How to Support Teens in Crisis: Tips for Parents

At ThreePeaks Ascent, we understand how challenging it can be to watch your teenager go through a crisis and we're here to help. Our team specializes in supporting teens in crisis and we'll work with you to identify the signs, understand when to seek professional help, and find the best treatment options to help your teenager and your family through this difficult time.

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    As a parent, it can be overwhelming when your teenager is facing a crisis. They may be struggling with intense emotions, harmful behaviors, or destructive thoughts that are causing difficulties in their life. It's important to recognize that a crisis can be a sign of a deeper underlying issue and to seek professional help in order to address it. In this article, we'll explore the challenges of being a teenager in crisis and provide guidance on how you can support your teenager and get them the help they need. We'll also discuss how our treatment program can help your entire family heal and find a path forward.

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      What Does It Mean to Be a Teen in Crisis?

      It can be difficult to describe what it feels like to be a teenager in crisis because every teenager's experience is unique. These teens experience intense emotions, behaviors, or thoughts that cause significant difficulties in their life. Common emotions and experiences that teenagers in crisis may have include:

      • Feeling overwhelmed and out of control: A crisis can make a teenager feel like they have lost control of their life and are unable to cope with the challenges they are facing.
      • Experiencing intense emotions: A crisis can bring up intense emotions, such as fear, sadness, anger, or hopelessness.
      • Struggling with harmful behaviors: A teenager in crisis may engage in behaviors that are harmful to themselves or others, such as substance abuse or self-harm.
      • Having destructive thoughts: A crisis can also bring up destructive thoughts, such as suicidal thoughts, that can be very distressing for the teenager and their family.

      It is important to remember that every teenager is different and that their experience of a crisis will be unique to them. As a parent, it is important to help your teenager know they are not alone. A teen in crisis can often be a sign of a deeper mental health issue. Work with a mental health professional to identify, understand, and treat the underlying issues of your teen's struggles.

      Signs & Symptoms of Teens in Crisis

      • Changes in appetite–rapid weight loss or gain
      • Extreme disregard for personal health and hygiene
      • Dramatic changes in sleep patterns either sleeping all the time or being unable to sleep (i.e. insomnia)
      • Ongoing physical complaints without apparent causes (i.e. somatic symptoms)
      • Escalating self-destructive behaviors
      • Frequent thoughts about suicide / preoccupied with death
      • Frequently or persistently feelings of worthlessness, feeling empty, or hopelessness about the future
      • Frequently or persistently feels trapped or feels that there are no solutions
      • Lack of a sense of purpose and meaning in life
      • Poor emotional regulation:
        • Rapid mood swings
        • Frequent or uncontrollable crying
        • Explosive anger/outbursts
      • Verbal, emotional, or physical abuse within your household
      • Low distress tolerance
      • Self-harm
      • A technology addiction
      • Habitual substance use/abuse
      • Increased need for accommodations
      • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
      • A sudden change of friends/peer groups - A sudden shift in a teenager's social circle, such as distancing themselves from positive friends and engaging in unhealthy relationships with people who have a detrimental influence and encourage negative behaviors.
      • Enmeshment, codependency, and emotional dependency
      • Lack of a social support network
      • Promiscuity
      • Isolating
      • Avoiding
      • The recent death of a friend or close relative
      • Divorce and family issues
      • Disengagement from school, school refusal, or poor school performance
      • Confused thinking or irrational thoughts, memory loss
      • Increased or unnecessary risk-taking, particularly in activities that could lead to death
      • Lost interest in passions and hobbies
      A teen gazes out over a scenic view at ThreePeaks Ascent, a short-term residential treatment center for teens in crisis and their families

      Types of Mental / Behavioral Health Crises in Teens

      There are many different types of mental and behavioral health crises that teenagers may experience. Common teen crises include:

      • Depression: This is a common mental health disorder that can cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in activities that your teenager used to enjoy.
      • Anxiety: This is a type of mental health disorder that causes intense feelings of worry and fear. It can be difficult for teenagers to control their anxiety, which can lead to a crisis.
      • Trauma: This can take many forms, including sexual assault, bullying, accidents, loss or even prolonged or complicated medical procedures. As a result of experiencing trauma, a teenager may struggle with flashbacks, avoidance of certain situations or activities, and difficulty functioning in daily life.
      • Substance abuse: This is when a teenager begins to use drugs or alcohol in a way that is harmful to their physical or mental health. It can lead to a crisis if the teenager becomes addicted and Greatly interferes with their ability to function in their daily life.
      • Self-harm: This is when a teenager intentionally causes harm to themselves, such as cutting or burning their skin. It is often a way for teenagers to cope with difficult emotions, but it can lead to a crisis if it becomes a regular behavior.
      • Suicidal thoughts: This is when a teenager is having thoughts of harming or killing themselves. It is a serious crisis that requires immediate attention.
      • Anger issues: This is when a teenager has difficulty managing their anger, which can lead to outbursts and conflicts with others.
      • Family conflict: If your teenager is unable to resolve conflicts with family members, or has difficulty following family rules it can lead to ongoing tension and stress. If unresolved it can become a crisis that affects the whole family.
      • Lying and manipulation: This can be a crisis if a teenager is habitually dishonest and manipulates others in order to get what they want.
      • Risky behaviors: This can be a crisis if a teenager engages in behaviors that are dangerous to themselves or others, such as reckless driving or drug use.
      • Impulsivity: This can be a crisis if kids make impulsive decisions without thinking through the consequences, which can lead to negative outcomes.
      • Behavioral addictions: This can be a crisis if a teenager becomes addicted to a behavior, such as gambling or shopping, and is unable to control their urges.
      • Technology addiction: This can be a crisis if a teenager becomes addicted to their phone, gaming, or social media and is unable to limit their usage.
      • Running away: This can be a crisis if a teenager runs away from home without letting their parents know, as it can put them in dangerous situations.
      • Sexual Promiscuity: This can be a crisis when a teenager engages in online or in-person risky sexual behaviors.
      • Other behavioral struggles: There are many other behavioral struggles that teenagers may experience that can lead to a crisis. We're not able to list every type of teenage crisis here but if you feel like your teen is experiencing a crisis, you are not alone.

      Many mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and behavioral struggles, can manifest as a crisis during the teenage years. It is important to address the crisis and seek professional help in order to identify and treat any underlying mental health issues.

      For example, a teenager who is struggling with depression may experience a crisis in the form of suicidal thoughts or a complete inability to function in their daily life. Similarly, a teenager with an anxiety disorder may experience a crisis in the form of a panic attack or an inability to go to school or participate in normal activities because of their anxiety.

      With the right support and treatment, it is possible for a teenager to work through a crisis and develop the skills and coping mechanisms needed to manage their mental health in the long term.

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      Risk Factors & Causes of a Teen Crisis

      There are various causes and risk factors that can contribute to a teenager experiencing a crisis, and can include a combination of genetic, environmental, biological, and social factors.

      • Genetic factors: Often the mental, emotional, and behavioral struggles that can lead to a crisis may run in families, meaning that kids may be at a higher risk of experiencing a crisis if a parent or other family member has or had a similar disorder.
      • Environmental factors: Your teenager's environment can also play a role in their risk of experiencing a crisis. Trauma, domestic violence, loss of a parent, or experiencing prolonged family conflict increase a teenager's risk of experiencing a crisis.
      • Biological factors: Hormonal changes during adolescence can affect a teenager's emotional regulation and can contribute to the development of a crisis.
      • Life events: Some life events like the death of a loved one, divorce, change of schools or moving can also contribute to a teen crisis.
      • Social factors: Social stigma (such as being a member of a marginalized or disadvantaged group, such as LGBTQ+ youth, BIPOC youth, etc), bullying, social isolation, and lack of support can be risk factors that can contribute to American teens experiencing a crisis. Social dynamics in school, family, and friends all influence the emotional and mental state of a young person.
      • Lack of self-care & healthy coping skills: neglecting personal care, having inconsistent sleep patterns, poor dietary habits, and lack of physical activity can all contribute to a teenager's crisis.
      • Mental health disorders: Teenagers who have a diagnosed mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD, are at a higher risk of experiencing a crisis as symptoms may worsen during this time.
      • Substance abuse: The use of drugs or alcohol can also put teenagers at a higher risk of experiencing a crisis, as substance abuse can contribute to mental health issues and harmful behaviors.
      • Technology overuse: Prolonged overuse of technology and social media or addiction to phones and gaming may interfere with social skill development and provide an avenue to escape problems rather than working on them, increasing the risk of crisis in teens.

      Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real and widespread. Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide-and rates have increased over the past decade"

      Dr Murthy, 19th & 21st U.S. Surgeon General

      How Common Are Teen Crises?

      Most parents know to expect a certain level of angst or rebelliousness as part of a teen's natural identity development. Unfortunately, it is becoming more common for today's teens to also experience a true mental, emotional, or behavioral crisis.

      An estimated 49.5% of adolescents experience a mental disorder at some point in their teenage years and an estimated 22.2% had severe impairment.

      Anxiety disorders affect 31.9% of teens between 13 and 18 years old. And nearly half (48%) of all teens are concerned about experiencing social anxiety in transitioning back to "normal" life after the pandemic.

      A 2021 CDC study found that 44.2% of high school students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, a 44% increase since 2009.

      The same study found that 1 in 5 (19.9%) high school students had seriously considered attempting suicide, and 9.0% of them had attempted suicide.

      How can parents tell if what their child is experiencing is truly a crisis or if it's just normal teenage behavior? Here are some things to look for.

      How is a Teen's Crisis Diagnosed?

      Teen crises are often diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed therapist. These professionals can conduct a thorough assessment to determine if a teenager is experiencing a crisis, and if so, what type of crisis it is, and what treatment options will be effective.

      The assessment process typically begins with a clinical interview, during which the mental health professional will ask the teenager and their parents or caregivers about the teenager's symptoms, behavior, and history. The professional may also ask the teenager to complete self-report questionnaires or psychological tests to gather additional information.

      It's also very important for the teenager, their family and the mental health professional to work together to find a tailored solution that works for them. This might include individual therapy, family therapy, medication, or a combination of these treatments.

      Should You Seek Professional Help for Your Teen's Crisis?

      Yes! If your teenager is struggling with prolonged or severe distress, it's important to seek help as soon as possible. If you are feeling overwhelmed and not sure who to talk to, know that there are people who care and are willing to listen, and professionals who can help you work through the tough times.

      As a parent, it can be hard to watch your teenager struggle with mental health or substance use challenges. But it's important to remember that the earlier you intervene, the better the chances of recovery will be. Early intervention means identifying the warning signs of a crisis and seeking help before it gets worse. It's natural to feel overwhelmed or unsure about how to help your child, but know that you are not alone and that seeking help is a sign of strength.

      Imagine how much easier it would be for your teenager, and for your whole family if their struggles were addressed sooner rather than later. Early intervention can help your teenager receive appropriate care and treatment, and it can also prevent more serious symptoms from developing. It can also reduce the likelihood of problems in areas such as school, work, and relationships. Plus, it can help to alleviate the stress on you and other loved ones and may help to reduce medical costs in the long run. Remember that early intervention can lead to recovery, so don't hesitate to reach out for help. Overall, you are investing in the well-being and mental health of your teenager to be able to overcome their pain, struggles, and crisis, allowing them to develop into adulthood in a healthy way.

      Red Flags & Triggers to Look for That Your Teen Needs More immediate Help

      When it comes to helping your child who is struggling, it can be challenging to understand the level of support they need. One way to determine the severity of their situation is to ask yourself the following questions:

      • Is your child at risk of harming themselves or others?
      • Are they experiencing a situation that could cause lasting harm to their physical or emotional well-being or future?
      • Is your child's crisis impacting other members of your family?
      • Are they starting to engage in negative coping mechanisms that will be difficult to overcome in the long run?
      • Are their negative behaviors interfering with them performing their daily functions at home and in school?

      If you answered yes to any of these questions, it's important to seek professional help as soon as possible. A mental health professional can provide an evaluation and create a treatment plan that can help your child and your family.

      National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

      A mental health crisis may increase your teen's risk of self-harm. If they are considering self-harm or suicide, help is available right now: Call a crisis hotline, such as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

      Effects of Leaving a Mental Health Crisis Untreated

      It is crucial for parents to address a teenager's crisis promptly and not let it go untreated. Delaying treatment for teens in crisis can have both short-term and long-term negative effects on their mental, physical and emotional well-being.

      Short-term Effects of an Untreated Teenage Crisis

      • Worsening of an existing mental health concern, such as depression or anxiety
      • Instability in family & daily life, such as difficulty maintaining relationships or difficulties in school or work
      • Sleep disruptions, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep
      • Decreased motivation and engagement in activities that the person previously enjoyed
      • Poor academic performance & increased school anxiety
      • Increased need for avoidance of certain situations or responsibilities
      • Increased need for others to accommodate or assist them in their daily life.

      Long-term Risks/Effects of an Untreated Teenage Crisis

      • Chronic physical health issues, such as the increased risk of cardiovascular disease or a weakened immune system
      • Increased risk of impaired or delayed identity development, as the person may have difficulty figuring out who they are and what they want in life.
      • Increased risk of developing maladaptive, life-interfering, or harmful coping behaviors and habits, such as technology addictions or severe negative thinking.
      • The an increased risk that other family members will develop serious problems, such as mental health disorders or low self-worth, as a result of the crisis.
      • Irreparable damage to important and meaningful relationships and friendships in their life.
      • Limitations on academic and future career opportunities, as a result of poor academic performance or difficulty completing school or training programs
      • Higher risk of developing additional mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
      • Increased risk of impaired or delayed emotional development.

      If your teen is struggling with a crisis, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless, but it's important to remember that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope. With the right support, your teenager can not only recover from their crisis but gain the skills to truly thrive. The earlier they get help, the easier it will be for your teen to recover.

      If your teenager is in crisis and you feel like you don't know what to do or where to turn. Please know that you are not alone in this. There are people who can help you and your family navigate this difficult time. Whether it's talking to a therapist, reaching out to a support group, or connecting with other families who have been through similar experiences, there are resources available to you.

      Is Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment Right for Your Teen?

      Finding Help for Teens in Crisis

      As a parent, you play a critical role in helping your teenager navigate a crisis. Here are some specific steps you can take to support them:

      • Take care of yourself. Just as flight attendants instruct passengers to put on their own oxygen masks before helping others, you need to take care of yourself first in order to be able to effectively support your teen. Make sure your basic life needs are met and that you have the support you need during this crisis such as family, friends or even a therapist or support group.
      • Help them feel safe. Create an environment where they feel comfortable talking to you, and where they feel safe to express their emotions and struggles. Dr. Stephen Porges said, "Safety is treatment, and treatment is safety." When you identify & minimize things they see as "threats," it goes a long way toward helping them in their crisis.
      • Strive for the "magic ratio." Aim for having at least five positive interactions for every negative one with your teenager.
      • Focus on the foundations of teen mental health. Ensure that they are getting enough sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
      • Communicate openly and non-judgmentally with your teen about their struggles. Use Nonviolent Communication techniques such as making non-judgmental observations, identifying and empathizing with feelings, and being specific in making requests.
      • Don't be afraid to ask hard questions. If your teenager is expressing distress or suicidal thoughts, it is important to have an open conversation about it and seek professional help immediately.
      • Empower them. Help them build resilience and self-sufficiency by providing appropriate support, but not enabling harmful behaviors.
      • Embrace humor, play, and distraction.
      • Be patient and understanding of the process. Remember that healing takes time, and recovery is not a linear process.
      • Work with a mental health care professional to understand your options and find the best course of action for your teen.

      Remember that you are not alone and there is help available, and you and your family can get through this together.

      Treatment Options for Teens in Crisis

      When your teenager is going through a crisis, it can be overwhelming to navigate all the different treatment options available. To make the decision easier, it's helpful to understand the characteristics and who may benefit the most from each option. This can make it easier to determine which treatment option is the best fit for your teenager's unique needs and circumstances.

      The appropriate treatment for each teenager can vary greatly, so it's important to work with a mental health professional to understand what is the best treatment option for your child.

      Many schools have a trained counselor available to students with mental health struggles or emotional issues. These counselors can provide support and guidance, as well as make referrals to outside mental health professionals if needed.

      Who needs this
      If your teenager is primarily struggling with issues related to school, such as poor academic performance or bullying, a school crisis counselor may be a good starting point.

      This type of therapy involves seeing a therapist on a regular basis, usually once or twice a week. It can be provided in an individual or group setting, and is typically less intense than other types of therapy.

      Who needs this
      If your teenager's crisis is not severe and they are able to continue their daily activities, such as going to school or work, outpatient therapy may be an appropriate option.

      This is a more intensive version of outpatient therapy, which typically involves 3-5 sessions per week, usually in the evening or on weekends.

      Who needs this
      If your teenager's crisis is more severe or chronic, intensive outpatient therapy may be a better option, as it provides more frequent therapy sessions. Especially if outpatient therapy does not seem to be enough.

      These centers provide a long-term, live-in treatment option for teenagers in crisis. They can provide specialized services such as substance abuse treatment, behavioral therapy, and academic instruction. It also provides more structure and safety for teenagers who may be exhibiting harmful or risky behaviors.

      Who needs this
      If your teenager struggles with a chronic condition like depression, anxiety, or trauma or struggles with more severe behavioral issues which negatively impacts them and your family, and other forms of therapy has not been enough, residential treatment may be appropriate. If your teenager struggles in a less restrictive environment like outpatient therapy, this may be a good option.

      Psychiatric units in hospitals are able to provide a range of services for teens who are an immediate danger to themselves or others, including inpatient treatment, crisis stabilization, and medication management.

      Who needs this
      If your child is an immediate danger to themselves or others, or if they are experiencing life-threatening symptoms of any sort, please take them to your hospital's emergency department or call 911.

      Questions to Ask Mental Health Professionals and Treatment Programs

      When searching for treatment options for a teenager in crisis, parents should ask the following questions to mental health professionals and treatment programs:

      • What is the specific treatment approach used at the facility or practice?
      • How does the program or treatment plan address my teenager's specific needs?
      • What is the staff-to-patient ratio and what are the qualifications of the staff?
      • What is the length of the treatment program and what are the expectations for my teenager's participation?
      • How often will my teenager be seen by a therapist or psychiatrist and what is the frequency of therapy sessions?
      • How will you ensure that my teenager is safe during their treatment?
      • What is the plan for aftercare or continuing treatment once the program is completed?
      • How does the facility or practice involve families in the treatment process?
      • Is the facility or practitioner licensed or accredited by any relevant organizations?

      Finding the best treatment for your teenager requires a personalized approach and what works for one may not be the best for another. It's important to ask these questions and consult with a mental health professional to find the best fit for your teenager.

      What Types of Therapy Work for Teens in Crisis?

      There are several types of therapy that can be effective for teens in crisis, including (but not limited to):

      • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This type of therapy focuses on helping teens identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their distress.
      • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): This type of therapy is specifically designed for teens who struggle with intense emotions and self-harm behaviors. It involves a combination of individual therapy, and group skills training.
      • Trauma-Focused Therapy / EMDR: For teens who have experienced traumatic events, such as physical or sexual abuse, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and Eye-movement Rapid Desensitisation (EMDR) can be very effective. These therapeutic modalities focus on helping teens process and recover from traumatic experiences and can be implemented in an individual or group setting
      • Family therapy: For teens in crisis, working with the whole family can be very beneficial. Family therapy can help parents understand the behavior of their teenager, as well as work to improve communication and relationships within the family.
      • Group therapy: Group therapy can be a helpful addition to individual therapy. Teens can benefit from talking with others who have similar problems and learning new coping strategies and social skills.
      • Recreational therapy: It is a type of therapy that is particularly suited for teens that use recreation and challenging tasks to provide therapeutic insight and improve communication. It can be helpful for those who have difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings verbally.

      So which type of therapy does your teen need? Not all types of therapy work for all people, and each teenager's needs are unique. Please consult a mental health professional about your unique situation and for recommendations on which type of therapy would be best for your teen.

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      How Does ThreePeaks Ascent Help Teens in Crisis?

      Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment is an innovative approach to mental health treatment that combines the healing power of nature with evidence-based therapeutic techniques. At ThreePeaks Ascent, we understand that mental health is a holistic and multidimensional concept that is influenced by a variety of factors such as physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual well-being.

      Our treatment approach provides comprehensive assessments to understand the root causes of the crisis, empowering teenagers with the necessary skills to navigate their struggles, and providing intensive therapy for deeper healing. Our experienced professionals work with your teenager to ensure that they have all the tools they need not just to overcome their current crisis but also to thrive in the future.

      We believe that nature-based short-term residential treatment is a powerful and effective way to help teenagers in crisis because it allows them to reconnect with nature, build self-awareness, and develop a sense of purpose and meaning. Our nature-based short-term residential treatment program is designed to help teenagers develop new coping skills, improve self-esteem, and build resilience.

      If you're looking for an innovative and effective treatment program for your teenager in crisis, ThreePeaks Ascent is the best solution. Contact us today to learn more about how our Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment program can help your teenager and your family. ThreePeaks Ascent is not just a mental health treatment program, it's a life-changing experience that will help your teenager to heal, grow and thrive.

      Nature-Based Short-Term Residential Treatment

      If your teenager is experiencing a crisis, 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 a crisis and we have developed a specialized program to address the specific needs of teens in crisis.

      Our short-term 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 helping teens in crisis 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 issues 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, a therapeutic experience helps teens heal from a crisis.  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!”

      Additional References & Mental Health Resources

      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 Short-Term Residential 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 Short-Term Residential Treatment and the use of the outdoors. This is done around the world at the national and international conference levels. 

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