Are you ready to pull your hair out yet? Parenting a teenager can feel like surfing a tsunami even without mental health concerns in the way! We will help you navigate the balance of supporting your teen as they suffer while also setting limits to help maintain stability in your home.
Anxious teens typically present with the following behaviors:
- nervousness or worry without any specific reason
- constant worry about insignificant/everyday events
- difficulty focusing on events he/she used to enjoy, feeling jittery or distracted by worries
- feeling overwhelmed with worry and reacting as if it’s the end of the world
- sleep problems (with falling asleep or staying asleep)
- your teen may also seem to be focused on being perfect (in school, sports, or other activities)
Depressed teens present with the following behaviors:
- irritability, anger outbursts more often than not
- sleep problems (too much sleep, lack of sleep, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep)
- thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts or self-harm
- loss of interest in activities
- poor school performance
- difficulty focusing
- changes in eating habits
- risky sexual behavior
We will work together to help foster peace in your home. It’s important that we collaborate to ensure we receive the full picture of your teen’s life, and so that you feel included in his/her treatment. We will not be working with your teen in a vacuum, thus we will need you on board to help change the dynamic in the home to allow for your teen to heal.
We effect change gently and with humor in a way that makes progress seem less overwhelming. Our experiences have led us to function calmly and in a comforting way even when the topic of discussion is something as overwhelming as suicide. We focus on grounding your family and diffusing arguments in a way that leads to productivity in a session, lessening any initial tension.
We’ve tried therapy before, and my teen seems worse. What makes your approach different?
Sometimes teens engage in risky behavior so frequently that they need extra support to break the pattern. This requires a specialized approach using a research-backed treatment called “DBT.” Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is used with teens whose behaviors frequently threaten their own lives or the lives of others, and it consists of 4 parts. Just showing up and talking about the week’s crisis actually makes it worse. With DBT, we focus on targeting the life-threatening behaviors head-on, and don’t get trapped in the weeds of the problem of the day.
With a structure like this, and a sarcastic but accepting approach, teens feel supported in their pain but held accountable to make lasting change.
Sounds great, but how does it actually work?
“Full Fidelity” (aka legit research-backed) DBT is provided in 4 parts.
Individual therapy with a structured agenda. Don’t worry, we’re not robots. We set the agenda each session so your teen gets a chance to discuss what’s on their mind, but not in spite of our bigger goal: creating a life of safe emotional expression without avoiding conflict altogether.
Group skills class to learn direct skills to practice each week so your teen knows what works under pressure, and is tasked to use them. This group is 90 minutes because your teen needs to learn the skill of the week AND review how/why they did or didn’t use last week’s skill. Accountability is key. This is not group therapy. Teens do not discuss their risky behaviors in this class. It is our high priority that they not learn unhealthy behaviors from each other as they work to live safely.
Group is not “optional” for teens who engage in risky behaviors or have life-threatening symptoms on a daily or weekly basis. If our goal is to keep your teen out of the hospital, and living a life worth living, then schedules need to be arranged to accommodate saving their life. Our experiences and expertise (along with the research) dictates that 1x/week therapy is not effective for teens suffering at this level.
Skills Coaching is provided via text or phone calls outside of session. Here’s the deal: this is provided for our full-fidelity clients only. This service is not a ‘vent sesh’ or a ‘bash my parents’ opportunity. We are real humans with real lives and so this service is meant to support your teen in using the skills they use in skills class in real time. It’s meant to prevent taking life threatening action when the urge is high. A plan is developed for each client who needs this service.
(Example: Instead of cutting myself, I am expected to: 1. Use a skill 2. Try another one 3. Text/call my therapist and tell them what skill(s) I tried, what I plan to do next to avoid cutting, and do this before I cut myself to try to avoid cutting myself despite my current efforts 4. Expect that even if my therapist doesn’t respond immediately she will respond as soon as possible because she is a real human with a real life and is not ignoring me on purpose 5. Try another skill while I wait 6. Work hard to avoid hurting myself by following a plan I arranged with my therapist) We take this stuff seriously.
Consultation Group for the therapist. As you can imagine, this is tough work we do. And it’s easy to fall into a pattern of avoiding the DBT structure if you’re not careful. So, we meet together to keep ourselves accountable to use the skills ourselves and to avoid getting tired of doing this life-saving work.
Parents are also provided with the opportunity to have their own skills group during various times throughout the year. This is not always a requirement, but when you have a teen who has BIG feelings and makes risky decisions we know it helps to feel like you’re not alone and to learn skills that actually work with parenting your teen so you can improve your relationship with your teen while they work hard to improve their behaviors.