Last year, with the support of a grant from the Virginia Health Care Foundation, as well as the continued generosity of other organizations and individuals within our community, The Women’s Center redoubled efforts around adolescent mental health.
The goal of our Adolescent Mental Health Program is to support disadvantaged adolescents with a youth-specific, integrated model for early intervention. It includes individual, family, and group counseling for adolescents struggling with anxiety, self-esteem, loneliness, and depression. We aim to resolve emotional issues and equip adolescents with healthy coping skills, problem-solving, self-care, and positive relationships.
The story below illustrates why these efforts are critical for our community to thrive.
(In order to protect the anonymity of the client, her name and specific dates have been changed).
Isabella, a 16-year-old teenager, learned about The Women’s Center’s Adolescent Mental Health services through Fairfax County Public Schools and various community outreach programs. She first came to The Center because she had been experiencing negative, anxious thoughts, difficulty concentrating, and severely reduced quality of sleep. As a result, her academic performance, social interactions, and overall well-being were suffering.
During initial sessions, her therapist uncovered that Isabella’s anxiety was also precipitating an unhealthy diet. When she felt anxious or stressed, Isabella would attempt to distract her mind by binge-eating. When this happened, she would feel guilty and purge the food she ate in order to maintain what she considered an ideal body weight. Struggling with social anxiety, she was also avoiding any social events and people, except her immediate group of friends. Isabella would even go so far as to skip class whenever she had any sort of presentation or planned group interaction.
A therapist at The Women’s Center helped Isabella develop a treatment plan. Together, they decided to first target the anxious thoughts, believing it would improve several of her other symptoms. Drawing upon specific processes (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the Cognitive Triangle Model), Isabella and her therapist worked on reframing negative thoughts and challenging cognitive distortions. Isabella began to feel that she was more in control of her thoughts. She was getting better at detecting negative thoughts and stopping them before they led to harmful feelings and compensatory behaviors.
The second part of the plan included a family session. Isabella had mentioned that her mother had been insensitive when Isabella had attempted to discuss eating issues in the past, which had further increased her anxiety. With Isabella’s agreement, the therapist invited her mother to join a session, so that Isabella could share her feelings with her mother and let her know how her words impact her. Isabella’s mother later described the session to be “eye-opening”. Isabella left the session no longer afraid to tell her mother that she needs her help. Improved relationship with her mother was one of the biggest breakthroughs from the family session.
Isabella says that her anxiety is significantly reduced. Using techniques she learned from the therapist, she’s learning to control negative thoughts before they influence her feelings and behaviors.
Since the joint session, Isabella has mentioned that she has not heard a single negative word from her mother about her body or about the food she eats. Her mom has become very supportive and is spending more time with Isabella, helping her process her anxious thoughts instead of criticizing her. Isabella has not binged on food for many months and started exercising to complement the healthier diet she has adopted.
Isabella’s concentration has improved significantly and her grades have rebounded. She is continuing to challenge herself and get out of her comfort zone socially by spending more time with people outside of her immediate friend group.
The Center’s therapist sees Isabella’s progress as outstanding.
Special thanks to VHCF
The Center’s Adolescent Mental Health Program was able to assist Isabella largely due to the grant from the Virginia Health Care Foundation (VHCF).
Even prior to COVID-19, mental health issues among adolescents as well as adults had been rising (Source: 2021 State of Mental Health in America report). We are now seeing a historic rise in mental health challenges. Because of this, The Center prioritizes expanding its affordable counseling services and reach. We’re working to reduce waitlists and formalize partnerships with schools, parent organizations, nonprofits, faith communities, and local government. The Center is working to shorten waitlists and expand its services to reach more adolescents and to provide them with effective and affordable counseling.
Your support has been critical in providing our community with access to effective programs and support.
Please consider donating to The Women’s Center. Your donation will help fund our programs over the coming months.
If you or someone you know is looking for adolescent and teen counseling, you can make an appointment here.