How Teen Therapeutic Programs Could Save Your Troubled Child
Dr. Paul Case
Foreword by John A. McKinnon, MD
Franklin, TN:Common Thread Media:2007
Review by Lon Woodbury
This book is the next best thing to a parent having an experienced mentor when that parent faces the antics of an out-of-control child. It reads almost like the author sat down with his readers and calmly explained the mysteries of why children do what they do, and why sometimes a residential placement is needed. Written in a conversational tone and based on years of practical experience, the author explains each step parents must take to provide help for their resistant teen and the why for each step. He also explains what the teen will be going through if placed in a residential therapeutic/emotional growth school/program and what that teen will need from the parents to successfully make the necessary changes required to become a mature adult. This book goes far in taking the mystery out of a very traumatic decision for both parents and their acting out child.
This short book of less than 200 pages contains a lot of food for thought. The author's reasons for each decision necessary to the placement process are based on common sense and clearly explained principles. It can easily be read in one reading session. When the parents have completed reading it, they will have a clearer idea if their child needs the extreme intervention of a wilderness or long term residential program, as well as some idea of what to expect through placement, attendance and preparing for the child to come home.
Every page speaks directly to many of the issues and concerns parents may raise, because the parent experience in placement usually brings up all the same questions. For example, in Chapter One, A Difficult Choice, he addresses concerns that I hear all the time in talking with parents looking at a placement option. As an example, he points out the limitations of standard outpatient therapy, how "quick fix" medications are not the panacea we are told, the lack of modern consensus in raising children which gives parents confusing and mixed messages from society and how other parents will criticize and even try to thwart residential placement. He then explains how the rise of therapeutic programs came about because of a serious lack of effective traditional treatments.
Chapter two talks about how adolescent lives are radically different from the world in which the parents grew up, largely from the explosion of digital communication, break down of the family, increasing availability of drugs (both legal and illegal) and a general increased expectation for adolescents to make adult decisions before they are developmentally ready. He observes that we live in a society where boundaries, limits and the requirement for self discipline are being relaxed at the very time destructive temptations are expanding and more easily available. He presents therapeutic schools as a safe community for teens with problems to grow up in.
He then provides advice on the process of finding a good match for their child in a residential program by warning of less reputable programs like boot camps, and the importance of enlisting the help of experienced professionals with some thoughts on questions to ask possible programs to determine if they are of good quality. He describes how a quality wilderness program duplicates the age old experience of retreating to the wilderness for self reflection and healing, and the importance for the parents, once they have found the best quality program that they can trust, to maintain their resolve and work with and support the program, so long as the program maintains the parents' trust.
He also stresses the importance of parents doing their own self-reflection on their parenting attitudes while their child is away so they can grow along with their child. This leads to how parents can be ready to effectively support their child when he/she comes home. Many failures occur because the parents have not changed while their child was away, and they thus unwittingly encourage their child to revert to old self-destructive habits.
The whole goal of quality residential programs is to restore healthy family relationships. Any of us who have worked in this field have seen countless examples of fractured family relationships being healed by a therapeutic residential placement. These thousands of children are moving on in their lives, reluctant to dwell on past pain and trauma. This book explains much of the process of how these children were healed.
April 20, 2009
This book is the most authentic and comprehensive guide to our experience these last 18 months. I am still referring to it as we prepare to bring our teen home. Dr. Case is very knowledgeable and sensitive to our plight in this 21st century. Great book! PG
Gary L. Gray