Depression Treatment Programs for Children and Adolescents in Atlanta

Hillside's Treatment Programs for Children and Adolescents Depression

Hillside is one of the best residential treatment centers for children and teens experiencing depression in Georgia, with a professional, intensively trained and certified staff in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). We use evidence-based treatment alongside quality psychiatric care to help children and teens in our residential and day programs for depressed youth, as well as our intensive in-home therapy program.

Sometimes kids wrestle with mental health issues they cannot resolve on their own, and Hillside can provide them with the tools they need to succeed while helping families heal.

Table of Contents:

Evidence-Based Therapy Programs for Depressed Youth

Hillside is a not-for-profit treatment center offering a broad array of quality clinical services and programs both on campus and in the Metro Atlanta community. We have several levels of care based on your child’s unique needs, including outpatient home-based treatment and residential alternatives.

Each treatment program focuses on evidence-based therapy options for children and adolescents, including but not limited to the adherent dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) protocol.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy to Treat Depression

Hillside is one of the first youth depression treatment centers in the country to utilize Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in our treatment programs. Hillside therapists are intensively trained in DBT and practice DBT to the fidelity of the protocol as it was researched.

Adolescents with depression often struggle with unwanted feelings or distorted thinking about themselves and the world. These distorted thoughts and painful emotions can lead to problematic coping methods and affect their behaviors in their world. Their negative feelings about their abilities or self-worth can lead teenagers to withdraw from positive activities or relationships they used to enjoy.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a specialized form of cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches youth how to better deal with painful and conflicting emotions. The goal is to decrease ineffective behaviors such as self-harming or suicidal thoughts or gestures and increase insight into one’s feelings and skills to regulate emotions effectively.

DBT has four stages of treatment:

  1. Help clients control and understand their thoughts and behaviors.
  2. Work on fully experiencing their underlying emotions.
  3. Develop self-reliance and self-worth as they build a healthier lifestyle.
  4. And for some adolescents, seek deeper meaning through spiritual fulfillment and develop a sense of connection with a greater whole.

While DBT was initially developed for treating adults, other DBT protocols have been successfully adapted to work effectively with different populations, including children and adolescents. Hillside’s expertise is the use of DBT with children and adolescents population. We utilize experiential therapeutic interventions and traditional core DBT skills classes to help our clients learn and practice their DBT skills in real-life situations.

DBT and Mindfulness to Handle Stressful Situations

Mindfulness is one of the foundations of DBT skills. Mindfulness helps our clients become more aware of their thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness is a practice that can teach adolescents to stay in the present moment without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

In DBT, mindfulness helps set the stage for people learn ways to tolerate distress and handle stressful situations without acting impulsively. In addition to DBT training, Hillside’s therapists have been trained in Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT®) and incorporate compassion with mindfulness practices in treatment.

About Teens & Depression

What Is Depression?

Depression is more than just feeling sad or being blue. It is a relatively common mental illness that can become dangerous and even life-threatening. It is not unusual for children – especially adolescents – to experience depression, and when they do they need your help.

Depression can start as a bad mood, stem from an incident at school, be a natural part of a developmental phase, or seemingly have no cause at all. The brain chemistry that regulates moods can be altered by persistent bad feelings or prolonged periods of stress. After several weeks, the brain almost forgets how to be happy.

Moods and other thought patterns work like pathways through your brain. When one pathway is continually used, alternate routes become harder and harder to discover. The brain gets into the habit of being sad, and then it cannot break the pattern.

Facts About Depression in Adolescents

Depression can feel isolating, but adolescents must know they are not alone and that depression in teens is common. In the U.S., 15% of teens have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, and 10% have severe depression.

Measurement-based care (MBC) is Hillside’s standard of care. We use standardized and validated instruments to collect and analyze client outcomes. The data also allows us to monitor a client’s progress and design custom programs for each person’s unique needs.

Since 2019, we have collected data from over 700 residential clients, including 300 clients served between May 2019 to July 2021 who completed outcome measures at seven weeks of treatment at our Atlanta depression treatment center. Our clients ranged in ages from 10 to 17 years old. Primary and co-occurring disorders we treated include:

  • 80% had a history of suicide attempt or threat
  • 70% had a history of non-suicidal self-injury
  • 72% for major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • 24% for attention-deficient/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • 33% for anxiety
  • 24% for disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD)
  • 15% for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • 10% for bipolar disorder
  • 8% for a different condition
Parenting a Child With Depression

Parenting a Child With Depression

One of the hardest things for parents to do is to see their children suffer. As parents, it is natural to want to take away the pain and help our kids feel better as soon as possible. Often times, parents experience guilt, shame, or even anger, as they try to understand and address the cause of depression in their kids. It is important to be aware of how you are feeling and responding to your child. Are you feeling helpless? Are you trying to problem-solve? Are you trying to investigate the cause? The manners in which you address the situation can be immensely helpful in the healing process.

Instead of trying to “fix” your child or solve their problems for them, be compassionately curious. Gently ask questions about their mood without giving way to charged emotions. Ensure your tone comes across as loving and concerned rather than critical. Listen as they talk about their problems and try not to be judgmental. Even if it seems as though they’re just focusing on the negative, you being there and listening shows that you hear, you see and you’re trying to understand.

Be on the lookout for signs that your child may be struggling with depression that warrants professional attention. Find clinicians or adolescent depression treatment facilities that specialize in working with kids or teenagers with depression. Therapy with kids often looks different than treatment for adults due to the developmental stages of children.

While you may be focused on finding the right provider for your child, keep in mind that professional mental health clinicians can also be a great resource for you, the parents, as you work together towards your children’s wellness. It is incredibly powerful for children to see their parents model healthy behaviors and know they have your support.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Children and Teens

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Children and Teens

Oftentimes, children do not have the awareness or the vocabulary to express that they are depressed. In children and teens, depression can be presented as an irritable mood instead of a depressed mood. Some teens may try to hide their symptoms or evade truthful responses when you ask.

It is important to remember that depressive disorders are more than just a passing sadness or bad mood. The intensity of symptoms and how they affect day-to-day functioning are usually the key factors that determine the difference between regular sadness and a depressive disorder. Here are some signs and symptoms of depression in teens that may signify that it is time for you to engage a mental health professional for your child.

  • Prolonged sadness and/or irritability, especially when the feeling occurs most days for at least two weeks
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities they used to enjoy
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Changes in appetite or significant weight loss/gain
  • Increased tearfulness, crying, or emotional outbursts
  • Changes in sleep habits, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, as well as sleeping too much
  • Withdrawing from social interactions, expressed feelings of worthlessness
  • Excessive guilt or having guilt about things that are not their fault
  • Unusual fatigue, lack of energy, slow movements
  • Difficulty thinking, paying attention, or making decisions
  • A preoccupation with death or thoughts of suicide

Your teenager may exhibit any of these signs and be perfectly fine. The teenage years can be more challenging to some due to life transitions and physical changes. Hillside’s clinical staff has the expertise and experience to help distinguish the difference between typical behaviors and teenage depression signs and provide the best treatment course.

How to Help a Teen With Depression

While parenting can be challenging in itself, learning how to help a depressed teenager can be even tougher. It can be difficult to reach a teen who has withdrawn from friends and family, refusing to speak about their thoughts and feelings. And while every child is unique, and there’s no specific way to parent a teen with depression, therapist-approved methods that can help include:

  • Offering unconditional love and support: Providing unconditional love and practicing self-care by attending parent support groups can be immensely helpful. Let your child know they can go to you for help. While no relationship is perfect, creating a safe space for your child to turn to you for support is essential.
  • Learning the signs and symptoms of depression: Being able to recognize the symptoms and signs of depression in teens is essential. You can also help your child understand what depression looks like and how it feels, as they may not know why they feel the way they do or may think they’re the only one struggling.
  • Maintaining communication: Maintaining ongoing communication with your child is essential. While teens don’t always want to listen or open up, parents should find ways to connect by discussing what they’re going through and letting them know they are not alone.
  • Letting them know there is hope: Let them know there is hope and that adolescent depression treatment facilities can help. The earlier they receive treatment, the more likely they can achieve long-term recovery. Knowing this fact can help teens engage in therapy with optimism.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Teenage Depression

If your child exhibits five or more of the symptoms, it is recommended that you contact a mental health professional. Depression is one of the most treatable mental health disorders and most people with depression eventually respond well to treatment. A mental health clinician must perform a thorough evaluation to diagnose and treat the condition appropriately.

The assessment process usually includes an interview with the person experiencing the symptoms. In the case of children and teens, an interview with the parents can also help the clinician learn about observable changes in behaviors and mood, medical and family history and cultural and environmental factors. It is not unusual to include a physical examination in the diagnostic process. Sometimes, health professionals might do a blood test to ensure the depression is not due to a medical condition like a thyroid problem.

Psychotherapy and medication are the two most common ways to treat depression. Mild depression can often get better with the use of psychotherapy alone. For moderate to severe depression, psychotherapy is often used in combination with antidepressant medications.

Hillside’s Clinical Depression Treatment Options in Atlanta

Hillside has one of the best adolescent residential treatment centers for depression in Georgia, as well as Day Programs for depressed teens and children and Intensive Outpatient options to meet your family’s unique needs. We use various treatment modalities to reduce self-destructive behaviors in kids with depression and help manage their depressive symptoms in the most effective way.

Academic work is a big part of our residential treatment program. Our teachers and staff provide the support our clients need to succeed in the classroom. Most children respond positively to the residential treatment programs for depression in Georgia at the Hillside campus.

Hillside Program Treatment Outcomes

At Hillside, we’ve seen positive results while treating depression in teenagers. Most clients start to see a significant improvement around the third week of residential treatment. Our summary of these outcomes for all 300 clients who completed treatment from 2019 to 2020 is as follows:

  • Emotion regulation: Our depression treatment for teenagers saw a significant decrease on the full scale and five subscales, indicating an overall improvement in regulating negative emotions among all clients.
  • Distress tolerance: We saw a statistically significant increase in scores at the end of seven weeks of treatment for the full scale and all four subscales for distress tolerance. These findings suggest clients improved their ability to handle uncomfortable emotional experiences and tolerate distress.
  • Mindfulness: A significant increase in scores at seven weeks of treatment suggest clients gained an increased ability to act with awareness, became less judgmental and learned nonreactive attitudes to their negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Symptoms and functioning: We found that 85% of our clients experienced reductions in depressive symptoms and functional impairments.
  • Irritability: Severe or frequent irritability is a common symptom of mental health disorders. Our Affective Reactivity Index found a significant decrease in irritability scores at seven weeks of treatment.
  • Managing problems: At the end of treatment, 96% of clients indicated that Hillside helped them manage their problems more effectively and in a healthier way.

Other Effective Therapies Offered at Hillside

At Hillside, our continuing mission is to provide innovative and effective care. Youth and children sometimes respond better to certain therapeutic approaches and fail to do so with others. While DBT is our flagship treatment modality, we also offer several other therapeutic modalities and programs for depressed teens and children that can be implemented into your child’s treatment, including:

Learn Why Hillside Is the Best Depression Treatment Facility for Youth in Atlanta

Arrange The Best Depression Treatment for Your Atlanta Teen

Contact Hillside today to learn more about our depression treatment center in Georgia and to find out if it is right for your child. Our goal is to teach kids the skills to deal with depression and enable families to learn effective ways to communicate love and support.

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