I work as a counselor in a residential treatment facility for adolescent boys. Every boy on my caseload is sent to us seething with anger. It is my job to magically change them into mature responsible young men. Do you have any suggestions for therapeutic interventions that will make a difference to these young men?
You are certainly dealing with a difficult population. Whenever I see an angry person, what I am really seeing is a deeply hurt person. Anger is pain in the past. It's just easier for boys and men to show anger rather than admit that they are truly hurt or frightened. The key to helping someone deal with their anger is helping them understand the true feelings that are underneath it and drive it. I am quite certain that each of these boys has had a horrific childhood in which they witnessed abuse and/or were abused themselves. They may not know how to handle all of the hurt and confusion they feel. Helping them to talk about it and being empathic to how unfair it was is a good starting point.
Ulysses & Donna in Niceville, Fla., write:
My wife and I are very concerned about our daughter who is involved with a very manipulative and possessive guy. They both are seniors in high school. The ultimate problem is that my wife will be dealing with this alone due to the fact that I am in the military and will be deployed as of April 7th for 18 months. This is a crucial time in my daughter's life and I'm torn with having to leave. We don't know if there has been any physical abuse but know he has mentally twisted her. She is not the same sweet girl we had under this roof six months ago. Is there any advice or help you can offer? Thank you for your time and thank you for bringing this very serious problem to light in our society.
Dear Ulysses and Donna,
I can understand your concern. You are wise to understand that while there may not have been physical abuse, emotional abuse is at least as -- if not more -- devastating. You may want to ask her what her "payoff" is for being with a boy who is so cruel to her. I believe that we do everything for a payoff. They needn't be financial payoffs, or indeed anything that one can see. If I smile at you and you smile back, that's a lovely payoff for me. Why does she believe that he is the best she can possibly do? She may be looking for some male companionship and stability, so Ulysses, you may want to write to her and send her special messages as often as is possible for you. You may want to ask her if she would someday like to marry and have children herself. If so, ask her how she would feel if her own daughter brought home a boyfriend who is exactly like this boyfriend. Would she feel that she'd done the best job she could as a mother or that this boy was the best boyfriend possible? At this point, girls usually begin looking a little queasy. If she would not want this type of relationship for her future daughter, why is it good enough for her? Even as a young woman, the dating process is designed to figure out what you want and don't want for yourself in a future partner. If she doesn't ultimately want him, she will have to break up with him eventually, and now would be easier than three years from now. Ulysses: thank you so much for what you do to keep our nation safe!
Patti in Saylorsburg, Pa., writes: