Eva Carlston Academy
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The Benefits of Failure

Many students at Eva Carlston experience intense anxiety and have post traumatic stress (PTSD) diagnoses. When faced with day-to-day stressors and expected setbacks it is not uncommon for them to retreat into patterns of avoidance and even more significant bouts of anger or uncontrollable panic attacks. We have seen students experience panic attacks over completing simple tasks like getting ready for school, misplacing belongings, having to wait their turn, or dealing with a small change in their schedule.

Failure Leads To Success

The fear of failure is not unique to those that struggle with anxiety. But when paired with problems like trauma, abuse, or other complex diagnoses an adolescent girl can experience a level of fear that is exponentially more significant and threatening than the actual trigger itself. What we have seen is that girls experience failure differently and that they often view themselves as incapable of doing better or “fixing” their problem. 

We believe that girls are capable, they just need to experience it. But it is a rough journey to get to that realization. At Eva Carlston, we use the evidence-based approach of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as one of the ways to assist girls in understanding their abilities and achieving personal success. 

Research into evidence-based treatment for anxiety also shows that pairing CBT with skills instruction and repeat exposure are at the core of positive outcomes. This means that girls will experience failure over and over again. Our social skills instruction consists of trauma-informed and fully integrated rehearsal of failure-combatting skills (initiating a conversation, assertive communication, asking for help, etc) 

These valuable teaching exercises help girls work through alternatives and practice a healthy way to approach the situation again. It becomes the beginning of a life-long habit of success.

“Students who cannot accept their own failures develop a sense of low self-worth, while those who embrace failure with acceptance learn to have compassion for themselves and gain self-confidence.” Sue Hoffman, Clinical Director

Maintaining Motivation During Treatment

A common theme in residential treatment is the obstacle of maintaining motivation, particularly when the student is experiencing repeated failures. When faced with the overwhelming impact of depression and anxiety, many parents are left feeling helpless. How do you motivate your daughter when she may not care about anything anymore? It can be a hopeless and scary position for many parents. 

One way to create and maintain motivation is to avoid rescuing girls from the discomfort and consequences of failure. This autonomy is critical in identity development and learning. As girls work through their therapeutic process this autonomy to fail is just as important as the autonomy of success. 

Additionally, they begin to not only recognize the incredible amount of control they have over their life, but also the confidence that comes from succeeding as a result of their own choices and not the intervention of others.

We encourage parents to step back from rescuing their daughter from discomfort, particularly while they are in treatment, and have a support team around them. This is a big ask! So it isn’t just a matter of stepping back, but doing so with the therapeutic support for both parents and daughter. 

At Eva Carlston Academy, we understand the difficulties and hurdles it takes to reach the light at the end of the tunnel, but the most important thing to remember is that it is possible and it does get easier. 

Suggested read: The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, Jessica Lahey