your child has done something infuriating—perhaps he’s lied, or she’s ditching school or doing drugs—and you respond by yelling. You are frustrated, and perhaps even triggered. You are dysregulated. At this point, you are ineffective in your parenting and your kids are apt to be dysregulated as well. You are essentially communicating with metaphorically closed fists. Stress and trauma both send the sympathetic nervous system into the fray. However, self-regulation will engage the parasympathetic system, which is the body’s natural way of applying a salve. Your action here is to take a time out. Get yourself to a quiet space so you can begin to self-regulate.
The three main tools of self-regulation are:
Grounding, Resourcing, and Orienting.
Grounding allows you to reconnect with your emotions and physical sensations. Paying attention to your feet on the floor, or placing your hands on something solid can help you get back into your body. Taking deep breaths while you are doing this can help you track the sensations mindfully. Taking a time out when you are dysregulated is the first step to getting grounded.
Resourcing is the way in which you ground. We all have resources within us or outside of ourselves. Resources are tools with which we can reconnect with ourselves. For example, breath can be a resource. Your hands on your belly or lap can be a resource. Your pet can be a resource. A resource is something that helps you feel good when everything around you is dismal.
Orienting is a way of checking in with your surroundings. When we are not self-regulated, we check out. It can be a very disembodying experience–one that feels determinedly unsafe and out of control. So when we orient, we do so by consciously noticing our surroundings: looking around the room, noticing where we are, where we are sitting, et cetera.
All of these tools help us self-regulate and all of these tools can be taught to our kids regardless of their age or stage of development. In very young children, it starts with self-soothing and bringing awareness to feelings. As kids get older, the language can shift and become more detailed. Being a teen is frightening developmental state; they experience life more intensely because of where they are developmentally. Teens can learn to slow down. Count to 10 before you respond to something provocative, or take a deep, mindful breath. You may find that what you thought you had to say changes. You may discover that what you need to say comes out softer and kinder. Using your breath this way is a means of grounding and resourcing. When we do this, we are developing skills to be in relationship with our impulses and feelings. By reinforcing this awareness, we gain opportunities to change. Self-regulation is a doorway to self-care. In caring for ourselves, we can more aptly care for others.
Parents, you can act as the conduit for this shift. Your kids want to learn from you, even as they push away. By developing these self-regulating tools yourself, your kids may follow. Teach by example, not by hard hands. By doing so, you will no longer communicate with closed fits; you will communicate with open palms and an open heart.
Finding the best adolescent treatment center for your teen entails finding the care that is most appropriate for their needs. Treating teens requires a different approach than adults because of their cognitive development, the significance of peer influence, and the differences in their values and beliefs. Teens are in the midst of their individuation process, and with that comes a natural rebellion and resistance to change and receptivity to outside influence. The best adolescent treatment center should be able to meet each client where they are.
The best adolescent treatment center will employ a team approach to problem solving and include the family, previous treatment professionals, educators, consultants, and any other specialist that may prove helpful to an adolescent’s recovery. To ensure success, the facility will create individualized plans for each client with regard to their specific needs; this will encourage emotional growth, provide academic support, and foster healthy family relationships to cultivate reparative functionality.
When a family is seeking treatment for their teen, they should look for a place that is dedicated and committed to the ultimate health and welfare of their family.
Key questions parents should ask
1. Is the facility licensed by the state?
Find out what aspects of the program the license covers.
2. Does the facility provide an academic curriculum?
Is it available to all clients? Will academic credits transfer?
3. Does the facility have a clinical director? What are his/her credentials?
4. What are the credentials of the staff, especially the counselors and therapists, who will be working with my child?
How experienced is the staff? How long has the center been providing adolescent treatment? What is the staff turnover?
5. Does the facility conduct background checks on the employees?
If the facility doesn’t, consider that a red flag.
6. What are the criteria for admission? Do they conduct pre-admission assessments? Are they in person, by phone, or over the Internet? Who conducts them?
7. Will they provide an individualized program with a detailed explanation of the therapies, interventions, and supports that will address my child’s needs? When is this done? How often will my child be reassessed?
Confirm the frequency of therapy sessions, whether they are group, individual or both. Confirm that promised level of care is being received after admission to the program.
8. How does the facility handle medical issues like illness or injury? Is there a nurse or doctor on staff? Will you contact me? Will I be notified or consulted if there’s a change in treatment or medication?
Ask for copies of medical procedures followed in the event of a medical emergency.
9. How do you define success? What is your success rate? How is it measured?
Some programs make specific success claims in their advertising materials. To date, there is no systematic, independently collected descriptive or outcome data on these programs.
10. How do you discipline program participants?
11. Can I contact/speak with my child when I want? Can my child contact me when he/she wants?
Each program differs. Find out what is allowed prior to admission.
12. What are the costs? What is covered? What is your refund policy if the program doesn’t work out?
13. Do you have relationships with companies and individuals that provide educational and referral services?
The best adolescent treatment facility will want you to succeed. They will want you to thrive. They will want you to get well. They will nurture you so you can learn to feel good in your skin and they will provide you with the sense that you are part of a family. Ultimately, a facility will promote a process of healing that encourages and sustains a healthy lifestyle.
At Visions, we strive to provide the best treatment experience for every family. Our goal is to wholeheartedly support the adolescent treatment industry through leadership while we work shoulder to shoulder in a community and world that continues to evolve.