What’s Your Real Problem?

I get calls from concerned parents all time. They are worried about the behaviors their kids are engaging in. What parent wouldn’t be concerned if they see their child struggling? Maybe your teen is avoiding school because they are anxious. Maybe your child is in college and drinking and partying too much led to them not returning for second semester. Maybe your teen is isolating or self-harming. Regardless of the behavior, I have to tell you, the behavior is NOT the problem, it is the SOLUTION.

I know, you probably think I am crazy at this point, but just keep reading. The problem is that they lack coping skills! Your kids don’t know how to feel intense or difficult emotions and they don’t have any real coping skills to manage them in the moment.

So, what do they do? They find another way. The “solution.” For each child, teen, or young adult (and let’s be real some of us as well), this might look different, but the concept is the same. They are all managing their feelings or essentially avoiding their feelings because they don’t know what else to do!

GOOD NEWS, There is a better way! 

There are coping skills that very effectively help teens learn to manage their feelings in the moment! Your teen can learn them today! You can learn them too and how to help your teen put them into practice on a regular basis. Any day now you can be on your way to having a happier healthier teen.

We help your teen envision a life worth living and imagine that they can be in control of their emotions. We help them to identify what their current behaviors are doing for them and teach them how coping skills can help them reach their same goals without the negative consequences (such as shame).

Sound good? Schedule your free 15-min phone strategy session to learn more about how coping skills to help you and/or your teen start the year off right!

Life Hack: 3 Ways Teens Can Feel More Positive

Your teen has it hard, harder than I ever did. They are often striving for perfect grades, trying to be the best at sports, and all while navigating social media…whoa though.

As a parent, you want to help, but you don’t know when you are helping or fixing. You worry about having another school year that starts off strong but the stress slowly builds up and by January they are stressed, angry, overwhelmed, and now it feels too late.

GOOD NEWS! One of the most important things your teen can learn to do to help decrease stress and live a balanced life style is to have a schedule and include time for fun!

In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), this skill is call “Building Positive Experiences.” This means intentionally engaging in activities that are fun and create a pleasant emotion to help balance out difficult emotions. It will help your teen feel fulfilled and remember that life isn’t always hard!

3 Aspects of Building Positive Experiences

1) Remembering past positive experiences. Notice events that you have already experienced or that are currently going on in your life that are positive. Use your senses to fully absorb them. Reflect back on them frequently and use a gratitude journal to help make this a daily practice.

2) Build new short-term positive experiences. Allow time in your schedule to do new things or things you stopped doing that make you happy.  Start drawing again, go for a walk, meditate, etc. These can be spontaneous or planned.

3) Build long-term positive experiences. Identify activities you like to do that you can add to your schedule that may take some planning. Something that makes your life exciting…start lessons for something, apply for a job, etc. Having something to look forward to is a great way to create positive feelings and motivation!

Want to help your teen build more positive experiences. Click hereto schedule your parent consultation to learn more about the upcoming offerings at Mindful Healing that were designed with your teen in mind!

What The Heck Is DBT and Why Will It Help My Teen?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive treatment model that offers hope for teens who have not seen improvement in other therapies. It is based on actionable skills and focuses on problem solving and acceptance-based strategies. DBT is led by a DBT-Certified therapist who is intensively trained by Behavior Tech.

At Mindful Healing, LLC our DBT program for adolescents involves group skills training. These actionable skills focus on helping teens learn to feel in control of their emotions rather than their emotions being in control of them. To transfer skills to the home and school environment, many teens also participate in individual DBT and parent coaching.

DBT is used to treat teens with anything from school avoidance to suicidality. It is the gold standard of evidence based treatment for emotion regulation in teens.

What Skills Does DBT Teach?

DBT skills group is a co-ed open-enrollment group. It runs for 26 weeks.   Group has a maximum of 8 clients to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to fully engage. We ask that you make the commitment to attend for a minimum of 12-weeks to give your teen ample time to develop skills and begin to see progress.

DBT skills training is very structured and consists of five modules.

Mindfulness skills: Teaches teens how to focus the mind and to observe and describe what they are feeling and thinking in the moment without judgement. These skills can help teens reduce reactivity to painful thoughts and emotions.

Distress Tolerance: Learning how to accept yourself and the situation. More specifically, learning to tolerate a crisis and being able to recognize urges to do things that would be ineffective, such self-harm, without acting on them.

Emotion Regulation: Addresses emotional sensitivity, mood changes such as depression, anxiety, or anger. In addition, recognizing and coping with negative emotions, and reducing one’s emotional vulnerability by increasing positive life experiences.

Interpersonal Effectiveness: It’s often relationships with others that are the triggers for self-destructive behaviors in teens. Interpersonal effectiveness skills teach adolescents how to engage more effectively with others. In addition, it enables them to feel more supported by others.

Middle Path: Teaches teens how to shift perspectives and see more than one viewpoint rather than only extreme thinking and behaviors. These skills involve learning about how to compromise and negotiate, as well as methods of behavior change, validation and acceptance.

Additional DBT Supports Available At Mindful Healing:

Individual DBT psychotherapy: This is the main way of developing and refining the ability to apply skills taught in DBT skills group to daily life. Individual DBT focuses on helping teens identify personal triggers for behaviors and explore skill based solutions.

Parent Tele-Coaching: Many parents feel unsure of how to approach a particular situation, when or how to set limits, if setting limits will make things better or worse, how to encourage skills use, etc. Parents can contact our intake corrdinator to arrange an individual parent coaching session for assistance in developing their own skills!

Commitment Strategies: “Commitment strategies” are a cornerstone of DBT treatment. Not all adolescents choose to come to therapy. Some are encouraged by parents or friends to seek treatment, and may not be “motivated” initially to attend therapy. Special commitment strategies are used to help adolescents gain a better understanding of their behaviors, and how DBT skills will help them meet their own unique individual goals!

In a nutshell, DBT teaches teens actionable skills to help them learn to live a life they can love! DBT targets the issues that cause distress. It teaches teens skills to deal with them without having to resort to self-defeating behaviors.

GROUP THERAPY: IT’S NOT JUST “SOCIAL HOUR”

Sometimes I hear from parents that they don’t think group is right for their teen because they don’t believe that a “social hour” will help their depression or anxiety. Or that “social hour” would create too much anxiety or comparison for their teen.

But Here’s The Deal:

Support has been scientifically proven to be the #1 indicator of overall wellbeing. It leads to improved symptoms of anxiety and depression, and better physical health.

3 REASONS GROUP CAN BE THE BEST FOR YOUR TEEN:

Group helps your teen experience and learn that they are not alone

Being in a group with others who have similar struggles lets your teen know they are not the only one who feels this way and that they aren’t broken, bad, wrong or different for having the feelings that they do. It allows them to feel heard and understood and this experience is the first step towards healing.

Group hold your teen accountable their goals

Group members support each other in making healthy decisions and actionable changes. I’ve had group members commit to end toxic relationships, finish school work on time, work on angry outburst, and more… and they actually follow through because they have PEERS holding them accountable weekly and cheering them on. Peers accountability is more effective adults checking in on teens!

Group helps your teen learn to love and accept themselves the way they are

The experience of showing up week after week, sharing with teens who have similar struggles allows them to start to feel emotionally safe and be their authentic self. They begin to stop hiding behind emotional walls and allow themselves to be seen, known, and accepted for who they really are. This is a priceless experience and will rocket their self-esteem!

There are other ways to find social support for your teen. Whether you decide on group as a way to help your teen find support, or you seek connection for your teen elsewhere, our mission is to help your teen understand that they are not alone.

If you think group might be right for your teen contact us here for your free consultation.

What Teens Really Want!

It is hard to be the parent of a teenager. It is even harder to be the parent of a teenager that is struggling with depression, anxiety, anger, or suicidal thoughts. The worry, the desire to take their pain away, the sleepless nights and more…

Parents of teens that are struggling often say that they don’t know how to help them and feel that their teen is often isolating, angry, or pulling away. However, teens have a different perspective.

Watch this video to learn what teens really want and what you can do?

To learn more about how to connect with your teen click here to schedule your free consultation!

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AFRAID OF YOUR EMOTIONS

Does your teen feel overwhelmed by emotions, hide from them or shove them down? Facing distress is difficult and a common reaction for teenagers is to shove those feelings away. Sometimes the emotions we are having feel so overwhelming we don’t want to feel them or deal with them so we shove them away, we are not even interest in going close to them because we are afraid to of what might happen if we connect to them.

It’s normal to have a range of emotions and every day is not going to be perfect. It’s okay to experience them.

How To Face Difficult Emotions

We have discovered that if you acknowledge them and label them the intensity with decrease and you will get through it quicker. In DBT we use the skill “riding the wave” to help teenagers learn to experience their emotions in the moment without their emotions being in control.

A surfer doesn’t fight the powerful ocean wave; he moves with the wave riding its natural tide. “Riding the wave” is also a practice of surfing your own powerful and negative emotions. Rather than fighting sadness, anger and other negative emotions, it’s about allowing your emotions to wash over you like a tidal wave, riding them out until they pass so that you can make wise decisions from a place of calm rather than a place of emotional turmoil that can often lead to destructive or ineffective behavior that doesn’t serve your goals.

When your teen is in distress it can be challenging to control or manage intense emotions. They may be flooded and inundated with negative emotions and harmful urges. There may be a feeling of hopelessness as the emotions are too overwhelming to deal with.  This is when riding the wave comes in handy.

Also known as Urge surfing, riding the wave involves observing and coping with the experience without trying to change it. As the more frequent tendency is to avoid, escape, or shove the feeling away, so riding the wave may seem unnatural. Riding the wave will give your teen a sense of personal control over uncomfortable feelings. Riding the wave allows one to sit with his or her discomfort, sorrow, and pain, instead of fighting the feeling by acting impulsively and engaging in harmful and self-destructive behaviors.  Although it can seem counterintuitive, accepting painful emotions allows for freedom from suffering.

It’s challenging to accept our thoughts and manage our emotions, but if we can learn how to “ride the wave” of our feelings we can prevent our urges from dictating our behavior. Your Teen will be more secure in knowing they have more control over their behavior and be able to respond rather than react!

This can be a difficult skill to learn. If you think your teen might benefit from riding the wave or other coping skills contact me here to learn more about Teen DBT Skills Group!

SHIFT OUT OF NEGATIVE THOUGHTS (GOAL IS NOT TO CHANGE THEM)

If your teen struggles with negative self-talk the DBT mindfulness skill “Fact or Judgement” may be the solution. They can enjoy the moment without negative thinking.

Thoughts and Feelings aren’t Facts

Anybody who has worked with teens or has teens know that negative self-talk teens are very hard on themselves and this impacts their behavior. Using “Fact or Judgement” can help teens notice what’s happening in their mind and have more control over their emotions and reactions.

For example, if a teen fails a test in school they may think “I’m not good enough. I’m a failure. I’m never going to succeed in school.” Thoughts like this just keeps going and going in their head and by the time they get home they may not be willing to talk or have an angry outburst and as the parent you have no idea why. They may even not want to do their homework, or not want to go to school anymore.

When using “Fact or Judgment” helps teens observe their negative self-talk and ask themselves is this a fact, or is this a judgment? This will help to give emotional distance from the thought.

Teens can say: “I’m having the that I am stupid because I failed this test and this is a judgement. The fact is that I didn’t study. I am passing the class.”

This will in turn impact their behavior: If your teen is no longer feeling like a failure or stupid and has stopped the negative-self talk wheel, they may be more open to studying, going to school, talking to you, etc.

Don’t Let Your Thoughts Drive You

Remember don’t let your thoughts take control. Thoughts are not facts. Practice noticing your thoughts and letting them go. Remind yourself of what the facts of the situation are. Ask yourself what is true here? What amI reacting to?

Some teens have even mentioned that it is helpful gain distance from their thoughts by saying them out loud or talking to them in third person (ex. Lianna this negative thought is just a thought, your facts are…).

This doesn’t mean to invalidate our feelings, just to acknowledge that the thought is just a thought and a fact is fact.

Need more support or tricks for your teen? Book your free parent consultation here.

FIND YOUR TRUE SELF

If your teen struggles with not knowing who they are or feeling lost negative core beliefs may be part of the problem.

Many teens are filled with these negative core belief systems. Core beliefs are belief systems that impact how we see ourselves, others, our future, and the world. They develop over time, usually from childhood and from significant life events and circumstances. They are strongly-held and ridged belief systems that are reinforced by the tendency to focus on facts that support the belief and ignore evidence that contradicts the belief system.

Many of the teenagers I work with at Mindful Healing believe that “They will never get better,” “They aren’t worth helping,” “They are hurting the people around them,” or “They don’t deserve to be loved.”

These beliefs are distress intolerant and can be activated by certain circumstances. When they are triggered they create such a pain response and such large emotional reactions teens cannot tolerate distress.

Core-Beliefs Are Attached to Values

One of the skills I teach at Mindful Healing is the DBT skill: Finding Meaning

This skill helps teens take a look at their distress intolerant beliefs and identify the value and meaning that it is triggering. If they say “I hurt the people around me,” they may value relationships. If they say “I will never get better,” they may value hope.

When teens are able to identify their values and begin to stripe away their self-doubt they are better able to tolerate distress. Adding meaning to life can help create a sense of purpose, life, and hope for the future.

It can help them begin to change their distress intolerant beliefs and find their authentic self!

6 UNHELPFUL THINGS WELL-INTENDED PARENTS SAY

You see your teen feeling overwhelmed with school work, struggling with peer relationships, or constantly judging themselves and all you want to do is help them feel better. You do your best to say the right thing, but some words that may sound positive can actually hurt.

Teens don’t come with a “how-to” manual and despite being attentive loving parents we can say pretty unhelpful things sometimes. These aren’t always things said in the middle of an argument, but things we say to comfort or encourage our teens with the best of intentions.

Next time you find yourself ready to say one of these things pause and take a different approach.

1. Practice Makes perfect

It is true that the more you practice a skill the better you can get at it. However, “perfect” doesn’t exist. This not only sends the message that it isn’t okay to make mistakes, but that perfection is expected and to keep trying until they achieve it. Many teens hear that they are not good enough or worthy until they have achieved this perfection.

2. Don’t Worry or Don’t Cry

We say this often to try to comfort our teens, but instead it sends them the message that their feelings don’t count or are wrong. Instead try saying, “I can see why that be worrisome, what are some things you can do to feel less worried?” This shows your teen not only do understand their feelings but believe they are strong enough to address them.

3. How Was School Today?

This question is asked to show interest on your teens life, but is often met with one word answers – Typically, “good,” or “fine.” Instead try asking questions that require more than one word to answer, such as “what did you do for your science project?” or “who did you sit with at lunch?

4. I’m On a Diet

This is something to keep to yourself. If your children or teens hear you discussing watching your weight, being on a diet, or feeling fat they may develop their own body image issues. Instead try saying that you are eating healthy because you like the way it makes you feel.

5. If you don’t start doing better, you will never get a job/get into college

Often parents say this with the intention of getting teens to think about how their current behavior is impacting their future. If you don’t do your homework now or go to school, your hope of going to college won’t happen. However, if your teen is struggling with going to school adding pressure isn’t going to help. This sends them the message that you don’t believe in them. Focus on supporting the current behavior rather than a negative future. Instead try saying “What are some small steps you can take to get to school?

6. You Can’t Imagine the Day I’ve Had

As parents when you get home after a long day at work and the first thing your teen does is ask you for something or start an argument, this one can be easy to say. Often you are trying to get them to be compassionate and empathetic. What your teens hears is “My problems are more important than yours.” Your teen needs you to be fully present even when you don’t want to be. If you need a few minutes to relax, try pulling over listening to relaxing music or meditating in the car for a minutes down the road before walking in the door.

While these are often said with the best intentions, when we know more about how our teens interpret what we are saying we can truly be as helpful as we intended.

For more parenting support contact me here. 

HOW DBT HELPS TO INSTANTLY CALM STRONG EMOTIONS

Though everyone feels intense negative emotions, it is very common for teenagers to feel overwhelmed or stressed on a regular basis. UCLA researchers have reported that incoming freshman rates of feeling overwhelmed have increased from 18 percent in 1985 to 29 percent in 2010 and 41 percent in 2016.  A recent study in Psychological Medicine reported an increase in depression from 2005 to 2015 from 8.7 percent to 12.7 percent for teens 12- to 17-year-olds.

When your teen is overwhelmed it may be very hard for them to access and use their everyday coping skills and reminding them may lead to them feeling more frustrated. The reason being when we are in a state of extreme emotional arousal our brains aren’t functioning properly and we can’t process or access information. It is as if your teen is so overwhelmed by emotions their brain is on pause.

In order for your teen to get past their brain being on pause they need to “reset” it. According to Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) there are some simple skills you can use to kick your parasympathetic nervous system into gear (PNS) which helps to relax us. This skill is referred to by the acronym TIP.

  • Temperature: If your teen changes their temperature it can help them refocus and reset. It helps them feel more grounded. Changing their temperature will instantly slow their nervous system down and help them to relax. They can try running cold water on their forehead or forearms, or back of their necks. Maybe chewing on some ice.
  • Intense Exercise: Always check with your physician before doing any new physical activities to ensure you avoid any injuries. Short, quick and intense bursts of exercise can jolt your teen’s system and help to ground your teen. Quick increases in heart rate help mind/body connect and your teen is better able to calm down. Try jumping jacks, burpees, a quick jog, etc.
  • Paced Breathing: Deep breathing is always a wonderful coping skill. Paced breathing is the opposite of the slow deep breaths you may be used to. In yoga we refer to it as “breath of fire” or “cleaning breath.” You take short breaths in and strong forceful breaths out at a quick pace. Use this for about 15-30 seconds and no longer as it may leave you feeling lightheaded.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: The concept is to focus on one muscle group at a time tensing and releasing each group and notice the difference. You can repeat each muscle group four to six times. As you scan your body, tensing and releasing each muscle group the muscles loosen and relax. This skill can be very relaxing and help connect mind and body. If your teen is struggling to fall asleep this can be a great tool to use before bedtime to help them relax and fall asleep.

These skills will not necessarily stop your teen from feeling distress or discomfort. They can however learn to get through the crisis and whatever made them feel overwhelmed to begin with. Once the intensity has passed they will better be able to access their other DBT skills and begin to problem-solve the situation.

If your teen needs support with managing intense emotions DBT group help. Contact me here to learn more.