Though group therapy sessions are also an important part of our adolescent treatment plans, there are certain essential aspects of deep, difficult work adolescents must engage in that are necessary for healing and internalized, long term change. Though some of this healing and progress can certainly be encouraged and strengthened in the group setting, there are other parts that require the individual setting. This is especially true for the process of therapists working with teens to uncover the deeper, underlying causes, beliefs, and thought patterns that are at work in the teens’ lives. In order for teens to recognize and take responsibility for these deeper causes and triggers in their lives, they need to engage in intensely introspective conversations with their therapists, which can be too intimidating or revealing to do in the group setting. Furthermore, individual therapy sessions provide the opportunity for teens to grow and progress in their relationships with their therapists over time, such as gaining trust, feeling safe to be honest, and believing the insight and advice the therapists offer. This dynamic is central to adolescents’ treatment progress and furthermore, to their belief and hope in change.
Our teen individual therapy sessions might combine a number of different techniques but are most broadly characterized as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is a therapy focused on examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This kind of focus is at the heart of our approach to treatment at Paradigm, as it inherently encourages addressing the deeper, more underlying causes and triggers of behavior, as opposed to simply treating more obvious, exterior symptoms. As therapists help teens to examine the deeply held beliefs that create certain thought patterns, and how those unhealthy thought patterns lead to behaviors, teens can gradually learn to modify their thought patterns in order to cope with mental illness. Another difference between CBT and more traditional forms of psychotherapy is in CBT, the therapists take more active roles in engaging in the teens’ recovery.
This active engagement will of course look different in different situations, but often includes the therapist working toward addressing specific goals and problems at hand, and will often incorporate giving the teens specific practices they can engage in as “homework,” outside of therapy sessions. The nature of these exercises commonly involves ways to help teens notice the thoughts that pop into their minds, of which they often may be completely unaware. However, the interesting thing is that regardless of our awareness of our own thought patterns, these messages or “stories” that we tell ourselves can, over time, form the way we live our lives and the way we see ourselves. In this sense, our thoughts hold great power. Teens with Eating Disorders are likely consistently thinking that they’re overweight or not good enough; teens with Depression might be thinking that they’re somehow failing or disappointing others; teens with Anxiety are likely thinking about all sorts of negative circumstances that scare them, which continue to trigger their feelings of anxiety, even if those thoughts have no actual basis in reality. The power then, of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, is rooted in this process of helping teens to discover what their minds are doing, so that they’re no longer helplessly at the whim of thoughts that are unhealthy and untrue.
We believe this intensive therapeutic work to be at the center of successful treatment and lasting recovery, which is why we insist on providing teen individual therapy sessions every day. In relation to the years of adolescence, no less an entire lifetime, the time teens are with us at Paradigm is short, and so we strive to make every day as potent, effective, and meaningful as possible. The individual therapy sessions are the center-point of real transformation, the beginning of the process of teens changing themselves and their lives to move forward as healthier, happier people.