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While enrolled in day treatment programs for teens, adolescent clients may have the opportunity to participate in various forms of group therapy. The therapy sessions bring adolescents together to learn coping skills and receive help with processing. Each type of therapy differs in principles and approach to offer adolescents the tools they need to overcome trauma, build self-esteem and generally cope with the stressors of life. Although adolescents may not benefit from all therapies, it is important to explore which approaches may have a positive impact on their journey toward recovery. Exploring the various types of therapies available in psychiatric day treatment programs can help prepare adolescents for the treatment process.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

At the root of cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT), lies the need to challenge maladaptive thought patterns and replace them with healthier versions. The CBT exercises used in day treatment programs for youth serve to reduce unhelpful thought patterns and their related behaviors using mindfulness and adaptive coping skills.

During the cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, adolescents will create goal sheets to reflect the areas that cause them the most difficulty in daily life. Throughout each session, the adolescents will work through their goal progress and discuss their findings with their peers. The group can help each other create effective goals and make a plan of action for completing them. As group members achieve their goals, new objectives are set to continue pushing toward wellness. The objectives should slowly increase in difficulty to maintain momentum and prevent setbacks.

With time, CBT can help reduce the urge to overgeneralize or catastrophize situations that can be handled using positive coping methods. The positive thought patterns and purposeful application of coping skills should eventually become a habit with regular CBT group sessions.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (or DBT) aims to reduce maladaptive thought patterns and emotional dysregulation using four skill modules. The skills modules revolve around mindfulness, interpersonal relationships, emotional regulation and tolerance of distress. Each module contains focal points and exercises to help adolescents master their control of these four areas.

The mindfulness module teaches adolescents how to notice and accept their emotions without judgment or reaction. During the interpersonal effectiveness module, adolescents focus on learning how to set boundaries, communicate clearly and maintain relationships. Within emotional regulation modules, the focus switches to identifying emotions and increasing regulation of those feelings. The distress tolerance module brings everything together by focusing on how adolescents can deal with stressful circumstances.

Within each of these modules are activities to complete individually and as a group. Adolescents can quickly build their coping skills toolkit with dialectical behavioral therapy sessions while enrolled in day treatment programs for teens. The modules will introduce specific tools that teens can use to track situations that derail their therapy progress, analyze behavior chains and otherwise remain mindful of their well-being.

Body Image Improvement Sessions

Developing and maintaining a healthy body image can take a lot of work, but group therapy at day treatment programs for teens can help. The group sessions focus on building self-esteem by challenging the societal messages that may have spurred the development of negative body image. The group sessions will go deep into all the potential causative factors that may lead to poor body image issues.

The group may utilize comprehensive toolkits to explore their mental picture of their bodies and challenge those often inaccurate perceptions. The group sessions will also focus on building confidence by lifting each other up in praise and sharing experiences with each other. The peer feedback can help to dispel negative body image perceptions and build confidence around the positives.

Group members often have the opportunity to explore self-worth through a varied lens to mitigate negative body image issues. They may explore the ways their worth transcends their body image to balance perceptions and improve confidence.

Family and Relationship Therapy

Family and relationships can play a major role in the recovery of teens enrolled in day treatment programs. Group therapy for family and relationships focuses on maintaining interpersonal relationships through all of life’s positive experiences and challenges. Group members can look at their family dynamics and background as they work toward wellness. The exploration of family and relationships may help adolescents learn a lot about themselves along the way.

As group members share their experiences, their peers can chime in to offer support or advice. Talking about challenges and difficult situations can reveal patterns that disrupt the healing process and impede progress made with day treatment. Although the support alone is immeasurably valuable to these adolescents, the family and relationships sessions also focus on building skills.

During their group sessions, adolescents can work with their peers to improve their ability to communicate clearly with others. The exercises may also revolve around resolving conflicts, building trust and maintaining healthy relationships. Adolescents will be provided plenty of opportunities to build and practice their skills within the group therapy setting.

Interpersonal Process

Interpersonal process therapy revolves around the idea that relationships can have a positive or negative impact on mood and vice versa. Therefore, the interpersonal process group therapy sessions remain focused on resolving problems in relationships to support positive mental health. Throughout the group therapy process, adolescents are given the tools to build their social support network, which will be needed throughout an individual’s life.

At day treatment centers, this type of therapy has five distinct stages that push the problem-solving process to the next level. The first two stages focus on identifying the support network of each adolescent and any overarching problems with interpersonal relationships. The assessment also takes into account how these relationship concerns impact the adolescent. The third stage starts the problem-solving process, while the fourth signals the end of the therapeutic process. The fifth stage focuses on maintenance sessions that occur with the development of new or continued problems with interpersonal relationships.

As interpersonal relationships improve, adolescents often enjoy an improved outlook on life and decreased negative mental health symptoms. Within the group, members can share their challenges and successes as they work toward building exceptional problem-solving skills.

Self Esteem

While attending self-esteem therapy at a day treatment center, adolescents will have an opportunity to build their sense of self-worth. The group sessions will revolve around the identification of factors that damage self-esteem and the reversal of that damage. Group members can share their life experiences to receive feedback from their peers. While in group therapy, adolescents can support each other and bond over shared experienced that have built or damaged their self-esteem.

Adolescents may need to complete daily self-esteem building activities to help improve their perception of self. These activities can be completed alone or with other group members at the day treatment center. To overcome intrusive thoughts and other barriers to success, adolescents will learn key coping skills during the group sessions. The coping skills can open the doors to more positive thought patterns and actions that support the development of self-confidence. Successes made using positive coping skills will only serve to reinforce their place in the therapy process. The group can discuss how well the coping skills work in a variety of situations that could otherwise negatively impact their self-esteem.

Art and Expressive Therapies

With art and expressive therapies, adolescents are introduced to the world of drawing, painting, crafting and other creative arts as a way to cope and heal. The expressive art, music, dance and performance creations help increase emotional growth and promote healing. By sharing the projects in a group setting, adolescents can receive feedback and support from their peers.

The expressive group therapy sessions open the doors for the exploration of the world using all of the senses. The ability to break free from rigid thought structures to creative boundaries has a positive impact on progress made at day treatment centers for teens. The creative framework can also serve to improve problem-solving and prevent future issues. Many adolescents find the creative works help to reveal feelings that were otherwise hidden or inaccessible. Upon identifying those issues, it is possible to start the healing process.

With each piece of art created, adolescents can build on their ability to remain mindful and utilize smart coping skills. The physical artwork can serve as a reminder of the effort put into achieving recovery.

Acquiring Care for Adolescents at Day Treatment Programs for Teens

When selecting a day treatment center, parents should look for programs that integrate group therapy sessions into their daily routines. In addition, the group therapy sessions should revolve around the use of varied types of therapy to achieve the best results. With this approach, parents can ensure their teens are receiving the support they need at all times during the recovery process. Without group therapy, teens would miss out on building relationships with their peers and receiving outside perspectives they may need to heal.

Adolescents who are in need of exceptional care and group therapy can be enrolled in a day treatment program for eating disorders. The treatment programs at Clementine offer a personalized level of care that adolescents may require to make a full recovery.


Melissa Spann, PhD, LMHC, CEDS-S

Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, LMHC, RTY 200, is Chief Clinical Officer at Monte Nido & Affiliates, overseeing the clinical operations and programming for over 50 programs across the U.S. Dr. Spann is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and clinical supervisor as well as an accomplished presenter and passionate clinician who has spent her career working in the eating disorder field in higher levels of care. She is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals where she serves on the national certification committee, supervision faculty, and is on the board of her local chapter. She received her doctoral degree from Drexel University, master’s degree from the University of Miami, and bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.