John Townsend, Ph.D.

When a teen struggles with emotional and behavioral problems, she is best helped when there is an entire system of intervention designed to accelerate her healing and recovery.  While relationship and talk therapy are the primary parts of what brings health to her, there are other methods that can help her move along in the process of becoming the person she was designed to be.  These methods are called alternative therapies.  They are additions to what she is normally experiencing.  They need to be checked out by qualified professionals who can attest to their safety and effectiveness, but those that are vetted can help a great deal.

Take physical work, for example.  A teen’s body is important to her.  Teens live in their bodies and often express their pain in cutting and addictions.  At the same time, if the body becomes healthy, it helps the emotions to become healthy.  Nutritional counseling and physical training can increase the adolescent’s confidence and self-image, which can help resolve depression, anxiety and behavioral problems.

Equine, or horse therapy, is another effective avenue to help.  Horses are unusual animals in how emotionally intuitive they are.  They can feel not only their own feelings toward others but also sense people’s feelings as well, for example, if the teen is scared, angry or overwhelmed.  I have been through training by professionals in horse therapy, and it is incredible how the horse was able to sense my emotions.  More and more research is coming out about the advantages of horse therapy.

Art therapy is another very helpful aspect for healing for a teen.  In art therapy, she learns to express her emotions in painting, sculpture or other ways.  We often find that adolescents who work with an art therapist accomplish three things:  expression of their pain, expression of who they really are inside, and connection with others who can understand them, all of which brings great healing.

Educational therapy helps teens who have felt like failures academically to “own” their intelligence, their self-esteem, and boost their power and achievement. When someone understands their learning style and helps them with diligence, attention, focus and a work ethic, good things happen and they can really find themselves in the adult work world.

Finally, many teens benefit from outdoor experiences, such as hiking, camping and trail work.  Teens who have been loners or never experienced comradeship learn to trust each other, collaborate, feel good about solving problems and celebrate achievements.  The outdoors is just plain good for us!

Don’t let the phrase “alternative” scare you.  It just means “not as well-known.”  Make sure it has been recommended by someone with good credentials who is trusted, then add it to how you are helping your teen heal.

This post was written by Dr. John Townsend. If you would like to learn more about him or his endorsement of our program, please click here.