Physical exercise is also important at these schools. For kids who have trouble with hyperactivity, physical exercise is very important. Behavioral therapists ensure that kids have frequent, regularly scheduled periods of high activity, in order to maximize their attentiveness during inactive times, and use that time more efficiently, for studying, counseling or trained relaxation techniques. Some treatment centers utilize weight rooms and gymnasiums, but it’s important to be sure that teens have access to the natural world, too. Studies have shown that students who have access to activities like hiking, walking through nature trails and even just watching the clouds go by end up feeling more peaceful and serene, and have a better understanding of spiritual concepts. For this reason, many city-dwelling families choose a school in the mountains or out in the country, so that their teens can enjoy learning in a summer-camp environment that brings peace into their lives.
Behavioral therapists are trained in helping teens recognize the “triggers” or causes of their deviant behavior. Together, these therapists help teens create a plan of action that empowers them to deal with issues as they arise. This prevents emotional blowups or outbursts. Counselors help teens learn to communicate and understand one another. Group counseling sessions, often dramatic and mundane at the same time, help teens develop empathy and compassion for one another. This is the one part about a residential treatment center that families have a hard time duplicating, and often the primary reason for the program’s success. Having the energy to deal with the emotions behind a behavioral problem is a difficult and unlikely goal for parents.
Another tactic often used at residential treatment counseling and therapy programs is that of group projects. Kids are involved in projects that help define leadership roles, encourage cooperation and utilize each kids unique talents and skills. Completing large projects, like building a greenhouse, or raising money for a charity, or repainting the cafeteria are fantastic ways to feel the pride of a job well done, and to have a positive and important impact on their community. The communal living environment that often exists in these centers is all designed to foster independence and self esteem in teens who might otherwise feel insignificant and ineffective in a grown-up world.
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