If going into the woods sounds like an intimidating prospect, or the opposite of a therapeutic experience, it may be worth a second look. Wilderness therapy is growing in popularity because of its effectiveness with a multitude of populations, including kids. In a survey of 858 participants of wilderness therapy, 83% reported that they had maintained progress and made ongoing improvement two years later. Of the group surveyed, 81% felt that outdoor behavioral healthcare treatment is an effective approach. It is so effective a group of wilderness treatment programs built a collaborative in 1996 called Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council. This group of licensed mental health providers had seen the effectiveness of the model in practice, and knew that as a group, they could offer more to their clients and share best practices.
Why the Wilderness Heals
What is it about being out in nature that offers such a therapeutic benefit? Is it the fresh air? The trees? The open sky? Yes. It is all these things, and more. Wilderness therapy offers a separation from the everyday experiences of one’s life and helps people recalibrate their perspective. When we are in nature, particularly in a wilderness therapy setting, we are forced to hit pause on our automatic thoughts, shift our focus over to the moment, and tune into a more mindful part of ourselves. The wilderness reminds us that we are a small part of something incredibly beautiful and vast; it reassures us that our challenges will pass, just as the changing leaves, and the water rushing down the river.
Wilderness therapy also builds a sense of self-efficacy. Teens struggling with self-esteem and challenges with depression find that they are more capable than they had realized. Recognizing one’s own resilience is empowering. Pushing their own abilities in rugged terrain reminds teens that they are stronger than they thought; this translates into other aspects of life. Wilderness therapists help kids untangle self-perceptions that no longer serve them and reestablish a sense of self that builds on strengths and abilities.
Disconnection from Distractions
It seems like most of us are riddled with distractions in our lives. We get caught up in the stuff of daily life, and often technology is a major factor. Wilderness therapy removes those distractions and helps teens get back to themselves. Sometimes that disconnection from technology is just what is needed to help us wake up to our thoughts, feelings, and other interests in life. Rather than being a captive audience to a screen, or to the opinions of others on social media sites, teens can take a break and reconnect to nature while challenging the body and mind.
Who Benefits from Wilderness Therapy?
Who Benefits from Some people have a misconception that wilderness therapy is a punishment for kids with behavioral problems. It is important to disconnect from this notion, since anyone can benefit from this progressive, evidenced-based treatment model. Wilderness therapy is beneficial for a wide range of needs. At OBHC, scores for anxiety, depression, and stress declined between admission and graduation from the program. At a six month follow up, most teens continued to experience a decrease in these symptoms. Wilderness therapy offers wide ranging benefits and is ideal for most teens who are struggling emotionally.
Nature and Nurture
People who have experienced trauma often have lasting aftereffects. Hypervigilance, mood swings, and intrusive thoughts can interfere with daily life, affecting sleep, causing behavioral outbursts, and impacting relationships. Wilderness therapy with a trained professional can be life changing for teens with PTSD. Individual, group, and family work can provide lasting benefits for reduction of symptoms and improvement of coping strategies.
Teens with substance use issues also benefit from wilderness therapy as a means of healing and reconnecting with one’s true self. Separating from the circumstances of daily life can be a healthy reset for teens who may be using substances as a means of connecting with others and have lost themselves in the process. Nature is our teacher; it nurtures and guides us toward our best selves, while offering challenging lessons about resilience and courage. A helpful podcast about wilderness therapy offers real stories of transformation and healing.
Teens and adults who try wilderness therapy are often surprised at how different they feel as a result. Even teens who enter OBHC reluctantly (73%) find connection in this treatment model. By the time treatment ends, 90% of enrolled teens are an action or maintenance phase. The therapy itself is effective, and when you factor in the benefits of exercise and fresh, clean air, the results are amplified. If you or a loved one is considering therapy options, wilderness therapy may be a great choice.
In my practice, I see a large number of students who identify as something other than male or female. Some are Transgender, or Gender-fluid, or the latest umbrella term, “Gender-Expansive.” Regardless of the definition, parents struggle with knowing how best to support them. Stanford University recently published a study on this very topic.
Tandy Aye, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford Medicine, and a pediatric endocrinologist at the Stanford Children’s Health Pediatric and Adolescent Gender Clinic, is the senior author of the study. Read the short interview with her through this link, to learn the top 5 things you can do to support your gender-expansive child.
Often when people hear the term EMDR as a mental health treatment method, they wonder three things: what do the letters stand for, will it hurt, and does it work? The answers to that three-part question are: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, no it does not hurt, and yes, it does work remarkably well for many people suffering trauma, and other painful experiences contributing to emotional pain. EMDR can begin to have an impact from the first few sessions of treatment, or can be integrated into existing therapy sessions.
What Happens in EMDR?
EMDR is a non-invasive treatment method developed to help a breadth of needs from attachment wounds to physical trauma. The mechanism of EMDR is fascinating, as it is neurologically based and works through six phases of cognitive, emotional, and physiological interventions. Therapists who are trained in EMDR take people through the process carefully and explain each element of treatment prior to starting.
EMDR essentially helps transfer deeply entrenched trauma and other ingrained experiences away from the automatic physiological responses of PTSD to minimize impact on daily life. When trauma reactions (such as increased heart rate, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and heightened cortisol levels) are reduced, our bodies have an opportunity to function properly, resulting in better quality of life and lower stress levels.
Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/portrait-man-male-person-adult-2194457/
“Failure to launch” is a term that refers to young adults who remain in the home of their parents or caregivers, for a longer period of time than what is traditionally expected. There are many reasons young adults struggle to gain or maintain independence.
Unfortunately, youth experiencing failure to launch are often misunderstood, even by loved ones and friends. What may seem like simple lack of motivation and unwillingness to take steps toward independence is usually something much more deeply rooted and difficult to conquer.
How Failure to Launch Starts and How it Presents
As with any situation involving human behavior, there is no singular presentation for failure to launch. Some young adults may have attempted to go to college but found that the pressures of school were overwhelming, while others may have become derailed by mental health or substance abuse. Many people in this situation have completed college and returned home, only to find it difficult to maintain a job or budget for rent and other expenses. There are also young adults who never left home after high school ended, paralyzed by fear about going out on their own or underemployed and not feeling capable of self-sufficiency.
Young adults in this type of situation may present in a variety of ways. They may seem withdrawn or sullen, irritable, or lacking self-confidence, or conversely, it may seem as though they are ok and not experiencing any emotional distress, but simply can not take forward steps toward their future. Whether they are an open book or fairly guarded about their emotions, it is likely that the young adult who remains at home is experiencing underlying complicated feelings about it. Many people in situations like this feel guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed about living at home, even if they do not regularly share that sentiment. Defensiveness and reluctance to talk about the situation is another common trait in young adults who are living in the family home for an extended period of time.
Can marijuana use cause something as extreme as psychosis? That is a frightening thing to consider, especially given the proliferation of weed use in our youth. The answer is a complicated one to assess. It is tricky due to the many factors that can potentially be at play. Although the research on this topic is growing, it's still somewhat limited. Nonetheless, I believe it's vital for us to look at the information we have, as the impact, particularly on adolescents and young adults can be serious.
So, what are the potential factors related to the connection between psychosis and the use of marijuana? Let's take a brief look.
What Factors Come Into Play?
Cannabis remains the most commonly used drug worldwide. Vaporizer pens, designer cannabis strains, edibles, and butane hash oil or “dabs” offer access to higher-than-ever-before concentrations of THC. With this increase in popularity, availability, and potency, many are looking closely at the connection between cannabis use and psychosis. Also known as cannabis-induced psychosis (CIP), this state of psychosis can occur due to many different causes.
Often even the most emotionally reticent teens connect with holiday wonder. It is, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year (or it is supposed to be, according to the song and the hyper-energetic festivity).
The holidays are likely to look far different this year, with Covid lurking around. Many of us are changing our plans and scaling back holiday gatherings, postponing trips to see family and friends, all in the name of safe social distancing practices. These are the wise choices we are making to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, but that doesn’t make it fun.
Impact of Covid Holiday on Teens
Even if your teen isn’t saying it openly, the shift in traditional festivities is likely impacting them emotionally. Teens who are already prone to depression and anxiety may feel the affect of these changes with greater depth but may not have the ability to articulate it.
What to Look For
If you are worried about your teen’s emotional health this holiday season, here are some things to pay attention to that may indicate internal struggle.
Sometimes anxiety and depressive symptoms aren’t outwardly noticeable and can impact your teen. A depressed or anxious teen might also be experiencing: