12 step programs for teens – why make a distinction?
I was excited to read Join Together‘s June 1 article, “Adapting 12-Step Programs For Teenagers,” by Celia Vimont, describing Dr. Steven Jaffe’s 25 years of work “to modify 12-step programs to make them developmentally meaningful [emphasis added] for teenagers.” I emphasized “developmentally meaningful” because I think it is so important to recognize the teen brain is not the brain of an adult [check out teen brain at The Partnership for DrugFree.org]. As Dr. Jaffe explained (and quoting from Celia Vemont’s article), “‘These [12 step] programs were developed for adults, and teenagers are not little adults—they are in a totally different developmental stage,’ says Steven Jaffe, MD, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Emory University, and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Morehouse School of Medicine, in Atlanta.”
Why is this so very important to understand and appreciate?
Early use is a key risk factor for developing an addiction because of the significant brain changes occurring from ages 12 through early 20′s related to puberty, cerebral cortex development and the pruning and strengthening process. So it makes a great deal of sense that Dr. Jaffe’s approach of using the workbooks he’s developed (described below) to reach young people in a 12 step program at a place where their brains are developmentally can go a long ways to helping 12-step programs help young people.
- Adolescent Substance Abuse Intervention Workbook ”is intended for teenagers who use drugs and alcohol but for whom the amounts, frequency, and negative consequences are unrecognized. This workbook is an initial approach for helping teenagers become aware, both cognitively and emotionally, of the negative consequences of their drug and/or alcohol use. It is hoped that by seeing for themselves how not using can make their life better, teenagers will become motivated toward beginning treatment.” [American Psychiatric Publishing product description.]
- Step Workbook for Adolescent Chemical Dependency ”provides a concrete structure that enables the chemically dependent adolescent to go through the first 5 of the 12 steps toward recovery. By encouraging the adolescent to answer the questions, write down his or her thoughts, and discuss his or her conflicts contained in this useful workbook, the cognitive-emotional process can begin.” [American Psychiatric Publishing product description.]
Please take a look at the workbooks and then pass this information along. You may also want to read this related post, “How Teens Can Become Alcoholics Before Age 21.”