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sensory processing issues

Sensory Processing Issues After Traumatic Events

Sensory Processing Issues After Traumatic Events 4500 3000 srtc_admin

When we talk about trauma, a car accident or the death of a loved one may be the first thing that comes into many people’s minds. But trauma can be small events as well as large ones. Being expelled from a friend group can be traumatic for a teenager. Experiencing a parental divorce, even an amicable one, can be a trigger for trauma as a teen’s entire world changes. Experiencing a global pandemic can also be isolating and traumatic for some teens. Unfortunately, trauma is pervasive, and it is important for parents to understand the many effects that trauma may have on their children. 

Childhood trauma has a significant impact on shaping one’s self-concept and view of relationships, but it also changes the perception of social stimuli on a physical level. Many people become hypervigilant to their surroundings and hypersensitive to sensory stimuli in their environment. Sensory processing issues after traumatic events are common and can trigger negative memories, making it harder to re-establish a sense of safety in the present.

Sensory Processing Issues and Trauma

When we think of the after-effects of trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is probably the disorder that most people are familiar with. While many people related PTSD to military personnel experience, we now know that PTSD is a condition that can affect anyone who has experienced trauma. As we continue to understand trauma, we are also learning that there is more than just PTSD after a traumatic event. Trauma can have many different effects on different areas of the brain, which means that there are many different ways for teens to process that trauma. 

Sensory processing issues occur when the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. Some people with sensory processing disorder are very sensitive to things in their environment. For these people, common sounds, like a crowded cafeteria, may be painful or overwhelming. Or a certain clothing material may feel unbearably uncomfortable on their skin.

Psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk argues that after traumatic events, our brains adapt to monitor for signs of danger and the body keeps the score. Especially as many people dissociate from what has happened to them and repress memories, “body memories” serve as a self-protective reminder. The body often responds to signs of potential danger before the brain is able to recognize them. Fight-or-flight mode was adapted as a survival instinct. People who have experienced trauma may also be hyper-vigilant and always on alert for any threat of danger. Their brains are constantly processing perceived threats in any given situation. They may have emotional reactions they did not have prior to trauma to certain sensory experiences of hearing, seeing, smelling or touching things.

Most people are familiar with the five senses, but there are actually eight senses that our brains are processing: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, body movement, body awareness, and interoception, which refers to needing the toilet or feeling hungry. When a person has sensory processing issues, their brain cannot effectively process one or more of these senses. 

Obstacles to Re-establishing Healthy Relationships

A recent study by Bonn University Hospital was conducted to investigate the role of adverse childhood experiences in sensory processing, particularly physical contact. While many teens who have experienced trauma develop a rational fear of violence in relationships, this study wanted to explore why this fear often extended to all relationships, even previously positive ones. 

Researchers found that traumatized people found social stimuli, like touch, less comforting than people who had not experienced trauma and maintained a greater social distance from strangers. 

Examples of social stimuli include:

  • Any kind of physical touch
  • Physical distance
  • Staring 
  • Eye contact
  • The sound of someone’s voice

Experiencing trauma also has a severe effect on people’s ability to trust. Research in 2007 found that exposure to trauma may create enough changes in the brain to sensitize people to overreact to an innocuous facial gesture years later, even in people who don’t have a stress-related disorder. Often, the traumatic event has shaken a person’s sense of safety, and because of this, they will do whatever they can to try to feel safe even if that means self-isolating. When rebuilding relationships, it is important for teens who have experienced trauma to be able to communicate their needs. These teens need to build new coping mechanisms and life skills to help them be able to have a healthy dialogue around their expectations and what may trigger their feelings related to past traumas. 

Neurological Changes Affecting Sensory Processing

The study compared brain activity to patients’ responses to various social stimuli. In many cases, there was a slight incongruence between the participant reporting few changes and their brain sending flashing signals of perceived threat. 

They found that three main areas of the brain were significantly affected by physical contact in participants with trauma. While areas responsible for body movement and body perception rapidly spiked with touch, areas related to emotional memory responded much slower to touch, showing a negative association.

This suggests that some physiological effects of childhood trauma linger beyond cognitive awareness and explains why teens often struggle with developing healthy relationships after traumatic events. 

The Benefits of Trauma-Focused Therapy

Some adolescents who are dealing with sensory processing issues after experiencing trauma may benefit from a residential treatment center where they will receive individualized care in a comfortable setting while working with clinicians who use trauma-focused therapy. 

As one of the leading trauma treatment centers for teens, at Solstice, we specialize in therapy for teens who struggle with issues of trauma, loss, attachment, and the often accompanying addictive patterns of behavior and thought. These are highly complex problems and require very specialized approaches to initiate and complete the healing process. Among many other approaches, our clinicians have received specialized, intensive training in trauma-focused interventions.

Trauma-focused therapy includes the following:

  • Helps teens identify triggers
  • Teaches teens about how trauma impacts them
  • Helps them re-establish safety
  • Encourages teens to practice somatic experiencing and relaxation techniques
  • Empowers teens to develop healthier coping skills
  • Allows teens to explore what healthy relationships and boundaries may look like for them

Unlike other trauma treatment centers, we define trauma more broadly than has typically been done historically. Recent neurological research has provided insight and support in developing the most effective treatment methods for trauma as it has helped us to better understand the impact of trauma on a developing, adolescent brain.

While some of our students have been victims of “big T’s”, we have found that many more of them are often as significantly impacted due to higher sensitivity, or susceptibility to “little t’s”  These events often result in levels of emotional dysregulation that exceed their peers in both frequency and intensity. Then, of course, this results in students seeking relief in unhealthy and destructive ways.

The comfortable, milieu therapy setting of Solstice contributes to a safe and open culture, which invites introspection and growth, making change seem less threatening. Milieu therapy is an experiential therapeutic approach that utilizes the residential environment of our program to better understand how to help your child approach and overcome their challenges. At Solstice West, milieu therapy is carried out by observing your child’s behaviors and emotions throughout the day, within a variety of different settings. Milieu therapy provides an invaluable “in the moment” understanding of your child’s challenges, unique from traditional talk therapy. Within an emotionally safe culture, unhealthy behaviors can be gently challenged, and new options adopted more readily. Our experiential therapy approach allows our students to grow and become open to positive change in their lives.

Our therapy for teens acknowledges the fact that to create lasting, effective change, a holistic approach to health is necessary. This fact underlies and drives all the components of the Solstice program. A holistic approach accounts for the fact that our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and relational selves are all bound together. This “mind-body” philosophy is supported by a large and growing body of research that our mental and physical health is intertwined.

Solstice Can Help

Solstice RTC is a residential treatment program for young girls and assigned females at birth ages 14-18 who struggle with issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, and unhealthy relationships. Solstice takes a holistic approach in understanding how these issues affect girls’ minds, bodies, and spirits. We create individualized treatment plans for each student considering their individual needs, strengths, and goals to help them regain a strong sense of self. 

With a strong emphasis on family therapy based intervention, nutrition, and physical fitness, and the supportive provision of cutting-edge academics, substance abuse/addiction therapy, equine therapy, and psychiatric services, Solstice sets the stage for the infusion of light into the previously darkened lives of the families we serve. Students will leave with the skills they need to transition into the world feeling confident, happy, and able to manage their emotions. We can help your family today!

Contact us at 866-278-3345 for more information about how we help teen girls and assigned females at birth struggling with trauma.

bullying in teens

Bullying is a Big Deal: The Lasting Effects of Bullying in Teens

Bullying is a Big Deal: The Lasting Effects of Bullying in Teens 640 426 srtc_admin

During the teen years, friendships and peer relationships begin to feel more important to young adults than their family relationships. While this is a normal part of becoming more independent, it does mean that these teens are experiencing increased opportunities for bullying. Social dynamics are beginning to shift at school or within their friend groups and peers begin to establish themselves outside of their own family unit. Teens are spending more time away from home by themselves for gatherings or after-school activities. Teens are also spending more time on their devices which exposes them to even more opportunities for bullying. When we look at all of these things combined, it is easy to see how prevalent bullying can be during the teen years. According to a 2019 report, about 20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying nationwide. 19% of students in grades 9–12 report being bullied on school property in the 12 months prior to the survey and An estimated 14.9% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Bullying goes beyond temporary or short-lived emotional pain. Bullying has serious effects on one’s health. Did you know bullying can cause physical changes in the brain and result in an increased chance of mental illness? Researchers predict that the prevention of high school bullying could result in lifetime benefits of more than 1 million dollars per individual. Putting an end to bullying in teens requires learning about its effects and engaging the whole community in the mission.

What Bullying Looks Like

Bullying comes in many different forms, especially for today’s teens. While we may assume that bullying means a shove in the hallway or hazing in sports teams, the reality is that there are many factors for bullying that include physical and emotional abuse. A few examples of types of bullying include:

  • Physical bullying: This kind of bullying includes a range of aggressive behaviors in which one person aims to cause bodily harm to another person.
  • Verbal bullying: Some people say that “words will never hurt you,” but anyone who has been on the receiving end of verbal bullying knows that cruel words and scary threats can, indeed, be very painful.
  • Relational bullying: In relational bullying, kids use friendship, and the threat of taking their friendship away, to hurt others. This is the type of bullying most often referred to as “drama.” Because it often happens within the context of a once trusting friendship, drama can be especially confusing and hurtful. This can begin to present itself even in children at a young age.
  • Cyberbullying is a specific form of bullying that involves technology: Cyberbullying can be especially destructive because of how quickly and how widely cruel messages can spread.

The Dangers of Bullying

Research suggests that children and youth who are bullied over time are more likely than those not bullied to experience depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. They also are more likely to be lonely and want to avoid school. Experiencing bullying can also have physical effects such as a loss of sleep or feelings of general illness such as headaches and stomach aches.

Chronic bullying is the term that refers to bullying that occurs repeatedly over time. Studies showed that adolescents who experienced chronic bullying were linked to changes in brain volume and changes in anxiety levels at age 19. This finding is what connected the effects of bullying with mental health issues.

Cyberbullying is especially prevalent and dangerous for today’s teens. Young adults have access to each other at all times of the day or night across multiple platforms thanks to smartphones and computers. Teens communicate through everything from text messages to TikTok to online gaming. With so many platforms, it can be difficult to track who is communicating to your teen and when. Cyberbullying can be especially devastating for teens because it so often includes more than one bully. Group texts that taunt. Instagram comments that criticism. It can feel completely overwhelming to teens and make them believe that everyone hates them. Cyberbullying has unique concerns in that it can be:

  • Persistent: Digital devices offer an ability to immediately and continuously communicate 24 hours a day, so it can be difficult for children experiencing cyberbullying to find relief.
  • Permanent: Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas of life.
  • Hard to Notice: Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place, it is harder to recognize.

How You Can Help

Seeing your child experience bullying can be heartbreaking and leave you feeling powerless. Every parent wants their child to feel safe and supported, but because bullying can be insidious, it may be difficult for parents to recognize. Since it is unrealistic for parents to be with their children 24 hours a day, how can you help your teen? Here are tools you can use to help address bullying within your own home:

  • Look for signs. You should watch for signs in your child that he or they may be being bullied. Don’t expect them to tell you. Ripped clothing, marks on skin, dread going to school, decreased appetite, crying, general anxiety and depression, or nightmares could be signs indicating issues with peers at school. From here, don’t tell them to toughen up. 
  • Create a conversation. Learn about the situation and grasp an understanding of what is going on. Don’t encourage your child to fight back, instead assure them that you will help them work through the situation.
  • Work on coping skills. Teach your teen how to overcome bullying without feeling weak or defeated. Practice at home. Give them scenarios where they practice walking away or using assertive behaviors for coping with bullies. Also talk to them about resources they can seek out when they are worried about bullies.
  • Set social boundaries. Cyberbullying is at an all-time high with the growing access and popularity of social media. Educate yourself and your child on how to properly use social media. Don’t forward emails or threatening messages. Don’t post inappropriate photos or comments. These are all things that should be addressed.

Residential Treatment for Healing

For some young women, the effects of bullying last far longer than the event itself. And while there are ways that parents can support them at home, they may need additional support and structure to work through the trauma of being bullied. In these cases, a residential treatment center like Solstice RTC may be the answer. 

The emotional culture or “milieu” of our program is a critical factor in the healing process. A strong sense of emotional and physical safety is paramount so that the girls and assigned females at birth feel protected in the deeply sensitive work they do. Furthermore, the daily interactions and behaviors of the girls and assigned females at birth in and among their teammates are reflective of how they are progressing in their journey.

Daily interactions with peers and staff are best illustrated by the levels of responsibility they are developing, as well as the respect and care they invest in their relationships. Given this, the role of the residential program and the therapeutic impact it has in the lives of the students we serve is vitally important in creating a safe and healing culture.

When a new student arrives at Solstice RTC, they are assigned a “big sister”, another student that has advanced in their progress enough to be ready to support a new student. The big sister plays a vital role of an immediate friend, a source of information and guidance to the new student. They focus on helping their “little sister” feel welcomed and cared about during the first weeks following admission.

At Solstice RTC, our milieu culture combined with a built-in community can help our students begin to build relationships and trust with their peers. Young women and assigned female at birth can use tools such as group therapy, adventure therapy, and community service to work through their past trauma around peer relationships due to bullying. 

Solstice West RTC Can Help

Solstice West RTC is a program for young girls and assigned females at birth ages 14-18 who struggle with issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, addictive behaviors, and/or relationship struggles. This program provides individual, group, and family therapy to help students heal and improve from every angle. Fitness, nutrition, and academics also play an important role in this program. 

Our approach to change emphasizes student’s strengths within a therapeutic culture where acceptance, change and growth are supported and valued. Positive relationships characterized by emotional safety are at the crux of this process. Students embark on a therapeutic journey that fosters relationships and a thorough understanding of themselves and those around them. Solstice gives teens the skills and help they need to transition into the world feeling confident, happy, healthy, and capable of self-managing. We can help your family today! For more information please call us at 801-919-8858.

smartphone addiction

Does Smartphone Addiction Lead to Depression or Vice Versa?

Does Smartphone Addiction Lead to Depression or Vice Versa? 2560 1707 srtc_admin

For many teen girls a typical day looks something like this: wake up, roll over and check her phone, scroll through social media while she’s getting ready for school, text friends on their way to class, check out some TikTok videos during lunch break, catch up on anything she missed on social media after school, answer all the notifications as they come while at home, scroll through social media or watch a show on their phone while lying in bed before falling asleep. If we truly monitored the amount of time our daughters spent on their phones, the number would be staggering. But does the amount of time they spend on their phone actually have an impact on their mental health? 

Typically, when we think about teens who spend a lot of time on their phones, we are more likely to wonder if they’re lonely than if they’re popular, or an up-and-coming social media influencer. This suggests that the idea of the relationship between depression and social media addiction is already imprinted in our minds, even if we don’t quite understand how they became so interconnected. New research suggests a person’s reliance on their smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around. 

What Contributes to Smartphone Addiction?

When looking at the relationship between smartphone addiction and depression, these researchers decided to focus on adolescents, as rates of both issues are most prevalent among this age group. Not only have they all grown up with smartphones, but they are at a stressful stage in life where they are more vulnerable to not knowing how to cope with mental health struggles in a healthy way. 

We often think that teens who don’t know who to talk to or where else to turn in life escape into a virtual world, but researchers claim that this problem starts much earlier. Many teens who spend a lot of time online recognize that social media is addictive and has affected their self-esteem, but they feel like their social reputation is tied to their online presence and therefore can’t delete their accounts. 

One of the major negative effects smartphone use can have on girls’ mental health is contributing to a constant sense of comparison. They see filtered images and pictures of smiling, happy people living their best life. It is easy to see how they could begin to view their own life negatively. They may begin to question why they are not as happy or why they don’t have what other people have. This is also tied into FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out. Social media allows users to be constantly updated when the people they follow post or when they receive a like or comment. Because they fear missing out, disconnecting from their device may feel impossible. 

Why Focus on Effects of Smartphone Use?

“If depression and loneliness lead to smartphone dependency, we could reduce dependency by adjusting people’s mental health,” explains study co-author Pengfei Zhao said. “But, if smartphone dependency (precedes depression and loneliness), which is what we found, we can reduce smartphone dependency to maintain or improve wellbeing.”

“We’ve really been trying to focus on this idea of dependency and problematic use of smartphones being the driver for these psychological outcomes,” describes Zhao. “There’s an issue where people are entirely too reliant on the device, in terms of feeling anxious if they don’t have it accessible, and they’re using it to the detriment of their day-to-day life.”

If we understand that smartphone use is common and, at this stage, fairly natural for young adults, how can we determine when that use has become detrimental? Here are some things to be aware of:

  • Withdrawing from face-to-face social interactions: Maybe you’ve noticed that your daughter quit her favorite after school club or is choosing to stay home on the weekends instead of going out to meet their friends. If she is starting to withdraw or isolate, this can be a sign that she is becoming too dependent on her technology use. 
  • Consistent anxiety, stress: If her smartphone use is leading to mood swings or elevated levels of stress and anxiety that is a clear signal that her smartphone use has become unhealthy. 
  • Grades begin to slip, and assignments reflect poor work or are left undone: If all of their focus is on social media, other areas of their life may begin to suffer. If your previously studious daughter has chosen to spend her evening learning a new TikTok dance instead of preparing for her tests it can lead to a negative impact on her school work. 
  • Avoidance of real life responsibilities, such as chores or homework: For many teens, the last thing they want to do is clean their room or empty the dishwasher. But these are important parts of having healthy, balanced lives. Excessive smartphone use can quickly throw that balance off. 
  • Ill at ease, ill-equipped or unresponsive to people in front of them: If your daughter is spending more time on her phone and less time interacting in real life, she may begin to feel uncomfortable in social situations. Like most things in life, practice is key to building skills, and without that real world practice they do not have the opportunity to build those skills. 
  • Phones begin to create conflict in their closest relationships: What happens when you ask your daughter to put her smartphone away? Does she lash out and get angry? Does limited phone use cause an outburst? Unreasonable reactions to being separated from their smartphone may mean that she has created unhealthy habits. 

Building Offline Communication Skills in Residential Treatment:

Having worked with adolescents with mental health issues for over a decade, Solstice RTC has noticed a recent increase in the number of girls and assigned female at birth we work with who have also struggled with smartphone addiction. Noticing this intersection, we have adapted our programming to help address the unhealthy ways that technology is used, expectations that teens have about their online identities, and communication skills missing from online interactions. 

Raising awareness about social media addiction has become a unique part of Solstice RTC’s program by teaching parents how to handle these issues and set boundaries around electronics.

Equine Therapy: In addition to group and family therapy, we believe that equine therapy is a powerful way of teaching relational skills, like nonverbal communication and social awareness. Using body language with these sensitive animals helps students learn how to better communicate with others and build relationships.

Weekly phone calls with family: Teens today are used to having more conversations online than in person–even with their families. This depersonalized way of socializing often gets in the way of maintaining two-way conversations. While they do not have access to cell phones, students at Solstice are encouraged to make regular phone calls to friends and family members to strengthen their support system. Every week, students have the chance to video chat with their parents during therapy sessions.

Home visits offer opportunities to self-monitor social media use: Students periodically go home for a few days, prior to leaving the program, to gauge how they handle being at home with access to their cell phone and social media. Every teen has an individualized technology contract that they work on with their parents and their therapist to decide what boundaries, if any, may need to be set around healthy media use. 

At Solstice RTC, our goal is to help teen girls and assigned female at birth learn how to use their phones to communicate more effectively with people without feeling like they have to be attached to their phone every second of the day. Many of the girls and assigned female at birth we work with come to our program struggling with a “fear of missing out” and describe their compulsion to “stay updated” on their online social lives all the time.

“For the most part, I can do things and have it in my pocket and not need it. Right now, it’s not that big of an issue for me. I can be by myself and be okay and I’m reconnecting with a lot of things I love. And I don’t feel empty.” -Testimonial from former student who struggled with internet addiction

Solstice RTC Can Help

Solstice is a groundbreaking residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18. Our girls and assigned female at birth often struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, ADHD,  technology addiction, and other emotional or behavioral problems when they come to us. Through a unique combination of therapeutic programs based upon both traditional and holistic mental health treatment, we treat our clients with age and gender-specific techniques. With a strong emphasis on family therapy based intervention, nutrition, and physical fitness, and the supportive provision of cutting-edge academics, substance abuse/addiction therapy, equine therapy, and psychiatric services, 

Solstice sets the stage for the infusion of light into the previously darkened lives of the families we serve. We strive to empower teenage people with the ability to believe in themselves offline and provide the tools and motivation required to instill these beliefs for life.

For more information about smartphone addiction, contact us at 866-278-3345.

underage drinking and depression

Underage Drinking and Depression Go Hand in Hand

Underage Drinking and Depression Go Hand in Hand 2560 1707 srtc_admin

Substance use in teens, particularly alcohol use, is increasingly common as factors such as peer pressure, environmental influences, a desire for independence, and trying to cope with emotional issues push teens toward drinking. A 2017 youth risk behavior survey found that among high school students 30% drank some amount of alcohol, 14% binge drank, 6% drove after they had been drinking, and 17% rode with a driver who had been drinking.

While in some cases, drinking can be seen as just a sign of teenage experimentation, research has shown that drinking in teens can be indicative of underlying mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or bi-polar disorder. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6 in 10 substance abusers were also found to have a mental disorder. Due to the frequency of these co-occurring disorders, learning about the link between depression and substance abuse and its consequences can help you learn how to best support your daughter who is struggling with these issues.

The link between drinking and substance use and depression in teens

For all people, but particularly for teens with still-developing brains, substance use and depression is a dangerous combination. When teens are struggling with emotional problems, such as depression, they often turn to drinking or drugs as a means of self-medication to alleviate the negative feelings they are experiencing. Teens will most frequently turn to alcohol because it is the easiest to obtain and is more socially acceptable. Even though it’s illegal for them to purchase alcohol, they are often able to get it from older friends, siblings, or even their parent’s liquor cabinets.

Some teens who are struggling with mental health disorders are more likely to drink or use drugs because it can make them feel more comfortable in social situations and inside their own heads. Because drinking is normalized, teens can be more comfortable with this sort of medicating rather than taking prescribed medicines like anti-depressants. Other teens drink or use substances in an effort to cheer themselves up or dull the irritability they feel from depression. If they are offered what seems like an escape from the depressive symptoms and negative thoughts they are experiencing, it can seem like an effective coping mechanism.

In the short term, using substances such as alcohol will appear to alleviate the unwanted negative mental health symptoms of depression and anxiety because they affect the same brain regions that the mental health disorders do. However, in the long run, teens end up feeling even worse than they did when they are not using the substances and this can lead to dangerous outcomes such as suicide, substance abuse or addiction. This is a particular risk for adolescents, who are more likely to develop a serious substance disorder at a much faster rate than adults. For those teens who already have an underlying mental health disorder, the rate of developing an addiction can happen even faster than in other kids. This is so prevalent that at least half of all teens diagnosed with a mental health disorder will end up having a substance abuse disorder as well if they are not treated.

There are many factors that may contribute to a risk of developing these co-occurring disorders. One of the leading factors researchers cite is genetics, as they have found specific gene combinations that are associated with vulnerability to developing both depression and substance abuse. Another leading factor is gender differences. Women are at a higher risk for developing co-occurring disorders, and studies have shown that females who abuse alcohol are 4 times more likely to develop clinical depression. The inverse has also been found to be true, that women are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs as a result of a depressive episode.

Diagnosing these co-occurring disorders can be difficult as many of the signs and symptoms of both disorders are closely related. However, if the standard signs of depression such as a loss of interest and aggravation occurred before the substance use started, the person was likely suffering from depression first. If the symptoms appeared after the initial use of alcohol or drugs, the depression could be a result of the substance use. Check for these symptoms if you worry your daughter could be experiencing these disorders simultaneously:

– Anxiety
– Tiredness or changes in sleeping patterns
– Feelings or expression of guilt
– Changes to eating patterns or appetite
– Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
– Non-specified aches or pains that have no obvious cause
– Deep feelings of sadness or weepiness
– Being irritated or triggered easily
– Self-destructive actions or thoughts

In addition to exacerbating depression episodes and symptoms, developing these co-occurring disorders can have severely negative impacts on teens in other ways.

The challenges that drinking and depression can create for teens

Because the brain is still developing during adolescence, particularly the parts that control decision-making and impulse control, teens have an enhanced vulnerability for not only developing substance disorders and mental health disorders as teenagers but later on in life as well. Early drug use is a strong risk factor for developing substance abuse problems as an adult and it can also be a risk factor for developing other mental illnesses in adulthood. One study found that experiencing a mental health disorder as a teenager can be the catalyst for drug abuse in adulthood, and they suggested that earlier diagnosis of mental health disorders can help reduce this comorbidity. 

There are many additional consequences and challenges associated with early drinking and substance use beyond developing or worsening depression. Underage drinking is commonly linked to increased risky sexual behavior and also increased vulnerability to coerced sex. Teens who drink are more likely to have sex before the age of 16, to have sex while drinking, and to engage in unsafe sex practices after drinking.

Substance use in teens also puts them at risk for engaging in other types of risky behavior and victimization. Instances of risky behavior include theft, driving while intoxicated, running away from home, getting arrested, skipping school, trying to hurt themselves, getting into physical altercations, and vandalizing property.

Alcohol use in teens is also related to physical and academic issues as well. Heavy alcohol consumption in adolescents can delay puberty, slow bone growth, and ultimately result in weaker bones in adulthood. Teens using substances can struggle academically as alcohol damages areas of the brain that are responsible for learning and memory, verbal skills, and visual-spatial cognition. These deficits are also associated with a high drop-out rate, more missed classes, and lower overall grade point averages.

With all of the possible negative consequences of suffering from comorbid conditions of substance use and depression, it’s essential to get teens the help they need right away to prevent lifelong impacts.

How to get treatment for your teen suffering from depression and substance use

Treating the dual diagnosis of addiction and depression can vary from the more traditional route of treating the addiction first and then the depression, to more progressive methods that treat both conditions simultaneously to reduce the risk of relapse in either condition.

For teens especially, it’s important to find treatment that focuses on treating both disorders concurrently to avoid either disorder falling between the cracks. Additionally, teens that have been diagnosed with co-occurring disorders aren’t typically successful in traditional addiction treatment programs like the 12 step recovery model, as the stress they suffer during these programs can be counterproductive to recovery.

Health professionals that aim to treat both conditions at the same time will often use cognitive behavioral therapy in tandem with medication to manage withdrawal symptoms from substances and help manage depressive symptoms. Programs that have been found to be particularly successful for teens are ones that build positive social connections. This can include recovery groups that are designed for teens to play an important role in emotional support and skill-building that helps teens cope with the negative feelings associated with mental illness and substance addiction.

If your teen is experiencing the co-occurring disorders of depression and substance abuse, Solstice RTC can help provide her the care she needs to be successful on her healing journey.

Solstice RTC can help 

Solstice RTC is one of the leading residential treatment centers for adolescents ages 14-17, and we specialize in helping young women on their journey towards healing by utilizing a unique blend of therapeutic techniques based on traditional and holistic treatment methods. We strive to empower teenage women with the ability to believe in themselves and provide the tools and motivation required to instill these beliefs for life.

We treat teen students experiencing a variety of challenges related to past trauma, loss, mood disorders, and addictive behaviors. Your child will be supported by a passionate team of therapeutic experts who have specific training and experience working with trauma, loss, and addiction. For over a decade we have been a proven leader in successfully treating adolescent women struggling with a variety of challenges. For more information on how Solstice RTC could help, please call (866) 278-3345. 

mindful new year

Starting the New Year Strong: Mindfulness Practices for A Fresh Start

Starting the New Year Strong: Mindfulness Practices for A Fresh Start 2560 1707 srtc_admin

After all of the challenges, heartache, and nonstop stream of negativity that 2020 brought to our world, 2021 presents an opportunity to reset our mindsets and start the new year intentionally with a fresh perspective. One way we can achieve this is through practicing mindfulness. A growing body of research supports the benefits mindfulness can have on our minds and bodies such as improved memory, heightened awareness, lowered anxiety, and reduced stress.

Mindfulness practices you can employ to restart and refresh your mind for the new year

While it’s common to conflate mindfulness with meditation, mindfulness encompasses so much more than the practice of meditation. Essentially, mindfulness is the moment to moment awareness of one’s experiences without judgment. This state of mindfulness or being aware is something that we can continually practice as we try to pay attention on purpose to the present moment.

Because mindfulness is fostered through regular practice, the first important step is putting aside time each day to engage in a mindfulness activity. Select a time of day where you will be able to engage in your practice uninterrupted, and commit to practicing every day.

Once you’ve set aside dedicated time to commit to your practice, it’s time to try performing various mindfulness practices. Different practices work better for different people, so it’s a good idea to vary up your exercises to see what works best for you. Try these mindfulness exercises to restart and refresh your mind in 2021:

1.) Bodyscan – During a Body Scan exercise, you deliberately focus inward on your body and what each part of your body is feeling. Is it pain, tension, calm? The task here is to develop an awareness of sensations in different parts of your body without trying to change them, only noticing them.

2.) Three-minute breathing – There are 3 steps to this practice, and the first is to attend to what is. Take note of the environment around you without attempting to change what you are experiencing. Then focus on your breath, noticing what happens when you breathe in and out. Lastly, focus your attention on your body and any sensations you may be feeling. Practice this technique here.

3.) Mindful stretching/yoga – Physically experiencing mindfulness can help to bring awareness to the mind-body connection. While you are stretching, bring attention to your breath while thinking about how your body feels. While engaging in this activity, try to focus only on the present sensations and not external, distracting thoughts.

4.) Mindful breathing while focusing on thoughts – For this practice sit somewhere quiet in a seated position. Focus deeply on your breathing, inhaling for 3 seconds and exhaling for 3 seconds. Continuing to focus on your breath, notice as your mind wanders and bring your attention back to the breath, again inhaling for 3 seconds and exhaling for 3 seconds.

5.) Mindful walks – When you are on a walk give your full attention to the experience of walking. Instead of walking on autopilot like we usually do, deliberately think about each step you are taking. Feel the ground beneath your feet, notice what this feels like as well as noticing the sights, smells, and sounds around you. Bringing attention to our everyday actions allows us to experience the mundane with a sense of newness.

If you are struggling to get started, there are some incredible mindfulness apps that you can download to help you with your practice. Try Headspace, Calm, Aura, or smiling mind to help you get started on your journey.

Solstice RTC Can Help

Solstice RTC is a leading residential treatment program for young girls and assigned female at birth ages 14-17 that has been specifically designed to help teen students on their journey toward healing by utilizing a blend of therapeutic techniques based on both traditional and holistic treatment methods.

Our holistic approach accounts for the fact that our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational selves are all bound together. We uniquely approach change, emphasizing students’ strengths within a therapeutic culture where acceptance, change, and growth are supported and valued. For more information on how Solstice RTC could help, please call (866) 278-3345.

therapy for adopted child

Therapy for Adopted Kids

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Every adopted child is unique and has the potential to flourish in a loving home. However, because of the nature of adoption, there are several potential challenges that many adoptive parents will need to be prepared to confront. These include the aftereffects of trauma or neglect, feelings of abandonment, questions of identity, and social and emotional challenges related to race.

Some of the issues adopted children may struggle with include: a sense of abandonment, behavioral challenges, or attachment disorders. Children who experienced trauma or neglect may distrust the adults in their life and have difficulty cording with caregivers. It is important to understand your child’s issues and how they may relate to trauma versus just acting out. Seeking help for traumatized children can help parents put their child on a path to improved psychological health. 

Therapeutic Practice for Adopted Kids

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT can be used for children who have a history of trauma. The cognitive piece works to change negative behaviors by addressing a person’s thoughts or perceptions that can lead to a distorted view. The behavioral piece focuses on modifying habitual responses to triggers or stimuli. CBT pulls together many techniques currently used by practitioners, such as behavior and anger management, affect regulation, problem-solving, social skills training, cognitive restructuring, and communication. The advantage of this program is that all of these techniques, relevant handouts, training examples, and outcome measures are integrated in a structured approach that practitioners and supervisors can easily access and use.

Group Therapy: In group therapy, a small number of participants meet together under the guidance of a professionally trained therapist. During this time, group members are able to increase their social development skills and also help others develop their skills as well. Group therapy can help children gain a feeling of acceptance from their peers, improve self-esteem, teach self-regulation skills, and provide an opportunity for them to “role play” the lessons they learn in the group with their peers. 

Family Therapy: Family therapy is a type of psychological counseling (psychotherapy) that can help family members improve communication and resolve conflicts. Family therapy is often short term and can include all family members or just those who are willing and able to participate. Family members who participate should be open to discussing difficult family issues and be willing to openly and respectfully communicate with other family members. Family therapy can teach both parents and children skills needed to deepen family connections, even through stressful times. 

However you choose to work through your child’s issues, it is important to see your child as a whole. Not every issue is tied to their adoption. Making sure that your child’s emotional and physical needs are being met is a good first step towards their overall mental health. 

Solstice RTC Can Help

Family therapy interventions are at the heart of our clinical program. We firmly believe in the strong nature and immense importance of family relationships. Research studies on the effectiveness of residential treatment indicate that the most significant factor in creating positive long-term outcomes for the child is parental involvement in the treatment process. Parental involvement is defined not only by the parents being actively involved in the child’s treatment, but being actively involved in their own treatment and growth process.

The core of our programming is based on healing damaged relationships and restoring healthy connections within the family system. In addition to weekly family therapy sessions by phone or video-conference, we also invite families to come to participate in face-to-face family therapy sessions. For more information please call (801) 919-8858.

severe depression in teens

Getting Treatment for Depression in Teen Girls

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While depression can occur in both genders during adolescence, teen girls and assigned female at birth are more than twice as likely to develop depression than their male counterparts. If your child is experiencing depression, it can negatively affect how they thinks, feels, and behaves, and it’s crucial to seek treatment to get their back to feeling like herself.

What depression treatment can look like and where to start

The first step in seeking treatment is getting a depression diagnosis from a mental health professional. If a doctor suspects your teen may be experiencing depression, they will typically do a physical exam, run labs, and perform a psychological evaluation to determine a diagnosis and identify related complications. During this assessment, the doctor may also offer specifiers to clarify which type of depression your child is experiencing, such as anxious distress, melancholic distress, or atypical depression features.

Once a diagnosis has been made, there are many different treatment options that could be recommended based on the severity and type of your child’s depression. One of the most common treatment options for teens with depression is to put them on medication. Medication like Prozac and Lexapro can help to mitigate your daughter’s depressive symptoms, but you’ll want to discuss the possible side effects and pros/cons with your child and their doctor.

If you decide on the medication route, it can take some time and trial and error to find the right medicine and dosage, so encourage your teen not to give up if it’s not helping right away. You also want to make sure you are monitoring your teen’s use of their medications. In order for these medications to work as they are intended, they need to be consistently taken with the correct dosages at the correct times.

Another treatment option instead of, or in tandem with, medication is talk therapy or psychotherapy. These therapy sessions allow your child to talk through their depression and related mental health issues with a mental health professional. Talk therapy is recommended for those looking to learn about depression, how to make changes to unhealthy behaviors or thoughts, how to find better ways to cope, how to regain a sense of happiness and control, and how to ease depressive symptoms.

If medication and therapy haven’t had the positive outcomes you were hoping for, a residential treatment center could provide the all-encompassing and integrative care they needs. These programs, like Solstice RTC, provide a homelike environment that allows your child to focus on their healing journey in a comfortable, safe environment.

Solstice RTC Can Help

Solstice RTC is a leading residential treatment program for young girls and assigned female at birth ages 14-17 that has been specifically designed to help teens struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, and relationships by utilizing a unique blend of therapeutic techniques based on traditional and holistic methods.

Your child will be supported by a passionate team of therapeutic experts who have specific training and experience in working with depression, trauma, loss, and addiction. Our goal is to provide them with a nurturing and welcoming environment that allows them the chance to heal from their past and become the best version of themselves. For more information about how Solstice RTC can help your child through their depression please call (866) 278-3345.

accept your past

Overcoming Shame: How to Accept Your Past

Overcoming Shame: How to Accept Your Past 1920 2560 srtc_admin

Shame is a complicated emotion and one we all have dealt with at one time or another. Shame comes from feeling powerless and frustrated. For people who experience shame linked to trauma, it is a continued shock at the realization that this terrible thing actually happened to them. Sometimes, people living with shame are unable to break free from the spiral of negative emotions. It becomes something that is ingrained in their day to day life. If you feel like shame is taking over your life, it may be time to seek out strategies for dealing with those emotions

Overcoming Shame

Shame is uncomfortable and it is understandable that many people would rather ignore or hide their shame rather than confront it. But it is important to deal with your feelings of shame in order to overcome them and accept your past. Here are a few tips for working through those feelings of shame:

  1. Practice Self-Affirmation: Oftentimes, people dealing with shame also struggle with being compassionate with themselves. Shame may also manifest as doubt, where you believe, “I can’t do that” or “I don’t deserve that”. When this is your constant internal dialogue it is easy to get stuck in those feelings of doubt and shame. Instead, try shifting your narrative: I am worthy and deserving” or “My feelings are valid”. Practicing these affirmations can help the positive voice drown out the one rooted in shame. 
  2. Bring Your Feelings Into the Light: Shame thrives in secrecy and darkness, but the less you talk about your shame, the more power it has over you. Getting beyond shame means acknowledging it and sharing your experiences with the people you trust. Talking through those feelings of shame helps you gain perspective about the situation. 
  3. Meditation and Mindfulness: A mindfulness practice encourages you to slow down and be in the moment. When you feel drawn into those thoughts of shame, mindfulness allows you to take a step back and notice those feelings without judgment. Being in the moment allows you to respond to those emotions rather than reacting to them. 
  4. Seek Out Help: Talking through your feelings and experiences with friends and family can be helpful. But to truly process and work through those feelings of shame, especially when they are tied to trauma, working with a mental health professional is crucial. Unresolved shame can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. Talking about the emotional pain you feel is a powerful step in the healing process. A therapist can help you create a treatment plan and strategies for dealing with those emotions as they come up in the future. 

Solstice RTC Can Help

Our mission is to support adolescents and their families in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journey. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, close relationships with their families, peers, and staff.

With a road map influenced by the archetypal Hero’s Journey, each student walks a unique and very personal path towards discovering the hero within. Students and families progress through the stages of this journey at their own pace. Although the journey is their own, they do not travel it alone. This journey is about people, discovery, growth and mastery. For more information please call (801) 406-7450.

blame and shame in relationships

How to Navigate Family Conflict Without Blame

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Conflict happens in every family. And while it is completely normal, it is important to deal with conflict in a healthy way. If you find that your conversations around family issues lead to yelling or slamming doors, it may be time to evaluate your communication methods. Talking in circles or playing the blame game fuels tension and the focus becomes who is right instead of finding a solution to the problem.

Communicating Without Blame

Good communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship. When you are able to communicate effectively, you build trust and feel supported. 

  • Use “I” Statements: An “I” statement is a style of communication that focuses on the feelings or beliefs of the speaker rather than thoughts and characteristics that the speaker attributes to the listener. For example, if your teen isn’t cleaning their room after you’ve asked them multiple times, instead of saying “You still haven’t cleaned your room. You’re so irresponsible!” You can try, “I feel disrespected when I have to ask you multiple times to clean your room.”. 
  • Take Responsibility: It’s easy to feel defensive during an argument. Despite feeling frustrated in the moment, in most conflicts, there is fault on both sides. Instead of putting all the blame on the other person, take a moment to think about how your actions or behaviors may have contributed to the conflict. Admitting that you may have played a role in the problem helps the other person feel like they’re not just being attacked for their mistakes. 
  • Approach Conflict with a Problem Solving Attitude: Instead of focusing on how you are right and your teen is wrong during conflict, think about how you can come up with a solution that will make both parties feel heard and supported. When we get caught up in who is right, it leaves no room for moving forward towards a solution.
  • Take a Break: Not every conflict is going to be solved in the moment. If emotions are getting high and one person is placing blame on the other, take a break. You can have an understanding in your family if at any time a conflict becomes counterproductive, you are always welcome to take a break to de-escalate and come back to the conversation when everyone feels more calm and ready to find a solution. 
  • Seek Help: While it would be nice to be able to solve all of our problems on your own, there may be times when you need to seek outside help. If your family is unable to resolve conflict and you find yourselves in the cycle of arguments and blame, a family therapist can help. A trained mental health professional can help your family identify areas of conflict and work with you to build healthy communication skills to work through those issues in the future. 

Solstice RTC Can Help

Our mission is to support adolescents and their families in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journey. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, close relationships with their families, peers, and staff.

Family therapy interventions are at the heart of our clinical program. We firmly believe in the strong nature and immense importance of family relationships. Research studies on the effectiveness of residential treatment indicate that the most significant factor in creating positive long-term outcomes for the child is parental involvement in the treatment process. Parental involvement is defined not only by the parents being actively involved in the child’s treatment but being actively involved in their own treatment and growth process. For more information please call (866) 278-3345.

how to deal with family stress during the holidays

Dealing with Family Trauma During the Holidays

Dealing with Family Trauma During the Holidays 2560 1709 srtc_admin

When we think of the holidays we may think of twinkling lights, family traditions, and general merriment. But the reality is that for many people, the holidays are fraught with difficult emotions and memories. This holiday season, think about what might make you go through the holidays feeling stronger and more confident. Even little changes can make a difference in the way we deal with trauma and stress during this time of year. 

Identify Triggers: Think about how the holiday season impacts you. What helps and what hurts? The holidays are full of nostalgia and memories that can be both positive and negative. It can be helpful to go into the holidays with a clear understanding of what situations or topics may have a negative affect on your mental health. 

Healthy Coping Skills: With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season many people lose sight of what keeps them physically healthy and mentally grounded throughout the rest of the year. Making the time to go for a walk or engage in a mindfulness practice can make a big difference in how you handle holiday stress. 

Have Realistic Expectations: The holidays can come with a lot of pressure and expectations of how things “should” be. Remember that those happy holidays that we see in commercials and movies are not most people’s reality. Most families have issues, whether that is stress or trauma. Having unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment. Instead, know that the holidays will not be perfect and that’s completely normal. 

Set Boundaries: The holidays are a busy time for everyone, and with the pressure of family, friends, and work obligations it is also a time when it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It can be helpful to discern what you “need” to do and what you “want” to do. For example, do you need to attend every gathering you’re invited to? Not if it causes you stress or is triggering. Do you need to attend your family dinner even though you know it will devolve into arguments? No, you do not. Try thinking about what you want to do. What brings you joy during the holidays? Maybe it’s baking cookies or visiting your grandparents. Those are the things to make time for. 

Reach Out: Dealing with family stress and trauma at any time of the year can be challenging, but it’s especially challenging during the holidays. In those times when you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that you will not stay in this place forever. Allow your mind and body to process the grief that you may experience. Have people in your life, whether friends, family, or mental health professionals, who you can reach out to when those heavy emotions emerge. It is especially important to have a support system in place during the holidays. 

Solstice RTC Can Help

The core of our programming is based on healing damaged relationships and restoring healthy connections within the family system. In addition to weekly family therapy sessions by phone or video-conference, we also invite families to come to participate in face-to-face family therapy sessions. Weekend visits with their children are encouraged.

We also conduct onsite, multi-day, family seminars which includes all families who are currently enrolled in our program. These intensive, multi-family experiences are conducted 4 times a year and provide powerful, experiential, and therapeutic experiences. Oftentimes families will highlight these events as significant turning points in their lives. For more information please call (801) 406-7450.