How Behavioral Therapy Benefits Troubled Teens
Behavioral therapy is an umbrella term for types of therapy that treat mental health disorders. This form of therapy looks to identify and help change potentially self-destructive or unhealthy behaviors. It’s based on the idea that all behaviors are learned and that behaviors can be changed. The focus of treatment is often on current problems and how to change them.
Behavioral therapy has successfully been used to treat a large number of conditions. Teens struggling with a wide range of disorders such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, substance use, screen-addiction, eating disorders, ADHD, anger/rage and other mental health concerns including bipolar disorder can benefit from behavioral therapy.
It’s considered to be extremely effective when patients engage in this type of therapy – although local therapists that are trained in behavioral therapy, when dealing with a defiant teenager, it can be difficult when they are not willing to comply. This is why many parents consider residential treatment where behavioral therapy is implemented successfully and you can see positive change in your child.
Types of Behavioral Therapy
The majority of therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment centers typically include behavioral therapy to treat struggling teens. This can also be included in their enrichment programs such as horticulture therapy and animal assisted therapy.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT):
Teens who are treated with DBT learn behavioral skills in group therapy settings. They also receive individual therapy where they address personal challenges in their life and adapt and practice the new skills they have learned. During treatment, teens can also receive phone coaching from their therapist when they are facing challenges in their daily life.
DBT can help teens achieve greater self-acceptance, gain new skills, and learn to better tolerate distress.
During treatment, teens attend individual sessions as well as group therapy sessions where they receive skills training. During skills training, teens learn new skills, practice these skills in the group, share their experience, and gain support from other group members. Homework to be completed outside of these sessions is also common.
The key strategies used in DBT include:
- Mindfulness, which involves learning how to focus on the present moment without worrying about the past or future
- Distress tolerance, which involves using techniques such as distraction or self-soothing to better tolerate distressing emotions or situations
- Interpersonal effectiveness, which focuses on helping teens develop positive, healthy relationships
- Emotional regulation, which helps teens identify and label emotions and explore ways to cope with their feelings effectively
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):
CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on making connections between thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. Psychotherapists who use CBT help people identify and change dysfunctional patterns.
CBT is based on the idea that there is a clear link between thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. A teen who thinks they are socially awkward, for example, may then experience anxiety and avoid social interactions. CBT works by helping teens learn to identify their automatic negative thoughts and replace them with more helpful, realistic ones.
Teens often develop distorted core beliefs about themselves. CBT helps confront and modify those distortions. A psychotherapist using CBT would help a teen identify those unhealthy thought patterns that contribute to mental health problems. A therapist may ask a series of questions and ask the person to keep a thought record to help identify dysfunctional thoughts.
CBT helps teens learn how to interpret their environment differently. Compared to other therapeutic approaches CBT is generally short-term. Sometimes, only a handful of sessions are needed.
The approach is also very problem-focused which means it deals with issues in the present. Treatment providers aren’t likely to rehash a teen’s childhood or look for hidden meaning in their behavior. Instead, sessions focus on helping the teen with problems going on now.
Therapists can work with the teens to disrupt negative thought patterns from beginning, the teens can begin to regain a sense of control over their thoughts, and therefore, their feelings as well. This can be an incredibly powerful step and can provide teens with considerable relief from what they’re experiencing.
In conclusion, behavioral therapy can be successful with young people. A 2020 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that DBT was an effective treatment for reducing suicide attempts among teens who were at a high risk for suicide.
If you’ve exhausted your local resources for your at-risk teenager, contact us to learn more about residential treatment with behavioral therapy that could benefit your family.
Sources: VerywellFamily, Healthline Image provided by Pexels.