Archive for 'Articles'

Mar 29

“Children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority and show disrespect for their elders.  They contradict their parents, and tyrannize their teachers.”  This was written by Socrates 2000 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

Problems with teens aren’t new, but things have obviously changed.  Today’s youth, especially young women, face a plethora of issues that effect normal adolescent development.  Exposure to an explicit violent amoral media, drugs and alcohol at school, predators on the internet, bullying, and gang activity are among the new issues teens have to deal with today.

How does a parent know their daughter or son is becoming “at risk”?

1)  Abrupt Changes:  Adolescence is a time of great change.  Brain research shows teens are undergoing massive growth and reorganization in the pre-frontal cortex.  As a parent you must pay attention to abrupt dramatic changes in attitude, values, beliefs, dress, appearance, friends, patterns, and relations with parents.

2)  Instability:  We know teens are moody and unpredictable; however, marked changes in a teen’s emotional state that is not temporary is cause for concern.  Extreme moodiness, sadness, hostility, agitation, belligerence, personality changes, talk of suicide or hopelessness are serious warning signs for you as a parent to seek help for your teen.

3)  Irresponsibility:  Most teens vacillate between wanting to grow up and wanting to stay dependent.  When a teen begins to show a pattern of irresponsibility, i.e. lying, manipulating, breaking promises, being late or absent, a lack of any honest effort – this begins a trajectory that should be interrupted, not ignored.

4)  Divorcing their Parents:  All teens and parents have moments they just can’t seem to resolve–disagreements, even some anger or withdrawal.  However, teens cannot be allowed to divorce their parents in favor of a peer group.  Parents must stay close to their teens.  Extreme behaviors such as yelling, threatening, outright defiance or rebellion are cause for concern.

5)  Refusal:  Teens can be stubborn and uncooperative; however, outright refusal to receive parental feedback, communicate, or acknowledge problems is not acceptable and should be considered serious.

But wait, there’s more!

As if the above information wasn’t enough for parents to deal with.  Of equal concern is the juvenile system itself.  Today in Portland, and many other major jurisdictions across the country, it’s not uncommon for a juvenile to have a half dozen felony convictions and still be in the community and public schools associating with your kids.

We know that one of the prime risk factors for anti-social behavior is “negative peer associations”.  It is crucial for today’s parents to be vigilant and know who your kids are with, who their parents are, and all critical contact information.

A Chinese proverb says, “A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark”.

Looking for help?  The Academy at Sisters is a private therapeutic boarding school in Central Oregon for at risk girls.  Call 800-910-0412 and ask for Chesley or Denise.

Dec 24

As we all know, peers/friends are probably the most important thing in a teen’s life.  This can be a particular conundrum depending on who the friends are, of course.  We know that along with attitudes, values, and beliefs, negative peer associations are a very strong risk factor for anti-social behavior.  We also know peers have a dramatic affect on attitudes, values and beliefs.

Much of an adolescent’s self-image, “beliefs” and “attitudes”, are in synch with and shaped by their peers – good, bad or ugly.  For most adolescents for example, it would be unthinkable to act in ways that were inconsistent with the norms of their peer group.

For approval, sometimes the most shocking acts are the best to perform, even if they totally are against their values.  For acceptance, the desire for conformity and loyalty to peers often outweigh consequences, values, and even family loyalty.  Paradoxically, despite often blind adherence to the peer group’s norms, teens will often externalize the bad decision-making on the people they hang out with.  For teens, choice of peer group is crucial to doing the responsible thing and the irresponsible thing.

For parents, it is crucial to be aware of the choices their teen is making regarding friendships.  Parents should be as informed as possible about their teen’s friends, their parents, and have as much personal contact information as possible.  Parents must not apologize for being vigilant; it is a riskier world out there than ever before.  Keep your kids close and don’t abandon them to their peer group.

Aug 10

Teen and pre-teen girls have never been more at risk!

It is a tragic sign of our times. Parents must be aware– don’t think it cannot happen to your daughter! The average age of entry into the U.S. sex industry is 12 years of age, with children as young as 10 years of age.  In Portland, Oregon the FBI’s Operation Lost Innocence Campaign to rescue child victims of sex trafficking, recovered 7 victims in just 1 eight-hour period. Human trafficking is the world’s second largest, fastest growing criminal industry with annual profits averaging $32 billion in 2007 alone. Human slave traders made more money than Google, Nike, and Starbucks combined.  The average pimp in the U.S. can make $200,000 a year off the trafficking of a single girl.

‘From Clark County star student to stripper’

Her story contains a warning and a lesson for all parents about the hidden sex trafficking trade operating in the Northwest.

Brianna was convinced she had found a boyfriend and freedom.  But in less than a week she found herself in a strip club far from home.  Police say she was flirting with something much more dangerous.

Family photos tell the story of a girl who grew up supported by a loving family.  She excelled in school and sports.  But what happened in December 2009 left her and her parents shaken.  “Living in a small community I’ve never not felt safe,” Brianna told KGW, “and I don’t feel safe (now).”

It was early December when a twenty-something man from Seattle named Nick and his friend started frequenting the local cafe where Brianna worked part-time.  “They were really flirty and just really really nice,” recalled Brianna.

Just days after Brianna turned 18, Nick invited her up to check out Seattle where she wanted to go to college.  She borrowed her dad’s car, lied about where she was going, and headed north.  Once she got there she didn’t want to go home.  Nick bought her expensive things, offered her a spare room, and even money for college.  “It was kind of exhilarating, kind of like ‘I’m finally out on my own, but I have this really awesome guy who’s wanting to take care of me’,” said Brianna.

Nick helped her get a job.  By her second night in Seattle, Brianna had gone from star student to stripper. “I was there for about four hours and I made $350,” said Brianna.  Nick pocketed the money, along with her phone.  She was being cut off from her now frantic family, and tightly controlled.

From Seattle, Brianna called Evan, a trusted friend back home.  She had to return her dad’s car, and wanted to know if he would give her a ride back to Nick afterwards.  Evan became suspicious.  “As soon as she said he had two cell phones, I knew this guy was involved in something illegal.” He said.

Evan agreed to give her a ride.  Then he did something that might have saved her life.  He betrayed her trust.  When Brianna arrived to meet him, she found her mom and his parents, who had miraculously tracked down former Washington Congresswoman Linda Smith.  Smith founded Shared Hope International, an organization that rescues girls from the sex trade around the world.

Smith had no doubt that Brianna was being lured down a path that would end with violence and prostitution.  It was too familiar.  “I call it the ‘go to hell’ look – she really wanted all of us to go there,” recalled Smith, who proceeded to describe the recruitment process, ‘what they say, what they do, the things they would omit’ to a disbelieving Brianna.  “I found it annoying,” said Brianna.  “Then I realized that all the stories were the same as mine.”

Brianna stopped taking Nick’s calls, and now feels foolish for being so naïve.  But sex trafficking isn’t something most families warn their kids about.  “We need to educate our girls about what this is and how they get there,” Smith said.

Brianna’s family shared their story with KGW in the hope that public awareness could protect other girls, because police can’t do much.  In this case, officers said no crime was committed because Brianna was 18 and, although she was manipulated, she was not forced to do anything.  Brianna is still afraid to be alone but grateful to be the one that got away.  “I’m just happy that I’m here, that I’m alive, that I’m back.”

Parents:  Be vigilant!  In most states Criminal Justice Laws and Policies are so lax that there are many juveniles and young adults in your neighborhoods and schools that probably should not be there.  A young vulnerable girl can be charmed, coerced, drugged and turned, literally in days.  Know who ALL your daughter’s friends are!  Know who their parents are.  Know where they live.  Know their phone numbers and Email addresses.  Always know where your daughter is!  Don’t apologize for insisting on this information!  It is sadly a part of being a responsible parent in this day and age.

In Oregon, contact OATH (Oregonians Against Trafficking of Humans) 503-251-2479 for more information, or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, 1-888-373-7888.


Jun 30

When ever you’re angry, ask yourself, what am I afraid of?

Emotions of fear and anger are primitive and based in the ancient limbic region, particularly the amygdala.  This is currently the focus of great interest for youth, in terms of brain development.

Master Yoda said, “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

Anger is an emotion, but is also a choice.  We excuse our use of anger by such things as stress, over work, others behavior.  Fact is we get angry because we choose to.

Unless we are in a “fight or flight situation, where we are emotionally hijacked by the amygdala, we have made a conscious decision to become angry in reaction to something we fear, which is based in subjective thinking.

When we fear the future (projecting) or the past (regressing), it is fear of a non-existent circumstance.

For youth (and adults) one of the lessons of “emotional intelligence” is that what usually makes us angry is lack of control of people and circumstances and that we want what we want.

For very self-centered youth, obstacles to getting what they want cause frustration and ultimately anger.  Lack of empathy and patience common in adolescence exacerbates the problem.  “If you are patient in one moment of anger you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.” 

                                                                                                Chinese Proverb

Jun 03

“We have created a culture of bogus victimology that almost daily seems to drown our moral sense – by making excuses for vicious criminality, and obscuring the real suffering that such criminality so often leaves in its wake.”

Charles Sykes

What is the true significance of being sexually abused or “violated”? Literature on the subject is as various as victims themselves are. The effect on an individual varies as greatly as the hotstar nature of the offense and the nature of the victim. Experts on trauma admit the area still remains unclear and in need of more investigation.

There is not necessarily a “normal” reaction to sex abuse, so we must focus on the most commonly agreed on effects of abuse. We know that at its core, sex abuse is a violation of a person’s most inviolate possession, “the self”. Without too much psycho-philosophic inferences, suffice it to say that the most highly prized personal possession has been transgressed.

The “self” is commonly referred to as mind, body, and spirit. A training card at a recent workshop stated eloquently that “there is no part of life that does not contain the spirit”. As one specialist in the field stated, “It is the spirit that holds the fabric of the self together, the power to know, to love, and to will.”

In treating the effects of being sexually violated, the endeavor then is to assist the victim in restoring their “spirit”.

May 26

“A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.”


“Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit, we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”

Every day, every one of us meets life situations which call for thought, opinion-making, decision-making and action. Some of our experiences are familiar, some novel, some are casual, some of extreme importance. Everything we do, every decision we make and course of action we take, are based on our consciously or unconsciously held beliefs, attitudes and values.

Values are one of the top three risk factors for anti-social behavior. The other two are beliefs and attitudes.

Values + Attitudes = Behavior
(Thinking) + (Feelings) = (Behavior)

Values are an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or state of existence is personally and socially preferable. In other words, our values are the things that are most important to us. – Honesty, money, self-respect, excitement, harmony, privacy, security, love, friendship, comfort, image, power, humor.

Values are a cognitive component of human beings that are learned as we grow from childhood to adulthood. In the end, however, what you choose to value is entirely up to you.

Attitudes are the beliefs that represent values in daily events with specific persons or objects.

Generally, your values have been influenced by:

Past experience
Society (Advertisements, magazines, TV, internet, etc.)
Others (Teachers, coaches, etc.)

Knowing what’s most important to us provides a blueprint and direction in our lives.

May 19

Children of divorce often pay the highest price when families find themselves in the unfortunate position of dissolution or even possible reconciliation of marriage. For over a decade, the Academy at Sisters has provided expert care and educational services to teen girls who find themselves in the throws of their parent’s problems.
You can help your daughter through cooperative co-parenting. Divorce is traumatic for everyone involved. For kids there can be guilt, anger, stress, and depression. Adults must do their best to help their children adjust.

Some primary dos and don’ts of parenting are:

1) Be polite and civil to each other in front of your children.

2) Do not share negative feelings about the other parent with your children.

3) Talk to each other directly. Never use your children as messengers.

4) Don’t compete for your child’s loyalty or affections.

5) Respect each other’s rules.

6) Cooperate, communicate and try to be consistent for the kid’s sake.

If your daughter is struggling to cope with these family issues, we can help. The Academy at Sisters is a girls only, emotional growth boarding school in the resort town of Bend, Oregon.

How can Academy at Sisters help? What are a few of the services she and her family would receive?

Personalized treatment planning with Case Management and oversight by a Clinical Support

Team for medication management, any necessary testing and expert consulting

Weekly therapeutic individual sessions, 5 different Emotional Growth Groups which meet

Weekly in addition to Specialty Groups which are targeted to meet special circumstances and needs (Adoption, Grief & Loss, Victim Recovery, Body Image, etc.)

Family support and guidance to assist in successful reintegration back home
Equine Assisted Growth Program (EAGP), which is highly beneficial to students with a history of trauma, victimization, poor boundaries and/or lack of confidence; allows students to heal in a multitude of ways.

Community Outreach and Volunteer Services for development of empathy and to foster a sense of self-worth and confidence by “giving back”

An array of outdoor recreational opportunities in the resort town of Bend, Oregon

An opportunity to reach her full potential and for parents to “have their daughter back”

May 12

Why is it important for you to move past the traumatic event?
“Your objective is not to become perfect. If you have been raped, your objective is to be as you were before the rape, but stronger and wiser. If you were abused as a child, your objective is to rid yourself of the feelings and behavior caused by the abuse and claim the talents and well-being that are yours by right.”

Moving past the traumatic event can strengthen oneself. You can become stronger than you were before the victimization.

Traumatic events not only affect the physical self, but also the mind. Too often the physical aspect is treated, but the mind is not.

Using Trauma to Build Strength:
“When trauma is incorporated into our reservoir of experience it becomes a resource; a wise friend instead of an enemy.”

Traumatic events can be a learning experience if dealt with. After examining what happened and looking at what could or could not have been done differently, it can teach an individual what to look out for.

Processing Trauma:
We are all different when it comes to dealing with life’s experiences. “We are as different from each other mentally as we are physically. So what matters is not how terrible our experiences seem to others, but how we feel about them ourselves.”

Some things in life are easier to deal with; unfortunately, in life people are faced with difficult and traumatic events. These traumatic events, although hard to deal with and work through, can help a person learn and grow.

Although hard to deal with, breaking the traumatic event into smaller issues and tackling them is very beneficial.

“Imagery can be a very powerful tool in healing and moving past the traumatic events in a person’s life. The use of imagery in healing is powerful because it is natural to our species. Our ancestors knew how to use imagery to change their feelings and they knew how to use their feelings to change events. They rehearsed success and were confident they would achieve it. Today we acknowledge that a positive state of mind contributes to success. This is done by building new imagery in order to outweigh the traumatic events. The brain builds new systems to cope with our changing needs, such as learning how to cope with traumatic events. Taking control of your brain formation and learning to change your thoughts on a traumatic event will help you heal.”

Understanding yourself

During the healing process it is important for you to understand why you do the things you do. It is important to examine your irresponsible behaviors that are causing you problems, and look at why you are choosing to continue these behaviors.

Common behaviors to examine:

Why do I sleep around when I don’t want to?
People who have been sexually abused may associate this act with false closeness and intimacy. The loneliness may drive an individual to constantly search for a fulfillment, which they may struggle with identifying.

Why do I choose partners to abuse myself with?
If a childhood is traumatic, an individual might choose a partner that beats them up, rejects or humiliates them.

For a victim of sexual abuse the refusal to eat often starts with a sense of being ‘bad’. In our image-conscious society ‘bad’ easily becomes ‘unacceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ becomes ‘ugly’. This distortion is projected onto the person in the mirror and overrides all other information. Then magic enters our thinking, ‘if fat can be conquered, then life will be different’.

Self-cutting and burning:
Sometimes self-loathing, anger or shame can become so intense that they are harder to bear than physical pain. When this happens, physical pain itself can seem to alleviate the feelings because the brain laboratory reacts to pain by releasing ‘feel good’ chemicals. This begins a cycle of blame, the verbal attack of oneself because of the self-harm, followed by depression, then more self-harm to deal with the emotional pain.

Understanding why you do these behaviors does not justify these behaviors. This opens the door for change and healing. The vicious cycle must be broken by changing the unhealthy messages you are telling yourself.

May 05

“Forgiving your self means that you give up the right to blame yourself for what you could not control. You may have achieved some level of intellectual self-forgiveness through your rational analysis of the assault. However, emotional self-forgiveness can take much longer and it requires you to acknowledge and process your anger, grief, and other strong feelings.” This is a process that needs to continue even after the cognitive healing has taken place.

Moving on
The past will always be part of you and you may be faced with memories of what happened. It is important to remember, what happened to you does not make you who you are. Changing your thinking is a life change and it is necessary to continue to work on your emotional growth and using rational self-talk.

Making amends
“Perhaps there were times when you misdirected your anger regarding your victimization onto other people who did not deserve it. If you feel guilty about these actions, you may want to apologize or make amends to these people.” It is not acceptable to excuse your behaviors because of your victimization; you need to take responsibility for yourself and your actions. Your victimization does not give you the right to hurt and victimize others. If you acted irresponsibly towards others and used your victimization as an excuse, you need to change these behaviors and make amends to those you hurt.

At no time should you ever use your victimization to excuse your irresponsible, hurtful behaviors.

Apr 28

In an effort to provide some perspective on problematic behavior I want to
provide for you some guidelines on anti-social behaviors and understanding what you’re seeing. You will see some familiar terms here because we strive to address any antisocial traits when we see them.

A truly anti-social youngster approaches the world with a sense of
ownership and entitlement. For them they want things they’re way right away. They see life as a one way street – their way. This is reminiscent of the egocentricity of early childhood.

The responsible child internalizes deterrents from parents, teachers and
others. He or she anticipates consequences of behavior before acting. To some degree they allow fear to be a guide. The antisocial child “cuts off fear”. They know the consequences but the rush is worth the risk.

Another hallmark of anti-social youngsters is disregard of injury to others: personally, emotionally, physically and sexually. This character trait is usually inculcated in the responsible child by nine or ten. The antisocial youngster does not accept obligations – life’s demands, frustrations or challenges. Another trait is that the antisocial youngster is taking the short cut – the easy way out. Never working through anything disagreeable, he or she perpetually seeks the most expedient course, generally digging themselves into one hole after another.

Another trait and a very fundamental one is lying chronically usually to escape accountability or exonerate themselves from blame for some wrong doing. It is common for kids and adults to blame others as in “he started it”. While the average person may do this on occasion, the antisocial person refuses accountability, because of this they don’t learn from mistakes they simply blame and excuse make. The antisocial person considers themselves unique without much in common with others. Because of this rules don’t apply to him.