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Is Medication Always Necessary In Treating Teens With Mental Health Issues?

If your child is struggling with their mental health or behaviors, you may find yourself searching for any and all treatments that can help them. There are many roads to recovery, and while medication may not be the only answer, it can be a helpful tool in treatment. Teens who are struggling with addiction or mental health issues and whose moods are unstable, often feel like they’re on an emotional rollercoaster. They may be not stable enough to focus on other aspects of treatment such as psychotherapy, substance use counseling, or meditation, and they often have difficulty with their schoolwork because of the emotional intrusion.  Medication may help level their mood swings and works in tandem with other forms of treatment.

When is Medication Necessary?

One fear for parents (and patients) is that if their son or daughter is on medication, he or she will have to be on medication forever. But that is not always the case. Medication may be necessary to help teens level out their emotions, but that doesn’t mean that they will have to use it forever. It may mean that for the time being, in order to benefit from therapy, medication may be a wise choice.  Once a teen’s mood is stable, they can begin to learn ways of handling situations in their therapy.  And as they learn to internalize those coping skills and apply them to their day to day life, medication may be able to be eventually cut back, or even stopped entirely.

In some cases where a teen has a diagnosis, like a true bipolar disorder, they may need to be on medication on an ongoing basis.  But what we see more often is that the issue is a temporary dysregulation. In that case, what is most important is that students are able to pay attention and learn from their experiences. They can learn from a variety of therapeutic practices, such as meditation, individual, group, and family therapy, and substance use counseling.  Once a  teen’s emotions are more stable, possibly through medication, they can focus on other treatments as they get off of that emotional rollercoaster.

Medication as a Tool in Treatment

Red Mountain Colorado incorporates medication as a part of a program that also utilizes outdoor activities. Students spend two days a week of being out in nature, which may include overnight camping and other forms of beneficial therapy. 

I meet with students who are on medications.   The frequency of those meetings varies, based on the individual student. Students who are on medication and are psychologically stable often meet with me once a month. Other students who are changing medication or are showing signs of being unstable, I may meet as often as weekly. Family members may be present by video in these sessions. The purpose of these sessions is not family therapy, but rather giving the families an opportunity to understand what their teen’s issues are, and what we are working on. It is important for the student and the family to realize that the entire treatment team is on the same page and working in a unified way. Our goal is to have treatment be successful, so that if at all possible, the student never needs to be sent away again for treatment. 

Red Mountain Colorado Can Help

Red Mountain Colorado was founded to help struggling teens work through behavioral and emotional challenges. We specialize in the treatment of trauma-related mental health challenges. Throughout programming, we empower teens to build healthy coping skills and habits that they can use to work through the challenges they face.

When a teen struggles with emotional and behavioral issues like depression or anxiety and has at least one other mental health condition present, we call this a dual diagnosis disorder (also known as a co-occurring condition). Our program is structured to treat issues like trauma and depression as well as dual diagnosis disorders. When your teen arrives at our treatment facility, our staff will assess if there are any underlying mental health symptoms. With these learnings, we take an integrated approach to create a path to psychosocial wellness. For more information please call (970) 316-7648.