At Paradigm Malibu, one of the most fundamental aspects of our holistic treatment approach is the intentional, strategic inclusion of work with teens’ families, as part of the teens’ overall treatment plans. What we’ve learned over numerous years of work with adolescents is that the quality and health of familial relationships and dynamics in teens’ lives is fundamental to the teens’ ability to maintain and build upon their recovery and wellness. In contrast to adult therapeutic work in which ultimately, the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the individual, adolescent treatment requires the engagement and participation of the family (and especially, the parents) in order for successful recovery to occur. The bottom line is, even if the teens make substantial progress while in treatment, if the family dynamics they return to do not support continued progress, the teens will be very likely to struggle, moving forward.
At the same time, adolescence is also a time of increasing independence and responsibility, and teens still need to take ownership of, and engage with, whatever teen mental health or substance abuse disorder treatment they’re here to do. For this reason, while at Paradigm, teens do the vast majority of treatment work individually, with therapists and other team members serving as the bridge of communication to parents as to what’s happening and what progress is being made.
What we’ve designed to accommodate both the independent and also dependent nature of adolescent treatment is a weekly Family Day, where families come to the house and participate in treatment groups with their teens. These treatment sessions include both individual and group family sessions, depending on the families and particular needs. In cases where family members might be unable to attend in person, arrangements can be made for sessions to be held over Skype or conference calls.
Family Day is a very effective part of our treatment programs, providing the opportunity for powerful healing and growth in a number of different areas. First of all, the small setting of our treatment center assures that even with families visiting, every individual at Paradigm continues to receive the most individualized, precise, and focused treatment and attention possible. Secondly, we find that when teens have this regularly scheduled time to share with their families and engage in therapist-guided conversations together, they can come to these sessions more prepared and perhaps willing to engage. For parents and other family members, this time serves as a regular opportunity to check in on how their teens are doing, ask questions of their teens and therapists, engage in healthy conversations, and gain insight as to their roles in supporting their teens, now and moving forward.
We feel that much of the success and growth that comes out of our Family Day is due to the concentrated, intensive focus that the individual and group sessions have due to the careful guidance and leadership of our therapists. Even in cases where teens or their family members might be nervous or resistant to this therapeutic engagement together, our therapists are highly skilled at helping to build a safe, comfortable place for difficult conversations to take place, and it’s often from these conversations among family that some of the most powerful transformations can take place. What teens and their families tend to learn during these family days are the ways in which their behavior and lives are intricately connected to each other, for better and for worse. This is when the teens in treatment have the responsibility to face their family members and listen to the different ways they’ve caused them hurt, frustration, and difficulty. It’s also a time when the teens have the chance to speak freely and honestly about the ways in which dynamics at home might serve as triggers to them, ways in which things at home aggravate their feelings of anxiety or stress, and instances in which they have felt alone or unsupported. Siblings, as well, have the opportunity to share what their experience during this time has been. Though these conversations can be difficult, they’re also necessary, and our therapists create the space and time for this important work to occur, in the most safe, comfortable, supported ways possible. What we find is that our families often learn and gain as much, if not more, from the Family Days as the teens themselves, and everyone leaves being more united in what work is occurring now, as well as the work that lies ahead.