Fact Sheet Index

Adolescent therapy differs in many ways from therapy for adults, and by understanding these differences a parent can approach the treatment of a troubled teen with an open mind and fresh insight.

Anna Freud was one of the first therapists to point out the difficulty of transference for adolescents. Transference is a phenomenon that happens in therapy by which the client or patient “transfers” emotional feelings they have toward others in their life toward the therapist. Because teenagers are essentially in the process of detaching from parents as they mature, the nature of this detachment makes them reluctant to transfer their bond to the “parental figure” that the therapist tends to represent.

For this reason, many therapists who work with young people find activity to be a helpful component of the therapeutic process. Art therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, and experiential programs tend to be more effective than simple “talk” therapy. Experiential programs might be outdoor wilderness experiences or participation in the activities on a working farm or ranch. Another positive aspect of experiential therapeutic programs is the fact that teens often participate with their peer group. A phenomenon known as positive peer pressure enables the teen to explore more positive behaviors and attitudes within the context of their peer group, gaining reinforcement from the people the teen most wants to align him or herself with (other teens). The group of teens has a single purpose and the individuals influence each other in their collective effort to reach a positive goal. The “authority figures” in this setting serve as guides and facilitators for change, intervening therapeutically as the teen opens up and is more willing to talk and explore his or her attitudes.

This type of intensive, full-immersion, experiential therapy works very well with teens who are highly resistant to change, defiant, and opposition, as well as teens who need focused activities to learn how to deal with the effects of such issues as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Many residential programs include creative outlets for teens that use metaphors or rites of passage to guide the teen through change. Students work through levels as they take on more responsibility and prove themselves to the group through positive, productive participation. Some of these programs facilitate change by teaching basic survival skills. Teenagers learn they can accomplish exceptional tasks, such as building fire without matches, which builds self-confidence and self-esteem. Some programs use animals such as horses or llamas as part of the therapeutic process. Equine-assisted psychotherapy has proven to be a highly effective way of reaching defiant, hostile teens, particularly those who do not take responsibility for their negative behaviors. By taking responsibility for an animal, the adolescent gets direct feedback from that animal based on the teen’s behavior and attitude. This often has a profound impact on a teen’s thinking. These visceral, interactive, and experiential activities often incorporate the principles of cognitive therapy. The activities promote a change in thinking, which promotes a change in behavior. Ultimately, the more creative, active, and participatory the therapeutic intervention, the more effective it is in changing the behavior of troubled teens.

Aspen Education Group has a number of programs that can help pre-adolescent and adolescent children who have self-defeating behaviors. These intensive programs can quickly narrow down the issues your child is experiencing to help him or her on positive life path.

Aspen Ranch is a licensed residential treatment center located in a rural setting that is an ideal environment for young people who need an opportunity to turn their lives around. Students primarily work with horses while at the ranch. Each resident is also assigned to a therapist who will design a schedule of therapy to meet their individual needs. The therapeutic program is designed to work with the residential and and academic components. Talk to a program representative for more information.

Lone Star Expeditions is a therapeutic intervention program that combines traditional therapy with with a wilderness setting to engage students in exploring their character in a safe, but challenging, environment. It is a licensed residential treatment program with emphasis on assessment, intervention and after care. Talk to a program representative for more information.

Our Assessment Test can help you determine if a residential program might be best for your particular child.