The decision to attend a residential therapy program such as that offered here at Hillcrest can be one of the most challenging choices your teen and your family will make. In their young lives, teens have not had to face the emotions associated with being away from their family, friends, and areas of comfort before. For parents, the thought of dropping your child off somewhere strange during an already stressful and possibly traumatic time in their lives may seem unspeakable.
However, for some teens and some situations, a residential therapy program may be the best choice or perhaps the only choice. Residential care programs offer a highly comprehensive treatment program which will help your teen to understand their mental illness, addiction, or other disorder which has brought them to our care. Seeking treatment at a residential facility offers the opportunity for your teen to learn many important things about how to cope safely with challenging life events once they leave treatment. These lessons on coping and life skills will be some of the most valuable teachings they will take with them both in early recovery and throughout their growth into adults and beyond.
In short, a coping mechanism is a strategy that is used to manage stressful events or situations. Coping mechanisms can be healthy or unhealthy (as is the case with addiction or disordered eating); however, the goal of treatment is to teach robust coping mechanisms. These new, healthy coping mechanisms are life skills designed to help your teen find a stronger footing when faced with situations that would typically have triggered a mental health event or harmful coping mechanism. Some of the life skills your teen will learn in treatment may be skills you are familiar with, whereas others may be completely new. Regardless, the most important thing to remember is it is essential your teen enter treatment with an open mind and willingness to try. Below are some of the things they may learn about in therapy.
1) Practicing self-care is important for mental health
Whether your teen is in therapy here at Hillcrest for mental health issues, behavioral issues, or concerns related to disordered eating, self-care is a life skill that will be essential to their recovery and beyond. Self-care is sometimes presented as luxury moments such as a trip to the spa, the beach, a yoga class, or a massage, but in reality, self-care is about looking after oneself in the best way possible. For a teen in recovery, this could be as simple as listening to their favorite music or reading a book. It could also be about learning to meditate or practice yoga, but those are not essential elements to succeed in self-care practice. Self-care is about addressing and finding a way to cope healthily with urges related to illness such as purging, excessive exercise, self-harm, or substance use. Through self-care practices, your teen will learn how to substitute those urges towards negative behavior with something more helpful and healthy.
2) Reevaluating your social circle is essential to recovery
Before entering a therapy program or residential care program, it is likely your teen’s social circle may have consisted of people who shared in their illness or disordered thinking. It is not uncommon for teens who have a particular mental health condition to align themselves with other teens who share a similar diagnosis. This provides them a sounding board of sorts should they need to talk or reach out for help. The challenge is, this circle may be a cause for ongoing negative behavior as related to their illness. Although these social groups are a source of support, they may not be a source of the right kind of support. Social skill-building can help to improve your teen’s sense of self-esteem and help enhance their ability to feel more secure about their place in the world and among their peers. The ability to analyze their social circles will also help them build a new, more robust support system once they return home from treatment. This will help to sustain and ensure their recovery is healthy.
3) It is vital to learn to manage your emotions
Managing emotions (of all kinds) is an essential coping mechanism. Many teens who struggle with mental health or substance issues experience a roller coaster of emotions, which can lead to a host of regrettable (and harmful) decisions. Sometimes these decisions even lead to self-harm or medical emergencies. During treatment and through the use of ongoing therapy during and after their stay at residential, your teen will learn who to manage and address emotions without trying to buy them or mask them through harmful coping. Your teen will learn a variety of emotional self-control and relaxation techniques, such as understanding how to identify and apply a name to emotions when they happen, utilizing breath, meditation, and other self-soothing techniques. The ability to tap into these new coping mechanisms when moments of stress or anxiety become challenging to manage will also help to reduce the possibility of relapse or worse.
4) Set goals and be excited about the changes in your life
The decision to seek treatment and successfully complete it is a significant accomplishment. Being in and maintaining recovery is an even more substantial accomplishment still. However, as your teen will learn over the days, weeks, and months, the process of continuing to maintain recovery is a life-altering undertaking that involves ongoing therapy and hard work. As the maintenance process gets easier (which it will in time), the ability to look towards the future and set other goals around growth and achievements is essential. They should begin to think about things such as what does the next month look like? Are there any new activities or hobbies they may want to try? Do they want to learn something new like a language or skill? Encouraging your teen to seek out new activities and new goals not only further enhances the new life they have begun to build but helps to promote self-esteem and supports the development of healthy coping processes and life skills.
Another thing your teen will likely learn in treatment is how a change in perspective can have a profound impact on their life. During treatment, they will learn to see challenges as opportunities. Through these lessons, they will be more likely to view new things as something to welcome and be excited about, as opposed to something that fosters anxiety and fear.
5) It is essential to develop and foster healthy habits
One of the most important aspects of ongoing recovery for your teen is learning to keep themselves healthy both mentally and physically. The challenges they have faced each day associated with their illness or disorder can be (and likely have been) damaging to the body. If your teen struggles with certain disorders related to substances or disordered eating, there is also a significant possibility that they are dealing with a co-occurring mental health issue. Consequently, your teen must learn healthy behaviors that can ensure ongoing physical and mental health. Examples of such behaviors could include attending to personal hygiene, exercising, eating nutritious food, and ensuring they are getting adequate sleep. This could also involve teaching your teen how to cook their favorite foods as part of a new hobby or activity in the kitchen.
If your teen has been avoiding medical care due to their illness, this may also be an excellent time to schedule a complete annual physical. During treatment, their immediate medical needs will have been attended to; however, there may be some ongoing medical concerns that should be addressed.
Structure is also essential to recovery. To ensure new, healthy habits remain on track, it is vital your teen creates a schedule that will help them attend to daily tasks. Boredom is one of the most common reasons for relapsing into previous unhealthy or disordered behaviors. If your teen has a schedule they can look to, it takes the need for daily scheduling and decision making out of the picture. This is an excellent way to reduce stress and help maintain a regular routine of healthy habits. Routines or schedules can also be an excellent way for your teen to remember to attend weekly therapy or support sessions from week to week. To be clear, creating schedules does not mean there is no room for flexibility. However, consistency makes it easier for your teen to focus on the things they want and need to do to help maintain their recovery.
A suggested addition to their routine could be adding in exercise. Everyone knows exercise is good for your body, but most are unaware of how good it is for your mind, stress reduction, increasing self-esteem, and overall mood. Depending on your teen’s individual treatment program, exercise may be introduced or not; however, there is a distinct link between a healthy exercise program and overall mental and physical health. It could be beneficial to discuss exercise options such as yoga, walking, or dancing with your medical provider to see if they would be good options for your teen.
There are many ways that a residential treatment program, such as Hillcrest, can help your teen. Learning to live with or work through a mental health or other disorder can be challenging, if not impossible on your own. This is especially true for a teen who may not understand how the illness could impact every aspect of their mental and physical health. During treatment, there are many things your teen can learn about developing healthy coping mechanisms and fostering new life skills, which can help them to lead happy and fulfilling life regardless of the challenges their illness may pose. At Hillcrest we take the time to develop individual teen treatment plans and ongoing therapy programs designed around your teen and their specific needs. If your family has decided, a residential treatment program could be the most beneficial path for your teen, reach out to us here at Hillcrest.
We look forward to providing guidance and assisting your family through this process.