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.
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 most important things you can do to support your gender-expansive child.
This research adds to the growing body of evidence that adolescents’ perception of their parents’ support may be the key protective factor in the teens’ mental health. It’s that support that parents want to nurture.
Starting a conversation with your teen can be challenging in the best of times, let alone if you are worried about their well-being and emotional safety. You might be seeing signs of anxiety and depression, or even worried about self-harm or other behaviors indicating they are struggling. How do you broach potentially difficult topics? There is no right answer, but here are a few ideas to spark a connection. Beneath whatever protective exterior your teen is displaying, inside they simply want to know they are loved and cared for. Simply showing an interest can have surprising results.
1. What's your favorite song right now, do you think I'd like it?
2. What is the most embarrassing thing I do?
3. If your life was a TV show, which one would it be?
4. If an alien landed in your class today, what would they be most surprised to see?
5. If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
1. What would your perfect day look like?
2. What are the best parts and hardest parts of your day?
3. What did you do that you are most proud of today?
4. If you could start today all over again, is there anything you would do differently?
5. Did you see any acts of kindness today at school?
1. What is it that makes you feel sad and why?
2. What do you do when you feel sad or upset?
3. How can I best support you?
4. What do you need from me? (distraction, space, time, etc)
5. How do you soothe yourself when you're feeling scared?
1. I love you, and nothing will ever change that.
2. Even if I don't understand, know that I want to.
3. We are going to get through this together.
4. If you talk to me about what is worrying you, I will do my best to help.
5. You can talk to me, I am always here for you. You can talk to someone else, that's okay too.
While these may start a conversation, remember it's the listening to their responses that is the most important. Encourage with a "hmmm" or "tell me more" to keep the ball rolling. Your teen may not show appreciation in the moment, but they will know you are there, and care.
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.