Two local therapists are reaching out to help parents with teenagers.
Liz van Ryn and Tara McGee have created a weekly program designed for parents who need help with what they call an extreme teen.
“An extreme teen might be a teen with a learning disability, some social anxiety, a predisposition to depression, a sense of entitlement, or a just good old strong will,” states a press release send out by McGee and van Ryn.
Both are experienced clinicians trained in something called the “Maturity Model” at the Pine River Institute.
Essentially, the model works on the premise that a kid’s brain is not fully developed, according to van Ryn.
“When teens are struggling, it’s usually an indication they are operating from an immature place,” she said. “Their sense of entitlement or poor social skills are a result of poor coping mechanisms because they can’t figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it. Addiction is a way of coping with the pain of not succeeding in your life. We see that as a person who is not mature.”
McGee and van Ryn worked with teens with extreme substance abuse addictions and erratic behaviour, and have had success by treating the teens as though they have a developmental delay, and growing their maturity.
“We look at it as a developmental delay with a good prognosis,” said van Ryn.
The two women see things like mental illness in teens as secondary, and by developing coping skills and maturity through boundaries and limits the symptoms that appeared to be a mental illness go away.
“If you don’t have the skills to deal with the world, you’re going to be anxious,” said van Ryn.
Their approach for growing maturity in teens also hinges on parental attunement.
“We live in a world where there is tremendous pressure to have well-adjusted kids, who are succeeding and moving forward in their lives ...You have to actually recognize the child for what they are and treat them as such,” said van Ryn. “I think parents have a hard time accepting their children are struggling.”
Next, van Ryn and McGee teach parents to set boundaries and limits that work.
“The phenomenon of an anxious child is fairly recent,” said van Ryn. “I think kids are maturing slower, but they’re growing faster physically.”
She further suggests there are now social and cultural obstacles that stand in the way of a child maturing.
Things like social media place an emphasis on social comparison with the gold standard being celebrities.
It also doesn’t help a child to always protect him or her from pain, according to van Ryn.
“We need to experience pain to find our way through it,” she said, adding it doesn’t have to be something extremely traumatic. A situation as simple as not doing well in a class can cause a child pain, and become a learning experience.
“We will start with teaching you how the teenage brain works, and then move into practical strategies,” states the press release. The program is four workshops on Thursday nights in Collingwood beginning at 6 p.m. on Oct. 25. Following the four-week series, van Ryn and McGee will launch an ongoing bi-weekly support group for parents.