Summer at Stepping Stones
The summers at Stepping Stones, the adolescent unit at White Deer Run Allenwood, can be quite challenging for the staff as there are no teachers and there is no school.
During the school year, our girls have class for three hours in the morning and our boys for three hours in the afternoon. Counselors take advantage of this time to do paperwork and make telephone calls.
Summertime is altogether different and involves a lot of teamwork. Our staff works at making sure that the adolescents remain engaged in treatment. We’ve found that the best way to do this is to make what they are doing seem like fun. We use a lot of art, music and play therapy as that is what our young patients respond to best. In addition to this, we have come up with different themes for each week that include a hippie week, summer week, 12 step week, diversity week, December holiday week (oh yes, we had Christmas in July!) and a 90s week, which is the theme of this week.
The patients in Stepping Stones were born in the early 1990s and are referred to as “Generation Y” or the “Millennials.” This generation was born during the rise of instant communication such as the internet, email, IM and texting which has led to them being peer-oriented and always seeking instant gratification. This is obvious when working with our young patients. It often appears that, without technology, they are at a loss of what to do and will do what they call “chilling” (which is oftentimes doing absolutely nothing). What we do as part of our treatment is help them see that there are other ways of having fun and not to always rely on instant gratification since this is part of what they seek with drugs and alcohol.
During 90s week, we begin by having them create artwork that reflects the 1990s in their eyes and then they decorate their group rooms. This is changed each week, along with the themes, which seems to get them interested and involved. We follow this up with educational films and lectures about the history of the 1990s along with a good game of the 90s edition of Trivial Pursuit. The patients look at what was going on during their formative years and how that influenced their introduction to substance use and abuse. They are able to get on a website that allows them to put in their birth date and then get a printout of the events from the day they were born. We also have them do a personal history, providing them with a format. “Generation Y Fantasy Island” is an art therapy group in which patients draw or paint their idea of what their fantasy island would look like, and it must exclude violence, drugs and alcohol. In addition, we do role play groups on becoming an adult and what that actually means, as well as on friendship and the characteristics of a true friend. Many of them do not know what a true friend is since it was often their poor choice of friends and peer pressure that led to their using drugs and alcohol. Finally, we let them watch Requiem For a Dream and process this with them. This is one of several movies that we use to help our young patients see the reality of using drugs and how, although it can start out being fun and exciting, it usually ends up in places most of them really do not want to go. They respond well to this type of intervention and are able to talk more freely about their issues.
Most of our adolescents do not feel good about themselves and that is a big contributor to their issues with substance abuse. We try to help them see who they are in a more positive light and use this newfound attitude to change their lives. We use positive reinforcement and try to keep them engaged in treatment by making things interesting and exciting.
School starts back up August 24th and our theme for the week before will be “The End of Summer.” Our patients may not want to celebrate this, but our staff are happy to welcome the return of the school year!