Tag Archive: mental health

  1. The Effects of Desensitization of Violence on Adolescents

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    The Effects of Desensitization of Violence on Adolescents

    Increased levels of violence in the media, video games, and real life are affecting youth. While every individual has a unique reaction to being exposed to violence, desensitization is a common coping mechanism. While social media and other technology can help teens, the overabundance of violence causes desensitization.

    Desensitization results in decreased emotional reactions to violence in the future. This has long-term effects on the individual. By becoming less sensitive to violence, adolescents can lose their ability to connect with others, impacting their long-term mental and physical health. It is also a pattern that is similar to addiction, resulting in looking for more and more violence to experience the feelings created by violence.

    Desensitization of Violence

    As adolescents’ exposure to violence increases, their reactions to violence change. Whether the violence is experienced in real life or through media, it impacts the empathy, physical reaction, and emotional reaction of adolescents.


    Defined as the ability to share the feelings of another person, empathy helps individuals connect with others. When an individual experiences empathy, they feel the emotions of another.

    Empathy is impacted by watching violent movies and being around violent behaviors. Research published in 2014 shows that low and medium levels of exposure to violence increase empathy in adolescents. However, a high level of exposure to violence decreases emotional and cognitive empathy in adolescents.

    Lack of empathy is a type of desensitization. High levels of exposure to violence in a movie or in person desensitize an adolescent’s reaction to others. This inhibits them from being able to understand the mental state others are in. This directly impacts their ability to communicate well and build community.

    Physical Reaction

    The body has a physical reaction to violence. When an individual is around violent behavior or experiences it through social media, movies, or video games, they will experience a physical reaction to it. The blood pressure will rise as the body prepares to flee or fight as needed.

    However, with high exposure to violence, this physical reaction changes. As adolescent individuals become increasingly accustomed to high levels of violence, their blood pressure increases less and recovers more quickly.

    Emotional Reaction

    When an adolescent is around violence, there is a natural emotional reaction of distress. This is a healthy reaction that occurs when both seeing violent behaviors and experiencing them in real life. Adolescents are in a time of growth in their life. As they develop emotionally, violence impacts their growth.

    Research published in 2014 shows that violent exposure in adolescents impacts emotional distress. Male adolescents with high in-person violence exposure show decreased emotional distress when exposed to violence. However, females with similar exposure levels did not. Therefore, male clients with violent exposure may be at more risk of desensitization of emotional reactions to violence.

    Desensitization and Violence in Multiple Contexts

    Violence can and does occur on multiple fronts, including at home, in a community, and through media. The total amount of violence experienced does play a role in desensitization. However, experiencing violence in multiple contexts increases the risk of desensitization. This means that adolescents who experience violence in their home life and media may be more desensitized than others who only experience violence in one context.

    Desensitization and Violent Behaviors

    High exposure to violence both in media and in person is associated with desensitization to violence. As a result, it also increases an adolescent’s risk of violent behaviors. When a person is exposed to violent behaviors, the combination of empathy, emotional distress, and physical stress all cue them to inhibit this behavior.

    However, when desensitized to these reactions, adolescents are less likely to feel the urge to stop the violent behaviors that they are doing or witnessing. Several studies have found a connection between desensitization and violent behaviors. Both real-life violence and violence in media impact an adolescent’s reactions and beliefs about violence. As violence becomes more normalized, aggression and violent behavior are shown to increase.

    Desensitization and Addiction Treatment

    Violence is particularly impactful on adolescents. As they are increasingly desensitized, more long-term consequences occur.  Alcohol is a commonly used method of self-medicating for adolescents and adults.

    One aspect of addiction treatment for adolescents is to build community. By being a part of a peer group and group therapy, adolescents learn how to improve communication and build a support network of peers and providers.

    However, desensitization can create problems in addiction treatment. When an adolescent is desensitized to violence, their understanding of others’ feelings and thoughts decreases. Thus, their ability to interact with peers and providers and build a healthy community may be inhibited.

    Not all adolescents who experience violence are desensitized to the same level. Methods of treatment like peer support or group therapy may be helpful for many, while others will require more work to heal from their experiences before being able to engage.

    Many adolescents experience increased exposure to violence in video games, movies, and real life. During this important time of development, adolescents can become desensitized. They lose empathy, physical reactivity, and emotional reactivity to violence. At Sustain Recovery, we work with adolescents from many different backgrounds, helping them to heal from the violence that has been a part of their past. Through our program, clients address underlying trauma, mental health disorders, and addiction. In our structured program, adolescents are encouraged to take an active role in their recovery in order to learn the skills they need to be successful in healing. To learn more about our program, call Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052

  2. Helping Adolescents Heal From Repetitive Trauma and Violence

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    Helping Adolescents Heal From Repetitive Trauma and Violence

    Repetitive trauma and violence in the life of a young individual cause deep pain. Too many adolescents have faced trauma and violence, struggling with both without help. Many turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the deep wounds that occur.

    Helping adolescents heal from repetitive violence is important in recovery. By getting help through the healing process, adolescents can improve their mental and physical health and overcome the substance addiction that has resulted from their past.

    Repetitive Trauma in Adolescents

    According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than two-thirds of children experience at least one traumatic event before they are 16 years old. Traumatic events and repetitive violence could include any of the following:

    • Psychological, physical, or sexual abuse
    • Violence in the community or at school
    • National disaster or terrorism
    • Refugee or war experience
    • Neglect
    • Serious accidents or life-threatening illness

    Impact of Repetitive Trauma on Adolescents

    Repetitive traumatic events have a unique impact on adolescents. While each individual’s reaction will vary, the symptoms an adolescent may have include:

    • Physical problems, including headaches or stomach aches
    • Consistent nightmares or other issues with sleep
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
    • Feelings of shame or guilt
    • Thoughts of revenge

    Others in an adolescent’s life may also notice symptoms of repetitive traumatic events. These include:

    • Problems in school, both behavioral and academic
    • Withdrawal from friends, family, and others they are close to
    • Avoiding situations or people who remind them of traumatic events
    • Use of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco
    • Anger and hostility toward themselves or others
    • Being disruptive, disrespectful, or destructive

    Helping Adolescents Heal From Trauma

    Due to the deep wounds caused by repetitive violence, intensive treatment is necessary. Healing includes addressing the symptoms and the root cause. Many tools can help individuals who have experienced repeated traumatic events.

    Addiction Treatment

    Due to the substances commonly abused, treatment must include methods to help adolescents heal from addiction and trauma. Addiction treatment will vary for each individual. However, it includes addressing an individual’s physical and emotional addiction.

    Therapeutic modalities help adolescents build new coping mechanisms and learn to work through the stress and emotions that accompany traumas. As adolescents learn to address their needs without drugs and alcohol, they increase their success in long-term recovery.


    Approaching treatment with empathy helps adolescents heal. By being treated with empathy, adolescents can learn to empathize with themselves and others. This aids in recovery from both trauma and addiction.

    Empathy helps individuals feel understood. If a mental healthcare professional empathizes with an adolescent in treatment, it can help to validate the pain that comes as a result of repetitive traumatic events.

    Understanding Repetitive Trauma

    For many, especially in early recovery, learning to understand repetitive traumas and their impacts improves treatment outcomes. By normalizing trauma-related symptoms and educating a client about them, clients can begin to heal. Repetitive traumatic events result in a continual feeling of being unsafe. However, these feelings can be processed and understood by a client.

    While adolescents are not adults, they do have the capacity to improve awareness of their feelings and the result of past traumatic events. Each individual’s experience will be different, including the symptoms that they can learn to understand.

    Examining the Impact of Trauma

    While it will vary for each client, examining the events that have caused harm can help to change how adolescents deal with emotional pain. This includes addressing the maladaptive coping strategies individuals have used to manage the deep pain caused by traumatic events.

    As clients learn to understand how their past has led to coping methods such as drug use, they are more likely to be able to heal from the maladaptive coping mechanisms as well as the original events. However, each client will vary, and the benefits of examining the past will be different in each scenario. The most important thing is for each client to be aided in a way that is most helpful for their healing.

    Applying Strengths to Heal

    While certain coping methods are maladaptive and do not help with healing, others are a good foundation to build upon. Adolescents who have experienced multiple traumatic events commonly feel guilt or shame. Their focus tends to be on what they lack rather than what strengths they have.

    The processing of healing takes time. For an adolescent to learn new ways to manage and process emotions, they can apply their strength. Working with an adolescent to explore their strengths can help them to identify skills they already have. Once identified, clients can expand on these skills.

    Applying strengths to the healing process aids in healing while building self-confidence. Their belief that they can heal and care for their wounds is integral in their learning to move beyond the past. Growing the skills required to both heal and live as a fully functioning adult, without the use of drugs or alcohol to do so, will result in healthier, happier lives.

    Helping adolescents heal from repetitive traumas and violence improves mental health and success in addiction treatment for youth. While many techniques are available, empathizing and helping clients to learn how to manage symptoms and address the deep wounds can help. Sustain Recovery is an extended residential treatment program in Irvine, California, where adolescents are treated for mental health disorders alongside addiction. We help teens heal from individual traumatic events, repetitive trauma, and other deep-rooted problems that play a role in addiction. Our facility helps youth connect with resources in their area, helping them get the tools they need to heal. To learn more about our program, call us today at (949) 407-9052

  3. The Importance of Catching Kids Doing Good Things

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    The Importance of Catching Kids Doing Good Things

    Many teens are accustomed to negative attention, which is generally associated with behavioral issues. Youth who struggle with addiction or mental health disorders or those in addiction recovery are even more likely to receive negative attention for issues that occur. However, consistent negative feedback can create issues with self-esteem for youth. Catching kids doing good things will provide them with positive attention. This can help to improve their self-esteem and encourage them to improve their behavior at the same time.

    As a parent, you can learn how to catch kids doing good things. It is valuable for parents to learn how to respond to good behavior positively while at the same time addressing behavioral issues that are of concern. As you continue to reward good behavior, you are raising expectations and helping your teen by encouraging their continual improvement.

    Addressing Kids Doing Both Good and Bad Things

    Parenting a teen can be challenging. As a parent, you are responsible for helping shape your teen. This may include helping them manage anxiety and other concerns, and helping them to learn acceptable behaviors. When you are addressing behaviors, this will include both good and bad behaviors. In doing so, you are encouraging the increase of good behaviors and the decrease of bad behaviors.


    Negative attention for teens with mental health disorders or addiction is common. This includes punishment. Punishment may vary depending on your parenting style and the behaviors that are exhibited. However, punishment is a form of negative attention. Whether you are scolding or grounding your teen, you are directly addressing bad behavior. This is necessary for many situations. However, it can erode their sense of self-worth, which can cause them to feel as though they are unable to do good things.


    While punishment is helpful, rewarding the good things is equally as valuable. Each teen is different. They each have their individual behavioral issues. Additionally, they each have something they are doing that is positive. As a parent, you can watch and notice the positive behaviors they exhibit. It can be as small as helping with household chores or doing well on something in school.

    While it will look different for each situation, rewarding good behavior starts with noticing your teen. When your teen is struggling with addiction or mental health issues, their bad behavior can become overwhelming. It may even look as if there are no good things. However, good things can start small. These can include a positive social interaction, a moment of focus, or even doing well with something they enjoy, like video games, art, or sports.

    Benefits of Rewarding Teens When They Are Doing Good Things

    Rewarding good behaviors has many benefits for your teen. It can help them in the long term by encouraging good behavior, improving self-esteem, and raising expectations for their behaviors. As a parent, you can help them while building a positive bond.


    Teens who struggle with behavioral issues often have decreased self-esteem. Continually being scolded or being told that they are doing something wrong can create even lower self-esteem. However, rewards are a way to build self-esteem for teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rewards not only improve good behaviors but also increase self-esteem. When teens are told that they have done something well, they learn that they do not always do the wrong thing. This will help to build confidence so that they can continue to learn, improve, and do even more good things.

    Encouraging Them to Increase Doing Good Things

    Rewarding your teen for doing good things can also increase the likelihood of them doing even more good things. Researchers have observed that adolescents have increased reward-seeking behaviors. This is due to the brain development that is occurring. As a result, they are likely to repeat behaviors for which they receive a reward.

    While brain development is often associated with increased risky behaviors and addiction, you can use this unique feature of the adolescent brain to your advantage. By rewarding good behaviors, you are utilizing their reward-seeking behaviors, giving them a physiological reason to do more good things.

    Raising Expectations

    Every teen is different. Your expectations of your teen will vary based on their mental health, capacity, and maturity. However, your expectations play a role in their behavior. When you reward good behaviors and your teen begins to exhibit more and more good behaviors, you are increasing your expectations of them. In turn, you are showing them that you believe they can do more good things.

    Your expectations of them make a huge difference. When you show them that you believe in them by rewarding good behaviors, they will begin to believe in themselves. In contrast, always expecting them to do the wrong thing can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. As a parent, you can impact their expectations of themselves; they can learn that they can change and grow regardless of issues with addiction, mental health, or other challenges.

    Teens are used to negative attention, especially teens with behaviors associated with addiction or mental health issues. This can erode their self-esteem and cause them to lower their expectations of themselves. When you can remember to catch them doing good things and give them positive attention, you can create the opposite effect of improving self-esteem and encouraging them to raise their expectations and improve their behaviors. At Sustain Recovery, we believe in encouraging teens. We help our clients build their confidence in making changes in their choices and behaviors. Call (949) 407-9052 today to learn more about recovery programs at our facility in Irvine, California. We believe in helping your adolescent grow and improve.  

  4. Can Mental Health Apps Help My Client?

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    Can Mental Health Apps Help My Client?

    A plethora of mental health apps is available now to help track moods, manage symptoms of anxiety or depression, practice mindfulness, and more. The number of these apps continues to grow constantly, and they are becoming increasingly popular with adolescents and young adults. Are these apps just a fad? Or can these mental health apps actually help your clients?

    Types of Mental Health Apps

    Adolescents have a wide range of apps to choose from for their phones and other devices that they can use to support their mental health. Apps are available that offer coping strategies, guided meditation, or stress management techniques. Other apps offer affirmations, inspirational messages, or help with daily routines and self-care. Some apps provide simulated coaching based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), while others offer specific crisis support to help those struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

    Apps have also been developed that help identify and track moods. Many of these apps feature specific tools such as coping strategies, journaling options, goal setting, affirmations, medication reminders, support and safety plans, sleep tracking, and various activities to improve moods. A key feature of most of these apps is the ability to download and share mood-tracking information with mental health providers. All of these apps are designed to be user-friendly and particularly appealing to adolescents and young adults.

    Apps That Provide Support for Your Clients

    Many mental health apps are designed to provide daily support available in the place most adolescents spend much of their time–on their phones or other devices. Much of the support is interactive, and many of the apps have customizable features to provide support that can be specifically tailored to the user. All of these apps are available through the app stores to download for your phone or other devices. Some of the most popular support apps include:

    • Calm—meditation
    • Headspace—meditation
    • Simple Habit—meditation
    • Aura—meditation
    • Stop Breathe and Think—meditation
    • Pacifica—stress management
    • Happify—stress management
    • Fabulous Self Care—daily routines and self-care
    • Unique Daily Affirmations—affirmations
    • Three Good Things—daily journal
    • Emotionary—identifying/managing emotions
    • Insight Timer—guided meditations, talks, and music
    • MindShift—simulated coach for coping based on CBT
    • PTSD Coach—support for PTSD
    • My3—crisis support for teens with suicidal ideation
    • Calm Harm—crisis support for teens who self-harm

    Mood-Tracking Apps Can Help You as a Provider

    The apps that track moods are helpful for both clients and treatment providers. Your clients can track their moods daily or even throughout the day and view their moods over time by day, week, or month to help them better understand and manage their moods. The simple act of tracking their moods can help create more self-awareness for them and help them understand when they need help in real life.

    For providers, the apps that offer downloadable information to share can be incredibly helpful. These reports can give you mood-tracking information that is likely to be the most accurate due to the easy-to-use interface. Some apps are even specific to your client’s diagnoses, providing the best questions and data for their experiences. A few of the most popular mood-tracking apps for teens include:

    • Moodfit
    • Daylio
    • Moodpath
    • MoodKit
    • Worry Watch (anxiety)
    • Mood Tools (depression)
    • eMoods Bipolar Mood Tracker (bipolar disorder)

    Benefits of Using Mental Health Apps

    A key benefit to mental health apps is that they are available 24/7. These apps provide support and tracking of moods for your client 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While many providers might like to offer that type of support to their clients, it is not at all feasible. Having the app accessible can constantly help your client to self-calm, learn to cope, and learn more about themselves as they track their moods and learn about what influences their moods. Some of the apps can even provide crisis care, with access to important phone numbers and information to help them in the moment.

    No App Can Replace Mental Health Care

    Obviously, no app can replace actual mental health care from a licensed provider. Not even the best artificial intelligence is capable of reading moods and subtle nonverbal cues, let alone providing complex therapy or even understanding how the human mind works. However, having these apps available to adolescents can provide them with an extra measure of support in their daily lives and in times of need. The mood-tracking information can be integrated into your care and offer you more insight as a mental health care provider to help you better serve your clients and their needs. While these apps could never replace the mental health care you provide, they can be helpful for adolescents.

    Can mental health apps help your client? If your client is willing to use them, they absolutely can. Mental health apps can provide support in the form of meditation, stress management, and coping skills. Other apps provide important methods for tracking moods as well as other tools to help identify and improve mood in teens. As a provider, having access to mood-tracking information can be an invaluable resource for you in your therapy. Sustain Recovery believes in the responsible use of technology for teens. Our Irvine, California, facility offers extended residential care to teens with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. We understand the value of support and strive to ensure that each client has the opportunity to build support in their own community before returning home. If you have a client you think may benefit from our program, call us at (949) 407-9052 to learn more.

  5. The Power of Drum Therapy

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    The Power of Drum Therapy

    When looking for ways to connect with adolescent clients, the complementary music therapy of drumming can be powerful. Although some teens may be skeptical at first, those who have participated have reported positive results, including improved self-expression. Drum circles and drum therapy can help to promote and maintain mental, spiritual, and physical health. Like many other forms of music therapy, drum therapy can be powerful in the healing process of addiction and mental health diagnoses.

    Using Drum Therapy for Healing

    Music therapy is used for many types of healing, but drum therapy is particularly powerful in healing from substance use disorder (SUD). Psychologically, one of the most powerful aspects of drumming is its ability to allow emotional release. Powerful emotions such as anger, grief, sadness, and pain surrounding trauma, are released during drum therapy. These intense emotions can be processed and released in a safe and productive environment, with the therapeutic process allowing healing to occur organically.

    Drum therapy also helps to create self-awareness and insight through the rhythmic, repetitive process, while the mind is in a more relaxed state and thoughts are able to flow naturally. The healing that occurs during the therapeutic process is more fully integrated through the musical, rhythmic process and the changes that occur in the state of mind during drumming.

    The Physical Responses to Drum Therapy

    Drumming produces a natural, pleasurable response in the body and creates a calming effect on the mind. The sensation of listening to or participating in drumming increases relaxation, which is essential during treatment and recovery. Drum therapy can also be used as a form of exercise, as it helps to reduce tension and anxiety and helps to facilitate self-regulation in the body. These physical responses can be very beneficial in healing the physical side effects of SUD and the symptoms of mental health disorders.

    Drum Circles in a Social Context

    Using drum therapy, especially drum circles, helps create a sense of connection between participants. By participating together cooperatively to both make music and help in the healing process, clients create emotional bonds of trust and friendship. They also learn to rely on one another and what it means to be part of a group. They learn what it means to fulfill responsibilities within a group setting and why each member of the group is important both individually and collectively.

    Drum circles create a sense of community by coming together to create music for the sake of release and healing. Uniting in this cause helps individuals feel part of a larger group and create a connection with something bigger than themselves. Drum therapy helps to develop a sense of investment in the outcome of the recovery of others, which allows participants to see others in addition to themselves.

    Drum Therapy as a Form of Self-Expression

    While there is power in listening or simply following directions and participating in that way through drum therapy, there is also plenty of room for self-expression. In many activities, participants are encouraged to express themselves; drumming is particularly well-suited to self-expression. Changes in dynamics, tempo, rhythm, and intensity allow for a wide range of emotional expression. This complete freedom of self-expression can be incredibly releasing and rewarding.

    Even those who are following instructed patterns and rhythms can feel a sense of self-expression. Drumming is another form of communication, albeit non-verbal. Sometimes, when clients are unable or unwilling to speak, participating in a drum circle allows them to express themselves—to feel heard. Some clients even prefer to participate as a part of the group yet feel a sense of self-expression simply by playing the drums with everyone else.

    How Drum Therapy Provides Spiritual Connection

    While drums are used within many different religions in many different cultures, drum therapy allows a connection to a higher power without the need for any type of religion. The act of drumming can create an altered state of consciousness which many consider a spiritual experience. Allowing themselves to let go and experience this state and connect with their spiritual side can be very healing for those who have been in active addiction.

    The experience of drum therapy connects mind, body, and spirit through self-expression. This promotes wellness as a whole person, helping clients connect on all three levels of consciousness. Enhancing wellness in mind, body, and spirit can help clients not only to heal but also connect with other human beings on a deeper, more personal level. Drum therapy can help clients succeed where other types of therapy may not have been able to in the past.

    Drum therapy has the power to promote healing and self-expression through music. Participants gain both physical and psychological healing as they connect socially and spiritually, learning to be part of something larger than themselves. Drum circles harness the power of music to promote lasting physical and emotional healing from addiction and mental health diagnoses. Sustain Recovery offers music therapy as a facet of our extended residential program. We serve adolescents with substance use and mental health diagnoses at our long-term recovery facility in Irvine, California. Our program is unique because of our extended length of stay which offers clients the opportunity to make a more gradual transition back home. We teach independence and accountability in a structured environment with staff who are passionate about what they do. If you have a client who might benefit from our program, call Sustain at (949) 407-9052 to learn more.

  6. Catching the Wave of Surf Therapy

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    When it comes to experiential therapies, surf therapy can be very appealing to adolescent clients. The appeal is helpful, but surf therapy itself actually has many benefits in the treatment of both substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health disorders. Clients gain physical, psychological, and social benefits from being in a natural environment that promotes both healing and resilience. As a mental health care provider, you can reach more teens by catching the wave of surf therapy.

    The Physical Benefits of Surf Therapy

    Surfing is a physically demanding activity, but one that can be learned by those who are willing to try. There is a focus on upper body strength and development of the core through both paddling and balancing, respectively, but surfing also burns about 250 calories per hour and provides a great overall workout experience.

    The physical demands of surf therapy helps to get teens back into their bodies and to reconnect with the world and with themselves, both mentally and physically. At the same time, being in the natural environment of the ocean allows them to be physically removed from their lives and their triggers and gives them time and space to think and process while they are on the water in a way that they cannot do when sitting in an office setting.

    Surfing as a Form of Mindfulness

    While many forms of exercise allow the mind to wander, surfing requires you to be in the moment. You must be in tune with the waves and the natural elements around you, and you need to maintain a high level of self-awareness as well. What surfers call “becoming one with the wave” is actually a form of mindfulness.

    This naturally-induced form of mindfulness helps with stress reduction, clearing your mind, and being present in the moment. Surf therapy also provides a natural metaphor for a coping technique called “urge surfing.” In this technique, you are aware that an urge or craving will rise and have a peak, and then fall, like a wave. Being able to ride it out is just like riding a wave on the ocean. Learning to physically surf and ride the waves helps clients understand how to ride out cravings as well.

    Learning Resilience on the Waves

    Surfing also provides the opportunity to learn resilience. The ability to overcome difficulties and challenges is a real-life experience on the ocean. The ability to learn to stand up on the board, to catch and ride a wave, and to recover when you are pummeled by a wave are all essential lessons in resilience. They provide opportunities for growth, for developing self-esteem, and for learning how to recover when life knocks you down, as it inevitably will.

    Likewise, surf therapy teaches the hunger to do and become better. Each time you paddle out and each wave that comes is an opportunity for self-improvement and growth. Each wave represents a new challenge to take and a chance to learn experientially from both successes and failures. This level of resilience translates into confidence and growth on the land and in real life as well.

    Developing Social Skills Through Surf Therapy

    While surf therapy offers a certain amount of time for self-reflection and developing self-awareness, there is also the opportunity for increased social skills. The opportunity to be a part of a group and learn and experience a new sport and new skills together creates a strong bond and camaraderie between those who are recovering and healing from SUD and mental health disorders. Learning to communicate and help one another, sometimes in situations of survival, can help strengthen these friendships and build communication skills that translate into other relationships in life.

    Using Surf Therapy to Reconnect

    Surfing helps reconnect the mind and body through physical activity but can also help to reconnect clients with their spirituality. Regardless of what religious beliefs they may or may not have, the connection with the ocean during surfing is widely regarded as a spiritual experience. Learning to connect with something much bigger and more powerful than you are, and learning to surrender to the power of the waves and the elements, helps you connect with your spirituality.

    The power of surf therapy helps to reconnect the whole person–mind, body, and spirit. This can be very healing in recovery from both SUD and mental health disorders. Surfing can be more than just a sport or an experience; it can be the gateway to holistic healing. Developing an interest in surfing can also create a passion that is lasting and allows teens to reconnect with the world around them.

    Catching the wave of surf therapy can be life-changing for your clients. They will not only gain physical benefits but also learn mindfulness and reconnect mind, body, and spirit as they connect with the world around them. They can also learn social skills and the power of resilience as they learn to honor the power of the ocean and the elements of nature. Sustain Recovery offers an extended residential program for adolescents with SUD and mental health diagnoses in Irvine, California. Our program is unique because our extended length offers clients the opportunity to gradually transition back home. We also help them connect with support in their community for long-term success. We teach independence and accountability in a structured environment. If you have a client who might benefit from our program, call Sustain at (949) 407-9052 to learn more.

  7. Telling Your Story Through Drama Therapy

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    Reaching adolescents with substance use disorders and mental health issues can be challenging. The use of drama therapycan be a powerful way to help clients build self-esteem while accessing emotions and processing their trauma and related issues. Teens can develop a new relationship with themselves and a better understanding of others, as well as heal from their relationship with substances. Adolescents can experience deep and profound change as they tell their stories through drama therapy.

    What Is Drama Therapy?

    According to the North American Drama Therapy Association, when drama therapy is used in conjunction with other evidence-based treatment programs, it can enhance substance abuse treatment by creating a safe space to access and explore emotions. Therapists help facilitate through the use of storytelling, role-playing, improvisation, mask making, developmental transformations, and other creative methods. Teens learn self-expression and are able to tell their stories using creative methods that allow them to feel freer and more in the moment. 

    Drama therapy can also help teens safely process and heal from trauma. By using embodiment practices such as developmental transformations, clients can learn to self-regulate and reconnect with their bodies, senses, and environment to promote healing. Drama therapy can help bring teens out of the past and into the present safely and without the physical stress responses they have previously experienced.

    If you are interested in expanding your scope of practice, requirements to become a registered drama therapist include a master’s or doctoral degree in drama therapy or a master’s or doctoral degree in theater or a mental health profession with additional in-depth training in drama therapy. Coursework includes psychology, drama therapy, experience in theater, supervised internship, and work experience.

    Improving Self-Esteem and Self-Discipline

    Teens with addiction and mental health diagnoses often suffer from self-esteem issues, both from self-image as well as stigma from society regarding addiction and mental health. Drama therapy allows them to explore roles of confidence and self-respect, as well as being valued members of society, to help them realize their own humanity and value as human beings.

    By telling their stories through drama, teens are given the opportunity to see their own potential and find their strengths. They also learn to develop self-discipline as they interact with others in a theatrical setting to create a safe space for everyone to explore.

    Developing Communication and Social Skills

    The experiential format of drama therapy allows clients to improve both communication and social skills as they learn to express themselves creatively. Through role-playing and improvisation, they can process, heal, and mourn past relationships as well as develop new skills for future relationships.

    Teens also have the opportunity to interact and create new friendships with group members who are also working to maintain wellness. For teens who struggle with social skills, drama therapy gives them the tools to learn how to interact with others. As they learn to express themselves dramatically, they learn to express themselves in real-life situations as well.

    Practicing Coping Mechanisms

    Drama therapy can also help clients to practice having a healing relationship with substances. Through role-playing and other methods, teens can practice saying no to substances or to those who offer them substances, acting out how they will respond to triggers or cravings, and practicing other coping skills. They can role-play healthy interactions with others regarding social experiences that do not involve substances.

    Clients can also practice other healthy life skills, such as interacting with teachers or others in positive ways, practicing healthy interactions with family members, or interviewing for a job. Teens can physically rehearse what they want their life to look like both now and in the future without substances.

    Gaining a Sense of Community

    Another powerful side effect of drama therapy is the sense of community that teens can gain. While interacting with others, they gain a greater sense of the consequences of their actions, both positive and negative. Their interactions help them to realize that their words and actions impact those around them. They gain a better sense of community, of being part of something bigger than themselves. This is so helpful for those who have been stuck in a world such as substance use disorder that can be so self-centered.

    Additionally, drama therapy can help clients to gain a sense of empowerment and understanding of their value in their family, community, and the world around them. They learn that they can affect change positively or negatively; it is their choice. Their words and actions matter and their choices matter–not just to themselves, but to those around them as well. Teens learn that their stories are powerful, that they are powerful. Through drama therapy, they learn the power of telling their story.

    Teens can become empowered by telling their stories through drama therapy. Clients can improve self-esteem and self-discipline, develop communication and social skills, practice coping and other essential life skills, and gain a greater sense of community as they heal from trauma, addiction, and mental health disorders. Sustain Recovery is dedicated to helping heal and empower adolescents with substance use and mental health diagnoses. Our extended residential program located in Irvine, California is unique in that the extended length of stay offers clients the opportunity to gradually transition back home. We also help them connect with support in their community for long-term success. We teach independence and accountability in a structured environment with staff who are passionate about what they do. If you have a client who might benefit from our program, call Sustain today at (949) 407-9052 to learn more.

  8. Expanding Horizons Can Teach Self-Esteem

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    Adolescents with addiction or mental health conditions experience negative thought patterns that can lead to poor self-esteem. Changing those patterns can be a challenge for mental health care professionals, particularly when relying primarily on traditional talk therapy. Getting teens to buy into treatment and choose to improve their lives is another obstacle in the recovery process. One way to overcome these challenges is to expand their horizons by introducing them to new experiences.

    The Value of Sharing New Experiences

    A teen with behavioral challenges related to addiction or mental health issues rarely chooses to go to treatment. They are typically being sent to therapy or treatment by parents, school or law enforcement, or any combination of those. If they don’t want to be there, then why would they talk to you? Why would they do the work of getting healthy if they have no desire or incentive to change? Creating motivation for them through talk therapy is particularly challenging. When their only experiences are sitting in groups or classes, they can feel stifled, and these methods may even be counterproductive.

    This is where expanding their horizons by sharing new experiences with your teen clients can help. Finding ways to reach them with activities instead of words can help them not only buy into their treatment but also change their negative thinking. When you are able to get your adolescent clients to change their thought patterns, their self-esteem is boosted as well. They feel self-worth by participating or learning, and they can see the value in improving their thought patterns as well.

    Ideas for Expanding Horizons

    Keeping in mind that the activities you use need to be at least somewhat appealing to teens, not necessarily you, you can choose experiences that will help them become engaged in their treatment process. Some ideas for expanding their horizons are:

    • Use experiential therapies such as art, music, adventure, or animal therapy to introduce new experiences
    • Create a library of books about travel or other interests to offer to them to read
    • Challenge them to try new foods and cuisines
    • Help them learn new skills or hobbies
    • Teach them dance, yoga, or a new sport
    • Include them in group therapy to encourage peer support and social skills
    • Learn about something that interests them so you can participate in or talk about it

    Changing Negative Thought Patterns Through Experiences

    While traditional therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) function to help change negative thought patterns, they are not successful if the client is not a willing participant. Even if engaging them in an experience is still difficult, they are more likely to participate, especially if it is something they are curious about.

    As teens expand their horizons, they open their minds not only to new experiences but also to new ways of thinking. A teen may be willing to accept new ideas and interact with new people who treat them differently, allowing the teen to see themselves differently. As their views change with experiences, their thought processes can change as well.

    Improving Self-Esteem Through Learning

    Education is empowering; this is not a secret. Learning increases knowledge, and knowledge increases opportunities. Learning also helps teens to gain confidence in their abilities and awareness. As they are empowered to become more confident, their self-esteem increases.

    Experiential learning is a particularly effective way for teens to gain knowledge. Gaining new skills or being exposed to new cultures, experiences, and ideas helps them to expand their minds and their horizons. They are able to share their knowledge with others, further increasing their self-esteem as they feel valued and worthwhile. For some of these teens, gaining experiences like these can be life-changing and help them to feel respected and to respect themselves.

    Creating Lifelong Commitment by Expanding Horizons

    Finding new interests and hobbies can give teens a sense of purpose and help them make decisions now and for their future education and careers. Offering teens new opportunities not only expands their horizons but also can forge a commitment to themselves and their recovery. The experiences you offer them can help bind them to their healing and maintain the motivation to stay well.

    New experiences can literally be life-changing for some adolescents. They may be inspired to change their vocational plans or to help or inspire others. Your investment in their lives may even inspire them to follow in your footsteps. Most importantly, the experiences they have with you can restore their self-esteem. Believing in themselves is a priceless gift that can ultimately change the trajectory of their lives.

    Giving adolescents with addiction or mental health conditions new experiences can expand their horizons and help them to buy into their treatment. Helping them to learn and grow builds confidence, which ultimately can help restore their self-esteem. Taking advantage of these opportunities to expose them to new opportunities can be a life-changing experience for them. At Sustain Recovery, our passion is changing lives. Our extended residential program is designed to fill a gap between traditional residential treatment and long-term treatment. We understand that addiction or behaviors are not the problem but rather the way they are coping with the actual problems. We offer structure and consistency within a loving environment during the treatment process. Our program helps them to learn more about themselves and rebuild their self-belief. Please contact our Irvine, California, facility at (949) 407-9052 if you have a client who could use something more than traditional residential care. 

  9. One-Third of Adolescents Experience Anxiety

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    Raising teenagers gives parents a lot of reasons to worry. They concern themselves with ensuring their children have a good education, access to healthcare, and a safe place to call home. Parents prioritize keeping their kids away from drugs and alcohol, and seek help if they develop an issue with substances.

    One thing a lot of parents don’t have on their list of things to worry about is this: Does my child deal with anxiety?

    The National Institute of Mental Health reports some alarming statistics about anxiety among young people. These facts include:

    • Approximately one-third of adolescents have some type of anxiety disorder
    • Of those individuals, eight percent experience a severe impairment
    • The number of female adolescents who have an anxiety disorder is 38.0%
    • Male adolescents experience anxiety disorders at a rate of 26.1%

    Signs That Your Child May Suffer From Anxiety

    Symptoms of a child suffering from an anxiety disorder vary. Common signs include:

    • Constantly worrying about both general and specific things
    • Having panic attacks
    • Feeling fidgety
    • Constant negative feelings and irritability
    • A drop in grades
    • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
    • Loss of interest in school activities and hobbies
    • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
    • Heart palpitations
    • Often feeling cold or sweaty
    • Tingling in hands or feet
    • Chronic complaints of headaches, nausea, and digestion problems
    • Use of drugs or alcohol

    What Causes Anxiety in Children and Teenagers?

    Adolescents who struggle with an anxiety disorder may have one or more reasons for developing one. These are some of the common contributing causes:

    • Adapting to the Pandemic: Children and teenagers do not have a lot of life experience to fall back on. When the world became consumed by the coronavirus, everything familiar to adolescents became altered. Learning new skills like social distancing, attending school from home via a computer, and losing in-person friendships caused much stress.
    • Re-entry agoraphobia” has entered the lexicon, as many people are finding it difficult to return to their old lives. Some adolescents experience anxiety related to returning to school and going places in public.
    • Fear of public violence: Children today have spent their entire lives being taught to prepare for violent acts in public. Schools practice regular drills about how to react to a school shooter. News reports about mass gun shootings cause many children to fear going to everyday places, such as the grocery store or mall.
    • Social media: Websites like Instagram, Tiktok, and Facebook can foster a sense of anxiety in people of all ages. Adolescents, in particular, can live or die by how many likes or views their posts get. They unfairly compare their lives to those of others.
    • Academic pressure: The focus on standardized testing in school can cause many kids to obsess about their grades. Children just beginning elementary school often feel the pressure to compete with each other, whether for daily grades or to get into good college years later.
    • Unstable home environments: Children living in homes with high-stress levels may internalize the stress. Situations like parents who have an unhappy marriage, violence in the home, or economic instability can cause a rise in anxiety levels.

    How to Help Your Adolescent with Anxiety

    Start a conversation with your child about anxiety. Let them know that people of all ages sometimes struggle with it, and it’s nothing to feel shame about. Ask them about specific situations and if these make them feel anxious. Suggest things like school, friendships, family situations, social lives, the pandemic, and worrying about the future.

    Discuss how social media can often present a false image of a person’s life. A friend or classmate may often post about fun activities or enjoying romantic attention. These posts do not paint a full picture of their lives. Many people are dishonest on social media out of their own insecurities. Likes and follows do not equal worthiness.

    Ask yourself what sort of expectations you set for your child and how these may impact them. There is nothing wrong with wanting your kids to succeed in life. Just make sure to help them set reasonable goals and give them time off to relax and enjoy their youth. While some families want their kids to become doctors or corporate executives, parents need to allow individuality and personal interests to emerge.

    Getting a Professional Evaluation for Anxiety

    If you suspect your child or teenager may be overwhelmed by anxiety, make an appointment for an evaluation. Doctors and licensed counselors offer anxiety screenings to help both the parents and child understand what’s going on.

    Many prescription medications can help young people minimize their anxiety symptoms. Speaking with a therapist and exploring professional treatment programs also offer help managing anxiety disorders. Often, just knowing there is a name for what a child is experiencing and proper help can help reduce some of their anxiety.

    About one-third of adolescents experience anxiety in their lives. Reasons for their anxiety can include living during the pandemic, a fear of violence, academic pressure, unstable home environments, and the competitive nature of social media. Parents can help their children by having ongoing discussions about their anxiety levels and how to manage them. A professional medical evaluation, therapy, and medication can offer positive results. Sustain Recovery understands the pressures that adolescents are under today and offers programs that address anxiety disorders and other mental health issues. We also treat addiction to drugs and alcohol in our long-term treatment programs. We offer continuing education, so your child stays up-to-date with their academics. If your child had sought treatment before but did not flourish, we can help. We also keep in touch after program completion to help ensure continued success. Call Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052 to help your child start to heal.

  10. Does Your Child Suffer From Failure to Launch?

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    failure to launch

    Shortly before the coronavirus pandemic began, a high number of young adults still lived with their parents. A study from the Pew Research Center showed that 47% of people ages 18-29 lived at home with one or more parents before the pandemic. In July of 2020, that number went up to 52%.

    This trend crossed all race, gender, and geographical region lines. Eleven percent of these young adults were neither employed nor attending school.

    Younger People Do Not Feel as Much Pressure to Couple up

    Another study done by the Pew Research Center last year showed that many adults have become frustrated and less interested in dating than previous generations. Of those who are not married or in a relationship but want to date, 67% said their dating lives are not doing well. In addition, 75% said finding someone to date in the previous year proved to be difficult. This trend contributes to many younger people not being in a hurry to have their own place.

    Students Often Return Home After Trouble Adjusting to College

    In past generations, the expectation for graduating high school students was that they attend a four-year university. Going back home after getting their diploma was not a given for those going to school out of town. Today’s generation often postpones college plans or opts not to go at all.

    Many young adults who do begin a college career become overwhelmed when adjusting to academic life. The pressures of adult academics, school work, and choosing a career can place enormous pressure on a person.

    Many people who have parents who tended to do a lot for them find it challenging to switch to “adulting” while away at college. Tasks like waking up on time, paying their bills, and doing their laundry can prove daunting.

    Difficulty Learning to Postpone Payoffs

    One of the fundamental truths in life has to do with learning to postpone satisfaction. College students have to wait years before receiving their diplomas. When entering the workforce, they typically begin at an entry-level position. These young adults must learn to work hard before payoffs like promotions, raises, and better benefits start.

    For individuals raised in the age of the internet, this type of patience may not come easily. Their formative years were spent being able to access information immediately. Communication with friends, family, and strangers around the world was just a few keystrokes away.

    Music and movies can be downloaded in seconds. Whatever cuisine a young adult craves can be delivered to their front door in minutes.

    Growing up in a world that does not foster a sense of working hard and waiting for payoffs can have a negative impact on becoming an adult. This trend makes it difficult for many people to have the patience to develop a career that doesn’t provide instant satisfaction and benefits.

    For this reason, many simply do not leave the nest because they don’t have a complete understanding of how the adult world works.

    Addiction and Mental Health Issues Can Contribute to Failure to Launch

    Sometimes a young adult who has no real plan to leave home may be dealing with some very grownup problems. If they suffer from addiction to alcohol or drugs, this likely contributes to a lack of desire to move out and accept more responsibility.

    Young people who struggle to manage their mental health often feel a need to stick close to home. They may be afraid to grow up and live independently due to a fear of their mental health becoming worse.

    These individuals may not fully understand the skills they need to be out on their own. These skills can include budgeting, bill paying, grocery shopping, and cooking. For them, staying home and letting mom or dad stay at the helm feels safer.

    Seeking Help for Failure to Launch

    When a child has demonstrated a clear failure to launch, a conversation with them can start the ball rolling. Parents should let their children know that while they understand they need assistance in changing, they also have to take some responsibility. A parent can offer empathy and make it clear that everyone has to grow up; adulting does not fall under the heading of “optional.”

    Professional programs can address the issue of failure to launch. These treatment programs typically require the adult child attends a residential facility. The program will provide the individual with time away from their parents’ home, providing a needed break for both the child and their parents.

    This type of program teaches young adults basic life skills that take away some of the mystery of being responsible for themselves. They also offer educational and career counseling to help their clients set goals. Sessions with counselors help young people transition into lasting adulthood.

    Parents should look for programs that address any substance use disorders or mental health diagnoses that accompany the failure to launch. The combined treatment modalities of these types of programs help young adults become confident and eager to assume adult status.

    If you have an adult child who still lives at home and shows no desire to move out, you may be dealing with what’s called a “failure to launch.” This condition involves an adult who still lives with their parents and seems unwilling to grow up and move out. They may suffer from uncertainty about how to be an adult, experience addiction, or have mental health issues. Sustain Recovery treats young adults who have demonstrated a failure to launch. We help them develop excitement about growing up, gaining autonomy, and living on their own. We teach life skills, provide educational and career counseling, and offer regular therapy sessions to help young people develop an understanding of their issues and how to resolve them. We also treat addiction and mental health issues. If you need help launching your child into permanent adulthood, call Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052 to get started.

I first met Sayeh in November of 2013 just after my 15 year old daughter had been admitted to a residential treatment program. As part of the program I was required to attend 2-3 AlAnon meetings a week. Sayeh attended the same AlAnon meetings as well as Alumni events as I. It soon became apparent to me that Sayeh had a heart for recovery, program, and God. When I was encouraged to get a sponsor I didn’t hesitate. Dependable, respectful, kind and generous of spirit, she exudes an inner peace that I hope to achieve with her loving guidance, as I work my own program. She is patient, & full of wisdom that she is always happy to share with her sponsees and fellow parents. I am so grateful our journeys brought us together.

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