Fleeting moments of clarity with teens

Learn about: Fleeting moments of clarity with teens from Michael Dennis, PhD,...
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Fleeting moments of clarity with teens

One of the more frustrating things as a parent is that you are talking to your teen and it feels like they finally understand it, they get it, the light bulbs are going off and then the next day you go back and they do not even know what you are talking about. My wife and I refer to these as fleeting moments of clarity. It is a characteristic of teenagers. It actually is developmentally part of where they are at. Teens between the ages of 15 and 20 go through a dramatic change in the way they think. Under the age of 15, they are very, very concrete thinkers. So if I say do you have an alcohol or drug problem, they will say no. And then in the next breath I will ask them the seven symptoms of dependence and they say yes to every one. And they do not even realize that that is a contradiction because they do not see the abstract class of drug problems as related to the list of drug problems. They do not connect cause and consequence or if I do these things, if I ride my skateboard up along a railing over on the edge of a cliff, I might fall off. They do not tend to think through the consequences. So that ability to see a class of events, to see relationships, to see cause and consequence, they can talk like adults but they are not yet thinking like adults. They do not have that frontal lobe activity that allows them to internalize these things. So while they can get it in the moment, it often takes three, four or more times explaining it to them before each time they get to it a little bit faster but they often do not hold it until even a day later.

Learn about: Fleeting moments of clarity with teens from Michael Dennis, PhD,...


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Michael Dennis, PhD


Michael Dennis, PhD, is a senior research psychologist and Director of the Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) coordinating center at Chestnut Health Systems in Normal, Illinois. Over the past 25 years his primary area of research has been to better understand and manage addiction and recovery over the life course. This includes multiple clinical trials to compare the effectiveness of adolescent treatment approaches and recovery support services, longitudinal studies with adolescents, adults and older adults to understand the predictors of entering and sustaining recovery, and creating the Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) coordinating center for teaching evidenced based assessment to support clinical decision making at the individual level and program evaluation. He has multiple awards for moving the field from science to practice, promoting diversity through practice based evidence and bringing more people into the field.

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