At Paradigm Treatment Centers, we combine traditional and alternative therapeutic approaches, in order to design the most individualized, precise, and holistic treatment experiences possible. To this end, we offer the most extensive selection of Expressive Arts Therapy programs of any teen treatment center in the country, including our Teen Written/Narrative Therapy program. Teen Written/Narrative Therapy is an approach that uses writing and storytelling in the therapeutic context.
The premise of Teen Written/Narrative Therapy is that teens are the experts on themselves and their own lives, the authors in charge of crafting their own stories. In this sense, Teen Written/Narrative Therapy allows teens to shift perspective, as they view their current lives not from the inside as a character, but from the outside, as a storyteller. In this context, teens’ lives are their stories, made up of events, themes, certain characters, and plot. The first step is for therapists to help teens to recognize the “stories” that they are living, and what behaviors, thought patterns, beliefs, and characters are central within it. These stories characterize the way teens understand themselves and therefore, make up their identities. Over time, teens will also learn to reflect upon their understanding and insight to the story, the reasons behind why the story is the way it is, which also serves connections to the past and the future. From this perspective, therapists work with teens to help them view their current symptoms and struggles as separate from themselves, and simply challenges in their greater story, while also viewing themselves as having all the ability and power necessary to overcome these challenges.
This shift in perspective that teens gain in Teen Narrative/Written Therapy allows teens to often see themselves and their lives in a way that is much more accurate and whole. In studying and articulating their stories from the distance of the author, teens will often begin to recognize how things such as Drug Addiction, Mental Health symptoms, and/or unhealthy relationship dynamics are holding increasing power over the shape of their entire story. They might also recognize how false beliefs and unhealthy thought patterns are at the center of so much of what teens experience, limiting their well-being and quality of life. These kinds of insights are incredibly powerful in helping teens to become motivated to make authentic changes in their own lives.
The role of the Written/Narrative therapist is to lead teens through this process of beginning to tell and reflect upon their stories. In sessions, the therapists listen to the teens’ stories, helping to recognize places where things such as triggers, false beliefs, and/or negative thought patterns might be present. At the same time, the therapist underlines the message that teens are powerful and have all the capabilities of being the storytellers in their own lives, while helping them to discover dreams and desires which teens have that may have been hidden previously. Our therapists facilitate this therapeutic work through guided writing exercises, which allow teens numerous different ways to access their current thoughts and feelings, to learn how to see their story, how to tell it, and how to reflect upon it. We find that for many teens, the act of writing provides a safe context in which teens feel more free to explore some of the difficult aspects of their current experience, especially in comparison to more direct, talk-based therapy sessions. The value which Teen Written/Narrative Therapy provides in this context is powerful, as it provides a sort of back-door entrance for teens to organically enter into deep therapeutic work, surrounding things such as depression, traumatic events, and/or stressful relationships. During Teen Written/Narrative Therapy sessions, it’s common for teens to discover entirely new aspects of their current experience, which may have previously been difficult to access. Teens are then able to continue using and building upon these insights in their other therapy work, including the very important aspects of rebuilding and strengthening their identities. In this way, all different aspects of our treatment plans at Paradigm Treatment Centers are coordinated to be synergistic, and our therapists coordinate care so that each piece and experience is contributing toward supporting teens to make meaningful, lasting changes that improve their overall health, happiness, and well-being.