Teen with therapist

Navigating Teen Resistance To Therapy

The teenage years can be marked by a whirlwind of conflict, transitions, and challenges. When these challenges become overwhelming, therapy can be an effective tool to learn coping skills and to help manage mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. However, it’s not uncommon for teens to resist therapy, either due to stigma, fear, or a reluctance to open up about their struggles. Additionally, teens may feel pressure to appear “normal” or may believe that they can handle their problems on their own. It’s important for parents and caregivers to recognize and validate their teen’s feelings while also gently encouraging them to consider the benefits of therapy.

Openly Communicate About Mental Health

Parents and caregivers can address teen resistance to therapy by creating a safe, non-judgmental space for open communication about mental health. Active listening, empathy, and validation can help teens express their discomfort. Many teens have misconceptions about what therapy is. They might not think they need therapy or that if they go to therapy they won’t know how to put their feelings into words. They might feel that it’s a criticism of them. Explain that therapy is a supportive tool to cope with the stressors of life and that healthy people often use therapy to improve or maintain their well-being; and that needing therapy is not a mental health diagnosis.

Include Teens In The Decision-Making Process

Empowering teens to have a say in their own mental health care can increase their willingness to participate in therapy. Parents and caregivers can involve teens in a decision-making process, offering them choices and alternatives that align with their preferences and comfort level. This collaborative approach can help teens feel more ownership over their mental health journey. 

Consider Alternative Therapeutic Modalities

In some cases, traditional talk therapy may not resonate with teens, leading to increased resistance. In such instances explore alternative approaches to therapy, such as therapeutic art, animal-assisted programs, or wilderness therapy, which may better align with their teen’s interests and preferences. The key is finding a therapeutic modality that feels comfortable and engaging for the teen.

EYS therapists and counselors specialize in working with teens and families. EYS families can participate in traditional and alternative methods of therapy including reiki, animal-assisted activities, wilderness training, art practices, tae kwon do, and other physical activities.

 

Seek Guidance From A Professional

If teen resistance to therapy persists, it may be helpful to seek guidance from a mental health professional who specializes in working with adolescents. A therapist can offer insights, strategies, and support tailored to the unique needs of your teen and family dynamics, helping to facilitate constructive conversations and navigate any underlying issues contributing to resistance.

Navigating teen resistance to therapy can require patience. With proactive communication and a willingness to have a conversation over several days, parents and caregivers can help their reluctant teens overcome barriers and access support. 

SOURCES:
Ehmke, Rachel 2023, Helping Resistant Teens into Treatment, Child Mind Institute. <https://childmind.org/article/helping-resistant-teens-into-treatment/>
Evolve Treatment 2020, Five Ways To Convince Your Teen To Go To Mental Health Or Drug Rehab (When They Don’t Want To). < https://evolvetreatment.com/blog/convince-your-teen-rehab/>
Blivas, Ryan 2023,13 Reasons Why Teenagers Are Resisting Therapy,Key Healthcare. < https://keyhealthcare.com/13-reasons-why-teenagers-are-resisting-therapy/>

Diverse group of people sitting in circle in group therapy session.

Teaching and Learning Empathy

Empathy is the capacity to understand and share the feelings of others. It involves not only recognizing the emotions someone else is experiencing but also experiencing similar emotions oneself. This social emotional skill enables people to connect with others on a deeper level, fostering compassion, kindness, and understanding in interpersonal interactions. It allows people to resonate with the struggles AND joys of those around them, leading to meaningful relationships. It’s also a fundamental aspect of social cohesion. Practicing empathy fosters understanding and support within each community and society as a whole.

Teaching Empathy

Ways to support the development of empathy:

  1.  Model empathy: Model empathetic behavior such as listening actively to others, acknowledging their feelings, and showing concern for their well-being.
  2. Listen actively: Encourage active listening and showing concern for other peoples feelings.
  3. Discuss emotions: Help youth understand how different emotions may impact people’s behavior and actions.
  4. Encourage perspective-taking: Encourage youth to consider the perspective of others, especially those who may be different from them.
  5. Role-playing: Role-playing scenarios help youth think about how they would feel if they were in someone else’s situation and how they would respond.
  6. Practice kindness: Practice acts of kindness and to be aware of the impact of their actions on others.
  7. Volunteer in your community: Participating in community service projects can help youth develop empathy by exposing them to different people and situations.
7 Ways To Teach Empathy Infographic

Practicing Empathy Podcast Playlist

6 Ways to Improve Your Empathy
Host Dr. Monica Johnson describes the benefits of empathy, two types of empathy, and 6 ways to build empathy.

What Empathy Actually Is (And How To Teach It)
Steps to teach youth in a classroom or individually how to access empathy and practice empathic behaviors.

Empathy and the Nervous SystemA fascinating conversation about when empathy leads to emotional fatigue, chronic stress, and a poor sense of self.

How Empathy Works and How To Improve It
Describes mirror neurons, the science of what empathy is and tips on improving empathy in daily life.

Teaching Empathy Resources Playlist

spring-break-forest

Plan a Spring Break Staycation for Teens and Tweens

Spring break is just around the corner, and while traveling might not be an option, there are still plenty of ways to make the most of the time off here at home. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or something in between, here’s a list of ten fun things for teens and tweens to do during spring break.

  • Explore the Map of the Movies: A self-guided tour through the Redwood Coast’s film locations including Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. To help you with your tour, you will find a marker at or near the actual filming location. Download the app here: https://hdnfc.org/mapofthemovies
  • Challenge yourself with the Let’s Roam scavenger hunts in Eureka: It’s a tour, it’s a game, it’s a great way to connect. Let’s Roam offers 2 hunts in Eureka that take you through historical landmarks and allows you to earn point through challenges. The app is free but you have to buy tickets to access the hunt. https://www.letsroam.com/scavenger_hunt/downtown-eureka-california-scavenger-hunt
  • Digital Detox Challenge: Challenge your teen to disconnect from social media for 24 hours. Encourage alternative forms of connection and hobbies while offering a small reward for completing the challenge.
  • Hike to a picnic: Take advantage of the warmer weather by planning a picnic in a remote location, a local park or your backyard. Pack some sandwiches, snacks, and drinks, and enjoy a relaxing day outside with friends and family.
  • Explore New Culinary Delights: Bond with your teen over the stove by experimenting with new recipes. Cooking together not only strengthens your relationship but also instills a sense of accomplishment. Try whipping up some delicious treats that you rarely make.
  • Start a Creative Project: Whether it’s painting, writing, photography, or crafting, spring break is the perfect time to unleash your creativity. Start that novel you’ve been meaning to write or pick up a camera and capture the beauty of spring in your neighborhood.
  • Explore College Life: Wander around the Cal Poly or CR campuses to ignite discussions about future aspirations. Engage in meaningful conversations over pizza and inspire your teen to envision the next chapter of their life journey.
  • Movie Night In or Out: Treat your teen to a movie night either at the cinema or at home. Let her choose the film, even if it’s not your cup of tea, to show that you value her preferences and enjoy spending time together.
  • Green Thumb Time: Spring is great time to get your hands dirty and bond over gardening. Research different plants together and design your garden oasis. Planting seeds and watching them grow is not only rewarding but also teaches valuable lessons about patience and nurturing.
  • Friendship Time: Facilitate opportunities for your teen to spend time with friends, whether it’s a movie outing or a sleepover. Show support for their friendships and engage positively with their social circle.

With a little creativity and a sense of adventure you can help your teens and tweens make the most of their time off. Activities like this can serve as a springboard for a week filled with intentional connection. Encourage conversation to think of other activities to maximize this break from daily stressors.

A well-rested parent is a happier parent

The Benefits of Sleep for Parents

In the whirlwind of parenting, it’s easy to prioritize everything else over a good night’s sleep. But sleep is your ultimate superpower as a parent and everyone in the family benefits when you are well-rested.

Boosts Mental and Emotional Well-being

You probably know that a good night’s sleep can do wonders for your mood?

When you’re well-rested, you’re better equipped to handle the rollercoaster of emotions that often accompany parenthood. Sleep acts as a reset button for your brain, helping you approach challenges with a clearer perspective and a more positive attitude.

Enhances Physical Health

Sleep isn’t just for recharging your mind—it’s also crucial for your body’s well-being.

Adequate sleep supports your immune system, reduces the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, and promotes faster recovery from physical exertion. It’s like giving your body a daily tune-up to keep it running smoothly.

Improves Parenting Skills

Ever notice how everything seems more manageable after a good night’s sleep?

That’s because sleep plays a vital role in decision-making, problem-solving, and communication—all essential skills for effective parenting. When you’re well-rested, you’re better able to connect with your children, set boundaries, and respond calmly to challenging situations.

Strengthens Immune System

Think of sleep as your body’s shield against illness.

During sleep, your immune system produces cytokines, proteins that help fight off infections and inflammation. By prioritizing sleep, you’re giving your body the tools it needs to stay healthy and resilient, protecting not only yourself but your entire family from illness.

Increases Productivity

Burning the midnight oil isn’t the key to productivity.

Quality sleep is. When you’re well-rested, you’re more focused, efficient, and creative—a powerhouse of productivity. By investing in your sleep, you’re investing in your ability to juggle the demands of parenthood and personal responsibilities without burning out.

Fosters Better Relationships

Sleep deprivation isn’t just hard on you—it can strain your relationships too.

When you’re exhausted, it’s easy to become irritable, short-tempered, and less empathetic towards your partner and children. On the flip side, prioritizing sleep allows you to show up as your best self, fostering stronger bonds and deeper connections with your loved ones.

Enhances Ability to Manage Stress

Stress and sleep have a complicated relationship.

While stress can disrupt your sleep, getting enough sleep is essential for managing stress effectively. Quality sleep helps regulate your body’s stress hormones, giving you the resilience to cope with life’s challenges without feeling overwhelmed.

Promotes Weight Management

Sleep and weight are closely linked.

Poor sleep disrupts your body’s hunger hormones, increasing cravings for high-calorie foods and sabotaging your weight loss efforts. By prioritizing sleep, you’re setting yourself up for success on your wellness journey, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.

Supports Cognitive Function

Your brain does some serious housekeeping while you sleep.

It consolidates memories, processes information, and clears out toxins, leaving you mentally sharp and ready to tackle the day ahead. Whether you’re navigating complex parenting decisions or honing your professional skills, sleep is the secret sauce for optimal cognitive function.

So there you have it—sleep isn’t just a luxury; it’s a necessity. By prioritizing sleep, you’re not only investing in your own well-being but also setting yourself up for success in every aspect of parenting and beyond.

Trauma-informed Teaching

The Positive Role Educators Play In An Increasingly Complex World

Over the past few years, the number of children displaying symptoms of trauma has increased significantly according to the CDC, the NIH and the American Psychological Association. Mental disturbances among youth that resulted in visits to emergency rooms increased by at least 30% in the US. The collective trauma of the Covid-19 pandemic, a broad social reckoning1, and the increased digital nature of education have also affected teachers and parents. Teachers have had to re-imagine what it means to be an educator in the 21st century. Parents have had to learn how to support new kinds of learning that may seem foreign to them, and youth have had to adapt to the new requirements of being a student.

This sense of an un-stable world can be thought of as trauma-stacking2 for youth previously effected by traumatic events. Fortunately, even before the pandemic, teachers have been a reliable support system for foster and post-adopted youth who present with PTSD symptoms. Some school systems in our community provide teachers with information on recognizing signs of trauma and ways to adapt teaching methods to support these students. Other school systems don’t have the resources to prepare teachers for these specific challenges, but teachers are resourceful. Hilary Manion, a teacher at Zane middle school in Eureka, recounted a student she had early in her career:


One of the first system lapses I noticed was that no one told me about his background.  I struggled with him in my class for weeks before someone finally said, “Yes, but did you hear what happened to him?”  From that moment on, I approached him from the perspective of, if he stays in my classroom, it was a good day.
 

She adjusted her expectations for his behavior and focused on keeping him in class despite the interruptions he caused “as long as no other students were at risk.” By the end of the school year Hilary was having positive interactions with this student and the following year she had an opportunity to observe him in a classroom.

He was completing work and seemed happy to see me when I came in. He also seemed proud of the work he was doing. In this case it had almost nothing to do with academics, and everything to do with building a relationship with him.
student who needs help

Trauma-informed teaching at a glance

Trauma-informed teaching considers how trauma impacts learning and behavior.

It takes into account that trauma can slow down or completely stop our a student’s ability to learn.

It understands that youth experiencing trauma are more likely to fall behind in class or get in trouble for behavior issues.

The Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI), an organization that teaches de-escalation techniques in classrooms and workplaces, supports Ms. Manion’s approach. The CPI identify behavior as a “method of communication”. Their de-escalation techniques are based on the understanding that building trust over time is what helps a troubled student learn appropriate behavior modifications. A relationship built on trust and respect effectively shows a student with behavioral challenges that an adult “hears” them and is willing to communicate with them.

To prepare teachers for youth presenting with signs of trauma Garfield Elementary in Freshwater provides their teachers with training on Trauma-informed Teaching. Trauma-informed teaching recognizes that building positive relationships with students will have a big impact. It shifts a teachers focus from “fixing” students to understanding them.

Like High Fidelity Wraparound (the method used by EYS), Trauma-informed teaching supports a culturally responsive approach to analyzing and responding to behavior. It also shares the perspective that each student has potential and that patience is key when helping a young person make changes.

Marcia Brady, a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher at Garfield, suggests using the “Responsive Classroom Discipline Framework.” This approach places an emphasis on developing self-control through intrinsic motivations instead of relying on extrinsic motivations such as rewards or punishment. This framework guides educators in establishing an ongoing curriculum in self-control, group participation, and social emotional development instead of simply reacting to problems when they occur. The Responsive Classroom Framework believes in the potential for children to learn these “soft” skills and in the potential of teachers to teach them.

 

Trauma-informed communication is:
Responsive Classroom Discipline Framework Resources
Recognizing the Signs of Trauma in Youth

 Recognizing behavior as a reaction to trauma can be difficult. Children respond individually and, depending on age, different behaviors are likely to be exhibited. Pre-school children might experience separation anxiety, crying or screaming, not eating, or having nightmares. Elementary school children might display anxiety, fear, guilt, shame; they might have trouble concentrating or sleeping. And middle and high school teens might feel depressed or lonely, they might develop eating disorders or self-harming behaviors. 

Identifying signs of trauma can assist foster and adoptive parents as well as teachers. If you recognize these behaviors in your child reach out to a child or family therapist to help you address them and their causes.

 Preschool Children

  • Fearing separation from parents or caregivers
  • Crying and/or screaming a lot
  • Eating poorly and losing weight
  • Having nightmares

Elementary School Children

  • Becoming anxious or fearful
  • Feeling guilt or shame
  • Having a hard time concentrating
  • Having difficulty sleeping

Middle and High School Children

  • Feeling depressed or alone
  • Developing eating disorders and self-harming behaviors
  • Beginning to abuse alcohol or drugs
  • Becoming sexually active

Teachers are important partners in raising today’s young people. Get to know and stay in touch with your child’s teacher(s) to track and coordinate behavior modification strategies. By prioritizing clear communication, understanding, and positive relationships for your child or students, more compassionate and effective learning environments can be created at home and at school. This collective effort involving educators, parents, and your community support system can empower youth in an increasingly complex world.

Shareable Graphics

1 Social reckoning: The “reckoning” aspect involves acknowledging past harms, apologizing, and seeking forgiveness, and establishing accountability so that these behaviors, actions, and policies will never occur again. 

2 Trauma stacking: Stress, Uncertainty and Trauma Stacking, Suzi Pomerantz MT

SOURCES:

Covid-19 Pandemic Associated with Worse Mental Health and Accelerated Brain Development in Adolescents, NIH

Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2021, CDC

Trauma in Children During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Celebrate Random Acts of Kindness

Celebrate Random Acts of Kindness

The ripple effect of kindness extends far beyond its immediate recipient. When we extend kindness, we not only brighten someone else’s day but we also contribute to a more harmonious and compassionate society. Studies have shown that acts of kindness can boost mood, reduce stress, and even improve physical health.

Furthermore, kindness is contagious. Scientists at Stanford University determined that “Witnessing kindness inspires kindness, causing it to spread like a virus.” What if insteand of flu season we made February Kindness season…?

When we witness or experience kindness, we’re more likely to pay it forward, creating a chain reaction of positivity that reverberates through our communities. In a world often plagued by division and discord, kindness serves as a powerful antidote, bridging gaps and fostering understanding.

Kindness. Pass It On.

Read about Kindness Contagion in Scientific American magazine.

The Science of Kindness

In this video, UC Berkeley’s Dacher Keltner discusses how  research  finds that we are hard-wired to be kind.

In this episode of The Art of Communication the hosts look at why kindness, and especially random acts of kindness, help us connect with other people and communicate successfully with them. 

The second episode briefly explains the history of the Random Acts of Kindness Day in less than 3 minutes.

The Benefits of Kindness

The Selfish Benefits of Kindness video explores how acts of kindness have the ability to improve your mood, effect your level of optimism, and promote your well-being including focus, pain reduction and even slowing down the aging of cells!

This video lists the ways that Acts of Kindness can reduce feelings of stress and depression as well as promote feelings of calmness and happiness.

Teaching Kindness to Young Children

21 Kindness Activities for Kids

This page includes learning activities, craft projects, games, songs, a list of books, and ideas for teaching and practicing kindness.

The Heart Chart to Track Random Acts of Kindness

heartchart

Being Kind To Yourself

Shareable Graphics

world-smile-day-anthropomorphic-smile-face-2022-01-29-05-32-36-utc

The Secret Superpower of Smiling

Have you noticed how much better you feel when you smile? Smiling has a powerful impact on our emotions, our mental state, and even our physical health. As parents and caregivers, smiling is an easy way to promote a sense of well-being in those we care for. Some science-backed benefits we get from smiling are listed below.

Smiling Boosts Mental Health

Smiling releases endorphins, the natural “feel-good” chemicals in our brain. When we smile, we reduce the level of stress hormones which can alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Smiling also makes us feel more positive, confident, and in control of our lives.

Smiling Enhances Social Connections

Smiling is a universal language that transcends cultural barriers and age groups. It communicates friendliness, kindness, and warmth, making it easier to connect with others on a deeper level. When we smile, we become more approachable, likeable, and trustworthy. We can use smiling to establish rapport and create more supportive and collaborative relationships.

Smiling Improves Physical Health

Smiling has been shown to have numerous physical health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, improving immune system function, and decreasing muscle tension. It can also help reduce pain levels and speed up recovery from illness or injury. Encouraging children and other people in your care to smile more often can benefit their physical health as well as their mental health.

Smiling Increases Productivity

When we smile, we feel more energetic, productive, and motivated. This is because smiling increases blood flow to the brain and improves oxygenation, which helps us think more clearly and creatively. It has also been shown to improve memory recall, which makes it powerful tool for students.  As parents and caregivers, we can use smiling as a way to increase our children’s engagement and motivation towards learning.

Smiling Cultivates Happiness

Finally, smiling has the power to cultivate happiness in ourselves and those around us. Happiness is contagious, and when we smile, we spread positive energy to others. Smiling can also help us focus on the present moment and appreciate the little things in life.

A smile is more than just a facial expression. It’s a powerful tool that can benefit our mental, physical, and social health as well as having a positive effect on the people around us. The next time you’re feeling frustrated or down, try smiling, see if you can feel your mind and body relax.

clasped hands frame tree

Good Relationships Are The Key to Healing Trauma

“Relationships are the very oxygen of human development”

Dr Karen Treismen is a Clinical Psychologist who focuses on understanding and healing trauma. In her Ted Talk, she highlights the importance of good relationships in maintaining one’s mental health. She looks at this topic in a broad sense and emphasizes the ways that promoting good interpersonal relationships can benefit our society. The points raised include:

  • How important it is for children to see and have positive relationships early in their lives 
  • The ways that social relationships can cause or heal trauma
  • The importance of connecting with people when we try to support them through hard times, rather than simply trying to “fix” their problems 
Re-posted from the Trauma & Mental Health Report by
High school hall locker. Education building interior, empty corridor

Back to School: Navigating the Special Challenges Post-adopted Youth Might Face

Back to school time can be a challenging period for post-adopted youth. While their peers may be eagerly anticipating the start of a new school year, these children might be facing a variety of obstacles unique to their situation. Below are some of the challenges that post-adopted youth encounter when heading back to school and how we can help them overcome these hurdles.

Changing Schools

While in foster care, post-adopted youth may have had to move and change schools frequently, making it hard to establish connections with peers and teachers. This can cause feelings of loneliness and difficulties focusing on their education. Parents, caregivers, and the EYS team work together to help youth integrate into new environments by introducing them to the local community, enrolling them in extracurricular activities, and connecting them with their peers. EYS provides supportive after school pro-social activities and academic tutoring for kids of all ages.

Emotional and Behavioral Issues

Mental health issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD and stress can negatively affect a  child’s performance in school. Children who have a history of unstable living situations may find it challenging to stay focused or to complete homework on time. Parents can help them to prioritize their schoolwork by establishing a consistent routine while providing a calm and supportive home environment. Every child’s needs are different, so EYS adapts each personalized support plan according to the unique challenges and needs of individual families.

Maintaining Consistency

Stability and consistency are essential for any child’s overall well-being, but they are particularly important for children who have suffered trauma. Creating a stable home environment with a consistent routine, along with appropriate expectations and consequences provides the structure needed to thrive at home and in the classroom. EYS will work with you to design a personalized program that develops the framework of consistency necessary for emotional and academic success.

The transition to a new school year can be overwhelming for youth and parents alike, but you don’t have to do it alone. Take advantage of EYS’ counseling and respite services this fall and throughout the holiday season; our personalized approach can help you navigate each transition.

Each of us has a unique potential and a variety of abilities that must be nurtured and grown. At Evolve Youth Services we focus on tapping into that potential and helping each individual evolve into the best version of themselves.