Feeling numb or dissociated from one’s body is common for teens who have experienced trauma. It is their body’s way of shutting down to protect them from re-experiencing emotional or physical pain. However, when teens subconsciously try to avoid feeling pain, their body also blocks energy that allows them to experience pleasure and joy. Mindfulness-based therapies help teens with trauma access these sensations and release stress and tension that they have been holding onto.
Does Mindfulness Work for Teens Who Have Experienced Trauma?
At Red Mountain Colorado, we believe that a holistic mind-body approach is necessary for healing trauma, which has a significant impact on one’s body and mind. For many teens who have survived trauma, they live in one or the other and have trouble integrating both parts of their experience. This may mean they feel like they are living on autopilot and make impulsive decisions or that they overthink things but feel disconnected from reality.
Mindfulness retrains the brain to connect to physical sensations and encourages subtle changes in one’s physiology that reminds the body it is safe. By calming the nervous system, teens become less attached to anxious thoughts and traumatic memories.
Another principle of mindfulness is radical acceptance. This teaches teens to accept negative thoughts and emotions as temporary rather than trying to resist them and feeling hopeless. These techniques help teens see beyond re-establishing a sense of safety and helps them imagine a future of freedom from trauma.
How Can Teens Begin to Explore Their Sensations and Emotions?
Mindfulness practices can help teens begin to explore their internal world by helping them first to notice and then to describe feelings in their bodies—not necessarily emotions such as anger or anxiety but the physical sensations beneath these emotions: pressure, heat, muscle tension, tingling, caving in, feeling hollow, etc.
Noticing sensations for the first time can be distressing for teens who have experienced trauma and feel disconnected from their bodies. By developing awareness of these sensations in their bodies, teens are more prepared to identify sensations that are associated with relaxation and pleasure and pay attention to how subtle shifts in their body or breath can help bring about these sensations when they are feeling overwhelmed.
How is Mindfulness Used in Trauma Treatment?
During your teen’s treatment at Red Mountain Colorado, they will work with a skilled therapist in a safe environment to address what they’ve gone through and heal from it. We tailor your teen’s treatment to their specific needs and the type of trauma they’re struggling with, leveraging different therapy modalities like Somatic Experiencing, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and other mindfulness-based techniques.
These evidence-based therapies have been developed to help teens improve their body-mind connection. For example, Somatic Experiencing is all about describing sensations that happen in the body when talking about particular topics, recognizing when to pause, and allowing the conversation to shift towards how to tap into positive sensations. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involves naming anxious thoughts and making connections about the roots of these core beliefs without making any judgments about whether they are right or wrong, using principles of radical acceptance. Many DBT skills incorporate mindfulness strategies, like taking inventory of sensory input and practicing deep breathing. Mindfulness-based therapies guide teens through the basics of mindfulness and give them the tools to practice these strategies on their own.
Our teen trauma program also incorporates experiential and adventure therapy, which gives teens the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned through mindfulness in a more engaging way. For example, someone may have trouble sitting still during meditation practice but still resonates with the principles of mindfulness and can apply them to activities where they may need additional focus to stay in the moment. Being able to sit with and understand physical sensations in their body can help them identify their strengths during physical activity. In addition to recreation outings in the community, we also teach yoga and martial arts onsite to help teens gain emotional and physical strength.
Red Mountain Colorado Can Help
Red Mountain Colorado is a residential treatment center for young people ages 14-17. The program focuses on influencing a positive change in the lives of students. Healthy, sustainable activities are also incorporated so that students will be able to apply the things they learn to their everyday lives. Teens with trauma leave Red Mountain Colorado feeling empowered and in control of their lives.
For more information, call (877) 302-5022. We can help your family today!