How Does Milieu Therapy Support Teens with Attachment Issues?

For teens with attachment issues, the therapeutic process can be just as complex as the stressful life experiences that have contributed to their insecure attachment. Trust and safety in a therapeutic milieu is foundational to the healing process. Relationships heal relational trauma. Healing that occurs in a community setting helps teens challenge their negative belief systems about relationships and develop a more positive outlook on interactions with others.

What is Milieu Therapy?

Milieu Therapy is the therapeutic use of a planned treatment environment in which daily activities and interactions are designed specifically to improve the confidence levels and social skills of children or adolescents.

A primary goal of milieu therapy is to teach adolescents how to better fit into social environments without completely changing who they are as individuals. They develop and nurture new skills that assist them in better understanding themselves and their relationships. The milieu is a flexible environment that incorporates daily routines, predictable rules and activities in order to help teens become their best selves.

The Benefit of a Co-ed Environment

Being in a all gender environment can help teens develop healthy relationships with people of all genders. For example, if a teen girl has grown up with negative experiences around males, they may struggle with trusting them as much as they would their female peers. However, isolating them from males may only reinforce this anxiety rather than helping them confront it. 

While many teens with attachment issues struggle with connecting with others and being vulnerable, residential treatment centers encourage teens to build intimate relationships with others as they support their peers and receive support from their peers and treatment team. With a longer length of stay than other treatment options, teens have time to practice levels of intimacy rather than jumping into codependent relationships and learn to deal with shifting group dynamics by managing fears of abandonment. 

Relationships Between Staff and Students

At Elevations RTC, staff try to build rapport with students rather than solely serve as authority figures. This is why therapists have a small caseload to be able to support students outside of sessions. It is important for teens with attachment issues to see that their caregivers are consistent in showing up for them, not just when they are “supposed to”. 

Because of this, milieu staff are available around the clock to check in with students and therapists lead specialty groups and join them on recreation outings. Our team strives to do more than just supervise and actively participates in activities with students. 

Emphasis on Family Systems 

Our family systems approach acknowledges that each individual plays a role in many group dynamics outside their nuclear family, as well as having different parts of themselves that are revealed in interactions with different groups. We encourage teens to explore the different roles they play in a group setting to better understand their attachment style.

We also encourage family involvement through weekly family therapy, flexible visitation schedules, and quarterly parent seminars to help families repair relationships and develop healthier attachment. 

Elevations RTC Can Help 

Elevations RTC is a program for adolescents ages 13-18 that are struggling with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, impulsivity, and family conflict. We offer a multidisciplinary approach and provide college-preparatory academics, therapeutic recreation activities, and individual, family and group psychotherapy. Our goal is to teach students positive coping skills, communication skills, and self-care practices to help them manage symptoms of depression when stressors arise. Elevations gives students the tools they need to lead healthy, happy lives.

For more information about family programming at Elevations RTC, please call .