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  -- Inpatient Treatment
  -- Losing a Battle (Jim)
  -- No Kill Animal Shelters
  -- Reducing Holiday Stress
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  -- Teen Opiate Abuse
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  -- Why Bright Kids Fail
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  -- Inpatient Treatment

Kids and Community
Residential Treatment for Teens: Another option
By Judy Shepps Battle
 
It isn't easy being a teen.
 
Although most adolescents will navigate this stage with only a few psychological bumps and bruises, a small -- but significant -- number of teens will self-medicate emotional pain with alcohol and other drugs and/or engage in self-destructive or antisocial behaviors.
 
Being the mother or father of a struggling and out-of-control teen is a challenging experience.

Parents are understandably upset, confused, and frightened to see D's and F's on their child's report cards, especially if the child formerly earned A's and B's; to learn their child has been truant from school; to have fiery arguments over curfew and other household rules; and/or to notice their child shows signs of depression, illegal drug use, or criminal behavior.
 
In most instances, participation in short-term outpatient family counseling is sufficient to defuse the most volatile situation and facilitate a safer and more peaceful experience of the teen years.
 
When a youth's acting-out behavior does not respond positively to such intervention, however, a doctor or counselor may suggest a period of inpatient (or residential) treatment. Although such a recommendation may initially feel like therapeutic failure, it is often a positive, life-altering strategy for all parties.
 
How Residential Treatment Works
A good residential program provides a safe and secure environment, allowing behavioral infractions to immediately be met with appropriate consequences. It provides therapeutic help for parents and child in identifying and addressing appropriate strategies to discharge anger and resentment and to treat underlying clinical depression.
 
Residential treatment also helps identify a teen's existing strengths and provides opportunities for the adolescent to get positive feedback and build self-esteem.
 
It's amazing to watch kids get emotionally and physically stronger during this process," says one residential counselor. "Even their posture changes, and you can see squared-away shoulders rather than the defeated I don't care about anything' attitude that we often see when they first arrive. They start to laugh and play like little kids but also take on increasing responsibilities in the group.
 
"It is as if they are being given a second chance to grow up and are eager to take it. I get really emotional when I watch this process of rebirth."
 
Not Just Teens
Residential treatment benefits more than the participating teen. It allows exhausted parents a chance to regain strength, learn additional parenting skills and see their son or daughter in a different light.
 
Most importantly, it allows time for parents to gracefully retreat from an exhausting impasse.
 
As one father of a teen observed, "It wasn't until my daughter went into residential treatment that I could sit back and realize how much she was like I was as a teen. My parents were always on my case when I broke rules, drank, and talked back to them. And my school was forever complaining because I cut classes.
 
"As I thought about how angry I had been at my parents, I could see more of where she was coming from. I actually went to see a counselor for myself and am learning to separate my daughter from her behaviors and love her as a person, while still holding her accountable for inappropriate behaviors."
 
Asking Questions
Choosing to place a child in residential treatment is an important decision, and parental fears -- such as having a child far away, or worrying that the treatment facility might not be appropriate for the child's specific needs -- should be addressed with the prospective treatment facility.
 
Talk to clinical personnel and find out how they will address your son's or daughter's behavioral issues; ask about their track record with teens who have similar issues. Take time to visit the facility so you can experience the world your child will enter.
 
Suggestions from a Therapist
Noted Philadelphia therapist Gwen Olitsky offers the following advice to parents facing such a decision:
 
"It's difficult to think about sending your child away to a structured program that might have him or her really angry with you--at first. The thought of putting your teen in the care of virtual strangers, in a faraway place, where you can't comfort her when she is ill, is a challenge for any caring parent.    
 
"But you have to take stock of what you've tried, what has or hasn't worked, and what you've discovered about the program's ability to protect, support, and help your child in ways that you haven't been able to accomplish. Trust your instinct, intuition, and love for and faith in your child's ability to change in the right environment."
 
 
Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at writeaction@aol.com. Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at http://www.writeaction.com/.
 
 
Copyright 2007 Judy Shepps Battle
 

 

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