The Power of Embedded Care

The worst thing in mental health is to see a teenager make a ton of progress at a residential program or a PHP program, and then upon arriving back at home, see the regression or setbacks take place. Embedded care attempts to solve that problem by bringing care inside the teen’s life rather than taking the teen away from home to get support. 

Embedded care is when treatment is integrated into one’s life, meaning one doesn’t “leave” one’s life to go to treatment. 

With an embedded care model, the clinical team is actively involved in each context of your teen’s world, providing immediate support when they need it most and working together with the entire support team to address challenges head-on. Picture this: it’s dinner time, and tensions are rising as a disagreement erupts between you and your teen. Instead of letting the conflict escalate, imagine receiving immediate support from your team to help facilitate constructive communication and resolution. Know that right after dinner, you have a parent coaching session, where you can talk with our parenting coaches about the dynamic, and your teen has a group where they can work out the dilemma with their peers. After those sessions, you can return to the conflict from a better place. That’s the essence of embedded care—being there in the moment to tackle issues together and prevent them from spiraling out of control.

How Antelope does embedded care: 

  1. We connect with everyone in your teen’s circle of support: 
  • Grandparents and extended family
  • Their school counselor or a close teacher 
  • Sports coaches or mentors 
  • Friends 
  • Siblings 
  • Primary Care Doctor and Psychiatrist 
  • Animals and pets in their life
  • Local community groups
  1. We utilize technology and creative problem-solving to design a program that can work within the teen’s life:
    • If the teen is struggling with Substance use, we will utilize virtual contingency management for drug testing without the need for regular visits to a lab. 
    • We utilize group chats and a variety of therapeutic apps.
    • We may send the teen items in the mail, such as care packages or resources that can be with them throughout the day. 
  1. We focus on building durable relationships that will last far longer than therapy. 
  • Does the teen have at least one good friend? 
  • Is there at least one adult in their life they can talk to who isn’t their parents? 
  • Do they have a place to go outside of school where they have community? Like a job, sport, or hobby? 
  • Do they have a relative who they trust? 
  • Do they get physical exercise? 
  1. We get creative about how to make the program work for them. 
  • Can we do a session in school? In the nurse’s office or an open room? 
  • Can we check in during a break at work? 
  • If parents can’t give privacy at home, we work on white noise machine headphones and do sessions at other times during the day. 
  • Do siblings join in on family sessions or just parents?
  • We can discuss what we’re noticing about meds with the psychiatrist and primary care provider.
  1. We have monthly interdisciplinary case consultations, with everyone involved invited to discuss the strategy. What’s working, and what’s not working? 

Our approach goes beyond the confines of therapy sessions. We embed ourselves in your teen’s world—at home, in school, or wherever else they may need us. We recognize that true healing and growth occur within the context of everyday life, which is why we strive to create a seamless support system that seamlessly integrates into your teen’s existing routines and environments.

Embedded care isn’t just about putting out the fires of daily life; it’s about addressing the root causes of those fires in the first place. When we’re with the teenager in their world, we can start to get underneath the surface of the issues, discover patterns, and increase self-awareness about WHY these issues are happening in the first place. This approach allows for deeper accountability, understanding, and, ultimately, freedom. Freedom from the patterns, freedom from the old ways that weren’t working, and freedom to try something new. 

Building up durable, long-term relationships

Relationship building is a primary goal with embedded care. We do not want teenagers in therapy forever. By fostering connections with trusted individuals and resources in their community—whether it’s a teacher, coach, or even the mechanic next door—we empower your teen to cultivate a network of support that extends far beyond our program. It’s been shown that although therapy is extremely powerful & helpful for teenagers – a relationship with grandma can have a much more durable, long-term positive effect on the child. By working with the teen directly inside their life, we can help nurture and develop relationships that will exist long after our program ends, thus truly setting your teen up for long-term success. 

Through creating durable relationships, we cultivate resilience in teens. Resilience is the ability to adapt, to bounce back, again and again, with every obstacle we face. Resilience is not a trait that one is born with, or that is either present or absent, resilience is learned and built. An important part of building resilience is building connections in our environment that we can rely on and reach out to when facing challenges. There are seven elements of resilience:

  • Emotional awareness and self-regulation
  • Impulse Control
  • Optimism
  • Flexible and accurate thinking
  • Empathy
  • Self-efficacy
  • Connecting and reaching out

By building up these components of resilience, we can become better at adapting to changes and overcoming challenges. According to the APA, there are ten ways to build resilience:

  • Making connections and building your social support network;
  • Avoiding the tendency to view crises as insurmountable challenges;
  • Accepting that change is a natural and unavoidable part of life;
  • Moving towards your (realistic) goals;
  • Taking decisive actions that will help you face your challenges;
  • Looking for opportunities for self-discovery;
  • Nurturing a positive view of yourself and your abilities;
  • Keeping things in perspective and in context;
  • Maintaining a hopeful outlook on life;
  • And taking care of yourself.

Animal and Nature Therapy

Connecting with animals and nature is an essential part of true embedded care. Animals and nature make up a large part of our world and are resources teens will have with them daily for the rest of their lives. Pets and the outdoors will be there long after our program is over, creating a unique continuity of care that is important in protecting against relapse of symptoms and developing robust coping skills. Whether it’s developing a deeper relationship with the teenager’s dog or the birds in the backyard or learning how to enjoy star gazing, we utilize the outdoors in therapy whenever possible. The evidence is robust—animal and nature therapy increases the quality of care. 

There are many positive aspects of interacting with animals that promote physical and mental health and well-being. First, a nonhuman relationship is a new type of relationship experience that provides additional social interaction and a sense of support and lends to the practice of caregiving behaviors, self-awareness, and emotion regulation. In therapy, witnessing interactions between clients and animals is an opportunity to reflect on the relational exchanges and to try new relational behaviors. Animals support us in developing empathy and understanding how we impact each other. Interacting with our pets for even a brief period leads to decreased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and increased levels of oxytocin

Children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity display fewer symptoms after spending time in a green environment than when they spend time indoors or in non-green outdoor environments. n another study, a nature walk reduced symptoms of depression in 71% of participants, compared to only 45% of those who walked through a shopping center.

Higher levels of care should not be focused on symptom management.

By the time teens are at an IOP, we are not just doing symptom management. Teens are struggling across many contexts. The issues are woven into each area of their life. This is where embedded care can make a big impact. We can work within multiple complex systems and help make small and big adjustments in their routine and relationships that can have a sustained impact.