Our understanding of the neurological functioning of the brain has grown exponentially over the last 10 – 15 years. Of particular interest to us at Equinox are the neurodevelopmental differences between boys and girls, as well as the extremely important role that neurology plays in the treatment of trauma, loss and attachment issues.
From a neurological perspective, boys’ and girls’ brains function quite differently, and as such, require varied therapeutic approaches. Modern academics and therapeutics are often delivered within four walls and rely heavily on verbal communication. These methods tend to cater more to the neurological capacity of girls who learn best through verbal centers in the brain. On the other hand, males learn through spatial/mechanical and visual centers in the brain which makes traditional didactic methods of teaching less effective for them. With this knowledge, Equinox utilizes a highly experiential approach to therapy and academics. We prefer to deliver therapy outdoors and use classrooms without walls. Furthermore, allowing our boys to move while engaging in therapy (e.g., walking around the pond, tossing a ball back and forth, or shooting hoops) tends to help their mouths move a little more freely, and their brains to process information more speedily and accurately.
As stated above, neurology is also one of the key factors related to trauma and effective healing. Experiencing trauma changes the brain of the traumatized individual. The brain stem—where life-sustaining brain activity takes place including breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure—is where the instinctual flight, fight or freeze response originates. When a trauma is experienced, the fight, flight, or freeze response is triggered and neuronal pathways in that part of the brain are strengthened. Natural responses that follow a trauma both reinforce, and are reinforced by these brain stem functions, and the brain of a trauma victim can begin to route a majority of its functioning toward the brain stem and away from the prefrontal cortex (where our personality, problem solving, and abstract thought live). This can have very negative repercussions in life that inhibit one’s ability to access these higher functions in the brain at important moments. In order to heal from traumas, the approaches used must ultimately create change at a neurological level—allowing the higher functions of the brain to take control back from the brain stem so that the trauma victim can go through life without fearing that a lion may be lurking around every corner…
As a leading therapeutic program for teens, we implement several neurologically-focused approaches in our therapeutic programming in order to heal the above-described challenges. These are: EMDR, Neurofeedback, Somatic Experiencing, Brainspotting, and a variety of means of bilateral stimulation. To learn more about these approaches, please contact us and set up a tour of our program!