Encouraging Troubled Youth To Accept Help
When teens arrive at Discovery Ranch for Girls (DRG), they often bring with them a lack of motivation. They also bring a low opinion of themselves, and resistance to change. DRG gives them something different. At DRG, they learn to identify and build on their strengths. That is why DRG is successful where other programs might have failed.
Identifying Real Issues
“Getting information from the residential staff day-to-day is extremely helpful. I feel like what I have noticed with these students is if they have an hour, they can present themselves pretty well,” said therapist Sidney Dang, Psy.D.
Like anyone else, teens with mental health issues want people to think the best of them. So, when they come to therapy, they try to present the best possible version of themselves. Unfortunately, the good behavior they demonstrate during therapy can mask their real struggles. However, during residential treatment, staff members can observe students in a variety of different settings and many different situations.
For example, students are observed in active settings, such as recreational therapy or in a performing arts group. They are also observed in more sedentary settings, such as a classroom. Therapists receive notes from staff members from each of these different settings. They also meet with members of each department once a week to discuss each student’s progress. This information allows the student’s therapist to develop a clearer picture of her strengths and weaknesses.
Building Strengths Through Strong Relationships
Sidney believes that identifying and emphasizing strengths are just as important as helping students find ways to overcome weakness. Focusing on and building on strengths is especially important for new arrivals, who may feel frustrated with being in a therapeutic boarding school.
Sidney builds relationships with his students by encouraging them to focus on areas where they excel. For example, Sidney might take an active teen out of the office to do a session on the swingset, play a game, or play with the dog. By focusing on activities which she enjoys, a teen struggling with acceptance and engagement will become more open to therapy.
“I try to use the relationship in a way to help students feel supported and like they are being heard, and at the same time, fully understood,” said Sidney.
As a young woman adjusts to being in the program, and her anxieties decrease, Sidney begins to transition to more formal therapy sessions.
“Then there might be times when we will be able to sit down and do a pretty verbally loaded session to process through the difficult things that are just really difficult not to process not only within their minds but also within their body,” said Sidney.
When young women leave DRG, they take with them the skills that they have learned. They take the healthy relationships they built. Also, they take with them a lived example of their ability to change their lives for the better.