Parents and the love letter
Written by Ben Cecil,
in Section Treatment Trends
Teenagers and their “big moods” can take up a lot of space in a household—this is especially true when your child is also struggling with mental or behavioral health issues, substance use, or problematic gaming. With parents hyper-focused on their troubled teen, the needs and issues of everyone else in the family can be ignored. Over time, the whole family suffers and struggles to maintain a sense of normalcy. Relationships are strained and individuals can feel alone.
When a teen leaves home for treatment, the whole household can breathe a collective sigh of relief and peace returns. But often tensions have been so strained for so long, that the family members have forgotten how to be and how to communicate with each other. Without help for the family, it’s not long before the chaos returns.
Our name says it all: Family First Adolescent Services specializes in helping teens find healing from the most common and complex issues they face, while helping families take a step back from chaos and begin a healing process of their own.
Parents and guardians receive a wealth of support from our entire team, starting from our very first phone call. Our Admissions team helps guide families through the process of beginning their teen’s treatment. We’ll help your family make this difficult transition—often a teen’s first extended time away from home—to our residence.
Throughout his stay we’ll provide three different kinds of weekly updates:
- Our educational team updates parents about their son’s progress with his studies.
- Our case manager updates parents about their son’s progress with his treatment program
- In weekly Family Therapy, parents will work with their son and his primary therapist to address the most prescient issues within the family dynamic.
When we say “we treat the entire family like our patient,” we mean that parents or guardians are given a rigorous and deeply introspective treatment regimen of their own. In our experience, two things are true: teens get better when they have the support of their family, and that families that heal together are laying the foundation for a much brighter future overall.
Our journey to healing in family therapy sessions begins with an exercise we call The Love Letter
The teen client and his parents are given them same task: to write a love letter to each other. We provide a series of prompts that everyone can use to write their letter, allowing parent and child to each address their own feelings of anger and blame, hurt and sadness, fear and insecurity, guilt and responsibility, and love, forgiveness, understanding and desire.
It’s a new way for families to communicate. After months or even years of chaos, this exercise is often the first time family members are communicating without threats, manipulation and rationalizations and instead with more heart-felt honesty and accountability.
This exercise is a spring-board into a much more intensive family therapy program. It allows our primary therapist to see where each parent and teen invests the most emotional energy and how to harness that energy for greater healing.
Families meet with their teen and primary therapist weekly, either in person or on the phone, and work on progressively more in-depth assignments. Our team also provides parents with referrals to therapists or community-based support groups in their area so they can work on themselves independently of the therapy we do together with your family.
Healing the whole family means that parents can be better partners to each other, and better parents to their other children, all while effectively supporting their teen’s healing.
By the time a teen has graduated from our program, and transitioned back into his normal life at home, both he and his parents are a world away from the chaos and confusion before their treatment episode.
Want to learn more about how we help the whole family take big steps towards healing? Call us (561) 328-7370.