As a therapeutic boarding school for girls, we see how thoughts have great power. They impact our behaviors, emotions, and futures. We also understand how mindfulness and cognitive awareness are a key to unlocking potential in young women.
Adolescence brings intense emotion for all teens. Yet, to some, challenges are minor, while other girls’ hurdles seem overwhelming. Even in families with multiple siblings, one teen often struggles more than others. Parents can feel confused and panicked as they watch their daughter contend with serious issues such as anxiety, conflict and crisis, dropping grades, depression, substance abuse, and problems with social media. Unhealthy behaviors can become entrenched in a dynamic that is toxic or dangerous. Locked in this cycle, a girl’s beliefs and self-talk shape her experience.
Awareness and mindfulness comes in small steps. Learning how mixed-up thinking can impact feelings and then behaviors is a process. Cognitive awareness is, in essence, thinking about thinking. Being mindful is not the same as trying to control emotions. By identifying and interrupting problematic thinking, self-talk like “I have to be perfect,” “I am unlovable,” and “I can’t succeed,” girls can begin to see how it has impacted their emotions and behaviors.
It is important to distinguish between thoughts and emotions. By learning what physical sensations accompany underlying emotions, students can begin to choose more helpful, adaptive thoughts. This in turn can interrupt negative emotions. Being mindful and nonjudgmental of our emotions is an important tool to regulate their intensity.
The girl that is consistently using attack and blame as a tactic may be struggling with mistaken beliefs around power and control. The daughter that is failing school may be telling herself “I can’t succeed, so why bother trying?” Mindfulness and self-awareness offer tools to understand herself and interrupt the downward spiral of emotion. Our boarding school’s therapeutic approach offers a combination of therapies and interventions directly targeting these beliefs and self-talk.
Recognizing these things in one’s self can be difficult, particularly for those who are trauma affected or resistant to talk therapy. Physical experiences can be a great teacher, and our experiential learning and activities help to bring girls to a place where they can more clearly see themselves. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is a powerful way for a student to learn how to regulate internal states from chaos to calm. It uses the bond between horse and human and the ability of the animal to understand body language to teach youth about themselves.
Horses’ responses are honest and immediate. Working with the horse over time builds trust and fosters a relationship that teaches students about their relationships with the people in their lives. Through therapy with the horses we begin to see the girls assertively in their bodies, setting strong boundaries with the horse while staying connected. This balance is one many teenagers don’t understand, causing issues in their relationships.
Group and individual therapies, nurturing plants in the organic garden, and group recreation that takes advantage of the natural beauty of Central Oregon also contribute to each girl’s journey to self-awareness. Combined with strong academics, volunteering, and a homey ranch setting, girls at our therapeutic boarding school gain understanding and skills to help them build the relationships and futures they want.
We use a variety of approaches to help the girls and their families find what works for them to heal and grow:
- Cognitive Therapy and Accountability Based Cognitive Restructuring (ABCR): When we become aware of how our internal dialog impacts how we feel and respond to the world, we can learn ways to reframe that dialog and change our lives.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Directly targets the emotional dysregulation that comes from beliefs and self -talk.
- Trauma Informed, Strength Based interventions.
- Positive Reinforcement: We help the girls break down their long-term goals into small, attainable goals, based in the strengths they do have.
- Experiential Therapy and Growth: Equine Therapy, Art Therapy, Recreation including skiing, horseback riding, hiking, camping, rafting, etc.
- Individualized and Family Therapy: Individual treatment plans and 90 day assessments, personal special programs and goal work, and regular sessions including family.
If you would like to talk about the various therapies we use and whether they might be a good fit for you daughter, please give us a call at 800-910-0412.