There is ongoing research about the importance of peer connection in preventing and treating mental illness. Loneliness is both a known cause and consequence of mental illness. So much so, that loneliness is a risk factor for early mortality, surpassing obesity, smoking, and alcohol abuse.
The good news is that relationships and healthy attachment can be curative. In Antelopes' teen groups, we focus on relationship and communication skills that increase and empower our teens and parents to build and deepen healthy relationships.
We know that mental illness can be isolating and inescapably lonely. Through our group programs, we face that reality head-on and teach our clients how they can build and deepen relationships with others.
Teens specifically relate to loneliness and perceive the feeling of being lonely differently than adults do. Unique properties of adolescence carry a special risk for perceived social isolation. These include (but are not limited to) developmental changes in friendships, identity exploration, cognitive maturation, developmental changes in social perspective taking, and physical maturation. Teens often need specific support with developing social skills - and we've found groups to be best technique to facilitate the growth and maturity of those skills.
Oftentimes, people choose to start therapy only with a one-on-one therapist without considering joining a group with peers or other people who are struggling or want to grow. It might feel intimidating to join a group with people you don't know, but there are programs and professionals out there who can help guide you and with whom you’ll deeply connect.
What is group therapy?
Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy in which a therapist works with multiple clients at a time in a group setting. It's a common type of therapy used within mental health treatment programs.
There are many different types of group therapy options. All of these can also be attended virtually!
If you're thinking about joining a group, here are some questions to ask:
Even though talking about your thoughts and feelings in a group setting might seem intimidating, group therapy provides wide-ranging mental health benefits that individual psychotherapy does not. At its core, groups help members feel comfortable with being vulnerable, navigating their emotions, and having honest, direct conversations with others.
During a group, usually, one or more facilitators lead a group of 5–15 clients. Typically, groups meet one or two times a week. Some clients attend individual therapy in addition to group, while others only participate in group. In an intensive outpatient program, patients attend multiple groups each week.
Group facilitators might be active in the group, helping group members develop skills or asking questions, or may only intervene in the group conversation to keep the group moving in a productive direction. Some facilitators encourage a free-form dialogue during group sessions, while others have a specific plan for each group session.
When a teen is struggling, family resilience becomes even more essential. When differences and conflicts arise, families need to come together, work as a team, and overcome their challenges. However, too often, family relationships instead become strained beyond the members' capacity to respond. When this happens, family therapy can help to bridge the communication gaps and bring the broken family system back into harmony.
Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy that helps families strengthen their relationships, develop healthier communication skills, and resolve conflicts. Above all, this modality emphasizes and strengthens the love and bond between family members for the purpose of healthier relationships. The goal is a more functional home life. It can be used as a standalone treatment or, we use it as an integral part of our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).
Whether you are receiving family therapy from Antelope Recovery, are worried about trying it, or curious to learn more... here's how to turn your family therapy into a success.
The often painful process of sifting through family relationships can feel daunting, however, we believe that by confronting our pain honestly and directly, we open doors to improving the future. To reap the full benefits of family therapy, you'll need to start each family therapy session with an open mind and a willingness to change. If you're not open to the ideas and perspectives of other members of the family, it can be difficult to see all the factors that contribute to conflicts or to come up with effective solutions.
Family involvement is a critical component of the healing process, especially for families struggling to interact with a member who has behavioral problems or mental health challenges. Family therapists have years of experience navigating family conflicts, from teen depression to grief and financial problems. As experienced mental health experts, they have the expertise needed to help family members discuss specific issues such as divorce or separation, resolve conflicts between parents and children, or navigate the impact of mental health conditions on the entire family.
A family therapist will not always agree with the parents and is not there to pick sides. At every point in family therapy, a family member may be called to listen to challenging feedback or hear the ways they have impacted others in the family.
Even though it can bring up difficult emotions, there's nothing to fear about family therapy. It's a supportive space designed to help you move forward together.
Finding the right family therapist can make all the difference in the therapeutic process. Research shows that the relationship between you and your therapist can have long-lasting impacts on your growth, even after therapy ends. Before committing to a family therapist, it's important to do your research, ask the right questions, and pay attention to your comfort level.
If you're new to therapy, matching with a family therapist that feels like a good fit might be a time-consuming, overwhelming process, but it doesn't have to be. Once you've found a few potential matches from provider directories, or referrals, research their credentials, licensing, and experience.
While any type of mental health professional can seek specialized training in family therapy, not all providers have family systems therapy experience or training (which is a specialized and highly effective type of family therapy). It's also worth considering whether providers have experience with the specific challenges you're seeking help for. For example, if your son is struggling with his sexual orientation, make sure potential therapists have LGBTQIA+ experience.
After confirming that the therapist has experience with family therapy, it's time to schedule an initial consultation. If possible, try setting up a group call or meeting in person. The whole family should feel comfortable with the therapist, and nobody should feel like the therapist sides with a specific family member.
You might need to meet with multiple mental health professionals until you find the best fit for your family and that's completely normal. Know that you will find the right fit if you keep going!
In general, most family sessions last an hour, and happen once a week. However, the frequency of your therapy sessions and the number of sessions you'll need will depend on your family's unique needs.
With that said, an hour is a short amount of time to work through issues among multiple family members, and you might feel a lot of pressure to get certain issues off your chest in the given time. To make the most of your therapy sessions, take the time to prepare beforehand by making a list of issues, writing down questions you have, or any behavior patterns you have noticed, and encourage your family members to do the same.
Family problems can feel daunting, however this can be helped by setting clear, tangible goals for family therapy. It's helpful to tell your therapist you would like a clear structure (especially if you're feeling overwhelmed) for each session and ask for ideas on how to track your progress. Each family member can have their own goals, however larger family goals should also be agreed upon.
Even if you don't have a diagnosable mental health condition, individual therapy can help you make the most of your family therapy sessions. Individual psychotherapy offers countless benefits, - it is aprivate outlet for self-expression free from fear of judgment from family members. Working through very charged emotions in individual therapy can help you come to family therapy ready to collaborate, express honestly and responsibly, and to come together.
To reap the full benefits of family therapy, you'll need to commit to practicing your new skills from inside therapy sessions outside of therapy sessions as well. For example, if your teenager learns how to vocalize their feelings of hopelessness in a therapy session, family members should then try to create a plan for helping them vocalize these feelings at home.
Mental health care has access to three different types of treatments that work; Medication, Therapies, and Rehab Services. A combination of all three of these options usually creates the best results for anyone struggling with mental illness.
In total, we have access to 30 antidepressants, 20 antipsychotics, 7 mood stabilizers, and 6 ADHD medications. These are generally effective for short-term reduction of symptoms, however, they often require days and weeks to reduce symptoms.
A new substance that we are still learning about is ketamine - it takes hours instead of weeks for symptoms to reduce, which is very exciting.
With medication, we expect clients to partially respond to the treatment. It is not a “cure”. The goal with medication is to reduce disability and increase functionality so that the client may return to work or have access to enough resources to be utilizing additional treatment protocols that they were unable to access without medication.
Usually, suicide risk is highest when people regain some functionality after being depressed (often this is a few days-weeks after they’ve started medication). They become well enough to form a plan for suicide. Often, profesionals predict this happening and so additional medication will be prescribed here and therapy will start.
Therapy is one-on-one work with a licensed practitioner. Therapy has evolved a lot over the years and is no longer a sit on a couch and spill your feelings session. It involves learning skills like reframing, emotional regulation, revealing, and general introspection. Therapy sessions often involve a combination of tools such as CBT, recreational therapy, DBT, education, trauma release methods, etc. A good therapist also understands medication and will use precise therapeutic techniques to address different symptoms. Recently, therapy has expanded into the virtual space, and we are excited to see how that continues to evolve the field.
Similar to physical therapy after an injury, recovering from a psychotic episode can take months of work in order to rebuild your life and repair your psyche. Rehab services consist of assertive community teams that address education, employment, family therapy, and personalized care. Rehab services have an equal to surpassing impact on mental health to medication. Unfortunately, rehab services are not covered by most insurance providers in the USA. Currently, this option is only available to 5% of the population who have a severe mental illness.
Symptoms not addressed by current treatment options
Currently, we do not have treatment solutions for fixed delusions, some schizophrenic symptoms such as lack of affect, poverty of thought, lack of motivation, memory loss, negative bias, or deficits in executive function such as judgment or long-term planning.
Changes we need to make in our approach
Our current treatment focus in mental health is typically short-term symptom reduction for long-term illnesses. We have invested in short-term care options such as acute care and detox facilities and have dropped our long-term care resources from over 350 inpatient beds for every 100,000 people in the 1950s, to 21 inpatient beds per 100,000 people (NIMH). This is problematic of course - it can create dependency on these short-term services, burn out therapists, put a large burden on families and communities, and prohibits true, long-lasting recovery.
Mental illness is also often treated as chronic, rather than episodic. Mental illnesses are cyclical in nature and often will "go away" and then come back. Making sure a client has access to robust resources repeatedly throughout their life is essential for long-term success of each patient. Often one psychotic episode can throw a client into a lifetime of debt, put them behind in their career, initiate divorce, etc. We need to streamline the approach for relapse so that these patients don't have to start over every time they relapse. Solutions can look like utilizing electronic health records, having robust discharge plans, and having insurance pay for acute care for a mental illness the same way they do for acute physical care.
For many teens, the thought of sitting in a therapist's office may sound excruciating. Pouring out their feelings to a stranger may feel like being asked to move mountains. And for you, the parent, dragging them across town to a session, waiting for an hour in the car, just to drive your eye-rolling teen back home also may not sound great, even if you are worried about them.
This is when virtual therapy sessions might sound like a good option.
With the rise of telehealth at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual psychotherapy has evolved to meet the unique needs of adolescents. Virtual therapy has been around for decades, but technological advancements have created new opportunities for therapists, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists to offer remote mental health services.
Online therapy is here to stay, but many parents wonder whether online therapy is a good idea for their teens. Wouldn’t it be better if your kids weren’t stuck in front of a screen?
Whether you're navigating different online therapy platforms or considering transitioning from in-person therapy to virtual - here's everything you need to know about online therapy for teens.
Virtual teen therapy can help teenagers understand their mental health, learn lifelong communication strategies, reduce their chances of developing a chronic long-term illness, and manage their symptoms. Here are some reasons why virtual programs might be a good option for your family:
If you’re looking for 1:1 support for your teen, please connect with us here. Online teen groups are available here. Additionally, Antelope Recovery is currently preparing to launch a virtual intensive outpatient program for adolescents who need support beyond once-a-week therapy. Stay tuned for how to participate.