The category of anxiety disorders includes a wide range of mental health challenges that can have a decidedly negative impact on an adolescent’s life. Generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobia, separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia are just some of the conditions that fall under the general heading of anxiety disorders. Though the causes, symptoms, and effects of these disorders will vary based upon a variety of factors, the common experience of adolescents who are dealing with anxiety disorders is that their lives have been disrupted by excessive fear, anxiety, and related behavioral disturbances.
At Youth Care, we recognize the many ways that anxiety disorders can undermine a young person’s efforts to live a healthy and productive life, and we understand that treating adolescents who struggle with an anxiety disorder must take into account not only the disorder and its symptoms, but also the age and development of the afflicted individual. In other words, adolescents are different from adults, and their mental health treatment should reflect these differences. With more than 25 years of providing life-affirming mental and behavioral healthcare services to youth ages 11 to 17, we have developed effective programming that is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of adolescents.
Helping Your Child Get Treatment
The category of anxiety disorders contains several distinct diagnoses. If your child has been exhibiting symptoms that fall within this category, or if he or she has already been diagnosed with a specific type of anxiety disorder, the information in this section may help to clarify what steps you should take next.
- First, it is important to understand that an anxiety disorder, or any other type of mental health issue, should never be viewed as a character flaw or evidence of poor parenting. In a world that can often be intrusively judgmental, it is valuable to reassure yourself and your child that neither of you are to blame for his or her disorder.
- It is also extremely important not to focus on symptoms while failing to address the underlying cause of those symptoms. For example, forcing a child to go to school may appear to solve the problem of excessive absenteeism, but if that absenteeism is actually a symptom of social anxiety disorder or agoraphobia, the so-called solution may actually exacerbate the disorder.
- If you know or suspect that your child has developed an anxiety disorder, do not attempt to handle the problem on your own. Talk to a school guidance counselor, consult with your child’s pediatrician, or contact a mental health support organization in your community to educate yourself about the true nature of the challenge that your child is facing and to point you in the direction of programs that provide the treatment that he or she needs.
- Finally, be open and honest in an age-appropriate manner with your child. Discuss the steps you will be taking to get help, answer his or her questions as best you can, and reassure him or her of your continued love and support. Depending upon the specific disorder that your child is experiencing, treatment and recovery may involve a concerted long-term commitment. Prepare both yourself and your child for what may be a long path, and never lose sight of the progress that is made along the way.
Why Consider Treatment at Youth Care
Even in the most positive circumstances, adolescence can be an angst-filled experience. When the normal trials and tribulations of the adolescent years are accompanied by an anxiety disorder, the result can be devastating. An untreated anxiety disorder may prompt an adolescent to engage in self-defeating behaviors such as skipping school, abusing alcohol or other drugs, withdrawing from family and friends, and engaging in self-harm. In addition to exposing the adolescent to significant physical and emotional harm, these actions can also undermine his or her ability to make the academic progress and learn the social lessons that can be critical to a healthy transition into adulthood. Academic failure, the absence of meaningful interpersonal relationships, and the continued psychological pain of an anxiety disorder can make it extremely difficult for the young person to pursue a productive and satisfying future.
Types of Treatment Offered at Youth Care
At Youth Care, we offer residential care for the treatment of anxiety disorders in a peaceful, structured, home-like setting. In this comfortable, therapeutic environment, adolescents are able to receive the care they need in a realistic, family-like atmosphere that is fully conducive to true and lasting healing. Providing care for youth, aged 11 to 17, we, at Youth Care, are pleased to offer individualized programming that is tailored to meet each adolescent’s unique needs and enhance their already-existing skill set.
The residential program here at Youth Care is based on accountability, responsibility, and respect. A level system is used to provide constructive feedback to the students as they learn to show respect by displaying appropriate behaviors and earning privileges and increased levels of trust. This connection between accountability, responsibility, trust, and privileges is an important life lesson that can be used in our students’ future relationships and implemented as they achieve future successes.
At Youth Care, we believe in honoring the adolescents who are entrusted into our care by helping them understand the choices they have and the natural consequences that can occur as a result of the choices they make. We believe that this not only helps our students learn good decision-making skills, but it also enhances the confidence they have in themselves by showing them that they are capable of making those good decisions.
Throughout an adolescent’s time spent at Youth Care for the treatment of an anxiety disorder, he or she will have the opportunity to participate in the following interventions:
Medication management: The use of certain psychotropic medications may be beneficial in helping to alleviate some of the distressing symptoms that youth experience as a result of an anxiety disorder. Whether or not medication is used, however, will always be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending upon the particular needs of each adolescent. Students at Youth Care will meet with a psychiatrist once a week, and all medication management needs will be handled by the psychiatrist and Youth Care’s nursing and medical teams.
Individual therapy: Intensive individual therapy is a core component to the therapeutic process here at Youth Care. Students have the opportunity to meet with their primary therapists three times each week.
Additionally, students can meet with an addictions counselor once per week if they are struggling withsubstance abuse concerns.
Group therapy: Group therapy sessions play a major role in the treatment plans of our students at Youth Care. Group sessions are held on a daily basis and are broken down as follows:
- Recreational therapy groups are held 2 times each week.
- Music therapy groups are held 1 time each week.
- Process groups are held 3 times each week.
- Addictions groups are held 1 time each week.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) groups are held 1 time each week.
Family therapy: At Youth Care, we feel strongly that family integration is key in helping our students manage the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Because of this, we work hard to ensure that our students’ families are heavily involved in the treatment process. Family therapy sessions are held once each week and are led by each student’s primary therapist. Additionally, Parent Days are held every 6 to 8 weeks, offering educational seminars, multifamily group therapy, parent support groups, family therapy sessions, and family recreational activities.
Recreational therapy: When students engage in treatment for anxiety disorders at Youth Care, they will be offered a well-rounded approach to treatment that incorporates recreational activities into their schedules. Recreational therapy is designed to help students have a successful treatment experience byachieving physical, cultural, and social accomplishments. Recreational activities also provide students with opportunities to learn such valuable skills as teamwork, problem solving, communication, and trust. Furthermore, through participation in recreational activities, students can build better social skills, communication skills, coping skills, and interpersonal skills. They may also develop newfound interests, discover unknown talents, and experience an improvement in their self-esteem. Under the guidance and supervision of our licensed recreational therapist, students participate in in-house and community recreational activities 3 to 7 times per week.
Experiential therapy: In addition to the previously mentioned therapies, students receiving care for an anxiety disorder at Youth Care will have the opportunity to take part in different experiential therapies throughout the duration of their time spent in treatment. The frequency of these experiential therapies will be determined by each student’s primary therapist and may include the following:
- Exposure therapy
- Situational therapy
- Expressive therapy
Community service activities: Students will be involved in community service activities at least twice each month. We have found that having students participate in such activities affords them the opportunity to develop greater empathy and a broader understanding of others, both of which can aid in their own recovery. Examples of the community service activities that students may participate in include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Caring for animals at the Humane Society
- Filling shelves at the Food Bank
- Visiting the elderly
Academics: At Youth Care, we believe that every student deserves to achieve success in school and therefore view our academic programming as a therapeutic intervention. Our academic program is fully accredited, which allows students to earn school credits, increase their knowledge, and work towards achieving academic goals during their time at Youth Care. Students are enrolled in a full day’s curriculum, which takes place in a traditional academic setting and is led by a team of certified secondary education teachers and special education teachers who have been trained to work with students possessing a range of learning abilities. All students have academic goals and objectives included in their individualized treatment plans, and they will attend school from 9:00am to 5:00pm every weekday, with therapeutic interventions being interwoven throughout their daily schedules.
In addition to the residential treatment offered through Youth Care, we are also pleased to provide partial hospitalization programming (PHP) for students who do not require the intensity of the programming that is offered in a residential setting. This day treatment option allows youth to attend the same daily programming as those receiving residential treatment, yet return home at night.
If your child is suffering from the symptoms of an anxiety disorder and requires a safe, structured, and encouraging environment to work towards overcoming or managing his or her symptoms, look no further than Youth Care. Our specialized programming will be catered to meet your child’s every needs so that he or she can succeed in living the full, happy, healthy, and productive life that he or she deserves to be living.