Eating Disorder IOP for Teens -Phoenix Arizona

The Adolescent Eating Disorders IOP is for ages 13-18. It is 3 days per week, a total of 10 hours per week.  Open enrollment, join any time.

If you know anyone who may benefit from either of these specialty programs, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 602.997.2880 or email us at

We are also contracted with Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and United Behavioral Healthcare for our IOP’s. 

4 Mistakes Parents Make with Their Teens

Parenting Mistakes

As a parent of teens, try to avoid these common parenting mistakes (photo credit:

Parenting teenagers is no picnic and even the best parents make a mis-step from time to time.   From managing constantly changing moods to teaching them to tame their tempestuous emotions, parenting teens can feel like a minefield.  Take heart, every one of us accidentally sets off a mine or two as we navigate through these challenging years.  To help you and your child get through the teen years as unscathed as possible, here are some of the most common mistakes we see parents of teenagers make so you can do your best to avoid them.

1.     Failing to Trust Ourselves

When it comes to parenting, most of us use our parent’s example to guide what we do, or not do, with our own kids.  But more so than in most other generations, today’s teens live in a completely different world than the one their parents grew up in.  With no model to follow and no map of our own journey to use, we don’t trust our own instincts.

2.     Focusing on Failure

There is no question that teenagers were put on this planet to test the resilience, patience, and sometimes sanity of their parents.  But these years can be a wonderful growing experience for everyone in the family, if we let them be.  However, too often we focus only on the failure, talk only about the things that are not working, and see only the things that our teens are screwing up.  When this happens, our teens get the message that everything they do is wrong which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Even on the worst day, there is always something good to see but if you don’t look for it, you are likely to miss it entirely.

3.     Uttering the Words “Because I Said So”

Granted, there are times when there just isn’t any other explanation or when you are simply too tired of arguing to produce one.  But more often than not, when we parents find ourselves saying these words it is because we are doing something or saying something without really thinking it through.  These are the small moments that can undo our best intentions because they are the times that we do things without thinking, repeat unhealthy patterns, or measure against expectations that aren’t real.  If you don’t have a reason you should focus on figuring out why rather than saying this so that you can win.

4.     Being a Control Freak

It can seem like the best way to keep your teen safe from all the dangers of the world is to keep them close and completely under your control.  Unfortunately, even if they agree to this or don’t actively fight against it, you are not doing them any favors.  These are the years when your teenager needs to learn how to do the things they will need to do to be successful as an adult.  This includes things like making good decisions, avoiding temptation, and being responsible.  If you deprive them of the opportunities they need to develop these skills, they may make it to adulthood without drinking, having sex, smoking, doing drugs, or getting in trouble, but they won’t have the skills they need to do that once they leave your nest.

6 Tips for Helping Teens Manage Social Anxiety

It is normal for teens to experience anxiety. But, do you know when it crosses the line to become something more? (photo credit:

It is normal for teens to experience anxiety. But, do you know when it crosses the line to become something more? (photo credit:

It is normal for teenagers to experience anxiety as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood.  From changing bodies to changing schools, teenagers can feel like everything in their world is in a constant state of fluctuation.  They worry about fitting in, making friends, getting good grades, being popular, and being accepted.  This kind of anxiety is normal and can be beneficial.  If a teenager is worried about making the basketball team, that anxiety can inspire them to practice more over the summer.  However, when the anxiety centers on social interactions or relationships it can impose unnecessary limitations on our teenager’s lives.  While some teenagers experience this kind of anxiety to such a degree that professional help is warranted, every teenager can benefit from parents who offer support and guidance to help manage these social anxieties.

Whether your teenager’s social anxiety is severe or not, here are some things you can do to provide a supportive environment.

1.     Know the Signs

In order to be helpful and supportive, parents need to be able recognize the signs of social anxiety.  After all, it is very difficult to help if you don’t know there is a problem.   Here are some of the most common signs:

  • Intense fear of social situations
  • Intense fear of having to perform in a social situation
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Experiencing significant distress when in social situations
  • Limited interaction with peers
  • Sits alone in social environments like the library, classroom, or cafeteria
  • Excessive concern about being embarrassed or humiliated
  • Difficulty speaking in public
  • Unwillingness to participate in class

2.     Know the Severity

While some social anxiety is normal for any teenager, this kind of anxiety can develop into a debilitating disorder.  If you feel that your teen’s social anxiety is significantly impacting their life and future, seek the advice of a qualified mental health professional to determine if additional support is needed.

3.     Work with the School

If your teenager is struggling with social anxiety, set up an appointment with their guidance counselor and/or teachers to discuss your concerns.  Since many of the social situations your teenager experiences happen during school hours, enlisting the support of their educators can make a significant difference in the outcome.

4.     Don’t Enable Avoidance

As parents, we hate to watch our children struggle but this can lead to unhelpful behavior on our part.  Don’t reinforce the anxiety by trying to help your teen out in uncomfortable social situations like ordering food in a restaurant or taking care of phone calls.  While it may seem like you are helping your child, you may actually be reinforcing the idea that they cannot handle the task.  Encourage your teen to participate rather than participating for them.

5.     Strategize

Help your teen brainstorm ways to handle situations that make them anxious.  Support them in developing their own solutions to the problems they are facing.

6.     Support Rather than Reassure

One of the ways teens seek to manage their social anxiety is to seek reassurance over and over again, especially from parents.  While it may feel like you are being supportive by reassuring your teen, you may actually be preventing them from developing the coping mechanisms they need to learn to manage their anxiety constructively.

7 Things that Make Anxiety Attacks Worse in Teens

Do you know the warning signs of what makes anxiety attacks worse? (photo credit:

Do you know the warning signs of what makes anxiety attacks worse? (photo credit:

Anxiety is normal in all of us, even our teenagers.  However, for some people, anxiety can become overwhelming, all-encompassing, and debilitating.  When anxiety shifts from normal day to day worries to something more, an anxiety disorder may be to blame.  For parents of teenagers with anxiety disorders, it can be as important to understand what makes things worse as it is to understand what makes it better.  Here are 7 things that can make an anxiety attack worse.

1.     Downplaying

Anxiety disorders are not overreactions and one mistake parents make is to downplay the severity of their teenager’s feelings in an effort to help them calm down.  This can backfire by making the person feel unsupported or belittled.  Rather than trying to discount your teen’s reaction to something or downplay the importance or seriousness of an event or situation, offer reassurance about the teen’s ability to handle the event or situation, regardless of how difficult it turns out to be.

2.     Caffeine and Nicotine

Eating or drinking anything with caffeine can make the symptoms of an anxiety attack worse.  Smoking or ingesting nicotine can also make anxiety attacks worse.

3.     Not Having a Plan

One of the ways that teenagers can manage their anxiety is to have a plan in place for what they will do when they feel an anxiety attack starting or when they realize they are having one.  Not having this kind of plan in place can exacerbate symptoms and prolong the attack.   Having a plan can actually help combat anxiety attacks by making the teen feel more in control overall.

4.     No One to Talk To

Another way to manage anxiety is to have several people to reach out to that can help talk through the anxiety in a helpful and supportive way.  If your teenager has difficulty making friends or doesn’t feel comfortable sharing their anxiety issues with others, they may not have this as a resource.  Helping them find other people to turn to in times of crisis can be a powerful tool in managing their disorder.

5.     Ignoring the Attack

It is not helpful to your teenager if the attack is ignored by you or by them.  Acknowledging what is happening makes it possible to find a way to overcome them whereas ignoring the attack in the hopes that it will go away is only likely to make it worse.

6.     Checking Out

Although your teen may have the strong desire to just check out for awhile, this may not be the best course of action.  Anxiety attacks can be very draining physically, mentally, and emotionally and can make it seem like just being alone and doing nothing is the right thing to do.  However, this can actually extend the symptoms.  It is better to spend time with people in a caring, supportive environment.

7.     Alcohol

Some teenagers will turn to alcohol as a way to manage and overcome their anxiety.  While alcohol may dull the effects of the anxiety, it can make things worse as well because it also inhibits our ability to deal with anxious feelings and manage our anxiety.  Alcohol, like caffeine and nicotine, should be avoided by those with anxiety disorders, especially teenagers.

Why Diets Don’t Work

Weight and height are used in computing body m...

Research shows that dieting, in the traditional sense, simply doesn’t work. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you have a teenager in your house, there is a good chance they are now or have been on a diet.  According to the National Institutes for Health, half of all teenage girls and a quarter of teenage boys have already tried dieting as a way to change their body.  If you take a look at the world from their perspective, it is easy to understand why.  Every image in their world sends the message that being thin makes you attractive, that being thin will make you popular, that being thin is the only way to be happy.  In addition, there is constant coverage of the obesity epidemic, which may add more pressure to go on a diet, lose weight, and change themselves.

Unfortunately, the research shows that dieting, in the traditional sense, simply doesn’t work.  Cutting calories, skipping meals, and restricting food choices can actually have the opposite effect.  For some people, dieting can actually cause weight gain rather than weight loss. The same is true for teens.  In addition, because teens are often dieting to look different rather than to improve their health, they are more likely to set unhealthy weight goals.  In order to help their teens, parents need to understand how their teens see themselves, why they want to lose weight or change their bodies, and what they can do to be supportive while also ensuring their teens aren’t straying into unhealthy territory.

In order to understand the long term effects of dieting, a research team at UCLA looked at data from 31 different studies that collected data for at least a year.  The results were sobering for anyone who is dieting in order to lose weight.  Looking across the studies, the team found that almost 50% of people who dieted and lost weight, gained back more weight than they lost.  In fact, some of the studies showed that as many as two thirds of the participants gained back more than they lost.

The team concluded that there are two primary reasons that diets don’t work.  First, it is very difficult to change how and what we eat.  These behaviors and habits are ingrained in us and the lives we have built support them.  Unless we are able to change our lifestyle and our environment, it is very difficult to change our relationship with food.  Second, the law of diminishing returns comes into play and can sabotage any success we do experience.   This means that if you reduce your caloric intake or cut out a food group, you may lose weight but your body will adjust which means over time you will have to make more significant changes in order to lose more weight.  It also means that maintaining any weight loss will require you to keep the same restrictions.  For most people, this is unmanageable over time.

If your teen is struggling with their weight or is feeling like they need to lose weight, you can be supportive by encouraging them to make lifestyle changes rather than trying the diet of the week.  Teaching teens about healthy eating habits and the importance of exercise in weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight will be key to their feeling, and being, healthier.

Lonely or Alone? Teens and Solitary Time – Part 2

Nick gets his window seat

Do you know how to tell if your teen is lonely or depressed? (Photo credit: Qfamily)

In our previous Lonely or Alone? post, we introduced the idea that when our teens seek solitude and spend time alone, it is not always something parents should be concerned about.  There are both healthy and unhealthy reasons that teens separate themselves from their family.  It is common for teens that are shy or introverted to seek more alone time then their more outgoing and extroverted peers and siblings.  Teens also need time on their own just like adults do.  Spending time with other people takes energy and everyone needs downtime to process their own thoughts and let down their emotional guards.

Unfortunately, there are as many unhealthy reasons for teens to separate themselves from others as there are healthy reasons.  For parents, the key is to understand how these are different and when spending time alone can be a warning sign that something else is going on or that their teen is not okay.  To help you understand if your teenager is lonely or just spending time alone, here are the most common unhealthy reasons teens shut other people out.

Outcast and Outsider

Unfortunately, the teen years revolve around social interaction with peers and popularity matters more during these years than at any other time in life.  If your teen is feeling like an outsider, is treated like an outcast, is being bullied, or can’t find a place to fit in, they may be spending so much time alone because of these factors.

These feelings can easily spiral out of control because popularity during the teen years often comes down to who you hang out with.  If you have seen any of those teen movies where the bookish girl becomes popular simply because the popular boy starts paying attention to her, you understand how this works.  The problem is, it also works in the opposite direction.  The more unpopular a teen becomes, the less people will be willing to be seen with them, hang out with them, or be willing to be their friend.

If your teen is lonely because they are a social outcast, you need to help them understand that there is nothing wrong with them and that there are places where they will fit in. You just need to work together to find the people who get them.

Withdrawing From Their Life

Another unhealthy reason teens seek solitary time is when they are extremely unhappy after being betrayed, violated, rejected, or disappointed.  Circumstances may leave your teen feelings anxious, discouraged, guilty, shameful, or like they are a failure.  These extreme feelings can be so overwhelming and intense that the teen withdraws, allowing depression to control their emotional state and seeing their world as a hopeless place.   This creates an environment that has no room for other people and no energy for the kind of social interaction that could combat the negativity.

If your teen is withdrawn and seems to look at life through sad, hopeless glasses, it is time to seek professional help from a mental health professional.  If you have any questions about behavior you see exhibited in your teen, give one of our certified counselors at Doorways a call today. We would love to help!

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How Writing Helps Teenagers Manage Stress

Being a teenager in today’s world comes with the same stresses teens have always faced plus a wide range of new stresses their parents and grandparents never faced.  According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, teens are stressed because of academic demands, high expectations, jam-packed schedules, safety concerns, family problems, peer relationships, and financial instability.  Because stress can come from every area of their lives, teens can easily become overwhelmed and many do not have the tools they need to manage that stress on their own.

When teens are stressed and overwhelmed and unable to change their situation it can lead to unhealthy behavior patterns like aggression, withdrawal, depression, anxiety, cutting, acting out, and substance abuse. For parents, this means that helping teens develop adequate stress management techniques is a key component in protecting their mental health.

While there are many different techniques and strategies for managing stress, one of the most effective tools for teenagers is writing.  Many key stressors for a teenager revolve around their feelings.  How do other people make them feel?  How do they feel about other people?  How do they feel about themselves?  With so much going on around them, it can be hard to work through all the different feelings and emotions as they are being bombarded by them all day long.  Writing provides a safe, quiet, accessible, and most importantly, private way to sort out that jumble and get their emotional selves back on solid ground.

Here are some of the ways that the simple act of writing can position teens to manage and alleviate the stress in their lives.

A Safe Place to Vent

Sometimes, you just need to blow off steam and your teens feel this way too.  Unfortunately, they don’t have access to the same outlets you do.  They may feel like they can’t talk to their friends because they will make someone mad, hurt someone, or sound like a crazy person.  They may feel like they can’t talk to you because you won’t understand or you will overreact.  Writing can provide a safe place to vent, to let the energy behind their emotions out so that it doesn’t build up and push them into unhealthy behaviors.

A Space to Sort Things Out

Today’s world moves fast and we can easily become overwhelmed when the things we need to take in, outpace our ability to do so.  When the things we need to manage are too many to be manageable, it can be difficult to think clearly, make decisions, or know where you stand or how you feel.  When teens write, they can slow down the pace of their thoughts.  Bounded by the time it takes to physically commit ink to the page, writing can help create space for them to sort out their emotions, formulate their thoughts, and reconnect with themselves.

Writing isn’t a perfect fit for every teen, but for many it can be a core stress management strategy.  Writing for a certain amount of time everyday can help keep stress from building up and overwhelming them.


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Sexual Abuse in Teenagers: What Parents Need to Know


In order to protect teenagers from sexual abuse, it is important that both parents and teens understand what constitutes sexual abuse.  While it is broadly defined as abuse that can be considered sexual in nature, some acts, like date rape or sexual advances from an adult are generally considered by everyone to be forms of sexual abuse.  But things like voyeurism, exposure to pornography, and exhibitionism that do not involve direct physical contact between a teen and a perpetrator are also forms of sexual abuse and can be as devastating s physical abuse to the victim.

Sexual Abuse in Teenagers: What Parents Need to Know

Photo credit: Bigstock

Although most teenage sexual abuse is committed by an adult in a position of power, it is also important for teenagers to understand that the perpetrator doesn’t have to be an adult for sexual activity to be considered abuse.    Teenagers need to be aware that being drunk, drugged, afraid, or otherwise incapacitated does not make sex consensual.  Even if they don’t fight back, unwanted sexual advances and forced sexual activity is sexual abuse and is illegal.


Amongst teenagers, girls are more likely to be the victims of sexual abuse and 1 in 4 girls will have been sexually abused by the age of 18.   The majority of teenage sexual abuse victims know their abuser.  The most common type of abuser is a family member or someone who has close ties to the family.  More than 50% of females who are raped in theU.S.are raped before they turn 18 and teenagers account for more than half of all reported sexual abuse in this country.   Abuse victims have an increased risk of being abused again and teens between 16 and 19 are more than 3 times as likely as anyone else to be the victim of sexual abuse.  The majority of sexual abuse against teenagers happens in their own homes.  Teenagers also make up almost a quarter of sexual offenders.

While the report rate for sexual abuse across all ages is about 50%, this statistic drops to 31% amongst teenagers.  Due in part to anxiety about the social stigma of being a victim and fears of retribution, many teens choose not to report their abuse in an attempt to forget it happened at all.  Other factors like mediocre arrest rates, conviction rates below 20%, and short prison sentences may also deter victims from stepping forward.

The Signs

It is very common for victims of teen sexual abuse to have changes in behavior and to exhibit the same symptoms as a teen who has survived a traumatic event.  Common behaviors seen in victims of teen sexual abuse include:

  • Increased anxiety and panic attacks
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Displaced anger
  • Nightmares and difficulties sleeping
  • Problems in school including acting out in class and rapidly falling grades
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities
  • Self destructive behavior like cutting, using drugs, or promiscuity
  • Poor hygiene or excessive bathing
  • Running away
  • Suicidal thoughts, talking about suicide, and attempting suicide
  • Discussing sexual knowledge or language that is not age appropriate

Preventing Sexual Abuse

The best way to help prevent your teen from becoming the victim of sexual abuse is to arm them with information.  Understanding what constitutes sexual abuse can help teens identify and avoid dangerous situations.  Discussing the topic openly lets your teen know that if something does happen, they can come to you for understanding and support.  Help your teen practice saying no and empower them to be the boss of their own body.  Just as with smaller children, don’t force teenagers to hug or have physical contact with family members or any other person if it makes them uncomfortable.  Give them the absolute right to say no if they do not want someone touching them and you will empower them to say no when it matters most.

How to Get Help

Sexual abuse is traumatic and can cause serious issues with sexuality, self esteem, trust, loyalty, and the development of healthy relationships.  Teens who have been victims of sexual abuse may be struggling with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, cutting, and other self harm or self destructive behaviors.  The first step is to find the right practitioner who can provide the treatment and support needed to overcome the effects of the abuse.  Together with this professional, parents and friends can create a caring, understanding support system to aid in recovery.

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