This week I met with two parents concerned with how they could get their son to come see me for counselling. We spoke briefly about what problems they were experiencing at home and some of the things they had tried before, such as previous psychologists, a change of school and many of the normal things that occur when a teenager is struggling with depression and anxiety. As we spent this time together we started brainstorming some ideas for possible solutions. The couple began to disagree.
As this continued it began to grow. In the bush it takes just a small spark to start a fire and I could sense that this conversation, centred around the goal of helping their son, was flaming itself into a larger problem.
I was able to interrupt briefly reminding the parents that one thing was definitely for sure: “The two of you are both interested and invested with the same goal. That is finding help for your son and your family. But sometimes we disagree about how to get there.”
As a psychotherapist, I want people to leave each session with ideas for what they can do to feel better and achieve better results. So as our session winded down I provided an experiment for these parents to try: The Parental Business Meeting.
I explained that the meeting must be scheduled a few days in advance and with one specific aim in regards to helping their child. It needs to be very specific. Ideas such as bedtimes, getting him to school, what to do during the next argument or getting him to a therapist were all options on the table. Improving behaviour would have been too broad of a choice. The parents chose to plan a time where they could meet in order to prepare the best idea for helping get their teenager to see me.
When we feel stuck or at a loss on how to help one of our family members it is obviously very normal to feel a whole range of emotions. This is probably more ok than not (remind yourself of this). One of the issues that can occur is that when we sit to try and find solutions the emotions can get in the way like wearing a blindfold while trying to solve a maze.
While studying in Maryland, I was trained as a firefighter and to run an ambulance (seems like a past life now!). There was a great metaphor that I was taught during this time that has stuck with me when working with families, groups of teens in the bush and in managing my own relationships. Don’t Create a Second Victim.
I was the member of a few firehouses and one that was in a particularly dangerous part of town just outside Washington DC. For me, it felt like what would be the normal ambulance run or call to a car accident was always concealed with something to make it a much more complicated scenario. No matter what happened we had to think on our toes and not let any situation get worse than it already was.
I had to assess any physical risks before stepping into these potentially unsafe situations but also needed to check in with my emotional wellbeing. If I was injured or acted out in a way that put my team at risk then I would have become that second victim that I was trained to avoid. If this were the case, the group would need to not only work on fixing the difficult situation and save an injured person’s life but then worry about one of their team members who had increased the stress of the situation.
The Parental Business Meeting is a good technique for making sure that we are planning actual time for solving problems with our children. Here is how to do it:
It is important to have each other’s back during this time, similar to a group of fire fighters entering a burning building. This time is surely to be stressful for you both and you may have different opinions about parenting. This is ok and very normal.
Honour their opinion and your own. Listen actively to what they are saying and think about what aspects of their solution may be worth trying.
If this meeting does not work or gets too stressful, it may be a good idea to have a therapist or mediator present to help facilitate the meeting.
See you on the trail...
Will Dobud MSW
I work often with children and adolescents that have been labelled depressed, addicted, oppositional or delinquent and I often remind myself how important it is to not forget the full picture. A person struggling emotionally does not deserve the label of his or her diagnosis the same way someone with cancer, a broken bone or diabetes does.
For one, if I go to the doctor for a blood test the medical professional is looking to see that my blood count is normal. We will know if something is wrong based on a concrete measurement. We know what normal blood sugar or iron levels are and also know when these levels become dangerous. Unfortunately for emotional concerns such as depression or anxiety, it does not work the same way.
There is no normal level of depression but a professional can tell that you are depressed. Also, there is no way to treat these troubles the same way antibiotics treat an infection or pain killers on a headache. Helping people with these concerns requires getting the full picture from the person's point of view so we can use their everyday success and bravery for good. The heroic things that the ‘depressed child’ does each day will tell us how we can help him or her out of their stuck place.
I have worked with a few young people this year that have struggled with being bullied at school. Some have gotten so low that they have self-harmed causing such alarm at home that their parents have reached out to me for help. One person in particular, an eleven year old, had decided that it was better eat lunch on his own rather than with any of his friends just to hide away from the kids that were picking on him. He had scratched himself while walking home from school and has started to feel that he would prefer to just stay home from school in bed instead of making the treacherous journey to school each day.
On the surface we see this boy as young person struggling socially with all the adversity happening around him. In trying to problem solve, we could focus on the bullying or the self-harm. However, there may be more to the story we don't want to miss.
During our second session together he talked to me about cricket. His coach had told his father that he was not a very skilled player and did not put in enough effort during practice and should probably look into different extracurricular activities.
Being born in America I know very little about cricket so I curiously asked him what he liked about the sport. He lit up. He sat on the edge of the couch and began explaining all the different ways the sport is played from test cricket to 20-20. He talked to me about how the players line up and strategies for bowling. Having cricket stumps along with our expedition gear I got them out. He started as the bowler and easier ended my turn at bat laughing as I joked about being a not-so-good cricketer.
We went back into the office to talk about his plan for the final two weeks before the school holidays. He told me about what the coach had told his dad and said he did not know what would happen if he was unable to play cricket at school. “It’s the main reason I wake up in the morning,” he said.
I spoke to the boy’s father the next day and told him about how passionate and enthusiastic this child was about cricket. He was not the depressed, low energy, effortless boy I had been referred. I said that it would be an enormous oversight to not let this boy play. The father rang the coach and advocated for his son. The coach decided to meet with the child and they spoke for a full lesson about strategies for improving the team and what the boy could offer in helping the other boys to improve their game.
During our session the next week he said that one practice the coach had allowed the boy to help teach a certain bowling technique he could do better than most the other kids. He said he was nervous but everyone was interested in learning this technique. He said some of the kids asked him to have lunch the next day.
Although this boy has serious concerns, self-harming behaviours and a challenging circumstance at school, we were able to find his heroic passion and use his strengths to our advantage. We were lucky to have such an engaged father and coach who had the best intention of helping through connection. Instead of hoping the child would fit-in or change his thinking about the bullying, they put him in charge using one thing he knew best.
How can we do this in our own life? Think about the things that put you at the edge of your seat. What are you most passionate about? What excites you?
For me it is music. I know that if I’m overwhelmed, stressed or anxious I can play my drums, pick up my guitar or learn something new on piano. I can even put a record on and sit for a second. It doesn’t take long to feel better when I’m using the part of me that is focused, passionate and skilled.
Think about what this is for you and use it.
Have a safe new year and a happy 2016!
Will Dobud MSW
Conflicts at home are all too common with the families I work with. This morning, just a few days before our holiday break, I had a session with a young boy after he had recently stolen from a family member. I was unaware of this event prior to the session but he told me during our check in while completing the Outcome Rating Scale. When asked how he is doing emotionally, he answered with the words guilt and shame.
Last week I wrote about using the right hemisphere of the brain during therapy sessions so when this important event presented itself, we pulled out the oil pastels and some paper. His task, to draw what this guilt feels like on the inside. Where no one can see it.
During sessions with children I try to teach them about the safety of the present moment. I try to make my office into a small sanctuary away from the real life, natural consequences of everyday life. This security allows us to explore difficult past experiences with feelings of peace and serenity.
The 11-year-old boy’s finished project, pictured above, showed a fiercely drawn red circle in the centre of the body with four small blue dots at each limb. The red represented a feeling of fire in his chest that made him feel a whole range of emotions like anger, sadness, anxiety about what will happen and regret. He told me that when confronting what he had done, he felt immobilised. It was as if he could not move his arms or legs. I assured him that this guilt was normal. He had done something he knew was wrong and regretted.
Worry about this scenario would come if his guilt turned inward and he began to feel shame, or feeling bad about himself. Guilt is a fairly natural response to doing something that we feel is wrong or that in which we could avoid. An appropriate level of guilt should protect us from repeating the undesired behaviour and motivates us to repair any pain we may have caused to those around us.
Shame, on the other hand, can motivate us towards denying, hiding or blaming others. The general rule of thumb for avoiding this shame is to remember that there is only one good kind of guilt. That is guilt about something you did. A specific behaviour. It can be hard to do in the moment but if we can tune in to the specific thing we did then a lot of the background noise should diminish.
Guilt about things you think you should have done, something you are unable to do or guilt about feeling as though you are better off than someone else are easy roads towards shame. The goal to this balance is to be really specific about why the feeling is arising and how justified it is.
If you can label the explicit behaviour that you feel is wrong then its time to make a change. If you need to address it with your loved one or coworker then do it. If you need to talk to someone to get some tips or tricks on how to avoid repeating the behaviour than go out and find the right person for you.
You can’t go back and change what you’ve done but you can make a better moment in the present and feel hopeful for the future.
Have a safe and happy new year.
Will Dobud, MSW
Recently I came across an incredible book “Being A Brain-Wise Therapist” and have been posting a lot of resources from psychiatrists Bruce Perry and Daniel Siegel. Many of our followers have told me they appreciate these resources as this inside look of the brain can be really helpful for finding out what is going on beneath the surface when someone experiences trauma, addiction, anxiety or depression.
What I find the most incredible, however, is the importance of this understanding for healing and bringing positive change into people’s lives. It also gives an incredible justification for experience-based therapies like our use of adventure therapy.
Two Hemispheres - The Right & Left
If we cut the brain in half long ways we have broken it down into the right and left hemispheres. Although there are billions of different functions across all areas of the brain, understanding the specialties of the right and left is really important; especially when it comes to therapy.
Let’s start with the left hemisphere. The easy way to consider the left is to remember the L’s: Logic, Linear thinking, language and literalness. The left-brain likes it when things make sense. If we go through a certain event, the left-brain attaches words to that experience and likes to find patterns like cause and effect, right and wrong, and yes or no.
The right brain, on the other hand, is much more receptive and nonlinear. It is responsible for understanding nonverbal communication, how we interact in relationships and helps with using words creatively such as in poetry or music. It's our meaning maker.
Bringing this understanding to our emotions, as is so pivotal in psychotherapy, the left and right hemispheres work in different ways. Our right brain, which is centred on relationship and emotional understanding, is where our reactionary emotions are produced. When there is a threat, our right brain decides if we should avoid or withdrawal. The left brain, with its logical thinking, creates emotions based on our approach to the experience (i.e. Expectations).
To make some of this jargon more comprehendible, think of left-brain and the L’s and the right brain and Relational. Overtime, research has suggested that more than any other factor contributing to outcomes in therapy, the relationship between you and the therapist is one of the most important. And doesn’t that make sense!
Our relational mind begins creating relational meaning from the moment we are born. Babies that miss this connection may develop abnormally or have physical and mental health issues later in life. The brain will literally not grow. This goes the same for those that have experienced trauma (more about this from a previous blog on addiction). The relational right brain is active well before the logical left. This is where the therapist can help.
A psychologist, counsellor or social worker knowledgeable in this style of work is very focused on the conditions required for healing. And it’s all about relationship. When you see your therapist you should feel safe, secure and supported. While difficult emotions may emerge, this sense of security helps you to stay present for re-wiring areas of the right brain required for healthy self-regulation.
This type of work goes deeper than words and talking. It is not about the acquisition of skills or techniques but truly healing in a relational context, both with your self, family, loved ones and the world. During a session you may decide to talk about a difficult scenario or something challenging that happened earlier in your life. If you can stay present with these feelings you will be working to re-write this memory ensuring growth and change.
The big takeaway from the right brain’s role in therapy is remembering the motto “Connection before Correction”. Feeling safe and attuned with your therapist is the real first step before a big change.
If you would like to learn more about this approach, with children or adults, feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
For Americans living in Australian Thanksgiving is this Thursday (or Friday when I will be celebrating) and I, for one, am really excited for it. I wrote last week about how addiction affected my family in a negative way but what it actually brought about, with time, what an incredible connection with my family. While studying in America, Thanksgiving turned into a holiday that became special for my mother and brother.
We would wake up Thursday morning, drive to the river, hike and climb on the cliffs. One year I fell into the water which, being so close to winter, was frigid and kind of ruined the hike. We would come home, cook a chicken (because a turkey was too large for the three of us) and sit around the table talking about the things we were grateful for.
Although we all know too well the effects a trauma can have on a person, a shift in thinking can help us to see the growth that can occur in the right setting. One view of this is called Post-Traumatic Growth. If we have the opportunity and capability to heal our wounds we may be able to find the gifts born out of such difficulty. For us, that is closeness, trust and relationship.
Thanksgiving, or “Giving Thanks”, is also important to me from an American Indian perspective. Some of my previous work experience has brought me close to elders and facilitators of the sacred traditions of America’s indigenous people. Such ceremonies are the Sweat Lodge, the Give-Away and Sun Dance. Many of the rituals I have participated in all start with gratitude. In most that I have witnessed, gratitude was given to the earth, community, family and elders.
While I was living in Alaska I was fortunate to be able to immerse myself into a strong indigenous culture. We had storytellers travel from far and wide to tell us about their teachings and held potlucks regularly within the community. I met children that knew how to hunt and forage using traditional methods and saw the power of a small community that held the strength of their ancestors and the story of their survival. They were grateful for who they were, where they were and who they were around. And living in Alaska is hard!
Although Thanksgiving is also a traumatic story for many American Indians I recognise their influence on how important it is to remember what you’re grateful for. This blog was sparked by an article I saw talking about how your brain reacts to gratitude. It’s amazing. If gratitude is so helpful, why not have a holiday for it. I even have a fantastic book of Native American poems all dedicated to Thanksgiving and the art of gratitude.
For Thanksgiving this year, in Adelaide, I am having some of our closest friends over, Renee is cooking a turkey and we will sit together reflecting on all the things that we are grateful for. Here are a few of mine:
Even if you do not celebrate Thanksgiving, you may like to see what can happen if you sit with your family and friends and talk about gratitude. After all, it is the best drug for your brain!
Will Dobud MSW
I grew up in a house with an alcoholic. From when I was born until age 10, my father was not drinking but things were still not good. Once he left, he went back to his old ways. He lost his job for driving intoxicated, lost all his money and did not show up for a family event again. He dropped twenty kilos of weight and died just over sixty years old with cancer unable to withstand treatment with a body that was not holding up.
It’s most likely this story that got me to stumble into the field of working with people struggling with addiction, from all sides. I work with those caught in the grasp of addiction and with the family members trying to help. Addiction rips families and people’s lives apart. But still, our common understanding of addiction is mostly diluted.
Our understanding of it starts with rat experiments. When given the choice of pure water or water laced with heroin or cocaine, rats will choose the drugs. They will continue taking the drugs, regardless of negative consequences, until they die. They will starve to death. Those who have experienced addiction first hand will know this all too well. This is what happened to my father. He had a curable cancer but had starved his body for his drink. When we do studies like these we see that rats cannot say no to the drugged water and that drugs are causing these rats to become addicted and they die. This unfortunately is wrong.
In the 1970’s (Yes, that long ago), a psychologist named Bruce Alexander thought differently. The rats in the previous study lived in cages. Alone. They did not have another rat to play with, they did not get to search for food or participate in any normal rat behaviours. So Bruce Alexander thought to build a large environment for rats. He made it as natural as possible. The walls of the enclosure were painted like an outdoor setting. He filled it with male and female rats and offered the same two drink bottles as before, one with drugs, one without. The rats curiously tried them both.
The rats that were living these happy lives did not consume the drugs. None of them became addicted. None of them died. To take the study further, professor Alexander took rats from their isolated cages where they had become regular drug users and placed them into the happier “Rat Park”. Surprisingly, despite having the choice to continue using or suffer withdrawals, the rats went back to pure water and a healthy life. The presence and availability of the laced water was not a motivator or cause of addiction. It was the cage.
So what does this mean for humans? In the 1990’s large organisations got together to study the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences, also known as The ACE Study. This landmark research found that those who had suffered these adverse experiences were having effects lasting long into their adulthood. Think of these adverse experiences as a trauma. They include physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, household substance abuse or mental illness, parental separation and divorce or a member of the family becoming incarcerated. Like the rats, these are people’s cages. For some, experiencing trauma changes our brain, affects our “feel good” systems and leads to changes in health.
Two-thirds of the thousands of people that participated in the study reported at least one adverse experience. However, more than half of those reported multiple traumas. The number of these experiences that someone went through was also predicting certain behaviours. Someone who had more than one of these adverse childhood experiences was seven times more likely to develop an addiction, twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer and more likely to struggle with severe obesity, depression, promiscuity, heart or lung disease and have a shortened life span. More than six of these traumatic experiences increased the likelihood of attempted suicide 30-fold.
Let’s take this study and look at what is happening in Australia. Let’s look at the epidemics around us. There is an ice and drug epidemic. There is an obesity epidemic. Suicide is now the leading cause of death among our teenagers, not auto accidents which is second.
I posted on True North’s Facebook page yesterday about when we will see a mental health reform. It cannot be more needed than now. The problem is not the availability of ice or food as the rats and ACE study have shown. In the same way, the availability of a deck of cards does not make me any more likely to become a gambling addict.
The epidemic is not the drug. The epidemic is that today, we are seeing more and more people suffer and we are not picking them up. The stigma associated to mental health puts people in another cage. They are isolated and it is not helping. We are not collecting our wounded and traumatised colleagues.
If isolation and trauma can predict the onset of addiction, both for a rat and a person, then the answer is love and connection. This is the backbone of change. Connection. Although addictions push us away, we have to get closer. This will help us to understand the people we are trying to support and help them to heal.
During the Vietnam War many soldiers were using heroin on a daily basis. Many were addicted. However, when they came home 95% of those who used stopped and only a few went to rehab. The war was traumatising, anxiety-producing and an open invitation for addiction. Similar to the rats in the cage. But just like the rats that were moved to a better environment, the soldiers that were able to return home, to a safe and nurturing environment, began to heal.
Will Dobud MSW
During a session last night with a young male with Autism and learning differences, we did our regular “Mindfulness Moment” using one the apps I like to use. Of course there are times that we would practice mindfulness on our own but come on, it’s the 21st Century and some of these apps are incredible!
He completed his five-minute meditation and I asked him what had happened (he was wearing incredible, sound proof Bose headphones so I couldn't hear). He said that the focus was on Joy. He was asked to think joyous thoughts for one person that he respected, one person he felt neutral about and one person he despised. I asked who he picked.
He said that he felt joy for me and struggled thinking nicely about two kids in class who had been picking on him this week. He said, however, that while he was breathing he could feel his anger begin to boil towards them but, in this particulate moment, felt that he could breathe it out, let go and not take it personally.
Earlier this week I had another person in to see me struggling with life with drug abuse and a history of trauma from when he was a small child. We meditated together for our first ten minutes as he said that he was not feeling his best today. At 13, I was impressed that he was able to voice this.
After the session we talked about how drugs can become our safety blanket, giving us that sense of safety that we are craving but struggle to find in healthy ways. I asked him if there were times that he did not feel like using. He said that when he is with long-term friends from his childhood that do not use, during our sessions and during certain classes at school. While investigating this he said that all these places make him feel safe and not on edge.
Both of these young people were experiencing a difficulty and were able to ride it out without resorting to a patterned negative coping skill such as lashing out, ignoring the feeling or seeking something pleasure such as drugs or alcohol. Instead, we sat together with that emotion and both the intensity and duration of the experience diminished.
When working with parents I speak regularly about Dr Bruce Perry’s Three R’s and how they can help guide us to knowing what next to do. Instead of diving into a discussion about bullies or the harmful effects of drug abuse, both of these young people courageously resolved an inner conflict using mindfulness and by sitting with their difficulty.
I speak often about how important relationship is to psychotherapy and these are two good examples of why. Together, we were able to create an environment of safety and together, we experienced a challenging feeling and worked with it. This success has a better chance of repeating than does a pamphlet or worksheet. We experienced it working.
Experiencing these successes is key and I thank mindfulness for it. I’m now preparing for a session with a young person interested in yoga. I’m sure there is another blog coming soon.
Will Dobud MSW
Often, in the bush with participants, or with clients in the office, we use Howard Gardner's 'Multiple Intelligences Theory' as a frame of reference for how young people may learn in a therapeutic setting, and develop skills tailored to their needs. We use this theory loosely, as much of our work is based on a diverse range of theories, knowledge and experience as well as our relationship with the young person.
One size shoe size does not fit all. However using a key intelligence can help us to find ways to communicate with a young person, and for the young person to express themselves, to learn and grow. The multiple intelligence theory is a theory of learning in educational psychology.
Today I'd like to focus on the verbal/linguistic key intelligence and expand a little more on how it and creativity may be useful within the realms of therapy. The verbal linguistic key intelligence is associated with reading, writing, responding to tone, tempo, rhythm, focusing on spoken word, sounds and different languages. A person who may be seen to be a verbal/linguistic learner may be a good story teller, a writer, a poet, and become a teacher or journalist. Often we can spot a someone who may fit into the verbal/linguistic category as they may be hiding in a book.
This is not to say they are pigeon holed of course, many of us learn well in multiple ways. For example, I relate most to the logical/mathematical key intelligence. I like lists and order, but I also associate myself with the interpersonal learning style (key intelligence). An example of how we can apply this theory in practice can be seen by looking at the experience we had with a participant a few years ago, who spent a great deal of time reading while we were in the bush and excelling at writing in her journal, but having some difficulties thinking about the future, and experiencing anxiety and sadness. We gave her a journal exercise that involved writing song lyrics or poem about the past, present and future. This participant wrote an incredible three piece story in the form of lyrics over three different songs with a focus on the sadness of the past, an acceptance for the day and a readiness for tomorrow. This exercise allowed this young person to be expressive and creative, using her strengths (her key intelligence) to begin to find perspective and create change within herself. It gave her the chance to create a storyline of her life, in a creative and quite an objective way – which for her, was the beginning of change.
Another example of the use of this key intelligence may be asking a participant to write a letter to their self, from a 60 year old version of themselves. These exercises and use of the verbal/linguistic intelligence allows the young person to step outside of usual thought patterns concerning themselves. It has been an excellent tool for facilitating the 'preparation' stage of change. Once a young person can begin to prepare for change, a lot of the hard work may have already happened, simply by the introduction of new thoughts and the disruption of old thought patterns.
I am particularly interested in the verbal/linguistic key intelligence as it involves a huge element of creativity. Specifically, what is happening when we are being creative? How can creativity be therapeutic? When engaging in a creative process, research has suggested that often the brain is in a flow state, or 'the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task'.
The flow state is a term derived from positive psychology. It happens when we are fully immersed in one thing. It is a lot like mindfulness, or 'living in the moment'. The 'flow state' is what is happening in the brain. It is a state of consciousness. Neuroscientists have discovered that pleasure seeking chemicals are released into the brain, whilst in a flow state. Researchers have also found that many rappers and jazz musicians are often in the 'flow state' whilst engaged in creative improvisation. So for a young person, who is more inclined to engage verbally, or with writing, providing them with a creative task allows them to not only view their life and the world around them differently as mentioned previously, but might also allow them to enter this flow state.
I was reading a bit this morning about the Hero’s Journey and comparing that literature to my approach with adolescents. In the bush, we have a large focus of what happens next and are always looking at how we can make sure the positive effects of our program transfer to life at home.
I was speaking with a researcher in Sydney last week about this transfer and found his research to be so intriguing. Now we know that no matter what service we provide that the effects tend to diminish over time. This has been a real concern for out-of-home programs, like wilderness therapy, and why True North Expeditions puts such a large emphasis on follow-up support. But one thing we do not talk about much is how to make sure the positive effects of one-on-one counselling can endure.
The researcher I spoke with said that of all the fields of education that airplane pilots have the best outcomes when it comes to transferring knowledge from practice to real life experience (as a nervous flyer I should hope so). But how does this fit into therapeutic work? Let’s use the example of drugs and alcohol.
Many of the young people we see have struggled with drug abuse or addiction and benefit significantly from our 14-day program. Time away in a neutral environment provides them with ample time for reflection in one of the most supportive and nurturing setting. After becoming a successful team and feeling the benefits of being truly self-sufficient, our adolescents begin setting positive goals for themselves. They start to talk about life without the drugs and family conflicts. But they have not yet had the practice experience that leads to real world success.
The struggle I can see is that many programs stop here. They provide a session or two of “relapse-prevention” work and send the client on their way. While brainstorming with my colleague about a research project we had in mind we continued to say that all of these interventions, adventure therapy included, provided fantastic opportunities for young people to start down the right path. I have always called it the “Therapy Booster Shot” but never the band-aid or quick fix.
We have had the opportunity to live together building a strong relationship and setting achievable goals for success. However, our focus needs to be towards transferring the successes of life in the wild to life at home. Research suggests that this transfer is highly individualised and this is the approach we should take.
Start by looking at what’s working. See if you can increase those aspects. In the therapeutic setting, we may practice in real life situations. This is the real advantage of adventure therapy. If there is a participant feeling anxious or struggling, we get to work through it right then and there. We don’t have to wait until our next session, which, in some cases, can be days away.
For parents, I think that reminders of the goals your child set and ongoing encouragement is key. Change is always occurring and despite common setbacks, your child can always keep moving forward.
I use the analogy of a ladder or steps with adolescents that come in feeling as though they had not achieved their goals for the week. Say, for example, there was an argument at home and the child feels as though he or she had taken a step backwards.
You cannot go backwards if at first you were not a step ahead.
This is the key focus of follow-up support. Making sure that we are paying attention to the little victories occurring each day so that we are always a step ahead. Then, when it comes to that moment when a peer at school offers your child to skip class or when he is at a party where drugs are involved, he knows just how far he has come. The victories are still fresh and he is aware of them.
Making this transfer is difficult, for both the child and parent. We have put all of our attention towards it and work with families everyday to make sure that their child is returning home heroic and successful.
Will Dobud MSW
True North Expeditions, Inc. provides adventure therapy programs and services for children and teenagers in Australia. Based in Adelaide, the TNE team writes about child and adolescent psychology, family dynamics and how adventure therapy programs can connect with struggling adolescents.