Almost daily clients at Cedar Ridge Academy are asked to complete a paper on something that they found “Triggering” during their day. Then as part of the paper they are asked to describe their physiological responses to these triggering events. Many have written things like:
“My face flushed,”
“My heart raced,”
“My jaw muscles tightened,”
“My breathing got more shallow and more rapid,”
“My shoulders tensed up.”
Do any of these reactions seem familiar to experience that you might have felt? If we were to look up symptoms of “Social Anxiety Disorder” we would likely find many of these same physiological responses listed. While many people get uncomfortable speaking before groups, there are many more teenagers who are learning to avoid uncomfortable situations by not even participating in these situations at all. We doubt that anyone would disagree with the statement that the teenage years are some of the most challenging years of a lifetime.
Far to often the coping skills teenagers develop to deal with situations that create anxiety are poorly thought out, and some are extremely addictive and very dangerous. Many of the options involve defiance towards adults and authority figures, some involve isolation, many involve experimenting with drugs, and nearly all involve a change of behaviors and attitudes towards old routines and activities. As parents, many of these coping mechanisms are described as a “phase” that my child is going through, and hopefully they will grow out of it. While there are those who do grow out of this behavior, sadly there are quite a number that do not and that is where Cedar Ridge is able to help.
Clients will have individual weekly therapy sessions with their therapist. Also they will have a minimum of group therapy sessions several times a week. This is where issues can be explored and plans developed to help our clients find more productive tools to use in coping with stress and anxiety. Some of the options that are taught would be how to be supportive of peers through learning empathy. Clients also are given opportunities to practice their coping skills by leading group discussions, or by leading group projects. Sometimes clients are asked to be home leaders and insure that chores and tasks are completed timely and in proper fashion.
As a client’s confidence increases in their skills, they are given the opportunity to plan group activities and conduct group “experientials”. Given the help and support of peers, staff, faculty, and therapists, our clients are able to learn how to recognize their signs of anxiety early in a cycle. They are able then to begin to practice self soothing and other effective means of dealing productively with their challenges. At Cedar RIdge we work diligently to promote the positive cycle of increased self confidence which leads to more effective learning and behaviors leading to greater competence as well as increased self confidence. This positive cycle builds over time and with practice.