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Is Your Teen Out of Control?


Five warning signs that your teen is undergoing emotional and behavioral issues that need immediate attention

Morrill, Maine: Does your teen appear irrational and illogical? Is your teen becoming withdrawn, isolated, angry and defiant? Is your child skipping school and getting bad grades? Self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors of troubled or out-of-control teens can be warning signs for parents that it is time to explore options to help correct inappropriate conduct in their child, say Ironwood Maine therapists.

Here are five warning signs from Robin Cubberly, Ph.D., Clinical Director and Therapist at Ironwood Maine, that a teen is undergoing emotional and behavioral issues:

Declining grades: A marked decline in grades during middle school and high school often signals a change in motivation to do well academically. Students may experience a loss of caring whether good grades are as important as social status.

Withdrawing/Isolating: Is your child becoming more invisible to you? Teens facing challenges of being “plugged in” as a means to obtain social gratification or to escape into the Internet or video games can be at risk of losing the experience of learning valuable social skills that will enhance their effectiveness in relationships with others.

Quitting favorite activities/interests: Teens who experience the onset of mental health issues such as depression or those who have engaged in substance abuse most typically begin to detach themselves from athletics and other interests that were once held in high regard. This creates a new world of “boredom” that has a strong negative impact on a teen’s ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Changing friends: Do you know your child’s current friends? Has your child stopped inviting longtime friends to your home? Is your child less apt to offer information about the new peer group they spend time with? It is common for troubled teens to hold the company of other troubled teens. Typically these relationships remain intact only as long as the unhealthy choices and behaviors continue to be the glue that holds these “friendships” together.

Behavior Changes: Is your child disrespectful and/or defiant towards you? Is your child refusing to attend school? Does your child keep you posted on their whereabouts? Has their sleeping or eating patterns changed? Are they generally more secretive about their lives? What may appear as “typical adolescent behaviors”, in combination can actually be warning signs for parents to take immediate action and seek the guidance of behavior and mental health professionals.

For many parents, dealing with a troubled or out-of- control teen feels overwhelming.
Therapists with Ironwood Maine Therapeutic School have helped many parents who struggled with finding assistance for their child, according to Dr. Cubberly. Ironwood Maine, a state licensed residential therapeutic school for troubled teens 13-17 years old, helps teens heal and progress through productive behavioral changes. Dr. Cubberly, who serves as a therapist at Ironwood Maine, said it is important that parents take action quickly and offers these suggestions:

Intensive Therapy Gets Results
Find a local therapist who will work with your child. Some therapists may recommend transferring the teen for short-term placement in a residential treatment facility or therapeutic boarding school. Therapeutic schools such as Ironwood Maine offer a customized, highly structured treatment program with intensive daily counseling, group sessions, satisfying physical work, adventure-based experiences, and a wide range of special interest programs including canine and equine-assisted therapy (EAP), according to Dr. Cubberly.

“Unlike other facilities, intensive therapeutic intervention sessions are the mainstay of Ironwood Maine’s 6- to 9-month treatment program. As a state-approved school, Ironwood Maine’s academic focus ensures your teen maintains his or her educational objectives and also has opportunities to earn additional credits,” said Dr. Cubberly.

Animal Therapy Proven Successful for Troubled Teens
Some skilled therapists use animals as a therapeutic tool to help teens deal with deeper emotional issues, and a number of animal therapy and equine-assisted therapy studies have documented positive behavior changes in teens, according to Dr. Cubberly.

“Certified instructors and therapists engage young people in simplistic to complex activities with animals to address various therapeutic goals identified by the Ironwood Maine treatment team,” Dr. Cubberly said. “During EAP and animal therapy, students learn to assess their own communication, coping skills, anger, caring and attachment issues through caring for, playing and interacting with Ironwood’s horses, dogs, alpacas and other farm animals. The animals play a huge part in the teen’s willingness and ability to engage quicker and deeper into underlying issues that have prevented them from being more successful in the past.”

Dialectical Behavior Therapy Effective in Helping Teens
Increasing numbers of troubled teens engage in impulsive and risky behaviors such as sexual activity, substance use, and self-harming or cutting behaviors as a means to cope or fit in. Often teens look outside of themselves for validation, making them more vulnerable to peer pressure. Since many teens lack the necessary tools to self-validate, creating self-confusion, they continue to search to define who they are, often taking them down scary paths.

“Your teen may benefit from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Skills Training,” said Dr. Cubberly. “DBT skill development teaches teens how to self-validate, through self-reflection and behavioral analysis.”

“DBT will help your teen identify the stimuli, be able to describe and understand how they are impacted, and then be able to cope using either distress tolerance skill or emotion regulation skill. Therefore teens can learn to stop and think, using their “wise mind.” To a parent, it means having a teen that will be easier to live with,” said Dr. Cubberly.

Animal therapy and DBT are only two of a series of therapeutic tools used at Ironwood Maine to help struggling teens develop new skills to reach their highest potential. Read more about Ironwood Maine’s clinical program:, review letters from parents: or read actual comments from graduates in the Ironwood Maine Mentor Blog:

About Ironwood Maine Residential Therapeutic School
Ironwood Maine is a one-of-a-kind combination of a traditional boarding school and therapeutic treatment program that specializes in working with struggling, underachieving teens whose behavior is often out of control. Through an extensive and customized therapeutic program and academic curriculum, Ironwood Maine helps teens become healthy, happy and responsible. For more information on the Ironwood Maine program, call toll-free 1-877-496-2463, email us at, or go to


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