Children and adolescents are faced with a number of challenges in their everyday lives. When faced with adverse circumstances, if children do not have the appropriate coping skills to successfully navigate through those circumstances, maladaptive behaviors can result. Sadly, many children and adolescents have turned to the act of self-harm as a means of coping with negative emotions that they experience as the result of such adverse circumstances. Characterized by acts in which a person intentionally inflicts some form of pain onto him or herself, self-harming behaviors can include acts such as cutting, biting, burning, scratching, hitting, pulling out hair, drinking harmful substances, or intentionally breaking bones. For the majority of young people who are engaging in these destructive behaviors, the acts themselves are a way for them to have control over the physical pain that they are feeling because they are unable to control the inner pain they are afflicted by. At Desert Hills, we understand the sensitive nature that surrounds the engagement of such behaviors and, as a result, have created specialized programming that is designed to meet the needs of youth who have lost themselves in this destructive cycle of self-mutilation.
Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Desert Hills provides a full continuum of behavioral healthcare services that range from sub-acute residential treatment to community-based programs for children, adolescents, and their families. Since its opening in 1990, Desert Hills has grown from a small residential program to the largest and most respected provider of behavioral health services in the state of New Mexico, offering three different locations where individuals can access services. In order to ensure that we are offering the highest quality of care possible, while meeting all of our patients unique needs, we provide ongoing training for and supervision of all our staff members, making sure they are up-to-date on the latest evidence-based treatment modalities. Because we are able to offer each child and adolescent customized and personal care, we can address the specific problems that have led your child to engage in self-mutilation and help him or her develop the skills needed to return to living the healthy, happy life that or she deserves. At Desert Hills, we are dedicated to not only improving the lives we touch, but to helping to change the lives of those we serve, one child at a time.
Helping a Loved One or Family Member Get Treatment
The act of self-harm most commonly occurs in private, making it difficult to decipher whether or not individuals are engaging in such behaviors. However, if you suspect that your child may be participating in self-injurious acts, there are some warning signs that you can look out for. The following are some such examples:
- Wearing clothing that is not weather-appropriate (e.g. wearing long-sleeved shirts or pants when it is warm outside in an attempt to hide marks that would indicate the infliction of self-harm)
- The repeated presence of cuts, burns, scrapes, bruises, or other injuries that cannot be explained
- Patches of missing hair
- The occurrence of frequent accidents, whereupon physical injury results
- The presence of wounds that do not appear to be healing in a timely manner
- Isolating oneself from family and friends
- Excessive levels of agitation, irritability, and anxiety
If you have noticed any of these signs in your child, then it is imperative that you take him or her to be evaluated by a mental health professional so that proper therapeutic interventions can be implemented.
Why Consider Treatment at Desert Hills
In many cases, the act of self-harm itself does not typically imply that an individual wants to end his or her life. However, the longer that these behaviors continue to exist, and the more severe the self-injury becomes, the likelihood that suicide attempts (whether intentional or unintentional) may occur becomes higher. Self-mutilation is commonly symptomatic of any number of mental illnesses and, when left unaddressed, other symptoms of those mental health conditions can become further exacerbated, leading to even more devastating consequences on a child’s future. Fortunately, when appropriate treatment in sought and implemented, the risk of these potential consequences drops drastically as children learn the tools they need to overcome their symptoms and regain a sense of hope for their futures.
Residential treatment programs can be one of the most beneficial forms of treatment for youth who are engaging in self-harming behaviors. When children and adolescents enter into this type of program, they are entering into an environment where they are provided with monitoring 24/7, taking away the risk of their finding a way to engage in their desired means of self-mutilation. While in this program, youth have around-the-clock access to mental health professionals who are available to help them process through their desires to self-injure, whenever the compulsions arise. Additionally, these programs offer children an opportunity to work with peers who are facing similar challenges, allowing them to work together and learn from one another. Through the various therapeutic interventions offered in these programs, young people can take the first step towards a bright and happy future, free from the desire to self-harm.
Program Philosophy and Benefits
At Desert Hills, our philosophy is based on the approach that treatment should be centered on patients and their families. We train, facility wide, on the Nurtured Heart Approach in order to provide our patients and their families with inner wealth and opportunities to grow. We are dedicated to using evidence-based treatment modalities on every unit to ensure that patients and their families have the highest likelihood of obtaining long-term, successful outcomes. It is our mission to provide high-quality, comprehensive behavioral and mental healthcare services to children, adolescents, and their families by offering a full array of therapeutic interventions across a vast spectrum of care. All of our services are individualized, culturally sensitive, and fully centered on our patients and their families. The clinical emphasis at Desert Hills is placed on assessment, treatment planning, discharge, and aftercare planning, with the all-encompassing goal of preparing patients to have a successful future in home, at school, and within the community.
Types of Treatment Offered at Desert Hills
Here at Desert Hills, we have 10 distinct units, each of which features programming that is designed specifically to address the needs of a wide variety of populations. Each unit follows a chief treatment modality throughout its programming, which coincides with the needs of the patients on that particular unit. Desert Hills strives to use evidence-based treatment modalities on every unit in order to ensure that patients have the highest likelihood of obtaining long-term, successful outcomes. Described in more detail below are some of the services that Desert Hills affords our patients:
Medication management: Medication management is provided for all patients throughout each one of our treatment programs. This is done so as to make sure that each patient is fully supported in getting all of his or her medication needs taken care of, while simultaneously being properly monitored to ensure the therapeutic effectiveness of any medications that have been prescribed. For children and adolescents who are plagued by the compulsion to self-harm, psychotropic medications may be implemented in order to alleviate further symptoms of an existing psychiatric condition. Such considerations will be made on a case-by-case basis.
Individual therapy: On each unit, patients are provided with at least one individual session per week. These sessions are meant to be a time where patients can meet with a therapist in a safe and confidential setting in order to process through specific concerns they are facing, keep track of personal treatment goals, reduce the risk of relapse into re-engaging in self-mutilation, and work on individual skills-building in order to more effectively cope with stresses and triggers.
Group therapy: Here at Desert Hills, all of our patients attend group therapy at a minimum of three times per week. These group sessions offer children and adolescents the opportunity to connect with others who are going through similar experiences. Some of the topics that are covered in these groups, depending on the specific program that a patient is taking part in, include interpersonal effectiveness, conflict resolution, anger management, stress management, and correcting and replacing thinking errors. For those patients who are also struggling with substance abuse concerns, psycho-educational groups are held regarding the effect of substance abuse on the body, brain, and overall functioning.
Family therapy: Since family involvement is important to the overall success of recovery, we hold at least one family therapy session per week for each patient. Family therapy focuses on guiding and facilitating an open dialogue, as well as educating parents, caregivers, and other family members on the intervention skills that are being used in treatment. The process of doing so will help ensure the patient’s success long after discharge.
Educational services: Continuing one’s education while at Desert Hills is a very important part of our treatment program. Schooling at Desert Hills provides our patients with a positive, safe, and individualized place to learn and grow. All teachers communicate weekly with the treatment team, assuring consistency in the individual goals set for each student.
Additional services that are available depending upon each patient’s specific needs include:
- Services for deaf and hard of hearing patients (administered by deaf therapists and other mental health technicians that are trained in American Sign Language)
- Art therapy
- Music therapy
- Play therapy
- Equine therapy
- Canine therapy
- High and low ropes courses
- Peer council
- Red Rocks Group (a Native American peer group)
- Bilingual mobile assessments
- NA / AA meetings for patients who are struggling with substance abuse concerns
Continuing Care and Levels of Treatment
All patients from our residential treatment center have the opportunity to step down to one of our many outpatient care options, of which include the following:
Clinical day treatment program: This program allows patients to live at home, while also addressing any behavioral or academic issues they may have. These services are provided on a year-round basis for children and adolescents who are middle school through high school aged. There are both regular and special education services available, allowing students to earn summer credits and catch up if they have fallen behind academically. Additional services include group therapy and various experiential therapies.
Group homes: Designed to provide patients who are between the ages of 16 and 21 who are in need of a structured home-based living situation, our group homes provide services that are focused on psychosocial skills development and functioning in the community.
Treatment foster care: This program is licensed and certified by the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department to license, train, and support treatment foster parents and treat children between the ages of 4 and 18 who are placed in their homes. TCF provides around-the-clock clinical supervisions, on-call therapy, and case management services.
Whatever your child’s continuing needs may be, Desert Hills provides a wide range of services that will be able to address any and all of those specific needs. We will do everything in our power to help your child overcome his or her concerns and learn to see the world as a safe and happy place once again.