EVOLVE Therapy is Solution-Focused, Data-Driven, Evidence-Based, Results-Oriented

All our modes of therapy are goal-directed and focus on solutions instead of problems. We look for the strengths in our teenagers and design a therapeutic program that fits their unique needs. Regardless of the level of care, we find what works best for each individual. We engage in a continuous process of evaluation and assessment to make sure what worked yesterday still works today, and what works today prepares our teenagers and families for success tomorrow and the rest of their lives.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT helps our teens change ineffective behavior patterns into effective ones. DBT treats issues such as impulsivity and overwhelming emotion, which are recurring themes among adolescents with mental health and substance abuse disorders. DBT works to achieve four primary goals: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Over time, the Evolve therapeutic team has honed in on what works and what doesn’t. Our DBT approach revolves around three core concepts: clarity, precision, and compassion.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)

ABA focuses on the understanding and application of effective learning principles. Decades of research proves punishment does not teach—positive reinforcement does. When a reward follows a behavior, the behavior is more likely to be repeated. It’s really that simple. ABA applies this concept and uses techniques to bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior. We don’t blame teens for what they do. We uncover the cause, understand the reward, then change both the behavior and reward to those that are positive and life-affirming.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on making connections between thoughts, feelings, and actions. It’s based on the belief that when negative thought patterns are identified and adjusted, positive changes in feelings and behavior can take place. When people think of therapy in general, CBT is what comes to mind: talk, think, talk more, then apply the concepts from discussion to daily behavior. At Evolve, we always focus on changing behavior. If the talk doesn’t lead to positive change, then we find something that does.

Mindfulness-Based Dialectical/Cognitive Therapy (MBD/CT)

We integrate mindfulness practice into our dialectical and cognitive therapies. We understand mindfulness as something simple and practical: it means paying attention to what’s happening in the here and now, i.e. reality. If our teens are not aware of what’s happening in the moment, then all the therapy in the world is not going to work. For example, we see the impulsivity in teens as a form of mindlessness. Mindfulness practices help replace mindlessness with awareness. We teach our teens the first step toward positive change is acceptance of the moment without attachment or judgment. When they learn to see their behavior through clear eyes, they can then learn to enhance their quality of life.

Behavioral Activation (BA)

Behavioral Activation is a component in behavioral therapies (like CBT, DBT, and ABA) as well as a standalone treatment in itself. BA is based on the idea that experience and behavior affect one’s mood. As such, it encourages teens to participate in activities that bring them pleasure and to accomplish small, meaningful tasks on a regular basis. Research shows that engaging in these actions increases positive emotions and reduces the sadness associated with depression. Our role at Evolve is to coach our teens in making these life choices.

Relapse Prevention

Relapse Prevention Therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that primarily treats addiction and substance abuse. Research shows that relapse is very common after recovery. Among other factors, negative emotions (e.g. being lonely, depressed or angry) and environmental triggers (e.g. witnessing friends using drugs) can trigger a relapse. At Evolve, we use Relapse Prevention to help our teens limit relapses by teaching them how to anticipate, identify, and cope with these high-risk scenarios.

Seeking Safety

Seeking Safety is a relatively modern evidence-based treatment model that treats co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. After a traumatic experience, many people choose unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as using substances to escape the pain. Seeking Safety helps our teens recover from their traumatic past so they can regain the footing they need to move forward in life. Each of the 25 skills helps patients attain safety in their relationships, thinking, behavior, and emotions.

Structural Family Therapy

Individual Family Therapy

We believe our teens cannot be completely understood in isolation from their families. When possible, practical, and productive, we require family members or caregivers to participate in family therapy sessions at least once a week. We prefer families to attend sessions in person, however, we accommodate sessions by telephone or web chat if necessary. The primary therapist will determine how we conduct family sessions.

We believe parents need to learn recovery skills right alongside their kids. Many of our therapists are parents themselves, and we all agree that giving parenting advice was easy—before we had kids. In our residential facilities, we always try to have one person on the therapeutic team who’s got kids. We understand, empathize, and know from experience that what when we’re parenting, all our weaknesses are revealed, and that’s okay. It’s not about giving stock advice and canned answers. We want our parents to learn as their kids learn, and our goal is for everyone involved to get on the same page and move forward together.

Multi-Family Support Group

In addition to the family therapy sessions, families participate in multi-family parent support groups held every Sunday. These group sessions allow for families, teens, and therapists to meet either as a large group or in small, intimate groups to collaborate and share their treatment experiences. These sessions are opportunities for families to learn from one another, recognize they are not alone, and get support from others going through similar experiences. We conduct group sessions in a variety of formats, depending on specific family needs and circumstances. Times for these groups vary from facility to facility, and frequency depends on the level of care the teen requires.

Parenting Groups

Parents need support, too. And sometimes, they need to talk to other parents without kids around. We offer support groups designed to teach parents a new set of skills to help them cope with their new normal. These groups help during and after treatment. We address questions such as:

How can I support my child during treatment?

How can I support myself while my child is in treatment?

What do I do when my child comes home from treatment?

We understand that taking your child home from treatment is like taking them home from the birth hospital (if that’s how you did it) for the second time. No one plans for that. We connect you with knowledge and information to make this transition as easy as possible.

Group Therapy

Group Therapy is a powerful therapeutic tool at all levels of treatment. Peer approval and acceptance means everything to teens. During group sessions, therapists help teens develop and explore interpersonal relationships and work on specific treatment goals.

At Evolve, we use group therapy in a variety of ways. Our teens participate in recreational groups, daily process groups, and 12-Step meetings when appropriate. They’re involved in several group sessions per day, which may include:

Group Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

DBT Group Therapy is a highly effective treatment for individuals with intense emotions, disrupted relationships, and impulsive behaviors. We meet our teens—as individuals and as groups—where they are in the moment, while maintaining a keen awareness of the necessity for change. We use DBT to help them understand and transform patterns of behavior such as self-harm, suicidal thinking, and substance abuse. DBT group therapy teaches teens to tolerate distress without making situations worse, be in the moment without judgment, observe and change strong emotions, and ask for what they want and need in an effective and productive way.

Process Group

Teenagers often feel lonely and misunderstood. We use process groups to establish a sense of community, support, and camaraderie on the path to health and recovery. Group therapists, counselors, and other group members serve as models for effective communication, offer problem-solving strategies, and promote self-acceptance and self-support. These groups help teens learn how they come across to other people, gain awareness of how they’re perceived, and understand the effect of their words and actions on others. For a teen, peers can give the most effective feedback and offer therapeutic pearls of wisdom. For a therapist, the group process setting offers a glimpse into how a teenager functions in the world.

Commitment Group

Every day offers a new opportunity to grow and change. We teach teenagers to identify their strengths and nurture the skills necessary to cope with the challenges of life. Each day with a commitment group, when therapists introduce and discuss a specific recovery topic. Everyone makes a personal commitment to explore the topic throughout the day.

We don’t ask for miracles over the course of a day, but rather a simple promise to observe, reflect, remember, and participate in an evening group on the topic. Participants put personal observations into words, listen to one another, and create the sense they can experience different, effective, and authentic ways of thinking, learning, and being.

Commitment groups teach our teenagers to set the kind of reasonable, achievable goals that lead to self-efficacy and self-mastery. The sense of community in these groups works to dispel hopelessness and instill self-confidence. The goal is to urge our teenagers to believe in themselves. In these groups, teenagers, their peers, and their therapists meet as equals, create mutually respectful relationships, and participate in a positive and productive give and take of ideas and insights.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)


Adolescence is a time of radical physical, emotional, and social change. Hormones flood the body and the brain struggles to keep up as the urge to seek novelty and carve out an identity outpace the ability to regulate thoughts and control impulses. Teens riding this emotionally charged roller coaster need help learning how to slow down their thoughts, regulate their emotions, and make positive, objective choices. Experienced instructors lead yoga and meditation groups as part of our regular exercise program.

Teenagers often have difficulty simply being alone, and many teens come to Evolve because they’ve learned to fill empty time and space with self-destructive, counter-productive behaviors. Yoga and meditation teach our teenagers to find a calm, centered, compassionate, and peaceful place inside themselves. They learn the ability to seek validation internally. It takes time, repetition, and practice—like the entire recovery process.


We teach simple breathing exercises, focusing strategies, and relaxation techniques to ground and center the chaotic jumble of adolescent thoughts and emotions. From simple belly-breathing to full-body progressive muscular relaxation, a calm mind helps give our teens the freedom to see their behaviors clearly and make healthy choices.

Walking Meditation

The purpose of walking meditation—sometimes called mindful walking—is the same as in all types meditation: to quiet the mind, focus on the breath, and fully appreciate the present moment. A simple mindful walk teaches our teens to open their eyes to the world around them, open their minds to and hearts to their thoughts and emotions, and improve concentration and self-regulation.

Other activities we include across all levels of care that might fall under the category of mindfulness are journaling, cooking, and gardening.

Experiential Therapy

Music and Dance

It’s no secret teens respond well to music and dancing. Expressive therapies like these improve self-understanding and teach productive ways to cope with uncomfortable feelings. Singing along with a song provides a healthy context to release painful or difficult emotions, and discussing song lyrics often helps an angry adolescent articulate the tangled knot of angst they feel inside. Our therapists aren’t afraid of delving into pop genres like rock, punk, rap, or metal to meet teens where they are and on ground they feel comfortable.

Writing original lyrics helps identify and understand big emotions, and playing music has a magical way of simultaneously soothing and releasing those same emotions. Our Agoura Hills facility has a new, state-of-the-art recording studio where our teens can write, record, and produce music of their own. They benefit from all the therapeutic positives of music therapy, learn to transform their experiences into art, and feel the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes with creating something from beginning to end.

Dance, like music, has an amazing capacity to unite mind, body, and soul in a single moment of pure joy and self-expression. Dance therapy helps our teens express feelings and tell stories while boosting self-esteem and increasing self-awareness and understanding.


Our surfing program is all about taking therapy into nature. The National Surf School and Instructors Association accredits our surf instructors, who specialize in using surfing as a therapeutic tool and transformative experience. Surfing helps teens practice social skills, learn stress management techniques, fine-tune gross motor skills, executive functioning skills, improve muscle tone, and develop spatial awareness, all while having fun and learning a new skill.

Equine-Assisted Therapy

Horses have a unique sensitivity to human emotions, which makes equine therapy an effective and widely accepted therapeutic tool. Teens can address and break down barriers and resistance toward the therapeutic process through their connection with horses. They develop caring and nurturing behaviors through their interactions with these majestic, powerful, and loving animals. They uncover aspects of themselves previously inaccessible in their relationships with peers, family, and society. They’re required to be fully present, watch for and respond to subtle signals on multiple levels, and solve problems in the moment in ways that trigger deep learning and emotional maturation. Equine therapists use horses in this context to guide and support positive change.

Our equine specialists hold certifications in the use of horses in therapeutic setting and specialize in working with teenagers with substance abuse and mental health issues. Equine therapists are present during the therapeutic process and work collaboratively with our clinical team in the development and implementation of the individual treatment plan.


Therapeutic hiking groups provide our teens a unique opportunity to connect with nature. Nature hikes offer opportunities to develop a new self-image, a new way of relating to others and the environment, and new ways to respond to the challenges of daily life.


The study of the sweet science of pugilism goes back centuries. On the surface, it’s easy to understand why putting on a pair of gloves and getting a great workout hitting a heavy bag can relieve stress: anger, frustration, and anxiety melt away after punching something as hard as possible for a few minutes. On a deeper level, boxing helps teens learn to strategize, apply tactics, work hard, play hard, and recognize the proper time and place for this type of interaction. And there’s a bonus—they absolutely love it.

Physical Fitness

We want to show adolescents that living a healthy and well-balanced life can be fun. Evolve residential treatment centers are equipped with gym facilities our teens can use when they have down-time or free time. Our goal is to offer them the option of making healthy, life-sustaining choices, and teach them that regular exercise is an important part of stress management and emotional stability.


We take weekly trips to the beach, movies, special hiking trails, museums, miniature golf courses, and more. If we think an activity is appropriate and beneficial, we’ll include it as a special bonus for hard work and achievement. We use outings to model how to experience the world without the use of addictive substances, how to interact with society in enriching and sustaining ways, and for the same reason everyone else in the world does—to get out and about, have fun, and shake up the regular routine.