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Written by: Steven DeMille, Ph.D. LCMHC

It’s estimated that 60–75% of people in North America experience a traumatic event at some point. Trauma can have a lasting impact on a teen’s mental health and well-being. Whether it's the result of a single traumatic experience or ongoing stress, the effects of trauma can be severe and long-lasting. Treatment is essential to help teens heal and move forward.

A teenage trauma treatment program is a specialized program that is designed to help teens who have experienced traumatic events or ongoing stress. The goal of the program is to help teens process their traumatic experiences, cope with the emotional and psychological effects of the trauma, and learn new skills to manage their distressing symptoms.

In this article, we will explore the different types of trauma that teens may experience, the trauma symptoms to watch for, and the various trauma treatment options available to help teens cope and recover.

Among children and youth entering treatment… 82% have experienced at least one traumatic event before entering [the treatment program].

In This Article We’ll Discuss:
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    What is Teen Trauma?

    The American Psychological Association defines teen trauma as, “any disturbing experience that results in significant fear, helplessness, dissociation, confusion, or other disruptive feelings intense enough to have a long-lasting negative effect on a [teen]’s attitudes, behavior, and other aspects of functioning.”

    Behavior is the language of trauma. Children will show you before they tell you that they are in distress.

    Micere Keels

    Trauma, Hyperarousal & the Window of Tolerance

    The window of tolerance is a concept used in trauma therapy to describe the range of arousal levels that an individual can tolerate while functioning effectively. It refers to the range of physiological and emotional states that are considered normal and healthy. When we are within this window, we can think clearly, feel emotions without being overwhelmed by them, and respond to stress in adaptive ways.

    Our body’s stress response - Whenever we perceive a threat or danger, our body goes into a fight, flight, or freeze mode. The body’s sympathetic nervous system goes into a hyperarousal phase, releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare the body for action. This increases heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow to the muscles, and it is designed to help us quickly respond to danger. When danger has passed, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over and helps the body return to a state of rest and recovery. This process is known as the relaxation response, or “rest and digest”.

    The window of tolerance can be thought of as a "sweet spot" where we are not too under-aroused or too over-aroused.

    Trauma can shrink a teen’s window of tolerance, meaning that the range of arousal levels that your teen can tolerate becomes narrower. This can happen when the traumatic experience is overwhelming and causes a teen's nervous system to become stuck in a state of:

    • Hyperarousal- is when a teen’s stress response is stuck on “On” or chronically being over-aroused, resulting in an exaggerated startle response, hypervigilance, inability to relax, emotional flooding, sleeplessness, feeling anxiety, irritability, or even rage.
    • Hypoarousal - when a teen experiences a hyperarousal state that surpasses the amount of pain/emotional overwhelm their brain and body can tolerate they can plunge into a state of hypoarousal (shutting down or dissociating), resulting in exhaustion, flat affect, lethargy, feeling emotionally numb, disconnected, detached or dissociated.

    Traumatized teens may find themselves easily triggered and overwhelmed by ordinary life events and may find it difficult to regulate their emotions, leading to feeling anxious, irritable, or even panicked. Their cognitive functioning is limited and they may struggle to complete their daily responsibilities.

    Types of Trauma in Teens

    There are three main types of trauma: Acute, Chronic, or Complex Trauma. Though these categories of trauma are meant to give insight, a teen’s experience of trauma can be more nuanced and may not fit neatly into one category. For example, a traumatic experience may have both acute and complex elements; or, it may appear chronic, but the person may be responding to it as if it were acute.

    Types of traumas can overlap. Every teenager will have their own unique response to each scenario. A teen’s specific context, history, and situation should be taken into account when understanding their trauma. It's essential to seek the advice of a mental health professional to understand how best to support your teenager and help them cope with their unique experience of trauma.


    Types of Acute Trauma

    Acute trauma is the emotional and psychological distress caused by a single sudden, severe, and unexpected event that threatens a teen's emotional or physical well-being. This event can leave a lasting impact on a teenager's mind, and if left untreated, can affect their thoughts, behaviors, and overall functioning. Some types of acute trauma in teens include:

    • Physical abuse, assault, violence, or child abuse refers to physical violence or injury inflicted on a teen or child. This is especially traumatic if the violence occurs in the home. Parents need to be aware of the signs and take action if they suspect their child is being abused.
    • Sexual assault, violence, or rape refers to the many forms of sexual violence or exploitation where an adult or older child uses a child for their sexual gratification or pleasure. Parents need to be aware of the signs and take action if they suspect their child is being abused.
    • Being in a serious accident like a car crash.
    • Medical trauma refers to traumatic experiences that occur in a medical setting, such as a serious illness or injury or a painful or complicated recovery from surgery.
    • Natural disasters refer to catastrophic events caused by nature, such as hurricanes, tornados, or earthquakes.
    • Witnessing violence or abuse occurs when a child or teen sees or hears acts of violence or abuse as it occurred to someone close to them.
    • Traumatic grief or traumatic bereavement is a specific type of grief that occurs after a sudden, unexpected loss, as opposed to grief following an expected loss, such as the death of a loved one from a chronic illness.
    • Secondary trauma refers to the emotional and psychological distress that can result from learning that an event happened to someone close to you or having repeated exposure to extreme or repeated details of a traumatic event. Your teen may even experience secondary trauma from hearing about or running drills for school shootings.

    Types of Chronic Trauma

    Chronic or Repetitive trauma results from experiencing the same or similar traumatic events multiple times or through prolonged exposure to highly stressful events. Types of chronic teen trauma include:

    • Bullying refers to repeated aggressive behavior intended to cause harm or distress.
    • Harassment refers to unwanted or aggressive behavior that is intended to intimidate or control.
    • Long-Term Sexual Abuse can describe any type of sexual contact between a minor and an abuser – either an adult or an older child, persisting over a period of time or forming a pattern of abuse. This can happen through force, coercion, manipulation, or grooming.
    • Microaggressions refer to subtle but harmful forms of discrimination or bias, typically toward socially marginalized groups or neurodiverse teens.
    • Vicarious Trauma / Compassion Fatigue refers to the emotional and psychological distress that can result from working with or caring for people who have experienced trauma. Parents and caregivers are especially vulnerable to this type of trauma.

    Types of Complex Trauma

    Complex trauma is exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature. Types of complex trauma in teenagers include:

    • Early childhood trauma / Relational Trauma- These traumas can overlap and vary in their specific context and situation for each individual.
      • Abandonment Trauma refers to emotional distress caused by rejection or abandonment by an important person.
      • Adoption Trauma refers to emotional and psychological distress resulting from the adoption process. Similarly, relinquishment trauma is the emotional distress caused by giving up a child for adoption.
      • Attachment Trauma is emotional and psychological distress resulting from disruptions in the attachment process such as abuse, neglect, or frequent changes in caregiving, mainly in early childhood.
      • Rejection Trauma is the emotional distress caused by being rejected by an important person.
      • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are risk factors identified in a 1995 study and refer to three specific kinds of adversity children may experience in the home that contribute to trauma & toxic stress. These factors include physical & emotional abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction.
      • Engulfment Trauma is a form of relational trauma that occurs when an individual's emotional needs are not met in a balanced way, leading to feelings of suffocation, smothering, and loss of personal autonomy. This type of trauma can occur in a variety of relationships, but it is most commonly associated with parent-child relationships in which a parent is overinvolved and/or overprotective.
      • While these types of trauma can affect kids of any age, they may also occur at a time before an individual can remember or even talk. When this happens, it is referred to as preverbal or developmental trauma.
    • Historical Trauma refers to the trauma experienced by a group of people that has been passed down through generations, often as a result of colonization or genocide.
    • Intergenerational Trauma refers to trauma passed down from one generation to the next, often due to historical trauma.
    • Betrayal Trauma is a type of trauma that occurs when someone experiences a betrayal of trust by someone they care about or rely on. It can happen in a variety of contexts, such as within a romantic relationship, a family, a community, or an institution. Examples of betrayal trauma include sexual abuse by a trusted authority figure, emotional manipulation by a romantic partner, or abandonment by a parent.
    • Trauma with Compounding Factors - Traumatic events that is compounded by additional factors can become more severe. For instance, if a teenager loses a grandparent and as a result, their parents are struggling with their traumatic grief and are unable to provide emotional support, this may lead to the teenager being put in the role of a caregiver for their younger siblings. This added responsibility, known as parentification, can amplify the initial trauma of losing a grandparent and turn it into a more complex form of trauma.

    Similarly, if a teen experiences a medical trauma, dysfunctional family dynamics such as enmeshment, codependency, unhealthy attachment styles, or parental dissociation can intensify the original traumatic event.

    National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE (4673)

    Populations at Risk

    Certain communities and teens are disproportionately affected by trauma, which means that they may experience trauma at a higher rate or be more susceptible to repeat victimization.

    BIPOC, LBGTQ+, and Other Socially Marginalized Teens

    Teens belonging to historically marginalized groups are more likely to experience racial trauma and discrimination-based trauma. While being from a certain racial or ethnic background doesn’t increase the likelihood that a person will develop PTSD, traumatic experiences, such as discrimination or physical violence, disproportionately affect minority and socially marginalized youth.

    For example, The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey reports that 1 in 3 LGBTQ youth have been physically threatened or harmed due to their identity. And while the prevalence of PTSD in the general population is between 6.8% and 8.3%, some researchers estimate that the PTSD rate among members of the LGBTQ+ community is as high as 47.6%.

    These populations may require specialized services or face additional complications when it comes to recovering from trauma, such as co-occurring issues and specific adversities.

    Teens with Mental Health Differences & Disorders

    Understanding Big T & Little t Trauma

    In mental health, we often refer to “Big T Traumas” and “Little t traumas.” While these aren’t official types of trauma, the concept can help us better understand what is going on.

    Big T Trauma refers to severe or life-threatening traumatic events such as physical or sexual abuse, a serious accident, or a natural disaster. These types of traumatic events can have a significant and long-lasting impact on an individual's emotional and psychological well-being.

    Little t Trauma, on the other hand, refers to less severe traumatic events. These events may be distressing but do not usually pose an immediate threat to the individual's life. Examples of little t trauma include experiencing a breakup, losing a job, failing a class, getting cut from a sports team, or moving to a new place. Little t traumas can also be a result of prolonged or frequent negative interactions or microaggressions. This frequently occurs with neurodivergent teens like those with ASD or ADHD, and with teens in populations at risk.

    While these events don’t typically rise to the level of a “trauma” on their own, they still cause emotional and psychological distress and can lead to other mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. If a teen chronically experiences many “Little t” traumas, or if they lack the skills to healthily cope with them, it can have a compounding effect resulting in trauma.

    The distinction between big T trauma and little t trauma is not always clear cut, and the specific context and situation of your teen should be taken into account when understanding the severity of their trauma. Additionally, the effects of a traumatic experience can vary depending on the individual, some people may have a severe reaction to a "little t" event and vice versa.

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    Risk Factors of Teen Trauma

    When a teen goes through traumatic events like the ones listed above, several factors influence whether your teen will experience traumatic stress, traumatic growth, or stay the same. These factors include:

    Genetic Factors

    Genetics accounts for between five and 20 percent of the variability in PTSD risk following a traumatic event. Studies have found that among European-American females, nearly a third of the risk for developing Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is due to genetic factors. “PTSD is highly polygenic, meaning it is associated with thousands of genetic variants throughout the genome, each making a small contribution to the disorder.”

    In addition to genes being a factor in how a teen responds to experiencing trauma, some researchers believe that genetic trauma can be inherited from previous generations. Though there is heavy debate among researchers, some have estimated that the heritability of PTSD is between 30% and 70%.

    Personality, Temperament, & Behavioral Traits

    A teen’s personality, temperament, and choice of coping behaviors influence how they respond to experiencing trauma.

    The following positive coping strategies and personality traits help teens develop resilience and decrease the likelihood they will develop Post-traumatic Stress Disorder following a traumatic experience:

    • Openness: A personality trait characterized by being open to new experiences and ideas. People who score high on this trait are often curious, creative, and open-minded.
    • Positive Reframing: The tendency to focus on the positive aspects of a situation, rather than dwelling on the negative.
    • Acceptance: The willingness to accept and acknowledge one's current reality, rather than resisting it.
    • Seeking Emotional Support: The tendency to reach out to others for emotional support and comfort during difficult times.
    • Seeking Instrumental Support: The tendency to reach out to others for practical help and assistance during difficult times.
    • Humor: The ability to find humor in difficult situations, and use it as a coping mechanism.
    • Planning: The ability to think ahead and make plans to achieve goals.
    • Active Coping: Taking active steps to manage stress and difficult situations, rather than passively accepting them.
    • Religion: The use of religious or spiritual beliefs to cope with stress and difficult situations.
    • Self-directedness: The ability to set and work towards personal goals, and make decisions based on one's own values and beliefs.
    • Extraversion: A personality trait characterized by sociability, assertiveness, and energy. People who score high on this trait are often outgoing and enjoy being around others.
    • Conscientiousness: A personality trait characterized by being organized, dependable, and self-disciplined. People who score high on this trait are often reliable and responsible.
    • Self-directedness: The ability to set and work towards personal goals, and make decisions based on one's own values and beliefs.
    • Hardiness: A personality trait characterized by resilience and the ability to cope with stress and adversity.
    • Optimism: A positive outlook on the future, characterized by hope and the belief that things will turn out well.
    • Self-transcendence: A sense of connectedness to something greater than oneself and the ability to find meaning in difficult experiences.

    The following maladaptive coping strategies and personality traits increase the likelihood that a teen will develop PTSD following a traumatic event:

    • Neuroticism and high negative emotionality: Neuroticism is a personality trait that makes someone more likely to feel negative emotions like anger, anxiety, self-consciousness, irritability, emotional instability, and depression. It's like being more sensitive to negative feelings and having a harder time dealing with them.
    • Denial: Refusing to acknowledge or accept the reality of an event or its impact on an individual's life.
    • Venting: Expressing intense emotions, such as anger or frustration, in a way that is not constructive or healthy.
    • Substance Use: Using drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with or numb feelings related to negative experiences.
    • Behavioral Disengagement: Withdrawing from activities, relationships, or responsibilities as a way to avoid dealing with negative experiences.
    • Self-distraction: Self-distraction is when someone tries to focus on something else other than the negative or upsetting thing that's happening to them, but does not actually address it.
    • Self-blame: Self-blame is when someone thinks that something bad that happened is their own fault. They might say to themselves, "I should have known better" or "I should have been more careful." This way of thinking can make a person feel bad about themselves and might make it harder for them to move on from the bad thing that happened.
    • Impulsivity & Novelty-seeking: Acting impulsively or recklessly, without considering the potential consequences.
    • Hostility: feeling anger or resentment towards others, especially those perceived to be responsible for the trauma
    • Low Self-directedness: being able to set and achieve goals, and having a sense of purpose
    • Low Cooperativeness: being able to work well with others and build positive relationships
    • High Harm avoidance: being overly cautious and avoidant of potential harm or danger
    • Low Hardiness: having the ability to cope well with stressful situations
    • Negative Affect: having a tendency to experience negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, and sadness
    • Negative Appraisal: having a negative outlook or perspective on oneself and the world around them.
    • Rumination: Continuously dwelling on negative thoughts and emotions related to a negative event.

    Other Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

    Having a pre-existing mental illness or substance use disorder can contribute to the development of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder following a traumatic experience in several ways.

    It may be that mental illness and drug use interfere with a person's ability to cope with the added stress of a traumatic event. They may also have a harder time processing and making sense of the trauma, which can lead to the development of trauma symptoms.

    Additionally, pre-existing mental illnesses can make a person more susceptible to the negative effects of trauma on the brain, such as changes in the way stress hormones are regulated or changes in brain structure. This can make it more likely for them to develop PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event.

    Previous Trauma

    If someone has experienced traumatic events before, they are more likely to develop Post-traumatic Stress Disorder if they go through another traumatic event in the future. Multiple previous traumatic events have a stronger effect than a single previous event.

    Biological & Neurological Factors

    Many biological and neurological factors play a role in the development of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in teens. Here are a few:

    Social Factors / Lack of Support

    Having supportive friends, family and a positive social environment can help protect a person from the negative effects of trauma. On the other hand, if a person does not have a healthy social support system, or if they are in a harmful environment, they may have a harder time dealing with trauma and have a higher risk of developing PTSD. Additionally, living in a family or social environment that has a lot of shame, guilt, stigmatization, or keeping secrets also increases the risk of developing PTSD.

    Early Life Stress and Family Risk Factors

    The environment a teen grows up in plays a crucial role in the development of PTSD. If a family has a history of trauma or difficult experiences, it can affect the children in that family as well. Some other risk factors include:

    • Families where past trauma is still affecting the family members
    • Families where taking care of a child with special needs or chronic illnesses is difficult
    • Teens who feel disconnected from their parents or caregivers
    • Teens who start dating or having sexual experiences at a young age
    • Teens who have limited social support or friends who engage in negative behavior
    • Families where the caregivers lack knowledge about child development or needs
    • Families where the caregivers have a history of abuse or neglect
    • Families that are dealing with high levels of stress or have limited resources
    • Families that use physical punishment as discipline
    • Families that lack support from extended family or friends
    • Families with high levels of conflict or negative communication styles

    As a parent, it's important to know that your teenager's struggles with trauma are not their fault, and they are not alone in their experience. It's a difficult and challenging road but with the right help and support, your teenager can heal and regain a sense of well-being and stability.

    How Common is Teen Trauma?

    According to recent studies, teenage trauma is a prevalent issue that affects a significant number of young people. The following statistics provide insight into the scope of the problem and the types of trauma that teens are experiencing.

    It's important to note that these figures are likely an underestimation of the true scope of the problem and that the consequences of trauma are severe and long-lasting, with significant physical and emotional effects. It's crucial to seek professional help to support teens who have experienced trauma.

    Your teen can heal. Your family can be a family again. Call today to find out how we can help.

    Signs & Symptoms of PTSD in Teens

    Trauma can have a wide range of emotional, psychological, and physical effects on an individual; these effects can differ depending on the type of trauma experienced. According to the PTSD criteria in the DSM-5, teens with trauma can have 636,000 different combinations of distressing symptoms that describe Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Here is what to look for:

    Emotional and Psychological Signs of Trauma in Teens

    A person who has experienced trauma may have the following emotional and psychological responses:

    • denial
    • anger, emotional outbursts, or aggressive behavior
    • fear
    • sadness
    • shame
    • confusion
    • excessive anxiety, panic, or paranoia
    • unreasonable lack of trust
    • depression
    • numbness
    • guilt
    • hopelessness
    • irritability
    • difficulty concentrating / Inability to focus
    • flashbacks or nightmares
    • social isolation & withdrawal
    • feeling responsible
    • the feeling of disconnection from the surroundings

    A child who has experienced trauma will sometimes show they feel connected to an attachment figure by releasing all their big emotions in their presence. What may appear as disconnection may actually be a sign of trust.

    J. Milburn

    Physical Signs of Trauma

    Along with emotional reactions, trauma can cause physical symptoms, such as:

    • headaches
    • digestive symptoms
    • fatigue
    • racing heart
    • sweating
    • feeling jumpy
    • hyperarousal or being in a constant state of alertness
    • inability to have a restful sleep
    • lack of self-care or grooming

    Signs of Chronic Trauma in Teens

    The symptoms of chronic trauma often appear after a long time, even years after the event. These individuals may have trust issues, and hence, struggle to have stable relationships, keep a job, or do well in school.

    Signs and symptoms of trauma in teens can also vary depending on the type of PTSD a teen is experiencing.

    Types of PTSD in Teens

    Here are some of the different subtypes of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder that have been proposed

    It's important to note that these subtypes are not mutually exclusive, individuals can have distressing symptoms from all subtypes, and the distinction between subtypes is not definitive, it's a way to understand the variability of PTSD symptoms. It's important to seek professional help to know how to support someone who has experienced past trauma.

    This subtype is characterized by symptoms of PTSD that occur immediately after a traumatic event and typically last for up to one month.

    The signs and symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder in teens typically include:

    • Re-experiencing the traumatic event through flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive thoughts
    • Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event
    • Increased arousal and reactivity, such as difficulty sleeping, irritability, or outbursts of anger
    • Feeling detached or estranged from others
    • Persistent negative mood or distorted cognitions about the trauma

    This subtype is characterized by symptoms of PTSD that occur after a traumatic event and persist for more than one month but do not involve other comorbid disorders, like depression.

    The signs and symptoms of Uncomplicated PTSD in teens may include:

    • Re-experiencing the traumatic event through flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive thoughts
    • Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event
    • Increased arousal, anxiety, and reactivity, such as difficulty sleeping, irritability, or outbursts of anger
    • Persistent negative mood or distorted cognitions about the trauma
      Hypervigilance or feeling on edge

    This subtype is a severe form of PTSD that occurs as a result of prolonged and repeated traumatic experiences over a period of time, usually months or even years. The symptoms of Complex PTSD can be severe and can include changes in self-perception, affect regulation, and consciousness, as well as problems with relationships and behaviors.

    The signs and symptoms of C-PTSD in teens may include:

    • The symptoms of PTSD
    • Difficulty regulating emotions
    • Negative self-concept or self-worth
    • Distorted sense of self
    • Difficulty with interpersonal relationships
    • Persistent feelings of shame, guilt, or blame
    • Difficulty with attachment and trust
    • Chronic feelings of emptiness or despair
    • Suicidial thoughts

    This subtype is characterized by symptoms of PTSD that involve dissociative symptoms such as dissociative amnesia or depersonalization, derealization, and emotional detachment.

    The signs and symptoms of dissociative PTSD in teens may include:

    • More severe PTSD symptoms
    • Dissociative flashbacks and dissociative amnesia
    • Memory loss or gaps in memory related to the traumatic event
    • Feeling detached from one's surroundings or oneself
    • Feeling as if the world is not real
    • Feeling detached from one's emotions and physical sensations
    • Feeling as if one is observing oneself from a distance
    • More significant history of early life trauma
    • Higher levels of co-occurrence with other mental health conditions

    This subtype is characterized by individuals who have PTSD symptoms in addition to other mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or substance use disorder.

    While not included in official diagnoses, researchers use various models of subtyping PTSD including one based on personality characteristics. The personality-based subtypes of PTSD include:

    Externalizing PTSD: This subtype is characterized by individuals who tend to be impulsive, aggressive, and have difficulty controlling their emotions. They are more likely to engage in risky behavior and have a higher rate of comorbidity with other externalizing disorders such as substance use disorder and antisocial personality disorder.

    Internalizing PTSD: This subtype is characterized by individuals who tend to be introverted, anxious, and have difficulty regulating their emotions. They are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms, and have a higher rate of comorbidity with other internalizing disorders such as major depressive disorder and social anxiety disorder.

    Simple PTSD: This subtype is characterized by individuals who have a lower level of comorbidity with other disorders, and have fewer symptoms of PTSD than those of the other subtypes. They also tend to have less severe symptoms of re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal.

    How is Teen Trauma Diagnosed?

    Teen trauma is typically diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, using a combination of methods, including a clinical interview, self-report measures, and behavioral observations.

    • During a clinical interview, the mental health professional will ask the teen questions about their traumatic experiences, trauma symptoms, and medical history. They will also ask about any previous traumatic events, as well as any current or past mental health conditions.
    • Self-report measures, such as a standardized questionnaire, can also be used to assess the presence and severity of trauma symptoms. These measures often ask questions about symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, and avoidance behaviors.
    • Behavioral observations can also be used to diagnose teens with trauma. A mental health professional may observe a teen's behavior, interactions, and emotional responses during a therapy session or other interactions.

    Diagnosis of Teen Trauma is usually based on the criteria of the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11)

    It's important to note that teen trauma can be accompanied by other mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders and it's important to seek professional help to understand the nature of the problem and provide appropriate treatment.

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    Effects of Teenage Trauma

    Trauma can have a wide range of effects on teens, including:

    • Sleep Disturbances: Teens with trauma may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. They may also experience nightmares or night sweats.
    • Motivation: Trauma can lead to a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed, and can make it difficult for teens to find the motivation to complete tasks or engage in social activities.
    • Technology Use: Trauma can lead to a change in technology use, some teens may use it excessively for distraction or to avoid thinking about their traumatic experiences, while others may avoid technology completely.
    • Difficulty Focusing: Trauma can affect a teen's ability to focus and pay attention, making it difficult for them to complete tasks or engage in activities that require concentration.
    • School Performance: Trauma can harm a teen's school performance, making it difficult for them to keep up with their studies, retain information, and complete assignments.
    • Relationships: Traumatic events can disrupt a child's ability to form a secure attachment, which is crucial for their overall physical and mental development. A secure attachment provides a sense of safety and stability, which is essential for a child's well-being and ability to form healthy relationships. Many aspects of a child's healthy growth and development rely on this primary source of security and trust.

    Trauma results in a fundamental reorganization of the way the mind and brain manage perceptions. It changes not only how we think and what we think about, but also our very capacity to think.

    Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

    Other mental health conditions: Trauma can also have a long-term impact on a teen's mental health, and can contribute to the development of other mental health disorders like:

    • Anxiety Disorders - teens who experience trauma are 2 - 3 times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder as an adult.
    • Depression - teens with a history of trauma are about 3 times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults
    • Substance abuse - teens with a history of trauma are about 4 times more likely to develop distressing symptoms of drug abuse

    It's important to note that the effects of trauma can vary from person to person, and may manifest differently in different teenagers.

    Now that we have a general understanding of the various effects that trauma can have on a teenager, let's delve deeper into some specific effects of trauma: somatization, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), trauma flashbacks, and trauma triggers.

    Our brains are wired for connection, but trauma rewires them for protection. That’s why healthy relationships are difficult for wounded people.

    Ryan North

    The Body Keeps The Score: Understanding Somatization

    Somatization refers to when a teen experiences emotional distress as physical symptoms or bodily issues. It's a way that the body communicates the emotional pain the person is going through.

    In his book, “The Body Keeps the Score” Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a psychiatrist and trauma expert, brought awareness to the idea that traumatic experiences are stored as somatic symptoms in the body, even after the traumatic experience has ended. According to this perspective, traumatic experiences can create changes in the body's physiology, including the nervous system, hormones, and immune system, as well as in the brain. These changes can manifest as physical symptoms such as pain, headaches, or stomach problems, as well as emotional symptoms such as anxiety, depression, or anger.

    The body has its own way of remembering traumatic experiences, through physiological changes that occur in the body. Even when the mind has forgotten or repressed the memory of the event, these physiological changes can continue to affect the individual's emotional and physical well-being long after the traumatic event has ended, unless the trauma is properly addressed.

    Effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

    Repeated childhood trauma causes a child to live in a constant state of hypervigilance, always alert to impending perceived danger.

    ACEs stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. These are traumatic events that occur during childhood, such as abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, or living in a household with substance abuse or mental health issues. ACEs can have a significant impact on a child's physical, emotional, and mental health throughout their life.

    • For each noted adversity, the risk for early initiation of substance abuse increases two to four times. People with five or more ACEs are seven to 10 times more likely to become substance abusers.
    • Individuals with three or more traumatic childhood experiences have higher rates not just of alcohol and drug abuse, but also have an increased risk for depression, anxiety & other mental illnesses, poor academic performance, and difficulty in maintaining stable relationships and employment
    • Children with a history of trauma are twice as likely to have chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
    • Additionally, ACEs can also affect brain development, which can lead to difficulty in emotional regulation, impulse control, and decision-making.

    It's important to note that not all children who experience ACEs will develop these issues, and that the effects of ACEs can be mitigated by protective factors such as positive relationships with caregivers, access to good healthcare, and supportive services.

    It's also important to mention that ACEs are not unique to a particular race, ethnicity, social class or culture and can happen to anyone and can be prevented with early identification, early interventions and providing appropriate support.

    Understanding Trauma Flashbacks

    A trauma flashback is a re-experiencing of a traumatic event in the form of vivid memories, vivid nightmares, or even hallucinations. These flashbacks can be triggered by sights, sounds, smells, or other sensory cues that remind the person of the traumatic experience. Flashbacks can be distressing and disruptive and can make it difficult for a person to function in their daily life.

    Flashbacks are a common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and can be experienced by anyone who has gone through a traumatic event. Parents need to know that their teenager experiencing flashbacks is a sign that they are still struggling to cope with the trauma they have experienced and that they need support and help to process and heal from the trauma.

    Here are some things that parents can do to help their teenager who is experiencing flashbacks:

    • Validate their feelings: It's important for parents to acknowledge that their teenager is going through a difficult time and that their feelings of fear, sadness, and anger are valid. Parents do not have to fully agree or understand what their teenager is feeling in order to validate their feelings. Listening, acknowledging, and genuinely trying to understand as best as they can, allows a place of trust and healing for their teenager.
    • Create a safe space: Parents can help create a safe and comfortable environment for their teenagers. Providing a safe space for listening and validating their teenager's emotions. This might include making sure their teenager has a place to go where they feel safe and protected, and where they can express their feelings without fear of judgment.
    • Help them identify triggers: Parents can help their teenager identify triggers that may be causing their flashbacks, such as specific smells, sounds, or visual cues. Once triggers are identified, parents can help their teenager create a plan to avoid or manage them.
    • Encourage them to seek professional help: Parents can support their teenagers by encouraging them to see a mental health professional who can provide them with specialized treatment and support for trauma and PTSD.
    • Help them develop coping strategies: Parents can help their teenager develop coping strategies to deal with the symptoms of PTSD and flashbacks, such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness practices, and progressive muscle relaxation. These coping strategies are important to help calm their teenager's nervous system and allow them to feel grounded and safe.

    It's important to remember that healing from trauma takes time, patience, and support. Parents play an important role in the healing process and it is important to be patient and understanding with your teenager as they work through their trauma.

    Trauma comes back as a reaction, not a memory.

    Bessel Van Der Kolk

    Understanding Trauma Triggers

    A trauma trigger is anything that activates memories of your teen’s trauma and causes an emotional response. It is particular to your teen and what their experience has been. Triggered, they re-experience the feelings and behaviors they had in the traumatizing situation. These triggers can vary widely depending on the teen and the type of trauma they experienced. Often trauma is stored in a person’s senses, and thus a trigger can be anything that activates one of their 5 senses. Often a person is unaware of what may have triggered them, or even that it may relate to their past trauma. Trauma triggers have two categories: internal triggers and external triggers.

    Internal Trauma Triggers

    Internal trauma triggers are things that your teen feels or experiences inside their body that remind them of the traumatic events and can cause them to re-experience the emotions and feelings associated with the trauma. There may be times that your teen may not be aware that what they are experiencing is related to the trauma. This is where therapy can play a big part in their healing journey allowing them to become more aware and gain insight into how to manage these triggers when they arise. Because these trauma triggers are internal, your teen’s trauma response may come “out of the blue.” These triggers can be thoughts, emotions, and body sensations.

    Some examples of internal trauma triggers include:

    • Certain memories, thoughts, or dreams that remind them of the traumatic event
    • Certain emotions such as anger, sadness, frustration, fear, or feeling lonely, abandoned, vulnerable, out of control, trapped, or powerless
    • Certain self-talk or thought patterns that remind them of the traumatic experience
    • Certain physical/bodily sensations such as a tightness in the chest or feeling lightheaded, a racing heart, sweating, muscle tension, or feeling pain
    • Certain body postures or movements that remind them of the traumatic event

    External Trauma Triggers

    External trauma triggers are external events, situations, or stimuli that remind your teenager of the traumatic event and can evoke feelings of trauma. They can also just evoke extreme emotional reactions and feelings of not being safe while being unaware that it may be related to the trauma.

    Examples of external trauma triggers include:

    • Sensory triggers include certain sounds or noises, smells, tastes, textures, colors, or seeing something that reminds them of the traumatic event
    • Environmental triggers include certain places, people, situations, or things that remind them of the traumatic event
    • Relational triggers like getting into an argument or ending a relationship can bring back memories of your teen’s traumatic experience
    • Everyday-life triggers such as reading a news article, watching a movie or TV show, or experiencing specific types of weather that remind your teen of their traumatic event
    • Certain anniversaries, holidays, and dates or times of the year that remind them of the traumatic event

    It's important to note that triggers can vary from person to person, and something that triggers one person may not affect another. Some people may be able to identify their triggers and avoid them, while others may not be aware of what their triggers are. Understanding and identifying the triggers can help your teen avoid or cope with their traumatic experience better.

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    Teen Trauma Treatment & Care

    If your teenager has experienced a traumatic event, it can be a difficult and overwhelming time for both them and you as a parent. Seeking professional help is an important step in the healing process. It can be hard to know where to start, but there are a variety of effective treatment options available to support your teenager as they navigate their recovery. In this section, we will explore some of the different types of treatment and care that are available to help your teenager heal from their trauma and regain a sense of safety and control in their life. Whether it's therapy, anti-anxiety medications, or other types of support, there is hope for your teenager's recovery and for your family to heal together.


    Kids with trauma history don’t need more punishment. And quite frankly, they don’t need more stickers.

    Dr. Ross Greene

    Ways Parents Can Help Their Traumatized Teen

    If your teenager has recently experienced a traumatic event, it can be overwhelming and challenging to know how to best support them in their healing process. Here are some steps you can take as a parent to help your teen cope with their trauma and begin to heal.

    • Listen and validate their feelings: Allow your teenager to express their feelings and thoughts about their traumatic experience. Let them know that their feelings are valid and that you are there to support them.
    • Create a safe space: Make sure your home is a safe and comfortable place for your teenager to process their trauma. This may involve removing certain items or memories that may trigger them.
    • Encourage self-care: Help your teenager develop healthy coping mechanisms such as exercise, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques.
    • Be patient and understanding: Trauma recovery takes time and patience. Be understanding and supportive of your teenager as they work through their healing process.
    • Educate yourself: Learn more about trauma and its effects on teenagers so you can better understand your child and support them through the healing process.
    • Seek community support: Look for support groups or other resources in your community that can provide additional support for your teenager. Helping your teenager realize they are not alone in their trauma can help their healing process. This can also help you as a parent as well.
    • Maintain healthy communication: Keep the lines of communication open with your teenager and make sure they know they can come to you with any concerns or issues they may have.
    • Be aware of triggers: Be aware of what triggers your teenager and help them avoid or manage those triggers as much as possible.
    • Prioritize self-care: Remember to take care of yourself as well. Supporting your teenager can be emotionally and mentally taxing, so make sure to take care of yourself too. Make sure to take time for yourself, talk to your own therapist or counselor, and practice self-care.
    • Seek professional help: Look for a therapist or counselor who specializes in treating trauma in teenagers.

    It's important to remember that healing from trauma takes time and patience, and it's necessary to be gentle with yourself and your teenager as you navigate the recovery process.

    When it feels disheartening to learn that trauma changes the brain, remember that healing changes the brain, too.


    Should You Seek Professional Help for Your Teen’s Trauma?

    If you suspect that your teen may be experiencing trauma, it's important to seek professional help as soon as possible. Here are some red flags and triggers to look for that may indicate that your teen needs immediate assistance:

    • Persistent and severe symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, and avoidance behaviors that are severely interfering with their daily life.
    • Intense and prolonged emotional reactions such as depression, anxiety, or anger that last for weeks or months and severely impact their quality of life.
    • Cutting & Self-harm behaviors, suicidal thoughts or attempts.
    • Substance use or addiction as a way of coping.
    • Behaviors endangering your teen’s physical health - Difficulty sleeping, eating or maintaining personal hygiene.
    • Complete abandonment of school performance.
    • Sudden & severe abandonment of relationships with friends and family.

    A mental health professional will be able to assess the situation, provide a diagnosis, and create a treatment plan that's tailored to your teen's specific needs.

    What is Trauma-Informed Treatment?

    Trauma-informed care is an approach to providing services and support that recognizes the impact of trauma and prior adverse experiences on an individual's health and well-being. It seeks to understand the unique needs of individuals who have experienced past trauma and to create a safe and supportive environment in which they can heal and recover.

    Trauma-informed care involves understanding the prevalence and impact of trauma, recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma, responding to and supporting individuals in a trauma-sensitive manner, and actively resisting re-traumatization. This approach is used in a variety of settings, including healthcare, education, and trauma treatment programs for teens.

    A residential trauma treatment center is a specialized program designed to help teens who have experienced traumatic events cope with the emotional and psychological effects of the trauma. These programs typically include a combination of therapy, counseling, and other evidence-based interventions to address the specific needs of teens and help them process their experiences.

    Trauma is a result of an overwhelming sense of danger, powerlessness, and fear. Healing is a result of feeling safe, empowered, and supported.

    Some common types of interventions used in teen trauma treatment programs include:

    Trauma-focused Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)

    Trauma-focused Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is a type of therapy that is specifically designed to help individuals who have experienced trauma. It is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that focuses on helping individuals understand and process their traumatic experiences, and subsequently learn coping strategies to manage the symptoms of PTSD. This therapy is based on the idea that traumatic events can change the way we think and feel about ourselves, others, and the world. Through TF-CBT, individuals learn to process their traumatic experiences, and develop new ways of thinking and coping with difficult memories and emotions.

    Somatic Experiencing

    Somatic Experiencing is a type of therapy that focuses on the body's response to trauma. It is based on the idea that traumatic experiences can cause changes in the body that can lead to physical symptoms, such as tension, pain, or numbness. Through somatic experiencing, individuals learn to pay attention to their body's response to traumatic memories and to use techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, and movement to help release stored tension and reduce symptoms. The goal of somatic experiencing is to help individuals develop a greater sense of control over their body's response to traumatic memories, reduce the trauma symptoms, and calm their nervous system down so it can go back to a state of "rest and digest".

    Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

    Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy that can help individuals who have experienced trauma. It is based on the idea that traumatic memories are stored in a different part of the brain than normal memories, and that these memories can be “unstuck” by using specific eye movements. EMDR therapy is a structured approach that uses a combination of talk therapy, guided imagery, and eye movements to help individuals process and make sense of traumatic experiences. The goal of EMDR is to reduce the distress associated with traumatic memories and to help individuals develop a new, more positive perspective on their past experiences.


    Teens process trauma differently which is why ThreePeaks Ascent offers Brainspotting. Unlike traditional talk therapy, Brainspotting helps teens pinpoint physical sensations linked to the trauma by following a therapist's guidance on where to focus their gaze. These "brainspots" can trigger emotional responses, which the therapist helps them explore safely. By processing these sensations and emotions, teens gain a deeper understanding of how the trauma is stored and can begin to release negative emotions through techniques like breathwork and reframing their thoughts. This journey empowers them to heal and build healthier coping skills.

    Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

    Teens who've experienced trauma often struggle with intense emotions and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) offers a way to equip them with powerful life skills. DBT is like a toolbox for emotional regulation. It teaches teens mindfulness, a practice of staying present in the moment without judgment. They'll also learn distress tolerance skills, helping them navigate difficult feelings without resorting to self-harm or risky behaviors. Communication skills are another key focus, empowering teens to express their needs and build healthy relationships. By developing these skills, teens can build resilience, manage their emotions effectively, and find healthier ways to cope with the aftermath of trauma.

    Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

    Teens who've been through trauma often grapple with the emotional rollercoaster and confusing thoughts that can linger. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is an effective way to treat trauma and identify negative thinking patterns that can stem from traumatic experiences. Together with a therapist, your teen will explore the events that happened and how they're interpreted. They'll learn to identify thinking patterns that might be stuck on negative loops, like "It's my fault" or "The world is unsafe." Your teen can develop a more balanced perspective by examining the evidence for and against these thoughts. This empowers them to manage difficult emotions, build coping skills, and rewrite the trauma's narrative in their mind.

    Other components of a teen trauma treatment program may include group therapy, family therapy, and/or anti-anxiety medications. The goal of a residential trauma treatment program is to help teens heal from their traumatic experiences and regain a sense of control and stability in their lives.

    Treatment Options for Teenage Trauma

    Determining the best treatment option for a teenager who has experienced trauma will depend on a variety of factors, including the severity of the trauma symptoms, the teenager's current emotional and mental state, and any co-occurring mental health disorders. Factors such as the teenager's age, developmental stage, and family dynamics will also be considered. There are several different types of treatment options available for teens who have experienced trauma. These include:

    Outpatient Therapy

    This type of treatment involves meeting with a therapist or counselor regularly, typically once or twice a week, for individual or group therapy sessions. This is a more flexible option for teens who are still able to attend school or work while receiving treatment.

    It is recommended for teens with mild to moderate trauma and PTSD symptoms and for those who have a stable home environment.

    Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP)

    This type of treatment is similar to outpatient therapy but typically involves more frequent or longer sessions. It may also include additional components such as educational or skill-building groups.

    This type of therapy is recommended for teens who have moderate to severe symptoms of trauma or who have a history of trauma and require a more intensive level of care.

    Inpatient Treatment

    Inpatient treatment involves a teen staying at a facility, typically a hospital, for a period of time to receive intense, round-the-clock treatment and care.

    This type of treatment is usually recommended for teens who are in crisis or have severe symptoms that cannot be treated on an outpatient basis.

    Short-term Residential Treatment

    Short-term residential treatment is a relatively brief treatment program that lasts between 8-12 weeks. Short-term treatment focuses on setting and achieving attainable goals within its limited time frame. Short-term therapeutic programs concentrate on helping teens make changes to their current lives rather than exploring the deep-rooted causes behind their struggles. This focus helps teenagers disrupt negative patterns or harmful behaviors, and instead adopt more beneficial habits and coping skills.

    This effective treatment is recommended for teens who have trauma symptoms, anxiety disorders, or other mental health conditions and require a higher level of care and supervision, but don’t need hospitalization or would do better in a more home-like environment.

    Nature-Based Treatment Programs

    This unique treatment option takes place on a campus immersed in nature, free from distractions. This setting provides opportunities to use outdoor activities, such as hiking and adventure as part of the therapy process. The program typically includes therapy, educational, and skill-building groups.

    This type of treatment is recommended for traumatized teens who have struggled with traditional forms of therapy and who may benefit from an outdoor setting that provides structure, challenge, and an opportunity to take a break from their usual environment.

    Treatment should be tailored to the specific needs of your teenager, and it is best to consult with a mental health professional to determine the best course of treatment.

    Questions to Ask About Teen Trauma Treatment?

    When looking for a trauma treatment program for their teenager, parents should ask mental health professionals and treatment programs the following questions:

    • What is the program's approach to treating trauma?
    • Is the program specifically designed for teenagers?
    • What type of therapy is offered and who will be providing it?
    • Does the program have experience working with trauma survivors?
    • What is the length of the program and is aftercare provided?
    • Is the program equipped to handle any co-occurring disorders or conditions?
    • What is the staff-to-student ratio?
    • What is the success rate of the program?
    • What is the program's philosophy and do they use an evidence-based approach?
    • Are there any additional services offered such as family therapy or medication management?
    • Are the costs of the program covered by insurance or are there any financial assistance options available?

    I'm Not Sure Where to Start.

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    Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment for Teen Trauma

    If your teenager has recently experienced a traumatic event, you may be searching for a way to help them heal and move forward. At ThreePeaks residential treatment program, we understand the unique challenges that come with healing from trauma and we have developed a specialized program to address the specific needs of teens who have experienced trauma.

    Our nature therapy program combines traditional talk therapy with the healing power of nature to provide a holistic approach to healing. Our program is led by experienced therapists who specialize in trauma recovery and our team is dedicated to providing individualized care to each of our clients.

    During the program, your teenager will take part in activities such as hiking and camping as they work through their trauma with their therapist. The simplified setting provides a unique opportunity for teens to disconnect from the distractions of daily life and focus on their healing. The natural environment serves as a metaphor for the journey of healing, and the challenges faced in treatment can be applied to the challenges faced in everyday life.

    One of the biggest benefits of our program is that it is designed to help teens take ownership of their healing process and develop the skills they need to continue to heal after the program is over. Our program is designed to be a stepping stone for lasting recovery and not a crutch for ongoing dependence.

    We understand that choosing a treatment program for your teenager is a difficult decision and we are here to support you every step of the way. Our team is available to answer any questions you may have and to provide additional information about our program. We believe that with the right support, your teenager can heal and move forward to lead a happy and fulfilling life.

    Benefits of a Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment Program

    Being immersed in nature can have a profound impact on a teenager. It improves their mental, emotional, and physical health.  Combined with a proven clinical approach, our therapeutic experience helps teens heal from trauma.  Here are specific benefits your family can expect to see while your teen is in nature-based short-term residential treatment.

    The first stage of effective short-term residential treatment focuses on assessment and stabilization.

    1. Assessment 

    By observing your teen in a novel environment, our experienced therapists gain a deep understanding of what is really happening with your child. Research indicates accurate mental health assessments can lead to a 20% reduction in the number of days in treatment.

    2. Stabilization 

    Mental health stabilization provides a safe environment to deescalate your teen’s level of distress and/or reduce their acute symptoms of mental illness. Until teens feel genuinely safe, they cannot begin to heal. One therapeutic modality emphasizes that “Cues of safety are the treatment” and “safety is defined by feeling safe and not simply by the removal of threat.” It is not enough to merely tell a teen in crisis that they are mentally and emotionally safe, they must actually feel and believe it.

    Once your teen feels safe, our nature-based residential treatment program provides a novel and challenging environment that disrupts their unhealthy patterns and behaviors. Behaviors that either:

    • cause your teen's mental & emotional health struggles
    • or that your teen has developed as a negative way of coping with their struggles.

    The second stage of an effective residential treatment program focuses on engaging teens in the therapeutic process and empowering them with the skills needed to thrive.

    1. Engaging Teens in Therapy (even if they’ve been resistant to it before)

    The ThreePeaks Ascent treatment program is designed to re-engage teens in healthy adolescent development. When your teen attends a short-term residential program, they are taken away from negative distractions they may have at home. They engage in treatment in a way that would not be possible in any other setting.

    Your teen will participate in individual, group, and family therapy sessions while in treatment. This allows them to process their behavior as well as make changes in their personal life and family relationships. They are also able to learn from their peers, realize they are not alone in their struggles, and gain motivation to make changes.

    We've found that by the time of discharge, 90% of teens were actively engaged in treatment. When contacted six months after treatment, most of these teens maintained the motivational progress they made during treatment.

    2. Empowering Teens Through Skill Development

    As your teen engages in the therapeutic process, they’ll start to see huge progress. But for long-term healing, it is not enough to only alleviate your teen’s struggles, we must also empower them with the skills needed to thrive in life. These skills include:

    • Self-awareness skills like a growth mindset, identifying one's feelings, developing interests & sense of purpose
    • Self-management skills like emotional regulation, self-motivation, resilience, setting & achieving goals, planning & time management
    • Responsible decision-making skills like showing curiosity & open-mindedness, anticipating & evaluating the consequences of one’s actions, internal locus of control
    • Relationship skills like communicating effectively, seeking & offering support, resolving conflicts constructively
    • Social awareness skills like showing empathy & compassion for others, taking others’ perspective, recognizing strengths in others

    Your teen is powerful, intelligent, and capable. They are among the leaders of tomorrow. That is why the third stage of our short-term residential treatment program focuses on helping teens redirect their previously misused potential toward developing mastery in life.

    Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche observed years ago, “Happiness is the feeling that power is increasing—that resistance is being overcome.” When teens develop competence and mastery they:

    • gain self-reliance and self-confidence
    • become more resilient
    • have a greater sense of meaning and purpose
    • and better resist negative emotions.

    Overall, building mastery helps teens develop a positive mindset. Because they feel competent and in control, they go from feeling, “I’m not capable” to “I can do this!”

    About the Author

    Steven DeMille, Executive Director at ThreePeaks Ascent, a short-term residential treatment program for teens in crisis

    Steven DeMille, Ph.D. LCMHC


    Steven DeMille is the Executive Director of ThreePeaks Ascent. He is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. His educational experience includes an MA in Mental Health Counseling and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision. His research focus is on Nature-Based Treatment, nature, adolescent development, and counseling ethics. He is actively involved in the counseling and psychology profession and holds regional and national leadership positions. He publishes and presents on Nature-Based Treatment and the use of the outdoors. This is done around the world at the national and international conference levels. 

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