Category: Parent Education Center

Facts about Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT is beneficial for behavioral issues.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was developed in the late 1980s to help treat borderline personality disorder. Since DBT’s development, it’s also been used for treating other mental health disorders. DBT treatment is a cognitive-behavioral approach that emphasizes the psychosocial aspects of treatment. The theory behind this treatment is that some people are prone to react in an intense, out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations. These situations are often found in romantic, family and friend relationships. DBT suggests that some people’s arousal levels in certain situations can increase more quickly than the average person’s, attain a higher level of emotional stimulation and take a significant amount of time to return to normal arousal levels.

People who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder sometimes experience extreme swings in emotions, see the world in black and white and always jump from one crisis to another. It can be difficult for people to understand these reactions, so they don’t have methods for coping with these sudden, intense surges of emotion.

Characteristics of DBT

Support-oriented: This helps a person identify their strengths and build on them, creating better self-esteem and a more positive outlook on life.

Cognitive-based: DBT helps identify thoughts, beliefs and assumptions that make life harder. This means transforming thoughts like “I have to be perfect at everything” or “If I get angry, I’m a terrible person” to “I don’t need to be perfect for people to care about me” and “Everyone gets upset, it’s normal”.

Collaborative: DBT requires constant attention to relationships between clients and staff. In DBT, people are encouraged to work out problems in their relationships with the therapist. DBT allows patients to role-play new ways of interacting and practicing calming skills.

Call Us Today

At the CERTS Group, we can help your daughter cope with the effects of ADHD, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and other issues through residential treatment programs. Our programs are structured around DBT treatment, while also combining traditional talk therapy with experiential therapies (equine assisted psychotherapy, art therapy, adventure therapy, music therapy, etc.) to achieve a resilient, more influential change. Contact us to learn more.

Diagnosing ADD or ADHD in Teenage Girls

When teenage girls have ADHD, it can more difficult to spot the signs than it is to notice symptoms in boys. While boys with ADHD tend to have a lot of noticeable behavior problems, girls with ADHD have trouble focusing and completing tasks. Since these symptoms are harder to detect than outward behavior problems, ADHD can go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for the following reasons:

  • Girls often fall into the harder to diagnose category of “primarily inattentive type”
  • Girls work typically work harder to hide academic difficulties and conform to teacher expectations
  • Girls are often misdiagnosed as anxious and/or depressed
  • Girls who are especially intelligent can mask their ADHD for much longer

Challenges for Teenage Girls with ADHD

The following challenges can also happen for girls without ADHD, but these issues are more intense and more frequent among girls who experience an attention disorder.

  • Social pressures

    Girls who have ADHD can experience social deficits as early as preschool, but the most difficult time typically happens during adolescence. During this stage of life, girls separate from family and their social life takes on greater meaning. Many women with ADHD recall feeling “different” from other girls as they grew up. Their need for peer acceptance during high school is intense and may lead to dangerous or self-destructive behavior in an effort to belong.

  • Low self-esteem

    Family support and acceptance are important, but it can’t counteract the damage that is done when teenagers are rejected by their peer group. Girls with ADHD may develop low self-esteem in high school that will last into adult life.

  • Inability to meet social and academic expectations

    Teenage years are naturally full of self-doubts, but the special challenges of ADHD can greatly intensify those feelings. Girls are stereotypically encouraged to be neat, feminine, passive, controlled, carefully groomed, sensitive to others’ feelings and compliant with adults. These expectations are often completely contradictory of the ADHD tendencies many girls have. A teenage girl with ADHD might respond anxiously and even obsessively to the expectation that she be well groomed and tidy, while also being unable to organize her room or her life to meet those expectations. High school is also the time of life where grades and academic performance starts to matter. As ADHD can make it extremely difficult to focus in school and perform sufficiently, your daughter might be overwhelmingly worried about never making it to college.

  • Depression

    Since social pressure is so intense during adolescence, it can cause girls with ADHD to feel despair when they don’t fit in. Depression often begins during the high-stress teen years and can last into adulthood when untreated. However, depression is easier to recognize and many girls will be treated for depression before they are ever diagnosed with ADHD.

  • Sexual risks

    Teenage girls with ADHD may be at a greater risk for pregnancy than other girls. Girls who struggle with low self-esteem, including those with ADHD, often seek affirmation through the sexual attention of boys to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. Difficulties with impulse control, poor planning ability and inconsistency all make these girls prone to having unprotected sex and/or having multiple partners.

How Can You Help?

If you think your daughter has ADHD, find a doctor who is experienced in diagnosing it. Talk to your child’s pediatrician first if you need direction on where to go next. At the CERTS Group, we can help your daughter cope with the effects of ADHD, depression and anxiety through residential treatment programs. Our programs have a structure based upon Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) while combining traditional talk therapy with experiential therapies (equine assisted psychotherapy, art therapy, adventure therapy, music therapy, etc.) to achieve a resilient, more influential change. Contact us to learn more.

Teenage Drinking: Why It Happens and the Risks it Creates

We can help with alcohol abuse problems.

There isn’t a single reason why teenagers use drugs or alcohol, but there are some common core influences behind the behavior. As a parent, you need to understand the reasons why your daughter is abusing alcohol so you can talk to her and find help.

  1. Other people: Teenagers see other people consuming various substances all the time, whether it’s parents, family members, other adults, or peers drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and trying other substances. It’s common for teens to start using alcohol because they see other people enjoying it and consider part of the normal teen experience.
  2. Media: Music and movies make drinking and smoking marijuana seem cool. You need to be aware of the influence certain media has on your teenage daughter.
  3. Self-medication: When teenage girls are unhappy and can’t find a way to express frustration, they might turn to alcohol for comfort. It might help them feel blissfully oblivious, happy, energized or confident. The teenage years can take a serious toll on some girls, so when they find a way to feel better, the temptation is irresistible.
  4. Boredom: Teens who don’t like being alone, have trouble staying busy or constantly crave excitement are susceptible to alcohol abuse. It gives them something to do and helps fill an internal void. It also offers a way to bond with other teenagers.
  5. Rebellion: Wanting to rebel against parents and rules is normal for teenagers, but it can become dangerous when alcohol is involved. Underage drinking might give your teenage daughter a rush because she knows it’s not only against your rules, but against the law.

The Risks of Early Alcohol Use

Teenage girls who drink before age 21 are more likely to:

  • Use heavy drinking to escape problems or cope with frustration and anger
  • Drink because of family problems
  • Delay their puberty, as abusing alcohol causes endocrine disorders
  • Have unprotected sex or be sexually abused, putting them at risk for trauma, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Be involved in a fatal automobile crash
  • Experience lasting impairment in brain functions like memory, coordination and motor skills
  • Attempt suicide
  • Be involved in violent, dangerous behaviors
  • Develop alcoholism later in life

How We Can Help

If alcohol abuse has become a problem in your daughter’s life and you feel worried about her well-being, we can help. The CERTS Group is a family of specialized residential treatment centers and boarding schools for adolescent girls who are struggling with alcohol abuse, emotional issues, eating disorders, drug abuse and other problems. Our programs have a structure based upon Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) while combining traditional talk therapy with experiential therapies (equine assisted psychotherapy, art therapy, adventure therapy, music therapy, etc.) to achieve a resilient, more influential change. Contact us to learn more.

Addressing Your Teenager Daughter’s Adoption Issues

It’s normal for children to be extremely curious about their adoption stories. When they are young, they will question the circumstances that led to adoption but calmly accept the answers. However, adolescents will usually demand fuller, more factual answers. As a more sophisticated critical thinker, an adolescent might start to wonder why their birth parents gave them up. Was there something wrong with them? Are they unlovable? These feelings can cause even more stress and confusion during a time of life that is already difficult.

Here are some common adoption-related questions your teenage daughter might have:

Why Was I Adopted?

Adopted teens are full of questions like “Why was I given away? Was there something wrong with me? Did they abuse me? Why couldn’t they take care of me?” One of the biggest challenges for adoptive parents is explaining their child’s adoption story. Parents often want to hide the information that is difficult for their child to hear. While it makes perfect sense to want to protect your child from heartache, it’s important that they know the truth during this developmental stage. Sometimes you don’t know the real reason that led the birth parents to give up their child. If this is the case, tell your teen that and you can speculate on the reasons together.

What is the True Story About my Birth Parents?

Young children may be comfortable living with broad, general ideas about their birth parents, but adolescents want the detailed facts. They want to know why and how they were put up for adoption. As a parent, you might be nervous to share information that could be upsetting. But you must understand that when there is a void, teens will start to create their own ideas about their birth parents. These fantasies are often more damaging to their identity than the actual facts. In most cases, the truth will be freeing for your teen. There is no perfect time for sharing difficult information with your daughter. Her temperament and emotional and intellectual maturity will determine when it’s time to process upsetting information. As an adolescent, your daughter has a new cognitive capacity to process information and consider facts and emotions.

Why Do I Feel Like an Outcast?

For most adolescents, whether they’re adopted or not, feeling like an outcast is the worst possible curse. Being adopted can make this sense of feeling “different” and “strange” even more extreme. Adoptees may be of a different race or from another cultural background than their adoptive family, and seeing peers who are raised in biologically related families can make them feel even more different. For these teens, finding a sense of belonging can be extremely difficult. It’s important to address these feelings of being different with your daughter. If she is a different race than you, you need to ask her if she’s been treated unkindly at school because of how she looks. It’s essential to make sure that your teen never feels alone in these trials.

How We Help at the CERTS Group

If adoption issues are causing behavioral and emotional problems in your teenage daughter, the CERTS Group can help. The CERTS Group is a family of specialized residential treatment centers and boarding schools for adolescent girls who are struggling with emotional issues, eating disorders, drug abuse and other problems. Our programs have a structure based upon Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) while combining traditional talk therapy with experiential therapies (equine assisted psychotherapy, art therapy, adventure therapy, music therapy, etc.) to achieve a resilient, more influential change.

Signs of Eating Disorders in Teenage Girls

Many teenage girls struggle with eating disorders.

Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating are the most common eating disorders developed by adolescent girls. If you are a parent and you’re concerned that your daughter has an eating disorder, we know how frightened you must feel. Eating disorders are serious psychological illnesses that can cause devastating health problems. Fortunately, eating disorders are all extremely treatable, especially when they’re caught early on.

The following signs are typical of an adolescent with an eating disorder:

  • Eating secretly
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Calorie counting
  • Fear of becoming fat
  • Binge eating
  • Purging
  • Food phobias or avoidance

Why Do Eating Disorders Happen?

There are various triggers for eating disorders, ranging from genetics, psychology and biochemistry, to external reasons like low self-esteem and culture. Teenage girls live in a culture that over-emphasizes appearance and connect thinness with happiness. They are also huge consumers of a fat-phobic media that promotes unrealistic body types. If your daughter is also a perfectionist, has self-esteem issues, trouble coping with emotions, anxiety, depression or tends to act impulsively, these can all be contributing factors to the development of an eating disorder.

Common Eating Disorders and Their Warning Signs

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Perfectionism, an obsession with control and a display of compulsive habits
  • Skipping meals, eating tiny portions, won’t eat in front of others, eats in ritualistic ways, chews food but spits it out before swallowing and creates strange food combinations
  • Always has an excuse not to eat
  • Becomes disgusted with formerly favorite foods
  • Only eats “safe” foods
  • Boasts about healthy diet
  • Claims to be “vegetarian” but will not eat necessary nutrients required by vegetarianism
  • Drastically reduces fat intake and reads food labels obsessively
  • Obsession with exercise and checking weight
  • Might abuse drugs or alcohol
  • Consistent self-criticism, use of the word “fat”
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Always wears baggy clothing

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Impulsive, volatile and risky behavior
  • Vomits after breaking the self-imposed rigid eating rules
  • Abuses laxatives, diet pills or water pills
  • Obsessively uses natural products from health food stores to promote weight loss
  • Might abuse drugs or alcohol
  • Leaves behind clues of purging like foul smelling bathrooms, running water to cover up vomiting sounds and excessively uses mouthwash and mints
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Hypertensive [(high blood pressure)
  • A sore throat, dental erosions, esophagitis and electrolyte imbalance all due to vomiting

Binge eating warning signs:

  • Sets restrictive diet rules and then binges when hungry
  • Eats in secret
  • Buys special food for binging
  • Eating rapidly
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Feelings of guilt related to overeating
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Hiding food in strange places
  • Fatigue

How Eating Disorders are Treated

Eating disorders require a comprehensive, thorough treatment program in order to combat the illness before significant medical issues arise. Medical consequences of an eating disorder include damage to the brain, heart, bones, kidneys, reproductive system and liver. The CERTS Group is a certified residential treatment center for adolescent girls who are struggling with eating disorders, drug abuse and other problems. “Our programs have a structure based upon Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), while blending traditional talk therapy with experiential therapies (equine assisted psychotherapy, art therapy, adventure therapy, music therapy, etc.) to achieve a longer lasting, more powerful change.”

Understanding Teen Depression

Understand the struggles of teen depression

We all know that teenagers are known for being moody, rebellious, egocentric and emotional. This is just normal adolescent behavior. However, major depression is a common mental disorder that affects an estimated 3 million American adolescents between ages 12 and 17. There are various reasons why a teenager will develop depression, these include:

Biological chemistry

Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of the brain and body. When these chemicals are impaired, the function of nerve receptors and systems can change, leading to depression.


Teenagers experience rapid hormonal changes, which have been shown to cause or trigger depression.

Inherited traits

Depression is more common in teenagers whose blood relatives also have the condition.

Early childhood trauma

Traumatic events during childhood, like physical or emotional abuse or the loss of a close family member may cause changes in the brain that make a teen more prone to depression.

Learned patterns of negative thinking

Teen depression can be linked to learning to feel helpless, rather than learning to feel capable of finding solutions to life’s challenges.

Know the symptoms

Moodiness isn’t the same as depression, so how do you tell the difference between normal teenage mood swings and depression? Pay attention to whether or not there’s been a real change in the functioning of your child’s behavior. Notice changes in appetite and sleep, poor school performance, an inability to concentrate, lack of interest and withdrawal from regular social activities. Also look for irritability and agitation in your teen. If the depression lasts longer than two or three weeks, you should really pay close attention.

Be aware of comorbidity

It’s rare for a teen to solely struggle with depression. These symptoms are always part of a bigger picture. Depression and anxiety often come hand-in-hand, and this combination can lead to coping mechanisms like self-harm, eating disorders and substance abuse.

Depression is treatable

Many think that depression and its coexisting problems are difficult to treat, but with the right kind of therapy, mild to moderate depression can handled. The CERTS Group’s residential treatment programs are specifically designed to treat depression and the self-destructive behaviors that result from it. These programs provide intimate therapy sessions and individually-tailored programs to treat your teenage daughter’s specific behaviors.

Signs That Your Teenager Might be Abusing Drugs

Learn the signs that your teen is abusing drugs

If you’re worried that your teenager is abusing drugs or alcohol, you know how difficult it is to even cope with the idea, let alone receive confirmation. It can be challenging to notice signs and symptoms of substance abuse in your teen, as these signs are often similar to normal adolescent behavior or mental health issues.

If your child demonstrates several of the symptoms listed below, we strongly recommend that you contact us for a professional assessment. Getting an assessment will help to find out what is really going on as well as make sure your teen is going to be safe and healthy in the future. Your child’s well-being is the most important thing to you, and to us, so we believe it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

The symptoms below are typical signs of drug abuse in teenagers, taken from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’ website:

Personal Appearance

  • Messy, lack of caring about appearance
  • Bad hygiene
  • Red, flushed cheeks or face
  • Track marks on arms or legs, or wearing long sleeves in warm weather to hide marks
  • Burns or soot on fingers

Personal Habits

  • Clenching teeth
  • Smell of smoke or other unusual smells on breath or clothes
  • Chewing gum or mints often to cover smells
  • Heavy use of over-the-counter drugs to reduce eye reddening, nasal irritation or bad breath
  • Breaking curfew often
  • Cash flow problems
  • Reckless driving
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Locked doors
  • Going out every night
  • Secretive phone calls
  • Sudden appetite or “munchies”

Behavioral Issues

  • Change in relationships with family members or friends
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Mood changes or emotional instability
  • Loud, annoying behavior
  • Laughing at nothing
  • Clumsy, stumbling, lack of coordination, poor balance
  • Sullen, withdrawn, depressed
  • Extremely tired
  • Uncommunicative or silent
  • Hostile, angry, uncooperative
  • Secretive or deceitful
  • Endless excuses
  • Decreased motivation
  • Lethargic movement
  • Unable to speak, slurred or rapid speech
  • Inability to focus
  • Hyperactivity
  • Unusually elated
  • Sleeplessness or high energy periods, followed by long periods of sleep
  • Disappearing for long periods of time

Academic or Work-Related Issues

  • Nosebleeds
  • Runny nose that isn’t caused by allergies or a cold
  • Frequently sick
  • Sores, spots around mouth
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Wetting lips or excessive thirst
  • Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Skin abrasions/bruises
  • Accidents or injuries
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Sweatiness

Home or Car-Related Problems

  • Prescription drugs disappearing
  • Missing alcohol or cigarettes
  • Disappearance of money or valuables
  • Smell in the car, or bottles, pipes or bongs on the floor or in glove box
  • Appearance of unusual containers or wrappers, or seeds left on surfaces used to clean marijuana
  • Appearance of unusual drug apparatuses, like pipes, rolling papers, small medicine bottles, eye drops, butane lighters or makeshift smoking devices, like bongs made from toilet paper rolls and aluminum foil
  • Hidden alcohol stashes

How Can Residential Treatment Help My Teenage Daughter?

Residential treatment from the CERTS Group is an intensive level of care that combines 24/7 staffing, experiential therapies specific to overcoming addiction, individual therapy, group therapy and fully accredited education. This treatment is ideal for a young person engaging in dangerous, drug-related behavior, or someone who needs a high level of support for mental or behavioral issues. If you want a more detailed assessment of your child’s situation, call us now at 1-888-406-5968.