Our belief at Paradigm Malibu is that successful adolescent treatment must also mean teen family therapy. In order for teens to successfully recover and continue to remain healthy and without relapse in the future, they must have the support, understanding, and encouragement of their family. Adolescent Treatment has a number of unique qualities, a predominant one being that it’s a family-oriented process in addition to an individual process, and one that is especially demanding on the parents. Whereas in adult therapy, the process, decisions, and responsibility of the person ultimately lie with the person alone, adolescent therapy requires the family’s engagement and participation nearly every step of the way. In this sense, the adolescents’ experience preceding, throughout, and following treatment has strong effects on the entire family, and often can include significant amounts of stress and general unrest in the parents and siblings. In this sense, an adolescent’s successful recovery is intricately connected to the degree that the teen and the family can make the necessary adjustments and changes, moving forward. Essentially, even if teens are able to make significant strides during treatment, but then fail to maintain responsibilities and improve dynamics when they return home, the teens become very vulnerable to the types of conflicts and stressors that can lead to relapse. Because of this, we believe it’s important for family members to be directly involved in treatment, whenever possible. The most specific and direct way we incorporate this in our Adolescent Treatment programs is within our Individual and Multi-Family Group sessions, in which family members visit Paradigm to participate. In cases where family members are unable to attend sessions due to work, geographic location, or for any other reason, our family therapist is available to conduct Skype, or telephonic sessions.
Our Individual Teen Family Therapy sessions are conducted weekly by a family therapist. These sessions are in addition to, and in collaboration with, the other interaction therapists will have with parents over the phone, updating them and making them aware of their adolescent’s treatment experience and progress. Our Individual teen family therapy allows participants to more specifically focus on family dynamics, under the professional guidance and facilitation of the therapist. In our experience, these family sessions are often very challenging and wonderfully powerful, carrying the potential to help further and strengthen the teens’ overall treatment progress and success. Though these sessions can certainly have their challenges, we find this work to be powerful, rewarding, and also necessary to adolescents’ recovery.
The individual family therapy sessions can be difficult for the same reasons that they’re wonderful. They’re difficult because it’s a time when feelings, tensions, and conflicts are brought out, spoken about, and discussed, intentionally and thoroughly. This can be hard, especially if such a level of communication hasn’t existed previously or at least recently. At the same time, however, it’s this open communication that is necessary in order for the past and present to be healthily addressed, which in turn allows for the family to make positive changes that are necessary for the future. It’s also important to note that many teens and their family members find these sessions extremely freeing and encouraging, precisely because of the therapist’s role in helping to facilitate healthy conversations that can provoke positive changes. It becomes a safe opportunity where people feel guided in order to express themselves, to ask hard questions, to give honest answers, and to state their needs. At the same time, it’s an opportunity to hear the teens express aspects of their experience and challenges that have been mysterious, frustrating, and/or stressful for family members to feel ignorant of in the past. And along these lines, these individual family sessions are also a very important time for the therapist to help connect the family members to the work and progress that teens are undergoing in treatment, so that everyone is on the same page, once the teens return home.
All of these different experiences, opportunities, and benefits that Teen Family Therapy provides are important both while the teens are in treatment, and when they return home. Our therapists work to facilitate invaluable work and communication to take place, which will provide the foundation from which the family can begin to heal and move forward, which will allow the teens to continue succeeding in their ongoing recovery. These sessions also help to equip family members, and especially parents, to support their teens once they complete treatment, to assure that their teens’ recovery is long-lasting.