How Therapy Gave a Teenage Girl Hope

Many of us can remember our middle school experience. For some, it was a time of growth, for others, a time of fun, and for some, middle school was the most challenging experience.

That was the case for Samantha. Samantha came to ECDA in 2018 as a young 11-year-old experiencing irritability, sadness, loss of interest, and depressive episodes. During the pre-intake, Samantha reported having suicidal ideation with a specific plan to harm herself. She was hospitalized and was able to receive the help needed. The experience of being hospitalized shed light on the severity of her episodes and created a rift between Samantha and her mother.

When Samantha began treatment with her therapist under the OCS (MHS) outpatient program, the focus was on assisting her in utilizing coping skills. Samantha actively participated in sessions, enjoyed drawing, playing, and discussing her daily stressors. Much of her treatment focused on providing her a base to deal with life stressors, reduce her self-harming, and provide her with an opportunity to express herself openly. Samantha was coping with middle school concerns and the complexity of navigating the relationship with her parents. Samantha’s parents were divorced, and each parent had different expectations, which made it hard for her to engage in positive conversations with them. Samantha’s therapist helped her family understand her reactions by providing validation of the difficulties they experienced and empowering Samantha and her mother in practicing coping skills. As Samantha continued, it was determined by her team (therapist and parents) that medication may assist her in creating that baseline for stressors. With her mother’s approval and Samantha’s consent, she was referred to our psychiatrist Dr.Grosz. The whole team approach allowed Samantha to experience her middle school life as just another pre-teen, yet there was still another level to address.

With the first level of work completed, the undressed rift between mother and Samantha resulted from the hospitalization. In mid-October 2019, Samantha was transferred to Mental Health Clinician Santillan, where the work continued and shifted. Picking up where Samantha’s therapist ended, MHC Santillan strengthened Samantha’s coping skills to be used when communicating with her mother. With a combination of individual and family therapy, MHC Santillan provided Samantha with a space to express her mother’s concerns. Samantha and her mother participated in each session with all of their attention. Samantha used positive communication skills to discuss her concerns about her brother, experiences with her father, and finally address the elephant in the room. Mother and Samantha were able to express and discuss their experience when hospitalized and how it impacted them both. At the end of treatment, Samantha was able to say, “I trust my mom now, and I can tell her more things.”

Samantha’s treatment was not linear and was filled with many twists and turns. Yet, Samantha and her mother have observed that she can handle stressors and, most importantly, she is communicating with her mother regarding her worries, experiences, and life. In the end, their relationship was strengthened. Samantha was officially discharged in February 2021, after almost three years of treatment. Sometimes the road to recovery is a long one, but both mother and Samantha have stated they have seen so many positive changes.