The good news for parents in this situation is that help—lots of it—is available!
As pointed our in our previous article, the first line of defense are parents that actively communicate with their children and the therapeutic support systems that already surround our youth—school counselors, religious leaders, and community therapists. Providing the opportunity for our struggling teens to talk through their issues, doubts, and concerns helps a certain percentage of them to gain the clarity to put such problems in perspective and move on.
What do you do when it doesn’t—when the pain is so deep that more help is required? There is no right answer or formula for every family. In every case, consult your local counselor or therapist to determine what is best for you. But what follows are some general guidelines and suggestions that have proven effective for many over the years.
Many residential programs provide troubled teen help that is specific to the nature of your teen’s issues. For example, some interventions are local, often hospital based, and provide therapy in group or individual settings without having the teen relocate. If parents and a school counselor or community therapist are the first line of defense, then moving past them to these more intensive day-treatment programs or other type of more clinically intensive community-based programs are second.
Additionally, many youth whose out of control or dangerous behaviors are not being addressed by therapy are sometimes well served psychiatrically, particularly when there is a diagnosis of some mental health issue. Bipolar Disorder, depression, and much more can be moderated to some degree with appropriate medication management. When local therapy is not working, some level of psychiatric support may well be in order.
Also, be aware that therapeutic options change considerably when a child turn 18, so the parent of a troubled 17 year old might need to be more aggressive than one whose struggling teen is 15 or 16 in dealing with trauma or other issues driving dangerous behaviors.
When all of the above still isn’t working, many other forms of troubled teen help are also available: wilderness programs (often 5-8 weeks in length but quite expensive), residential treatment programs, and therapeutic boarding schools. While some parents initially are reluctant to consider any longer term treatment that occurs outside the homef, experience suggests that in most cases giving parents and child separation and space to work on their issues is actually a tremendous help to all.
Our next article will walk parents through the options found in residential treatment.
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