Q: What basically is the Teen Encounters program all about?
A: The best way to answer this is to take a look at what the program is trying to achieve for parents, teens, and the family, which you can find in our Mission. We acknowledge that society today is a source of significant frustration in serving the needs of each of us as human beings. We believe that it is the family, in large part, which brings about long-term contentment and happiness for all, by working towards common goals, with common core values and principles.
By working with parents and teens separately, we use group interaction and feedback to detect and discover what each of our basic needs are. Concurrently we work at identifying beliefs and values that are consistent with meeting these needs. Finally, and only with this in place, we develop skills that facilitate and support family member trust, communication, and problem resolution.
Q: How is this different from therapy or psychiatric help?
A: Teen Encounters provides help to each parent and teen through peer interaction. With a focus on principle and value development, peers help each other discuss and resolve teen and family challenges. We believe that peer encounters, as opposed to one on one therapy, help significantly with self-esteem development, nurturance, and belongingness, which are critical to our emotional health and happiness. Through group work, we develop mutual understanding, resonance, and deep personal connections with one another. Together we discover that the challenges that we face are shared with others, and can be worked through cooperatively. We find that these deep, helping relationships naturally flow and extend into the family setting.
Note that while the Teen Encounters program may be an excellent adjunct to psychotherapy, it is not a substitute for the ongoing services of a mental health professional who is licensed to conduct individual, couples, or group counseling.
Q: What about help for extreme emotional disturbances?
A: In these cases, if we are aware of them, we will try and refer you to a clinical professional for additional services.
Q: How do I know if I am ready to participate in Teen Encounters?
A: Parents and teens are ready for the program when they decide to make important, long-term changes in their lives, and in the family. Please understand that the program addresses ingrained attitudes and beliefs, and can be physically and emotionally challenging. If you are under the care of a therapist or physician, or think you should be, please discuss your attendance with them before proceeding.
Q: How is the program formatted?
A: This is very much a function of the groups and their members, and is ultimately decided upon by the groups.
Initially, three separate groups are formed: fathers, mothers, and teens. The program begins with a long weekend consisting of a Friday evening session, all day and evening on Saturday, and all day Sunday until five pm. The weekend is dedicated entirely to the peer group encounter experience, and establishing close, supportive relationships.
After the long weekend, each of the three groups meet once per week. Weekly sessions alternate in duration between three hours and one and a half hours, for twelve sessions. The longer sessions are used for more encounter group work, where we continue working together in establishing close, helping, peer-to- peer connections. In these group encounter sessions, our focus is on working through difficult, emotionally challenging issues. The shorter sessions are more instructional in nature, and the emphasis is on learning, understanding, and applying information that is vital in setting up a successful family environment. Finally, parents and teens join groups in the final weekly sessions. During this period, families discuss, share, and work together on their Family Mission.
At the end of the program, we highly recommend that the groups continue to meet with us monthly to reconnect and to help one another. Individual families can decide if they want to continue to participate in monthly meetings at the close of the last session.
Q: What does a typical session look like?
A: the three-hour sessions are used to deepen and solidify emotional connections made by group members through relating and discussing significant challenges and problems experienced at home. Our focus during these sessions is to work together to address individual issues and concerns. As with the long weekend group activity, the groups themselves drive the direction of discussions. Only occasionally will the facilitator introduce a topic, but again the group desires always take precedence.
On alternate weeks, group sessions run for ninety minutes. In these shorter sessions, the group focuses on skill-based learning. These sessions are based primarily on skills taught in “Parent Effectiveness Training” and the principles outlined in “Love and Logic”. These shorter sessions are typically divided into three sections: the first section is used to discuss the results and challenges encountered in applying skills at home. Group members discuss different points of view, solicit feedback, and give feedback to other members. The second section is typically to used to introduce and educate about new concepts, or to build on a prior concepts. The last section is used for an activity to explore and use new concepts. Again, significant latitude is given, as the group may decide to use the session time as it sees fit.
Q: Self-disclosure and expressing feelings can be difficult for me. Will I be pressured to do something I don’t want to do?
A: Attending this program with a group of like-minded parents and teens provides incentive to participate and share. This includes self-disclosure and connecting with feelings. However, participation in any of the processes is voluntary. We invite participants to go only as far as the can, knowing that with time and patience, they frequently choose to invest in their personal growth.
Q: How does the program stay on track?
A: Periodically, we solicit formal feedback from members, and discuss progress to make sure we are staying consistent with our agreed upon outcomes.
Q: What about confidentiality?
A: Without mutual trust and confidentiality, the program would not be possible or successful. Participants sense this immediately, as it is integral to the deep bonds that are created within the group.
Q: What about attendance?
A: The program works because members attend. We cover this in the interviewing process, and prospective participants are asked not to sign up if it looks like there may be conflicts in schedule. We are looking for participants that are fully committed to their families, the process, and the group.
Q: What about cost?
A: The program outline and costs are covered in detail during the initial interview.