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Helping Young People with Addictive Behaviours

Many young people are referred to services like ours because parents, teachers or social workers are worried about their use of substances, their gambling or gaming habits.


Often, but not always,  the young people do not share the same view as the adults and will attend sessions but as the need for CHANGE has not started with them, do not fully engage and certainly do not intend to amend their behaviours long term.  


And some young people that we work with, are hugely engaged in doing something differently and will work hard, with their coach’s support to effect CHANGE in their lives.


Some of this is down to what we understand about adolescence and the teenage brain and the fact that:

  • Young people are genetically programmed to take risks with peers.

  • They do not notice the associated harms from drugs or alcohol in the same way as an adult would.

  • They find it difficult to empathise with others or see something from someone else’s perspective.

  • They cannot easily connect with their adults selves.

  • It is hard for them to think about protecting their older self from harm.  


This doesn’t mean that we should not try to be concerned for young people who are compromising their health and safety with their behaviours or support young people to make lasting behavioural changes. We just need to consider what expectations and outcomes are most realistic. Sometimes, using the law as a tool to enforce/expect abstinence is counter productive and it stops real conversations from taking place that may lead to genuine CHANGE and improved safety or health.   


It may be more realistic to talk to young people about taking a substance in a safer manner (not alone, not as much, considering the safety of how you are purchasing it) rather than asking them to stop.   Focusing on harm reduction as opposed to abstinence is generally better received.


What is sometimes more important to focus on for young people is the reasons behind the behaviour – this often enables us to help them understand themselves and create a plan together about how to meet those needs in a safer/healthier way that they are doing at the moment.

If you would like to learn more about our thoughts on helping young people, please contact us.

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