The human brain is the most complex organ in the body. It is the command center that guides an individual’s choices, behaviors, and how we make sense of the world. Individual's conscious and subconscious behaviors are developed by the brain’s ability to “store meaningful experiences and recall them when needed.” Neuroscientists are still uncovering the human brain’s complexities but have made great advances in how people form and break habits.
Before one can understand how individuals develop habits and routines, they must first understand how the brain learns.
The human brain comprises neurons which are special cells that “receives information from other nerve cells or from the sensory organs and then projects that information to other nerve cells.” Neurons are made up of several parts, including brain fibers called dendrites. Neurons connect with each other through dendrites and send electrical signals that are converted into a chemical signal. Dendrites are like plant roots, connecting neurons so they can communicate with one another.
As individuals learn, dendrites grow connecting more brain cells at contact points called synapses. More information can be stored in the brain when brain cells are connecting. Dendrites can only grow from existing brain fibers meaning, “a person must build on information that is already stored in the brain” to learn new knowledge.
Breaking The Cycle
Adolescents with neurodiversities like ADD or Autism Spectrum Disorder have a brain wired differently than their neurotypical peers. While researchers are still trying to understand these differences, what they have found is children with learning and attention issues have average to above average intelligence. It is how they learn and a slower developed prefrontal cortex that differentiates them from their peers. When an adolescent’s prefrontal cortex develops slower, they can exhibit executive functioning issues that affect memory and mood regulation.
Adolescents with executive functioning deficits, neurodiviersity, and/or mental and behavioral issues can face greater challenges as they learn in school and develop relationships which can cause increased friction in the home.
Adolescents with executive functioning deficits, neurodiversity, and/or mental and behavioral issues can face greater challenges as they learn in school and develop relationships which can cause increased friction in the home. Confused and overwhelmed, they struggle with how to fit in with friends, get along with family members, be successful in school, or find healthy ways to be independent. In turn, they can develop negative adaptive behaviors, such as, acting out, rebelling, escaping with the use of alcohol or drugs, or experience feelings of depression and anxiety that can feel paralyzing.
To break the cycle of volatile and unhealthy behaviors, Equinox Counseling & Wellness Center envisions treatment differently. The program design better facilitates SustainABILITY through repetition, generalization, and integration in the treatment, home, and school/vocational settings. Parents and struggling teens can finally begin to experience the sustainable progress that leads to a lifetime of changes.
For struggling teens and young adults to break the cycle of negative behaviors and emotions, they must first recognize these behaviors and then learn proper coping strategies. When the brain learns a new skill, it takes repetition and practice so dendrites, or brain fibers, can grow leading to stronger brain connections. Regular practice of coping strategies helps solidify healthier outcomes when teens are faced with situations that make them anxious or act out. This is why an intensive program can be helpful and many times necessary for long term gains. With higher intensity, teens, parents, and their therapeutic teams can create consistency in the different environments in a teen’s life which supports the repetition and practice of new skills.
Generalization & Integration
Life is not contained in an office. Without learning and practice in a variety of situations, it’s hard for the necessary skills to “show up” when they are needed the most. That’s why Equinox individualizes treatment for clients, including the use of different environments, to demonstrate and help them practice coping skills and experience how newly learned treatment concepts can be used and generalized from one life situation to another. To do this, we utilize different environments to help teens transfer what they are learning in the treatment environment to a variety of different situations and venues.
By practicing life skills in a variety of situations, teens and young adults can develop more awareness and experience the natural ebb and flow of how skills are used, how they work, and how they can be challenging. They’ll be better prepared for situations encountered in life so that, when they are independent adults, they’ll be able to face life’s challenges in a healthy manner.
When parents invest in long-term treatment for their family and child, they deserve a provider that focuses not only on the best therapeutic support possible, but on how the lessons from therapy can be sustainable in the home, at work, and in school. At Equinox Counseling and Wellness Center, the health, well-being, and longevity of your family is our primary objective.