August, 16 2018

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Psychologists Aid in Helping Troubled Teens

Brett is 15 and goes two or three nights in a row without sleeping. His school performance is slipping, his athletic activities have stopped, and he becomes more agitated with each sleepless night.

Diagnosing a Troubled Teen

His parents, Roger and Rita, took him to their family doctor, and he found no physical cause for insomnia. They had Brett tested for drugs and alcohol, which were negative.

Brett did react angrily to the drug testing but cooperated. Though parents should be aware that kids who are using drugs will generally object to being tested, Brett's reasoning turned out to be obvious.

Treating the Symptoms, Not the Problem

First, Brett had nothing to hide. Second, Brett was genuinely interested in what was causing his insomnia. The doctor eventually prescribed Ambian, a sleeping pill, which helped him sleep but didn't do anything to treat his underlying anxiety.

Brett is a naturally hyperactive, creative boy who tends to act impulsively. When a kid such as Brett disrupts his sleep cycle for long, his hyperactivity and impulsiveness intensify and his ability to cope with emotions decreases. This explains his problems in school, sports and his attitude. However, it fails to explain the roots of his insomnia, or point out a possible solution.

Other Options for Help

Ruling out drug abuse, Roger and Rita must now concentrate on the possibility of psychological problems. The first step would be to have a clinical psychologist examine and test him.

Clinical psychologists differ from psychiatrists in that they usually specialize in diagnostic testing, whereas a psychiatrist may rely on a clinical psychologist's test result to prescribe and monitor medication. A therapist or counselor licensed to treat such conditions may be best to conduct the actual counseling. Although any one of these professionals can conduct psychotherapy, the therapist may be the most appropriate person to conduct his part of the treatment while relying on the physician or psychiatrist for the medication management, and the clinical psychologist to map out the direction of therapy.

In Brett's case, seeking a clinical psychologist would be most appropriate for diagnosing which conditions are contributing to his insomnia. The diagnostic tests should reveal any underlying psychological problems contributing to his condition.

From there, things become much easier for everyone involved, because finding the problem is half of the solution.

Chapman is the director of two treatment programs in Orange County. Teensavers is a residential treatment program which also offers outpatient therapy for adolescents 12-17. Chapman House is a residential treatment center offering detox and addiction treatment for adults.

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