Introducing Dr. Lisa Billings

Aug 4, 2023 | Uncategorized

Avanti Behavioral Health recently launched a new treatment option for teenagers at risk in the Denver area. Our intensive outpatient program (IOP) for clients between the ages of 13 and 18 in Greenwood Village provides comprehensive, holistic, family-centered, and trauma-informed care for your teen.

We have built a professional treatment team with the intention to provide practical tools that each teen can use on a daily basis. Our team prides itself on offering the latest treatment interventions, therapy models, delivered by compassionate people.

Clinical psychologist Lisa Billings is an important member of our team. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Virginia. At UVA, her research focused on how traumatic childhood experiences affect individual developmental trajectories. Dr. Billings also focused on parental divorce and family violence and looked at the powerful effects of child custody mediation in helping to enhance post-divorce family functioning.  

After moving to Denver, she did her clinical internship at Children’s Hospital Colorado and fell in love with the people and beauty of Colorado. She is now bringing her vast experience in adolescent mental health to the Avanti treatment program. 

Billings views herself as “part of the multi-disciplinary team, helping diagnose any underlying mental health conditions such as complex trauma issues. I see clients individually in addition to what they are doing in the IOP to give them more support,” she says. “The prevalence of both depression and anxiety disorders has increased dramatically over the last ten years, especially among adolescents and young adults.” 

“The crisis of student mental health is much vaster than we realize,” warned the Washington Post last year. “More than 75 percent of schools surveyed in spring said their teachers and staff have voiced concerns about student depression, anxiety, and trauma, according to federal data. Nearly as many schools cited a jump in the number of students seeking mental health services.”

According to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicides among young people remained stable from 2001 to 2007 but then increased by an alarming 62 percent between 2007 and 2021.

The mental health crisis is also driving a substance misuse epidemic among young Americans. “A substance use disorder is usually a symptom of an underlying mental health condition such as anxiety, depression, and trauma,” says Billings. Her young clients often get stuck in rigid, unproductive thinking patterns, frequently found in anxiety disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Shutdowns and isolation necessitated by the global COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the mental health crisis. “Across the board, everything skyrocketed during the pandemic: substance abuse, eating disorder, suicidality, everything has gone way up, and we are in a huge crisis,” confirms Dr. Billings.

But there are many other contributors to this crisis: social media, but also “over-interested parenting,” says Billings, “as a reaction to the ‘free-range’ parenting of previous generations.” Some parents “put so much pressure on their kids that they can’t develop for themselves; they have difficulty individuating the way they are supposed to.”

Paradoxically, parents who try too hard to ensure their children’s success, frequently raise unsuccessful kids while “loving and concerned parents” who allow for failure wind up with kids who tend to choose success. Effective parenting support is an important element of the Avanti treatment approach for substance use disorder.

Billings frequently works with parents on how they perceive their children, to provide parents with a broader lens to be able to see them with a lot of empathy. She likes to find out what the kids really want to do, and what their important values are. “I’m trying not to be the one who defines their values for them. It’s much better to treat them as independent persons and find out what’s really important to them and support them,” she says. “We all have these inner healers if we can only listen to them. You have to think of substance abuse as a family issue as any kind of psychiatric issue is a family issue. It’s important that parents don’t get angry about their child’s behavior or take it personally which is not always easy because we’re all human.”

Family members can play an important role at any level of care, including in an intensive outpatient program (IOP). Participating in family counseling as part of the outpatient treatment of the child will provide all family members with a better understanding of addiction as a disease and their optimal role in achieving recovery for their loved ones. 

The Avanti team believes that recovery from a substance use disorder is a process that should involve the entire immediate family. We have developed an effective and highly involved method of family counseling. For more information about our IOP and family programming call us at (720) 753-4030. 

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