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Jill Weinstein

Jill Weinstein discusses anxiety and intensive outpatient therapy.

Jill Weinstein
Jill Weinstein

Five years ago, Jill Weinstein, a licensed professional counselor, was working at The Galloway School and noticed an unprecedented increase in anxiety among adolescent students. This level of anxiety was not able to be effectively managed in outpatient therapy and necessitated a higher level of care.

Alarmed by such a need in the community, Weinstein went to her friend of 20 years and fellow therapist Alyza Berman, founder of The Berman Center in Sandy Springs that offers mental health and substance use intensive outpatient services for adults. Weinstein said, “We have to do something.”

Their collective passion for helping people led to the launch of Ignite at The Berman Center, a specialized, outpatient teen therapy program. Weinstein is now the program’s clinical director.

“The Berman Center, which opened in 2017, is a special place. It’s not your typical treatment center. It has a family feel and takes a more whole-person approach. Everyone’s treatment looks very different,” Weinstein says.

Here, Weinstein talks about the epidemic of anxiety and when it’s time to seek help, and shares what it means to do intensive outpatient therapy.

How does “intensive outpatient” differ from “regular” therapy?

You would typically go to therapy once per week. With our intensive outpatient program (IOP), you’re in group therapy for nine hours each week, plus one hour of individual therapy and one hour of family therapy, so about 11 hours of therapeutic work. We also have a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) that is 25 hours per week and includes extensive academic support for adolescents. IOP is a way to prevent people from going on to higher levels of care, such as inpatient hospital or a crisis stabilization unit, or for those stepping down from a higher level of care who need more support.

Why does it seem like anxiety is at an all-time high?

In general, people are struggling more because of COVID burnout, and constant information and news like the war in Israel coming at them. They are exhausted. Adults, just like kids, are constantly connected to phones and devices. I don’t want to make tech out to be the devil, but we have to learn to have healthy relationships with our phones just like with food and shopping. Tech is here to stay. Current parents and adults didn’t grow up with technology, so we have to learn how to manage it and to help kids manage it. For teens, social media adds a lot more pressure to excel, to get into college and to look good while doing so. Many don’t have the skills of resilience and grit.

Do anxiety disorders affect women more than men?

That’s what the research shows [women are twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America]. There are a lot of pressures on women—to work, be a mom, to have it all. At the same time, it’s more socially acceptable for them to struggle with anxiety or depression than men and boys. Finally, we’re beginning to see adolescent boys coming into The Berman Center to get help. For a while, it was just women and girls.

How can one know when it’s time to seek help for anxiety?

When it starts to interfere with daily functioning. If you’re not finding pleasure in things you used to like, pulling back from family and friends, not sleeping, not eating, not doing the daily things that you used to do. Anyone is more than welcome to call us at The Berman Center. Mental health can be a hard space to navigate. We love to be a resource in the community for people. For outpatient therapy, we have a lot of connections and can direct people to the right space. Or speak with your doctor or your child’s pediatrician.

What are some daily or weekly practices adults or teens can do for themselves to alleviate or prevent anxiety?

Everybody is different. Test things out, such as meditation, yoga, journaling, knitting, walking or building LEGO, and see what works for you. Connection is important. Spend undistracted time with your family or people you love. Put down your phone and enjoy that time.


PHOTO: Joann Vitelli

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