• Residential Treatment Center for Teens 14-17

Trauma

EMDR therapy

The Power of Using EMDR Therapy for Processing Trauma

The Power of Using EMDR Therapy for Processing Trauma 2560 1707 se_admin

When we hear the word “therapy” many people’s minds go to laying on a couch and talking through their feelings. The reality is that there are many different forms of therapy from family therapy to Cognitive Behavior Therapy. For teens processing trauma, whether that is from being bullied in school or experiencing physical harm, some therapies may be more effective than others. And while it can be difficult to find the right therapy for your teen who has experienced trauma, one practice that can be incredibly beneficial is EMDR.

What is EMDR?

EMDR or Eye Motion Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. EMDR works by stimulating the brain in ways that lead it to process unprocessed or unhealed memories, leading to a natural restoration and adaptive resolution, decreased emotional charge and linkage to positive memory networks.

During an EMDR session, your therapist will move their finger back and forth in front of your face and ask you to track the motion with your eyes. At the same time, the therapist will ask you to recall a traumatic event. This will include the emotions and body sensations that go along with it. Gradually, your therapist will guide you to shift your thoughts to more pleasant ones, they may use finger movements, hand or toe tapping, or musical tones. 

People who use the technique believe that EMDR can weaken the effect of negative emotions. Before and after each EMDR treatment, your therapist will ask you to rate your level of distress. The hope is that your traumatic memories will become less disabling.

How Can EMDR Help Teens with Trauma

EMDR can help teens who have experienced trauma address and work through those memories, sensations, and emotions and resume normal, adaptive, and healthy processing. An experience that may have triggered a negative response may no longer affect them the way it used to after EMDR treatment. The hope is that those difficult experiences will likely become less upsetting.

Another benefit of EMDR is that it is rooted in mindfulness and nonjudgmental awareness that can lead to transformative healing. It is about becoming aware of the reactions around a traumatic memory and learning how to redirect those thought patterns. After a successful course of EMDR therapy, trauma survivors can learn to approach situations with equanimity and flexibility, yet appropriate caution.

Solstice East Can Help

The Solstice mission is to support adolescents, and their families, in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journeys. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff. 

We believe that a holistic approach is an effective way to help young women truly heal from trauma.  Instead of focusing on one specific “problem” area or issue, we treat the entire person (mind, body and spirit). It is our belief that cutting-edge and evidence-based therapeutic approaches such as EMDR, neurofeedback, somatic experiencing, Trauma-Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (TF-EAP), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and gender-specific addictions treatment are essential to your daughter’s healing process. For more information please call (828) 471-0221.

trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy

How Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help Teens

How Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help Teens 2560 1707 se_admin

Trauma is the experience of severe psychological distress following any terrible or life-threatening event. Many teens experience some sort of trauma in our lives. It can be anything from parents getting divorced to experiencing a natural disaster. Psychology Today tells us that people who have experienced trauma “may develop emotional disturbances such as extreme anxiety, anger, sadness, survivor’s guilt, or PTSD. They may experience ongoing problems with sleep or physical pain, encounter turbulence in their personal and professional relationships, and feel a diminished sense of self-worth due to the overwhelming amount of stress.” If you notice your teen struggling with similar symptoms, Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) can help.

What is TF-CBT?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts by interrogating and uprooting negative or irrational beliefs. A short-term intervention that generally lasts anywhere from eight to 25 sessions, Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy addresses the specific emotional and mental health needs of children, adolescents, adult survivors, and families who are struggling to overcome the destructive effects of early trauma. 

How TF-CBT Can Help Teens

Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is designed to create a supportive atmosphere where children and adolescents are made comfortable enough to discuss their traumatic experience. TF-CBT encourages parents and their adolescents to work together to create a “therapeutic” alliance between themselves and their therapist. This positive support can help teens disrupt those negative or irrational beliefs. TF-CBT can also be experiential. By experiencing situations that once triggered post-traumatic responses, teens can overcome their trauma and begin the path to healing. TF-CBT can be paired with experiential therapies such as adventure or equine therapy.

How Do I Help My Teen Receive TF-CBT?

A residential treatment center (RTC) like Solstice East can help your daughter begin to treat her trauma with TF-CBT. The Solstice mission is to support adolescents, and their families, in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journeys. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff. To learn more please click here, or call (855) 672-7058.

complex trauma in teens

What’s the Difference Between PTSD and Complex Trauma in Teens?

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As a society, we are making progress in understanding the effects of PTSD and ways to internally heal from experiencing traumatic events. However, we know a lot less about how trauma compounds over time and the effect it has on relationships. Some psychologists propose that there is a difference between the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Complex PTSD, which suggests that a different treatment approach may be necessary for individuals who have experienced complex trauma. 

What is Complex Trauma?

It is important to note that complex trauma, as compared to simple trauma, does not mean that the type of event one experienced was more distressing or shocking. In fact, Complex-PTSD is closely related to the events and symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. The main difference is that PTSD is generally related to a single event or series of events within a short period of time, while complex PTSD is related to a series of events that repeatedly occurred over an extended period of time. PTSD is more likely to be associated with flashbacks of a particular event, vulnerability to specific triggers, or difficulty coping with a major life transition, while symptoms of Complex PTSD are more pervasive and can be generalized to any number of stressful situations. Individuals who have experienced complex trauma are more likely to live in a constant state of anxiety or, conversely, may have trouble distinguishing red flags based on normalizing their experiences.

Some examples of causes of complex trauma may stem from:

  • Experiencing childhood neglect
  • Experiencing physical or sexual abuse early in life
  • Frequent changes of caregivers, such as while in the foster care system or being adopted
  • Being targeted by multiple perpetrators, such as bullying or recurring sexual assault

How Are the Symptoms Different From PTSD?

In addition to the standard symptoms of PTSD, an individual with complex PTSD may also experience:

  • A persistently negative self-view. They are more likely to internalize that trauma was their fault and feel ashamed to discuss details. It is harder for them to identify their strengths based on a lack of positive core memories.
  • Fixed negative worldview. Based on repeated trauma, they are more likely to believe they have evidence that the world is a negative place or to have lost faith in previously held beliefs.
  • Detachment from trauma. It is not uncommon for a person to dissociate from their emotions and physical sensations. Some may lose the memory of the events or chunks of their lives in order to separate themselves from what happened and focus on survival.
  • Preoccupation with people involved in the trauma. While one of the features of PTSD is a fixation on the event itself, people with complex trauma are more likely to focus on the people involved and are more likely to be attached to their abusers, witnesses, or others who experienced the same thing by the same person.

How Does Complex Trauma Affect Relationships with Others?

People with C-PTSD are more likely to struggle with maintaining a support system due to difficulties trusting others and interacting with others. As a result, they are at an increased risk of re-experiencing relational trauma throughout their lifetime based on poor boundaries and security in relationships.

They are also more likely to be diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) based on inconsistencies in relationships. Key differences include a fear of abandonment that is specific to BPD and a more stable sense of self-identity seen in C-PTSD that is not seen as consistently with BPD. 

While teenagers who have experienced complex trauma are more likely to avoid relationships and push away social support, developing healthy relationships is one of the primary ways they can begin to change their worldview and sense of self. Relationship-based therapy may be more effective for teens with C-PTSD than reprocessing traumatic events, especially due to memory issues and the length of their trauma histories. 

Relationship-based therapy takes a client-centered approach to talking about emotions and behaviors in order to validate one’s internal experience and fearful worldview. Rather than focusing on past events, therapists work with teens to help them analyze their current relationships and patterns/dynamics that are playing out. From there, they can begin to discuss whether these patterns are helpful or hurtful when it comes to building trust and security in relationships and suggest alternatives. The goal of relationship-based therapy is to help individuals become less avoidant of relationships and practice setting boundaries based on their personal wants and needs.

Solstice East Can Help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for young women ages 14-18 who are reclaiming their sense of self after experiencing traumatic events, depression, and addictive behaviors. We help young women heal from emotional pain by reintegrating healthy habits into their lives. Students learn to build healthy relationships, cope with emotions, and effectively communicate with others. Through adventure activities and creative expression, we encourage girls to explore their passions and strengths and empower them to make healthy choices.

For more information about how we help girls cope with trauma, call 828-484-9946.

dialectical behavioral therapy

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Used in Experiential Groups

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It’s no surprise that teens often struggle with actively participating in group therapy sessions, as it is difficult for them to talk about their feelings. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is a successful model, often used in group therapy, that offers a variety of strategies to help teens cope. Students are encouraged to use diary cards to remind them of how they’ve used these skills throughout the week, however, it is harder to remember to apply them in the moment. Solstice East offers a weekly Experiential DBT group that is focused on team-building initiatives to encourage teens to practice these skills in action.

What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is a type of therapy used to help clients manage self-destructive behaviors, problematic relational patterns, and overwhelming emotions. It is based on the concept that a person’s actions make sense within the context of their personal experiences without necessarily agreeing that they are the best approach to solving the problem. Each area includes a number of skills that help teens come up with an action plan when facing a difficult situation.

  • Emotion Regulation. Students learn to determine when and why they develop overwhelming emotions and how to better manage those emotions.
  • Distress Tolerance. These skills focus on managing highly upsetting, distressful situations with effectiveness and resilience. 
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness. These skills help students express their beliefs and feelings effectively.  We teach students how to set limits, be assertive, and problem-solve to develop meaningful relationships.
  • Mindfulness. Students learn to stay “in the moment”, become more aware, and focus less on the negatives and more on the positives.  

 

 

Specialty Group Options

“Typically, our specialty groups are centered around discussion topics and students are divided into groups based on their individual needs. While this personalized approach is beneficial for teens, students who struggle with learning differences and social communication benefit from a more hands-on approach that helps them understand the value of psychoeducation in their everyday lives,” explains Adventure Therapy Specialist Dan Horseman. 

For this reason, some of our specialty groups are more interactive to encourage students to engage. We also integrate elements of group therapy into off-campus outings and adventure activities by encouraging teens to reflect on their experiences. Group therapy helps students build trust with each other and develop closer bonds.

Examples of specialty groups offered at Solstice East include:

  • Adoption
  • Grief and loss
  • Trauma
  • Body image
  • Depression
  • Substance Abuse
  • Equine Therapy
  • Relationship Processing Groups
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT Experiential Group For Every Student

Experiential Specialty Groups involve every team and multiple therapists, which gives teens the opportunity to focus on broader themes, like communication, teamwork, group dynamics, and leadership. 

“We’ll choose experiential activities and pair them with a topic, like healthy boundaries, and give students the opportunity to practice those boundaries in a structured way,” describes Horseman. “We start with psychoeducation about the topic for all the teams and then break up into team-building initiatives. Then, we debrief with students and point out what we have noticed, celebrating successes and encouraging students to practice certain skills.” 

Many students who have made progress in their daily lives are pushed out of their comfort zone whenever they participate in these experiential activities. When deeper patterns in how they respond to situations and how they feel about themselves are revealed, it gives them insight into topics they may want to work through in sessions. Lessons are then integrated into weekly off-campus activities, community service, and adventure camping trips to provide a context for students to apply these skills in real-life settings.

Solstice East Can Help 

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for young women ages 14-18 struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, and addictive behaviors. This program focuses on helping young women heal, recover, and integrate healthy habits into their lives. Students will learn to build healthy relationships, cope with emotions, and effectively communicate. Solstice East gives young women the skills and confidence they need to lead happy and healthy lives. We can help your family today!

Contact us at  828-759-5909 to learn more about experiential therapy.

childhood trauma

Why We Screen Every Student for Childhood Trauma

Why We Screen Every Student for Childhood Trauma 2560 1707 se_admin

This year, California’s Surgeon General, Nadine Burke Harris, announced that she wanted to screen every student for Adverse Childhood Experiences and trauma before entering school. Through her career, she recognized that there was a strong association between the adversity and trauma her patients experienced and their school functioning. Residential treatment centers acknowledge that addressing childhood trauma is key to helping students thrive in and out of the classroom.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began a study on youth trauma in the late 1990’s, known as Adverse Childhood Experiences, that specified ten categories of stressful or traumatic childhood events. This study showed that sustained stress caused biochemical changes in the brain and increased the risk of developing physical and mental health issues.

“It could be it shows up in tummy aches. Or it’s impulse control and behavior, and we offer a care plan,” explains Burke Harris. “Instead of reacting harshly and punitively, every educator is trained in recognizing these things. Instead of suspending and expelling or saying, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ we say, ‘What happened to you?'”

Examples of childhood trauma:

 

  • Being bullied or socially rejected
  • Divorce of parents
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Adoption
  • Abuse
  • Family history of mental illness or substance abuse

 

 

Assessment Services

When we acknowledge how traumatic events can lead to seeking unhealthy coping mechanisms, we are better able to address the root issues that teens may be experiencing. As trauma can be difficult to disclose to others and, often, can be difficult for teens to recognize, we conduct comprehensive, ongoing assessments that screen every teen for childhood trauma. This includes catastrophic events, considered Big-T Traumas, and experiences that have impacted their relationships and self-esteem called little-t traumas. While we have specific support groups for teens who have experienced traumatic events, our approach is aligned with trauma-informed care for every student. 

Trauma-Focused Therapy

We believe that a holistic approach is an effective way to help young women truly heal from trauma.  Instead of focusing on one specific “problem” area or issue, we treat the entire person (mind, body, and spirit). It is our belief that cutting-edge and evidence-based therapeutic approaches such as EMDR, neurofeedback, somatic experiencing, Trauma-Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (TF-EAP), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and gender-specific addictions treatment are essential to your daughter’s healing process.

Solstice East Can Help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for young women ages 14-18 who are reclaiming their sense of self after experiencing traumatic events, depression, and addictive behaviors. We help young women heal from emotional pain by reintegrating healthy habits into their lives. Students learn to build healthy relationships, cope with emotions, and effectively communicate with others. Through adventure activities and creative expression, we encourage girls to explore their passions and strengths and empower them to make healthy choices.

For more information about how we help girls cope with trauma, call 828-484-9946.

daughter who has experienced trauma

What to Say To Your Daughter Who Has Experienced Trauma

What to Say To Your Daughter Who Has Experienced Trauma 2560 1706 se_admin

According to the Center for Disease Control, two in five women in the United States experience some form of sexual trauma in their lifetime. Although these statistics make it seem relatively common, everyone experiences it differently, which makes it difficult to make generalizations about how to talk to survivors. #MeToo is a powerful statement, but it is not always reassuring for young girls who have experienced trauma. Starting conversations about PTSD can be hard for both parents and their daughters. Parents can use these strategies to help their daughter who has experienced trauma feel validated and supported. 

Wait For Your Daughter Who Has Experienced Trauma to Reach Out

Between 60 and 90% of teens who have experienced trauma seek help informally from friends and family members. The most common barrier to reaching out for help is the perception that it is a personal issue and that their experience is too unique for others to understand. As they may not know what kind of support to ask for, they are often hesitant about sharing their experiences with others and sounding like a victim. It can be frustrating to take a step back and wait for them to approach you, but inserting yourself into the situation can make them feel more overwhelmed.

Let Them Take the Lead

Many parents struggle with knowing the right thing to do or say to their daughter who has experienced trauma. They want their daughter to feel comfortable trusting them with details and coming to them for advice, but their daughter may not be ready to speak openly about what they’ve been dealing with. When they do reach out, their thoughts are often scattered and they may disclose things in pieces. Be patient. The most important thing to say is “I believe you.” 

Thank Them 

Acknowledge that sometimes it can feel just as painful to share their experience with others as it can to hold it in. There is a lot of fear associated with being judged, invalidated, or blamed for a situation. It is an honor to be trusted as a safe person to go to and process their experience. 

Give Them the Power to Take Action 

Teens are more likely to avoid the subject if they feel like it is someone else’s goal to talk about it, not theirs. Our trauma-informed model offers a variety of treatment modalities to heal the effects of trauma that allows teens to explore what works for them. Our treatment team collaborates with students to come up with individualized treatment plans based on their needs. The healing process begins when they are ready. We take a relationship-based approach to building trust, confidence, and empowerment that emphasizes community support. Your daughter is not alone.

Solstice East Can Help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for young women ages 14-18 who are reclaiming their sense of self after experiencing traumatic events, depression, and addictive behaviors. We help young women heal from emotional pain by reintegrating healthy habits into their lives. Students learn to build healthy relationships, cope with emotions, and effectively communicate with others. Through adventure activities and creative expression, we encourage girls to explore their passions and strengths and empower them to make healthy choices.

For more information about how we help girls cope with trauma, call 828-484-9946.

 

talk therapy

Alternates to Talk Therapy for Anxious Teens

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In the middle of a panic attack, teens may experience overwhelming physical sensations that make it difficult to breathe, let alone gather their thoughts and talk about their experiences. Sometimes anxious teens don’t want to talk about how they’re feeling because they worry their fears may sound irrational or their thoughts are racing so fast, it can be difficult to pinpoint what is really going on. Talk therapy is not always effective when teens are experiencing intense emotions or struggle with self-awareness. Mindfulness and movement can be valuable alternatives to talk therapy for anxious teens.

Difficulty Understanding Emotions

Many teens have a difficult time managing their emotions as it is hard to understand what they are feeling. Adolescence is a period of significant changes—physically, emotionally, socially, and neurologically. The brain develops at such a rapid pace that areas responsible for emotions are flooded with activity. When these areas are hyperactive, teens with anxiety often go into fight-or-flight mode, which makes it hard to connect with areas that help with reasoning and decision-making that are still developing.

When teens develop a larger emotional vocabulary, they are better able to articulate what they feel, explore possible causes, and accept their emotional experience for what it is. Accepting their feelings gives them more room to change how they feel than labeling these feelings as “bad” or “wrong.”

Listening to Somatic Experiences 

Often, physical sensations of anxiety are so overwhelming that teens find it easier to name butterflies in their stomach than specific fears they may be worried about. Teens with anxiety may feel sick more often, even if there doesn’t seem to be a medical explanation for their ongoing symptoms. 

Many teens believe that emotions and physical sensations are separate, but they tend to inform each other. Acknowledging this connection allows teens to try self-soothing techniques that take care of their physical body in order to manage anxious thoughts, which can be easier than identifying and challenging anxious beliefs.

The Value of Experiential Learning

Teens learn more from experience than they do from lectures. We believe that teens don’t need to talk about their feelings in order to effectively process them if they’re not ready, if they don’t want to, or if it doesn’t feel right.

Some alternates to Talk Therapy include:

  • Journaling, which allows teens to explore their anxious thoughts without sharing them with others
  • Drawing, which encourages teens to express their emotions without using words
  • Practicing grounding meditation or doing a body scan to check in with physical anxiety
  • Practicing yoga helps teens link movement with their breath
  • Neurophysiological tools, like Brainspotting and Neurofeedback
  • Equine Assisted Therapy helps address social anxiety
  • Adventure activities and other physical activities help teens build confidence

Solstice East Can Help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for young women ages 14-18 struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, and addictive behaviors. This program focuses on helping young women heal, recover, and integrate healthy habits into their lives. Students will learn to build healthy relationships, cope with emotions, and effectively communicate. Solstice East gives young women the skills and confidence they need to lead happy and healthy lives. We can help your family today!

Contact us at  828-484-9946 to learn more about experiential therapy.

borderline personality disorder

Reframing Borderline Personality Disorder as Childhood Trauma

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We need to start talking about borderline personality disorder for what it really is: a complex response to trauma. While traumatic experiences don’t necessarily trigger signs of a borderline personality, up to 60% of people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder have co-occuring PTSD. It is understood as a combination of genetic factors and early childhood experiences that influence attachment styles, coping mechanisms, and interpersonal relationships. Reframing Borderline Personality Disorder as Childhood Trauma helps psychologists understand underlying causes and frees teens from the label of fundamental problems with their personality.

Defining Characteristics of a Borderline Personality:

  • Unstable self-image
  • Instability in relationships
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Intense emotions
  • Impulsive behaviors

Environmental Factors:

One of the reasons Borderline traits are considered a personality issue is that most people diagnosed with the disorder do not respond to medication, which suggests that it is more environmental than biological in nature. While Borderline traits persist over an extended period of time, they tend to intensify when triggered by stress or traumatic events.

The relationship between traumatic events and Borderline is unclear. While Borderline may be a response to trauma, people with these traits are also more vulnerable to abuse. Between 40 and 86 percent of BPD sufferers report sexual abuse, up to 75 percent say they were emotionally abused, up to 73 percent report physical abuse, and between 17 and 25 percent experienced severe emotional neglect. Following these experiences, they have developed belief systems about their self-worth and an unstable view of relationships based on hurt and manipulation.

Deconstructing Borderline

The similarities between complex PTSD and BPD are numerous. Patients with both conditions have difficulty regulating their emotions; they experience persistent feelings of emptiness, shame, and guilt; and they have a significantly elevated risk of suicide. In some ways, some signs of borderline mimic signs of autism in relation to inconsistent social skills and reactions to an intense world.

When you take away judgments of character associated with a borderline personality, the disorder is characterized by:

  • History of developmental trauma or reactive attachment
  • Rigid processing
  • Sensory sensitivity
  • Slower nonverbal processing

Problems with a Personality Disorder Label

Labeling people with BPD as having a personality disorder can escalate their poor self-esteem. “Personality disorder” translates in many people’s minds as a personality flaw, and this can lead to or intensify an ingrained sense of worthlessness and self-loathing.

This means people with BPD may view themselves more negatively, but can also lead other people – including those closest to them – to do the same. 

Taking a Trauma-Informed Approach

When reframed as childhood trauma, psychologists are better prepared to address underlying issues and come up with concrete solutions. The “personality label” reinforces learned helplessness and treatment-resistance. Using a trauma-informed approach, psychologists look at teens’ individual strengths and needs to find a way to connect with them. The goal of treatment becomes learning how to establish healthy relationships based on personal values and fears.

Solstice East Can Help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for teen girls ages 14-18 struggling with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, trauma, and addictive behaviors. Many of the girls we work with have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and have internalized hopelessness in relationships based on this diagnosis. Our relationship-based program focuses on helping young women heal unhealthy relationships, cope with emotions, and effectively communicate. Solstice East gives young women the skills and confidence they need to lead happy and healthy lives.

Contact us at (855) 672-7058 to learn more about borderline personality disorder. We can help your family today!

roberto-delgado-webb-washV-MnHRA

Rebuilding a Relationship with Yourself After Trauma

Rebuilding a Relationship with Yourself After Trauma 3729 4661 se_admin

All relationships mirror the relationship you have with yourself. This goes both ways. Teens learn to take care of themselves the way they’ve been taken care of and are better prepared to trust others, forgive others, and respect others if they are able to treat themselves the same way. According to the novel, the Perks of Being a Wallflower, “we accept the love we think we deserve.” While traumatic events can take a significant toll on the body’s ability to manage stress, the hardest part to overcome is the effect it has on relationship and identity issues. Helping teens rebuild a relationship with themselves after trauma is key to developing healthy relationships and coping mechanisms.

The Hidden Effects of Trauma

Addiction specialist Gabor Mate explains “trauma is not about what happened to you, but the disconnection from yourself that happened as a result of whatever the stressor was.” The defense mechanisms that teens develop to cope with childhood trauma result from teens trying to create a false self whose value depends on what other think of them as a form of self-protection. However, this method reinforces the self-sacrifice, self-doubt, and self-sabotage that many teens recovering from trauma experience rather than addressing it. 

When teens are struggling with trauma, it affects multiple areas of their lives. It is not just about the memories of traumatic events; it is about the messages they’ve internalized about why those events happened and how they shape their sense of self. Teens are more likely to develop PTSD than older people based on difficulties with self-awareness, emotion regulation, decision-making, and identity formation during this transitional phase of their lives.

Traumatic stress refers to overwhelming feelings of terror, fixation on a traumatic event, and perpetual fear of retraumatization in the aftermath, but it is associated with other underlying issues:

  • Helplessness
  • Loss of trust
  • Deep-rooted guilt and shame
  • Doubting one’s memories
  • Cynical worldview
  • Fear of perceived abandonment
  • Taking too much responsibility for events that have occurred
  • Internalizing that they deserved the experience
  • Difficulty separating current self from traumatized self

How Trauma Effects One’s Sense of Identity

For teens, adolescence is all about determining who they are, who they want to be, where they fit in and where they don’t, as they establish a sense of identity that is separate from their parents. They begin to pay more attention to how other people view them and often value other people’s opinions more than their own. 

Some examples of identity issues in adolescence may include:

  • Becoming attached to their online self, where they are in control of how they are portrayed by others
  • Acting out to fit in through risky behaviors
  • Adopting other people’s personalities either for approval or a way to feel “normal”
  • Rebelling against authority figures by expressing mistrust
  • Basing their sense of identity around group membership
  • Trying on different personalities, either through exploring different interests or friend groups

Helping Teens Re-establish a Healthy Sense of Self 

  • Discuss what they think their basic needs are. Many teens with PTSD are stuck in “survival mode, ” however, they struggle to meet their basic needs. If they experience nightmares, they may be afraid of going to sleep. Or they may sleep too much to escape from reality. Anxiety may take away their appetite or they may crave unhealthy foods. Many teens struggle with suicidal ideation and don’t believe their basic needs deserve to be met. Other people may consider physical safety, boundaries, and trust should be their basic needs and feel a sense of injustice that they may have been taken away from them. Self-care is a difficult concept during early recovery.
  • Encourage them to separate themselves from the events that have happened to them. Remind them that events that occurred and the way they’ve responded to them are not their fault. Teens are empowered to take back control of their lives when they recognize that past experiences may shape who they are, but do not have to shape their future. As they understand that it is not uncommon for them to feel distant from things they used to enjoy or people they used to be close with, they can begin to move forward and use those things as motivation.
  • Talk about their inner child. Although they are still young, trauma can make teens grow up quickly. They may feel like they’ve lost their innocence or missed out on opportunities to be a kid. While it can be hard to recognize and validate their own needs, thinking about their needs as if they were someone else’s, particularly a younger child, helps them show more compassion towards themselves in the moment. 
  • Help them create personal goals. Many teens feel like their old goals are no longer relevant or no longer possible if they are struggling to cope with trauma. While it is important to validate the pain of their experiences, it is helpful to recognize how this may shape new goals in their relationship with themselves or how they want to help or educate others. Self-discovery and re-connection knows no limits, but setting smaller goals can help teens be more intentional about what values are still important to them and how they can apply them in their lives.

 

Solstice East Can Help 

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for young women ages 14-18 who are reclaiming their sense of self after experiencing traumatic events, depression, and addictive behaviors. We help young women heal from emotional pain by reintegrating healthy habits into their lives. Students learn to build healthy relationships, cope with emotions, and effectively communicate with others. Through adventure activities and creative expression, we encourage girls to explore their passions and strengths and empower them to make healthy choices. As a relationship-based program, we emphasize rebuilding family relationships and developing close bonds with mentors, staff, and peers.

For more information about how we help girls cope with trauma, call 828-484-9946.

healthy living and PTSD

Mind and Body: Healthy Living and PTSD

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Healthy Living and PTSD are interconnected during the treatment process. While one is working to cope with the symptoms of PTSD, healthy living should also be made a priority. Research from PsychCentral talks about how “the nervous system and brain do not operate separately from the physical body. When we are hurt emotionally and mentally, leveraging the power of lifestyle change should be an important part of the treatment process and effective recovery.”

Making the choice to lead a healthy lifestyle can be challenging because one may not know where to start. After all, starting is the hardest part. Addressing both diet and exercise should be included in pursuing healthy living habits. If your young adult has PTSD, you know how the symptoms can be sometimes overwhelming to cope with. Coming up with a plan to get on a healthy track is important so that things do not worsen for you loved one. Here are two very critical components in ensuring a healthier lifestyle:

Food and Fuel

Diet plays a huge role in one’s overall mental health and wellbeing. Did you know nutrition affects the structure and function of the brain? Studies show that a diet high in sugar and processed carbs can increase one’s risk of depression. Individuals should prioritize eating foods like fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and fish which have a beneficial impact on mood and body.

Get Moving for More Benefits

Exercise offers many benefits towards the brain and functioning of the nervous system. Studies show that there are lower anxiety and depression rates in those who exercise regularly. Given that these are common mental health issues associated with PTSD, exercising is an important way to help prevent and cope. Yoga and/or aerobic activity offers limitless benefits towards ones physical and emotional wellbeing.

Solstice East can help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for young women ages 14-18 struggling with behavior and emotional issues such as those that can stem from peer-relationship struggles. This program focuses on helping young women heal, recover, and integrate healthy habits into their lives. Students will learn to build healthy relationships, cope with emotions, and effectively communicate. Solstice East gives young women the skills and confidence they need to lead happy and healthy lives. We can help your family today!

Contact us at (855) 672-7058.