Trauma can be defined as any “event that is temporarily overwhelming and exceptionally distressing, leaving lasting psychological symptoms.” Psychology Today asserts that untreated trauma has the propensity to cause permanent changes in the brain, producing corresponding shifts in intelligence, emotional reactivity, happiness, sociability, and more, all of which directly impact a teen’s mental health. There is a plethora of different treatment modalities available for young people that have been exposed to trauma. It is important to bear in mind that there is no generalized treatment plan used for teens that have experienced trauma. Every person is different and will require a somewhat unique treatment plan when it comes to navigating the healing process. Research has revealed that “traditional trauma treatments often fail to fully address the complicated symptom presentation, including the somatic complaints, loss of awareness of one’s emotional and physical being in the present moment, and overall lack of integration between the self and the body.” Hence, treatment plans typically include a combination of traditional and holistic treatment approaches, which can help to ensure that all the nuanced needs of the teen are properly addressed.
Trauma-informed yoga (TIY) can play a valuable role in the mental health treatment of teenagers who have experienced trauma or are struggling with mental health issues. In a 2018 peer-reviewed journal, trauma-informed yoga was broadly described as “yoga adapted to the unique needs of individuals working to overcome trauma.” It is an evidence-based approach that combines the physical practice of yoga with trauma-sensitive principles to create a safe and healing environment for teens who may have experienced adverse events. Its foundation is in hatha yoga, meaning trauma-informed yoga classes focus on physical and mental strength-building through breathwork (pranayama), poses (asanas), hand gestures (mudras), and meditation (dhyana). There is a growing body of evidence illuminating the ways in which trauma-informed yoga can contribute to teen mental health treatment, such as:
- TIY has been shown to elicit the parasympathetic nervous system’s calming response, alleviating hyperarousal, or a heightened stress response, which is a common physiological expression of trauma.
- Research has found that young people who combined TIY with psychotherapy were more likely to “experience a decrease in trauma-related symptoms and an increase in positive traits and emotions such as grace, compassion, relating with self and others, acceptance, centeredness, and empowerment.”
- Focused breathing is associated with improved sympathetic nervous system functioning and enhanced emotion regulation.
- One study showed that trauma-informed yoga significantly reduced the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the effects of it were comparable to well-researched psychological and medicinal methods.
As stated in the Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, “trauma-informed yoga can calm the nervous system; rhythmic, self-soothing somatosensory input (which is fostered in a yoga practice) leads to physical senses of safety (which is key in healing trauma) and pleasure, leading to the release of ‘pleasure’ hormones and regulation of stress-related neural systems.” Combining trauma-informed yoga with other therapeutic approaches can offer a comprehensive and holistic approach to healing and supporting teenagers on their journey toward improved mental health and emotional well-being.
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Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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