Does your Teen's Life "Spark Joy?"

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“I’m not depressed but I’m not happy either.”

^^ For our older teens and young adults who have decided on life’s next steps and worked through the stressful stuff of the early teenage years, this is a statement we’ve heard over and over again.

There’s no risk or safety concerns.

There’s no panic attacks or skipping school.

There’s no lying in bed all day and isolating.

You’re just feeling unfulfilled.

Ready to feel happy, but no longer feeling sad.

It’s kinda like the “Senioritis” of depression.

And unfortunately, many people live their whole lives in this phase…

Going through the motions on autopilot.

Having superficial relationships that look good on paper.

Believing that “life is hard and then you die.”

But we know that there’s a better way.

Once safety and stability have been developed and your symptoms of depression and anxiety have been reduced to a point that living life and completing your everyday routine feels manageable, there’s often times still work to be done.

To improve your self-esteem so that you like who you are and are proud of your accomplishments.

To enhance the quality of your relationships so that you feel connected, safe and secure.

To manage everyday stressors more easily so that every new obstacle doesn’t become a crushing force.

Accumulating the positives in your life is a skill that we teach at the teen support center.

It’s the Marie Kondo equivalent of “sparking joy.”

This means:

Doing pleasant things that are possible right now, like activities that bring you joy in the moment.

Being mindful of your positive experiences while they are happening and really soaking in the emotions and body sensations that come with feeling joy.

And, being “unmindful” of worry thoughts that tell you that your joy is about to end or that you don’t deserve the experience.

If you have a teen who needs more joy, but they’re not necessarily clinically depressed, Teen Group is a place where they can share, connect, feel heard and understood and begin to EXPERIENCE joy, not just talk about it.

4 Ways to Calm the Overwhelm Quickly

When you’re overwhelmed with emotions, your brain is NOT processing information.

This means that when your teen is in emotional distress, it’s not the time to talk about feelings or solve problems.  It’s time to practice coping until your teen finds a sense of calm.

TIPP skills in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) change your body chemistry quickly so that your teen can return to balance.  TIPP is an acronym for temperature, intense exercise, paced breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Let’s look at each one in detail below:


Alter your body temperature to calm down quickly.  Splash cold water on your face or run cold water on the insides of your wrists.  Take a hot shower. Keep a frozen face mask in your freezer and place it on your face for twenty seconds.

Intense Exercise

Drop and do twenty push-ups (if you can!)  Do jumping jacks. Take a brisk walk around the block.

Paced Breathing

Slow down your breath to slow down your body’s reactions.  You can use tools like the Calm app for guided paced breathing exercises.  See an example below.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Tense and relax the muscles in your body one at a time or all together to release tension and return to calm.  Here’s an example of the PMR that we practiced this week in our DBT groups.

You can’t teach someone to swim when they’re drowning, so help your teen tackle the tools they need to decrease emotions quickly and effectively cope with emotional overwhelm.

Need support with your teen helping them overcome extreme emotions? We’ll work with your teen to create a coping plan that works so that they can love the life they live (even if they have anxiety or depression.)

Click the button below and connect with us for a free parent call. We’ll help you get clear on the behaviors that are hindering your teen’s happiness and collaborate with you to develop a plan for the next best steps in support.

3 Steps to Reframing Our Overwhelming Emotions

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Often times it's not the feeling or sensation itself that is overwhelming for your teen, but their INTERPRETATION of that feeling.

They feel anxious before a big public speaking presentation and they interpret this anxiety as a sign that the speech won't be good enough, or that others will judge them for it.

They feel sad when peers don't invite them to a party and they interpret this to mean that they are not likable, or that others find them annoying.

The interpretation of the feelings becomes a JUDGEMENT about having the feelings and ultimately a LABEL that your teen in turn takes on to define them.

And that label reinforces the feeing and creates feelings of helplessness, frustration and overwhelm.

Most times these interpretations and judgements don't come from thin air....

They've been developed from past experiences and interactions that prompt us to see our present selves through a lens that's been shaped by embarrassment and disappointment and external feedback that may have even been intended to be helpful.

But nonetheless we move through our lives with these interpretations.

And tirelessly sifting through the stories we tell ourselves can be exhausting.

And confusing.

And can make us feel fragile to feedback or perceived facial expressions or tones of voice.

Today let's commit to taking the time to pause, to breath, to step back and examine the stories we tell ourselves.

Are they true?

Are they helpful?

Are they empowering?

If you'll never be 100% sure whether your classmate thinks your presentation sucked or whether it was good, choose to believe the option that lets you move forward freely... not the one that's weighed down by your own self-criticism and fear of inadequacy.

Easier said than done, of course.

Here's how we teach this skill in DBT at the teen support center:


Notice the body sensations, emotions and thoughts that arise from your experience. Just make space for awareness without creating a MEANING for these things.


Put words to your experience and use NON-JUDGMENTAL language and just the objective facts. Like, "I'm noticing that I keep having a thought that I'm not good enough." << This feels a whole lot different than, "I'm not good enough."


Be mindful of what comes up in the moment, then redirect your attention back to the present experience. If you were playing music with friends and you noticed a tightness in your chest, a feeling of embarrassment and a thought, "I should know this song" when you make a mistake... well, just notice it, make space for it, then fully return to playing the song and moving forward.

It takes time.

It takes practice.

And it's all worth it when you learn how to live life without defining your worth by your emotions in any one moment.

5 Must-Have Skills for Parenting an Emotional Teen

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Focusing on SKILLS and not a “vent sesh” will help you as a parent to feel more effective in communicating, interacting with and responding to your teen to help to de-escalate emotional situations.

In our DBT Parenting Group, parents learn 5 skill sets to effectively parent an emotional or high-risk teen with success:


Parents learn to slow down their own emotional reactions so that they can respond in ways that are helpful. This also empowers parents to change patterns of dysfunction that may have played out across generations. Ultimately, our mindfulness skills provide parents with a choice about how they want their family to operate.


Learning to find the middle path will help parents develop more balanced and less extreme responses. It’s what allows parents to look for the valid aspects of their teen’s problematic behavior and learn to acknowledge the feelings without condoning the behavior so that acceptance can lead to change, rather than starting with change that typically creates more conflict when a teen feels misunderstood.


All parents who have high-risk or emotional teens need support in managing the stress associated with this difficult parenting task. Parents learn how to take care of themselves in times of crisis and also how to respond to their teen in these times so that they can know exactly how to help without enabling their teen or making the situation worse in some way.


Parents learn to understand their own emotional triggers and responses so that they are able to lessen emotional situations in the home and respond more effectively to the needs of the teen. This means more balance, more peace, less stress and less conflict.


This skillset helps parents develop and focus on the goals of their interaction with their teens. This results in more effective interactions and less emotional reactivity on the part of both parent and teen. Simply put, parents feel closer and more connected to their teen while still being able to set limits that work.

Sound like exactly what you need to supercharge the treatment process for your teen?

YOU Have the Power to Radically Shift Your Teen's Mood

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If you have a teen in treatment, learning the skills to validate their experience AND continue to support positive change are critical to your teen’s long-lasting success.

Here are three reasons that DBT parent skills training is critical to your teen’s treatment success.

1. YOU will benefit from learning and using new skills. It’s not likely that you’re living a stress-free existence if you have a teen who experiences emotional overwhelm.

Learning how to be more mindful of your own emotions, how to self-soothe when times get tough and how to unwind and openly communicate will help you at home, at work and in every single other aspect of your own life.

2. Participating in skills training shows that you think treatment is important and you’re committed to change in your family system.

By investing the time and financial commitment into changing your own role in the relationship and managing your own responses will reinforce that your teen is not a problem to be solved, but a part of a family unit that’s all working towards positive change and a happier, healthier way of life.

3. You’ll learn to accept what you can change and have the biggest impact over what you can.

You may not be able to directly change your teen’s behavior and that can feel super frustrating.

What you WILL do is learn how to change your responses which will provide an opportunity for your teen to change in response to you. It’s a win-win!

Want IN on the science-backed program that we've seen radically change the way that parents and teens interact and had resulted in major shifts in the parent-child relationship for the positive?

Impulsive Isn't an Excuse for Poor Choices

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Saying, "I'm just impulsive" to justify acting on urges is a cop out.

It's like saying, "I'm just an inactive person" to justify not taking the time to exercise.

There are skills that you can learn and actions that you can take to improve.

And at the teen support center, while we believe that you're doing the best you can, we also believe that you can improve, be more skillful and make better choices. (If we didn't then why would we do what we do?!)

Often times emotional teens act without thinking through all the consequences.

In fact, this happens a lot with teens in general. The pre-frontal cortex of the brain that's responsible for decision making isn't fully formed.

So making effective decisions takes some work.

So that your teen doesn't act in an instant on intense emotions...

and self-harm

or lash out

or steal

or cave to peer pressure.

We've seen many a teen act impulsively to avoid intense emotions.

And we've heard the line "I'm just impulsive" many a time too.

It's time to stop owning skills deficits as personality traits and own the responsibility to do the work to improve.

Because we know you can.

Because we believe in you.

Are you ready to believe in you too?

We’re here when you are.

Short Term Discomfort for Long Term Success

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It’s easy to decline support when your life is working well.

It’s easy to say “I’m fine” and really mean it… because there’s nothing happening in the moment that would prompt you to think otherwise.

It’s easy to forget about the distress, discomfort and destruction that may have happened a week prior when in the moment all you really want to do is feel good for once… to NOT think about those things.

But then…

All of the sudden..

It’s not working again.

And panic attacks


Anger outbursts

School avoidance

It returns.

And then what?

You call or email in crisis mode and hope that someone will “fix” the problem.

So you don’t have to feel it.

So you don’t have to experience it

But the truth is, unless you spend SOME of those “easy” moments diving deeper into what’s driving the difficult ones, nothing will ever change

You’ll continue a pattern of feeling good, feeling overwhelmed to the point of crisis, having a breaking point, then a honeymoon period before starting the whole cycle all over again

What’s more, the empathy, accommodations and support your teen’s high school provides looks a whole lot different than how your teen will seek and receive support in college. In their career. In their life.

So why not lay the foundation with skills that can last a lifetime and lead your teen into effective choices and stable successes… not intermittent times of joy that are so fragile that we’re afraid to look at what’s not working for fear that it’ll ruin it all in an instant.

Breaks in anxiety and shifts in sadness are nice, but lifelong skills to actually manage the ups and downs without your life falling apart when you have a bad day are even better.

Need proactive support? We’re here

Need crisis support? We’re still here

WHEN you get the support is up to you.