AN UNCHANGED MIND
The Problem of Immaturity in Adolescence
By John A. McKinnon, M.C.
Lantern Books-New York
Book reviewed by Larry Stednitz, PhD
If you are a parent of a troubled teen, you will find this book invaluable. If you are an educational consultant, this book provides an excellent understanding of today's youth and the causes and treatment of behavioral and emotional problems. If you are involved with an RTC, therapeutic boarding school or a wilderness program, this book introduces cohesive and comprehensive approaches to understanding the vast majority of the youth who enter these programs and presents viable remedies.
The book weaves McKinnon's journey as a psychiatrist through the failures inherent in the disjointed systems of managed care. He discusses the management and failures of psychotropic medications which treat the symptoms, but not the causes, of behavioral and emotional problems exhibited in so many youth today. His story discusses the beginning of Montana Academy and its ten years of working with adolescents in a near perfect environment. This story is not about Montana Academy, and McKinnon's point of view could apply to any program across the country as well as serve as a parenting guide to many families.
The book proposes that a developmental point of view is necessary for psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and teachers to fully make sense out of the many troubles of adolescents. He suggests that the global breakdown of an adolescent is best explained not as an acute mental disorder that calls for a pill, but as a disrupted maturation that calls for sustained parental intervention of a very different kind.
The book covers normal adolescent development and discusses the devastation caused by an adolescent failing to mature through each developmental stage which leads to breakdowns in the maturation process. The book covers the cause of these maturation lags that are referred to as obstacles to normal healthy development. These obstacles can be intrinsic or extrinsic obstacles, clearly explained in the book.
Ultimately, a remedy includes removing obstacles and the application of day to day recognition, daily limit setting and boundaries which must be sustained over time. The program cannot take over the complete role of limit setting. The parents have to agree to become full participants in the process. The book details the practices at Montana Academy.
Dr. John McKinnon's book took me back years ago when I was a young, eager and energetic man who was excited to find answers from that day's great clinical thinkers and writers. I loved reading Karl Menninger, the founding father of psychiatry, Don Rinsley, a brilliant graduate of the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry, and Sherman Feinstein, known as the founding father of adolescent psychiatry. All inspired those of us in the work of treating troubled adolescents, many of whom were treated previously in long term hospitalization and residential treatment.
I found this book to ignite my enthusiasm in treating adolescents. Most people who work with adolescents continually seek answers to the complexities programs face when working with young people. I started reading his book, An Unchanged Mind, and found it difficult to put down. I believe this book is the most important book written about what is referred to as the Parent Choice Schools and Programs.
December 12, 2009
Thank you for your review of "An Unchange Mind". I am the mother of a 17-year old son who attended a wilderness program and is currently attending a therapeutic boarding school. I, like many other parents I have encountered in our journey, was searching for an answer to the question "why did this happen"? This book provided a framework for my husband and me to begin to understand. I was captivated by Dr. McKinnon's stories, his explanation of how our mental health system has failed to help our children, and his theory of developmental psychology explained in plain language. Quickly finishing this book left me wanting more. I have recommended it to every parent and provider that I meet.
March 02, 2009
I have circulated copies of John McKinnon's book to my staff, and various colleagues in the community. An Unchanged Mind provides an excellent conceptual framework for practitioners, researchers, families and adolescents to understand "global breakdown" and how it can be addressed. I am so grateful for John's thoughtful and eloquent writing on this subject. I hope his ideas are widely read and considered.
Karen Minden, PhD,
CEO, Pine River Institute
Pine River Institute