How to Plan for Long Term Healing
Written by Ben Cecil,
in Section Featured Articles
If a teen suffered a broken bone or torn ligament, treatment recommendations might include surgery as well as a period of physical therapy to speed healing and minimize the risk of re-injury. His surgery isn’t a cure, rather the first big step of treatment. Physical therapy is the unsung hero, providing consistent and regular practice and exercise with plenty of support.
Likewise, treatment for a teen’s mental, behavioral or substance use issues isn’t the cure, but rather the first major step towards healing.
The chaos of a teen struggling with mental health, behavioral health or substance use eclipses everything and everyone else in his family.
It’s normal for parents to feel stressed, exhausted, and overwrought and for other children to act out. The result is a home where emotions run hot, feelings get hurt easily, resentments brew, and family members feel isolated from one another. There’s a lot on the line, and for many families, their sanity depends on their teen finding sustainable recovery.
Treatment at Family First Adolescent Services is a safe, supportive and supervised environment for teens. With a 2:1 client to staff ratio, there’s always someone available for a teen to talk to and work through issues with. We maintain a rigorous schedule of individual and group therapy, as well as an educational program and experiential excursions; teens simply don’t have the opportunity to pull away and isolate.
Clients work with their primary therapist and alongside other youths to explore and address the issues that have caused suffering. Teens discover new ways of seeing themselves and their surroundings, of communicating with peers and adults, of expressing his emotions, and of setting boundaries.
Between our daily itineraries, specialized treatment, and expert staff, a teen in our care is constantly exposed to support. The new habits, attitudes and language we teach helps nurture a teen’s sense self-worth, purpose and hopefulness. By the time he completes our program and is ready to move on, the change is palpable.
His parents no longer fear a defiant, hyper-emotional dervish steeped in crisis coming home to them because the family system has changed as well. Parents and their child have new ways of coping and expressing themselves. Home-life doesn’t feel as chaotic as it did before treatment; much of the usual tension has dissipated and communication between family members is no longer overwhelming. Utilizing the tools that have been learned in extensive family therapy, a stable home can be maintained.
To a family that has spent months or years trapped in a cycle of chaos and hopelessness, treatment can seem like a miracle!
Newly out of treatment with all his recovery learnings fresh in his mind, a teen can coast along on his own, but not for long.
He may seem like he has things well in hand, so it’s normal for him to want to stop seeing his therapist or attending his support group. And since there’s no defiance in his voice, no aggression in his tone, and his grades have improved, it’s normal for a parent to stop pushing him to go.
Without the continuous support of professionals, and opportunities to challenge and practice his new recovery behaviors in a safe space, a teen can lose touch with his new way of doing things and backslide into crisis and chaos once more.
Like a kid with a broken wrist, the initial surgery to stabilize his bones as they heal is vital. But a reset bone without a cast is delicate, vulnerable and likely to be re-injured—even if it looks fine. And once the cast comes off, it’s important to attend physical therapy to rebuild strength, flexibility and range of motion—which is as much to reduce the risk of re-injury as it is to simply return to normal life and regular use.
A teenager who has been struggling with mental, behavioral or substance use issues will benefit from the intervention of treatment. An interruption of the cycle of chaos is an important element in identifying and changing problematic thoughts, feelings, and habits. But ongoing support is needed too.
We want our clients to return to their normal lives with sustainable changes that will support their long-term healing.
Our program helps teen boys change their perspectives and attitudes, and create healthy new habits and coping mechanisms, and continuing care provides a safe and supervised environment to practice these valuable new learnings. Clients benefit from having both independence and clinical support.
At Family First Adolescent Services, continuing care plans for the next steps after treatment, helping teens and their families transition back into the home environment. Our goal is to build a sustainable bridge between what he’s learned in residential treatment and what he’ll encounter in his real life once he returns home.
We achieve this by creating a plan in collaboration with the client and his family that’s tailored to his unique circumstances, needs, goals and locale.
Continuing care should feel like an extension of his residential treatment and a blend with normal life.
Staying the course after treatment could include a referral to a therapeutic boarding school, an extended care program, an intensive outpatient program, or a therapist in your hometown, or encouragement to find a community-based support group and a sponsor if appropriate.
Each plan is as unique as the client it is created for. Through regular phone calls each week for the first month and each month for the next year, our team makes sure that the whole family is following the continuing care plan. If the client or his parent feels like something isn’t working or isn’t a good fit, we’ll discuss how we can change the continuing care plan to something that’s a better fit.
With good treatment and tailored, collaborative continuing care, teens and families can find lasting and sustainable healing.
You can learn more about our Continuing Care program or contact our team at (561) 328-7370 to learn more.