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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment for Adolescents (recommended book)
"I ain't gonna lie.  I was supposed to hit the blunt [marijuana]... 'Cause my boy, when we got back to the house, he was out there rolling a blunt.  I ain't gonna lie, once I seen him in the wheelchair, I already knew I was gonna do something; drink, or something... I kinda looked at him, and I took a deep breath, and just calmed down, sat down, and I was like, 'Damn man, it's good to see you.'  But at the same time, I was really thinkin' about the blunt.  He was like, 'You gonna smoke?' I was like, 'Nah, I'm good.'  He was like, 'Fool, since when do you say no?'  I felt more me, doing me.  I'm like, 'Nah I'm good'."

Those are the words of a participant in Sam Himelstein and Stephen Saul's mindfulness-based substance abuse  program, describing how he used techniques from the program when seeing a friend who'd recently become paralyzed due to gun violence.

Sam Himelstein, author of A Mindfulness-Based Approach to Working with High-Risk Adolescents, has extensive experience in working effectively with seemingly unreachable youth.  In Substance Abuse Treatment for Adolescents, he and his co-facilitator, Stephen Saul, share their mindfulness-based approach: rather than lecturing kids about why they shouldn't do drugs, "group members are encouraged to contemplate why they actually use the drugs that they do" and are taught techniques for dealing with cravings and peer pressure. 

The book begin with an overview of recent research on mindfulness with youth populations and addiction populations, as well as the authors’ own research on mindfulness-based treatment of adolescents with addictions. 

This is followed by thorough instructions for a 12-week curriculum, beginning with introductions (to mindfulness, to the program, and to fellow group members) and ending with a focus group and closing ceremony.  

The sessions cover topics like: 
  • emotional awareness and choosing how to respond to stressful situations; 
  • how specific types of drugs affect the body and the brain; and 
  • how family, peers, and the external environment can contribute to drug use.

Detailed instructions for each session include:
  • talking points and a sample script to introduce the day's lesson;
  • an interactive activity and/or group discussion;
  • a ready-to-photocopy worksheet or handout;
  • a meditation or contemplative practice; and
  • tips on common challenges like 
    •  handling difficult questions,  
    • encouraging participation from reluctant group members, and
    • de-escalating after emotionally intense activities. 

There's a logical progression to the information and activities presented each week, but any of the individual lessons could also be integrated into an existing treatment program.  In fact, the chapters on reacting vs. responding, emotional awareness, and recognizing triggers have some great activities for anyone who teaches mindfulness or social-emotional learning.  

With publisher permission, next week I'll post my favorite activity, Personal Triggers: Recognizing the Causes of Problematic Behavior.  The following week,  I'll post an author interview with Sam Himelstein, discussing how mindfulness can help reduce drug use, and how his own experiences in a juvenile detention facility have impacted his work as a therapist.


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