Healing Through Doing: Therapeutic Programming At Equinox RTC
There are many challenges that teen boys may face from trauma to addiction to mental health disorders. As a parent, we want what is best for our child, but it can sometimes be difficult to figure out just what exactly is the best option for dealing with these issues.
The entire design of Equinox RTC is centered around the development and specific needs of young men ages 14-18. For boys, their ability to be constantly active is integral to their ability to take in information, adapt to it, and truly learn it. That’s why traditional therapeutic techniques such as talk therapy may not be as effective for them as it is for girls.
Success in working with young men requires specific and unique areas of neurological, emotional, and physiological emphasis and a keen eye to recognize what works for each individual. At Equinox, we have created a culture and approach designed specifically to meet the needs of teenage boys.
Trauma and Addictions
Trauma is a person’s emotional response to a distressing experience. Few people can go through life without encountering some kind of trauma. Unlike ordinary challenges, traumatic events tend to be sudden and unpredictable, involve a serious threat to life, like bodily injury or death, and feel beyond a person’s control. Most important, events are traumatic to the degree that they undermine a person’s sense of safety in the world and create a sense that catastrophe could strike at any time.
Trauma can be especially difficult for teenagers who do not yet have the coping skills to deal with their emotional or physical symptoms. Some students struggling with trauma, attachment issues, and nonverbal learning disorders may self medicate in order to cope. Due to this, they may develop negative habits such as substance use or an addiction to video games or food. Multiple studies have found a connection between exposure to trauma and substance abuse in young people. A quarter of American youth have experienced a traumatic event before they turned 16. In turn, one in five youth in the United States (between the age of 12 and 17) actively abuse alcohol or illicit drugs.
“Addiction” is a strong word that often carries with it a life sentence of being “in recovery.” While we observe a variety of unhealthy behaviors in our teens, we believe that it is rare to see an adolescent that is truly “addicted”. During adolescence, the brain is highly neuroplastic, or flexible. High levels of neuroplasticity yield both positive and negative features. On one hand, adolescents display greater impressionability, but on the other hand they have a great capacity for healing, and the creation of newer, healthier habits. At Equinox, we help students struggling with these sorts of issues by making available and educating students on multiple modalities for recovery. We help them match which modality would work best for their specific struggle.
Students struggling with addictions will take part in off campus meetings as well as weekly groups on campus discussing addictions. Some of these meetings will involve the 12 step process, which is a form of group therapy that includes recognition that addiction has several negative consequences that can be social, emotional, spiritual and physical. This type of therapy begins with acceptance, then moves on to surrender to a higher power, then eventually transitions to involvement in consistent group meetings. Programs like the popular Alcoholics Anonymous use group meetings for discussion and mutual support.
Other teens may benefit from practicing mindfulness or meditation. A mindfulness practice can help practitioners separate their reactions from their responses. Mindfulness encourages teenagers to slow down and stay present in the moment. They learn to acknowledge their thoughts as they arise without being controlled by the thought. This can be especially beneficial for teens dealing with the effects of post traumatic stress disorder. Many people who suffer from the symptoms of PTSD find triggers, both physical and emotional, that bring them right back to that traumatic place. Practicing mindfulness can help these people identify that they are being triggered, but remain present in the moment through breathing or grounding exercises.
The focus on fitness at Equinox is a key part of the students’ overall growth. Research has identified healthy nutrition and regular exercise as having a positive impact on both emotional well-being and brain functions such as attention, memory, focus and concentration. In addition, research also suggests regular cardiovascular and strength-training exercise can be as or even more effective than medical treatment of depression and anxiety. Simply put, when we feel good physically we feel better emotionally, and we think more clearly.
Experiential therapy is often used in the treatment of trauma, behavior disorders, anger management, grief and loss recovery, and substance abuse. A fundamental premise of experiential therapy is that one’s perception determines one’s behavior. By re-experiencing and releasing repressed negative emotions from the past, teen boys are better able to experience positive feelings such as love, forgiveness, and calm in the present, changing their perception of reality.
Our clinical team uses a number of frameworks to address trauma and attachment issues. Examples of therapeutic frameworks therapists utilize throughout a student’s stay at Equinox include Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Somatic Experiencing, Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Neurosequential Therapeutics.
Other than the regular groups offered on campus (addictions, experiential, process), we offer specialized groups dealing with topics such as self-esteem, what it is to be male, how to be in a relationship, family sculpting, how family systems work, and grief and loss. These specialized groups are determined based on the needs of our population at any specific time. Our program creates a culture that fosters the development of strong, positive identities among young men and strongly challenges old ways of being and thinking. As they develop and learn alongside one another, they form trusting, caring relationships.
Adventure Therapy and Recreation Therapy
Adventure Therapy challenges participants by requiring them to take risks that may normally be outside of their comfort zone. This therapy includes outdoor activities such as camping, cooperative games, ropes courses, rock climbing, expeditions. These activities, which normally have both an individual and a family and/or group component, encourage problem solving, trust-building, and confidence.
The Equinox Adventure Therapy program is designed to provide our students with well-rounded, meaningful learning opportunities through outdoor recreation, experiential education and community service and events. Our therapeutic approach fully integrates outdoor adventure and recreation activities with clinical therapy. Every day, students will attend school and take part in two group therapy sessions a day. Each of these group therapy sessions will discuss subjects like increasing activity levels as well as creating experiences geared towards helping students learn, process and heal.
We use Adventure and Recreation Therapy to enhance physical, cognitive, social, and emotional well-being so that students may participate fully and independently in chosen life pursuits. As a part of the multidisciplinary team, our Recreation Therapist aligns treatment goals with that of other disciplines and uses various recreational modalities to achieve them. Each day, students go out into the great outdoors within specialized groups integrated into the clinical program. They take part in outdoor adventures such as hiking, whitewater rafting, high ropes courses, or mountain biking. They may also take part in cultural activities such as pottery and other arts.
We believe that through Recreation Therapy, our students can not only find confidence in their identity, they can also gain new perspectives about interests and hobbies that they may pursue in the future. We emphasize living in the moment and focusing on the journey, not just the destination. Recreation Therapy is an experientially based playground for practicing and developing skills and assets needed on that journey.
Through this process, our students become more informed and active participants in their own health care and may achieve and maintain optimal levels of physical activity, productivity, well-being, and quality of life. Students learn how to help reduce symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety while building confidence and socialization in their community. As advocates for healthy lifestyles, we believe that implementing recreation into the lives of these young men and into your lives as their families will provide wonderful benefits to your relationships with each other.
Equinox RTC Can Help
Equinox RTC, a residential treatment center for teen boys ages 14-18, might be able to help your teen struggling with trauma and/or attachment issues. With decades of experience working with adolescents in residential treatment, our founding team developed a clinically intensive, trauma-informed, neurologically-based and adventure-filled program focused on the specific challenges and needs of young men.
The Equinox Difference focuses on respected, evidence-based approaches to the recovery from trauma, loss, depression, anxiety, relationship deterioration, and impulsive and addictive behaviors. Our holistic approach–which treats the mind, body, and soul–is just one aspect that sets us apart from other treatment programs for troubled teens. For more information about how Equinox can help your family, call us directly at (877) 279-8925.