When Individual Counseling Doesn’t Work: Effective Treatment for Emotionally Disturbed Girls
At Asheville Academy for Girls, one of the most common concerns we hear from parents considering longer term treatment is that outpatient therapy has not produced the results they expected or desired. There are several reasons why outpatient therapy can be ineffective for certain individuals.
Common reasons why outpatient therapy can be ineffective
Lack of a comprehensive treatment team. To accurately assess, develop a treatment plan and implement the most effective treatment possible – a comprehensive treatment team is more likely to provide superior results than one individual outpatient clinician.
Asheville Academy for Girls’ residential treatment center for girls’ team includes:
- A licensed psychiatrist
- Licensed clinical therapists
- A licensed fitness and nutrition director
- Certified teachers and learning styles coordinator
- Behavioral health support staff
- Not enough time. Generally outpatient therapists follow traditional therapy guidelines of one or two sessions per week of approximately 50 minutes in length. If the goal is to promote long-term behavioral change that is part of a family system or complex relationship between multiple parents or guardians, one or two hours per week is not nearly enough time.
- The therapist’s training. There are many approaches to therapy, each with its own focus and limitations. A therapist who is 100 percent focused on one particular methodology might see all of their clients in a very narrow scope. Peer-reviewed scientific research into effective strategies for residential treatment centers has demonstrated that multi-modal treatment, or providing multiple strategies and opportunity’s for learning, is by far the most effective approach.
- Environmental stress. If the child is living in a stressful chaotic situation, perhaps the most immediate way to provide emotional relief is to change environments. When the environmental stress has been reduced, the child can then begin the insight building process with a qualified therapist. This is why Asheville Academy for Girls focuses on providing a loving, supportive environment for all our residents in a family-like setting.
- Wrong focus. A typical outpatient therapy session will involve the therapist asking the patient about events of the past week. For many young girls, their viewpoint of past events will be significantly different from reality. This creates a difficult situation for the therapist to give strategies on coping with the child’s environment. In a residential setting like Asheville Academy for Girls, our therapists are there throughout the day and can intervene in the moment.
If one of our students becomes emotional, we can intervene and help walk them down a path of success so that they can develop a better outlook and healthier coping skills. We might also assist the student to act out (role play) more appropriate responses in order to create new neurological connections and make their go-to “knee jerk” response to environmental stress healthy and socially appropriate.
Next Steps: A Residential Treatment Center for Girls
The best way to determine if outpatient therapy is not right for your daughter is to systematically and objectively track a set of targeted behaviors such as losing temper, swearing or throwing fits. Track these behaviors when you see them and monitor if the frequency and duration of these behaviors is improving or getting worse. If you see no improvement after multiple outpatient therapy sessions, perhaps it is time to consider a higher level approach, such as a residential treatment center for girls.