by Donna C. Moss, MA, LCSW-R
Teaching CBT or DBT to teens and young adults is a little like teaching surfing. You have to learn to ride things out.
Feelings come and go. It’s no longer getting through it, or dealing with it or coping with it; it’s TOLERATING it. The number one thing I’ve learned after seven years of yoga, besides being able to do a “plank,” is being able to hold a pose just an extra moment. You think you will break; but you don’t. You think you will fall; but you don’t.
This is life.
Testing the limits and boundaries, and falling down and getting back up are just some of the experiences you will meet and greet as you grow up. Buddhism teaches us to have equanimity in the face of change and unpleasant experiences, or as my yoga teacher says, “meet this moment as a friend.”
“Of course, we will probably feel badly when blamed. The question is: Can we be mindful of feeling badly rather than allowing ourselves to get lost in it? Can we be aware of the reaction instead of caught in the story about it? If it is useful information, can we learn from it? If it is not useful, can we let it go? Can we see that praise and blame are often out of our control?”
Teenagers are elastic. Everything makes an impression on them like a hand in clay. But right when you think you are going to die, you muster up some survival mechanism, such as hope, patience, resilience or will, and you survive some more, just as your ancestors did before you.
Teenagers instinctively know this but need to be reminded that everything is not the end of the world. Their brains are wired for fight or flight, pain or panic, fear or excess. They are not fully formed. The impressions play on their newly wired brains lighting up pleasure centers and primitive, impulsive drives, flooding their nerve endings and wreaking havoc, traffic, and congestion of the mind. There is nothing wrong with them. They will adapt. They will move forward. But they need something to push against. Someone to lean on. Friends who understand. A good therapist who just lets them BE.
I had a parent complain that her child wasn’t doing anything in the therapy. Good, I thought. Then I did my job. The child was getting pushed too much and nearing her breaking point. She needed to slow things down. She needed a no judgment zone. She needed unconditional support and calm. She needed to play her guitar. Eventually, her parents appreciated the calmer version of their daughter.
You can ride the waves of your choosing, avoid a few, and even crash. You can. But the best lesson of all is to wait five minutes. Is everything new again? You bet it is.
– Donna C. Moss, MA, LCSW-R
Donna C. Moss, MA, LCSW-R is a skilled adolescent, young adult and family therapist who writes about the technology, media and on other issues in mental health and wellness. Moss has written and traveled and provided articles for the Internet on many topics working as a top producer for Disney’s Family.com, Weightwatchers.com and iVillage.com.
She’s the author of the book Sext, Text and What’s Next?
She is an avid hiker, yoga practitioner and swimmer and is married with two children, and a stubborn husky named Milo.
With 20 years experience in areas such as: infertility, cancer, health, stress, divorce mediation, anxiety, depression and addictions, Donna has a broad understanding of many life transitions. She provides a supportive, goal-oriented, cognitive/behavioral, mindful, holistic and proven methods for uncovering past traumas and moving toward healthy living.