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Teen Based Therapy
Stop trying to change the teens. Start trying to change society. S. Hein
This page is the beginning of something called "Teen based therapy". I have started the idea based on the notes from the book The Radical Therapist.
When I read this book in 1997, I had never talked to a suicidal teenager. Now reading these notes again, and applying them to teens, sends chills down my spine by the powerfulness of the truth in their words.
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TBT is based on a belief that suicidal and self-harming teens have the most to teach us about what is wrong with society. It is based on the belief that, if we listen to them, we can make important and needed changes to the world.
It is based on the belief that it is better for the adults around the world to change society, social systems, beliefs and values, than it is to change the teens.
It is better for the future of humanity to change society to fit the teens, rather than to change the teens to fit society. This is similar to Maria Montessori's belief that adults should create an environment to fit a child, not vice versa.
Suicidal and self-harming teens are in the most pain. Their pain comes from their natural response to an unhealthy, violent and emotionally unsupportive environment. Rather than to "treat" the teens or let them continue to self-harm and kill themselves, a more intelligent option is to learn what is causing them so much pain, then adjust our society accordingly.
Teach teens the names of their feelings. (see emotional literacy)
Ask them how they feel.
Make changes to their environments based on their answers.
In general, Stop trying to change the teens. Start trying to change society
Teens would have unrestricted, 24 hour access to the Internet. Would be able to record and video tape what happens inside the mental hospitals. (They would also be able to video tape and record what teachers say to them at school and at home.)
Teens would be able to choose who they want to see, who their visitors are, who they can call on the phone. They would be able to say "I don't want to talk to my parents."
Mental health professionals would not allow parents to spend time alone with the teens, unless the teen requests it.
The teen would have a neutral third party advocate to talk to. Someone who is not paid by the mental hospital or by the parents. The teen would have a right to have the advocate with them at any time and during any hearings or meetings with the parents or mental health professionals.
The teen would have 24 hour access to a cell phone and have unrestricted ability to make calls and send texts.
Teens would have unrestricted rights to video and audio tape all school activities and interactions with teachers and school authorities, and to post all videos and audio tapes on the Internet.
Teens would have a neutral, third party advocate who they could turn to for help with any conflicts. The adovacate would represent them in any appeals to punishment or threats of punishment.
Teens would have places where they could be alone. They would be allowed to write, use their cell phones, use the Internet, hug, hold hands, comfort each other and give each other emotional support.
They would be given freedom to enter and leave a classroom as they feel a need to, just as university students are.
They would have the freedom to decide if they want to go to school or not. They would have an option to study via the Internet.
They would be given increased freedom to choose which courses they take and they would be given freedom to decide when to take tests. There would be more independent learning courses.
Teens would be encouraged to travel, to start their own businesses, to use their creative and artistic talents rather than be trained to be corporate or goverment employees.
Foreign exchange programs would be available to all teens, without needing their parents permission to participate.
No teen would be forced to enter military service.
If you are tempted to say "That is the parent's job" I will say that I have learned by experience that not all parents can be counted on or trusted to do their job. When they don't, the consequences for society are grave, no play on words intended. But the consequences can literally lead to crying over the dead teen's grave when parents fail to do the job society has historically entrusted them to do, (and has given them nearly full legal authority to do).
The advocates would be trained and supervised by the United Nations. This would prevent one culture from freely imposing its own dysfunctional beliefs and customs on teens.
The teens would have access to the United Nations to file complaints when the UN appointed advocate failed to do their job.
Many countries will protest that this is an imposition on their sovereignty, but the world is too small now and too dangerous, to continue in the same direction by freely allowing countries to impose their destructive and unhealthy beliefs on children and teenagers.
Edited notes from The Radical Therapist
In most cases I have changed the term radical therapy to teen based therapy. I've also made some other small edits to make the concept fit teens.
Teen based therapy starts from the awareness that therapy is a social and political event, and moves to the conviction that therapy systems - like many of the world's institutions - must be changed.
The current therapy perpetuates and legitimizes oppression.
The goal of teen based therapy is to develop a therapy that serves the teens. Traditional therapy has failed, and has only helped the therapists, whose lives are comfortable. "Psychoanalysis serves a fancy, elite group and it is debatable if it even helps them."
Therapy reinforces and exemplifies the ageist practices of society. It perpetuates age discrimination against those who are labeled "minors".
New touchy-feely encounter groups help people become freer in themselves, but ignores social and political change.
1/3 of all therapy is commissioned by someone else - ex: govt, military, schools - thus the therapist's main allegiance is to their bosses
(He says Thomas Szasz has written about this for years. Also SH - Schools and parents often team up to send teens to mental hospitals. If depressed teens could unite and make the decisions about who gets sent to a mental hospital, and when they are allowed to leave, things would be much different. The idea of democracy is definitely not practied when it comes to depressed teens. It is much more like a dictatorship or authoritarian regime, even under the guise of "helping" the teens.)
R.D.Laing says society systematically drives people out of their minds from childhood on and regards dehumanized, mechanical and rigid patterns of destructive behavior as "normal."
The traditional therapist allies himself with the status quo and thereby bolsters it.
Therapists turn the teens' focus from the society that "fucks them over" to their own problems. (SH - For example, when a teen talks to a school counselor or a psychologist or psychiatrist, the teen is often told they are the ones who have the problem. It is rare that they are told their familes and schools are the primary causes of their depression.)
Current therapy convinces the teens that they are the "sick" ones who need "treatment," rather than oppressed people who need to be liberated.
Therapy is change, not adjustment.
p xi of intro-
"When people are fucked over, other people should help them fight it, and then help them deal with their feelings."
"A struggle for mental health is bullshit unless it involves changing this society which turns us into machines, alienates us from one another and our work, and binds us into racist, sexist, ageist and imperialist practices."
Teen based therapists challenge the most deeply held beliefs and institutions: the nuclear family, patriotisim, religion, the 40 hour work week, fee for service care, mental hospitals as they are now, treatment of children and teens as property, the education system, and the concept of "success".
Roles and titles impress us; skills serve us.
"Not all therapists are pigs. Many are well-intentioned people who have been trapped, like the rest of us, in a lousy system."
Current therapy "solutions" are only for people who buy into the system and want to maintain their place in it. p xii
[Evidently they had a journal for a while and the book is excerpts from it.]
p xvi "Expert as he may be at analyzing intrapersonal forces, he is often ignorant about forces controlling the larger society in which he lives."
"Therapy has become a means of social control."
The revolutionary spirit of the founders of therapy -- Pinel, Freud, Reich - have been weeded out.
p xviii "Each human act is a social and moral statement. It then becomes which values we hold which come first."
The entire current therapist training system makes change impossible. Barriers are created everywhere.
xix - Teenagers must be liberated from ageist stereotypes so they can develop their own potential.
"Deviance as a social diagnosis must not be confused with neurotic behavior."
IE someone who doesn't conform is not by default mentally ill, or lacking in emotional intelligence.
p xx - Therapists define what is appropriate and what is not, even while claiming to be disinterested.
to be continued....
I just did a search on "teen based therapy". I found no results. Here is a copy of the screen.