“Why do I see this as a problem and my child does not?
Why is my son so resistant to help?
Why doesn’t my daughter recognize how much she is putting herself at risk?”

These questions, and similar variations, are asked by parents everyday. As a provider of intervention, assessment and treatment services for resistant (defiant) teens, Venture Academy has over 17 years experience answering these questions – and importantly, engaging treatment resistant teens.

Understanding Treatment Resistant Teens

Getting through to treatment resistant teensIt’s important to recognize that resistance is not always what we think it is. It is not always push back, it’s not always defiance. Resistance may occur for many reasons, usually self-protective or from influences out of our control. Resistance can be an expression of a diagnosable condition such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Depression, Anxiety or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

At times, all of us (not just teens) are resistant to requests, demands, directives and suggestions. Consider some examples from your own life. Were you being resistant to simply be difficult and challenging? Likely not, although it may have appeared that way to the other person. You had your reasons for not following the prompt or directive. Although hard to distinguish in the moment, perhaps fear was one of them. Power/control could be another. Pride, anger, insecurity, past trauma, etc. are others. Helping kids unravel the forces that create resistance can be a puzzle and often requires therapeutic intervention and support.

Natural Development vs Destructive Patterns

Of course we know that teenagers can be, by popular definition, oppositional at times. It is part of their developing independence and maturity. Developmentally speaking, they start to form their own opinions independent of parents and traditional influencers. It often seems they think they know everything, have all the answers and regardless of their behaviour and the consequences and that everything will just magically turn out ok.

For teens coming to Venture Academy, that oppositionality has often taken on a life of its own – much beyond their ability to self-regulate and creates dysfunction and disruption in their lives, much beyond what would be considered “typical”. Helping adolescents regulate and balance how much they push back on the norms, while helping them understand and control defiant tendencies is a central focus of the intervention and treatment at Venture Academy – and becomes critically important for normal developmental emotional growth and responsible decision-making.

Influenced by Environment

Resistance is often fostered and exacerbated by environmental factors – primarily the messaging and influence of a “negative” peer group that supports the behaviours that parents are most concerned about. Some examples include rejecting of parent’s values and involvement in their lives, minimization of the importance of school, support for smoking, drinking and drug use, etc. Because youth are so easily influenced by their peers, resistance is fostered by the importance they place on what their friends think (not their own intrinsic values and principles). This is why it is so difficult for kids to make the changes they are being asked to make as they remain in the same environment and under the influences of their peers. They don’t have a fighting chance – not until they are separated from these influences. That is what you are really sending them away from, not your love as a parent.

You are not sending them away from you, but from the negative influences (peer group, internet, drugs) to give them a fighting chance to make changes.

How Does Venture Academy Help?

We understand resistance in teens and the multiple and often overlapping reasons why it occurs. Our program is designed to help youth separate from the forces that are negatively impacting their thinking and behaviour and the impact of others. It provides a safe and supportive therapeutic environment for them to gain insight and help them make more mature, reasoned decisions based on a developing sense of sense, self-worth and the reality of the potential of their future.

To be in an environment that really understands one’s challenges can really help make the difference. Think for example of an individual who is deaf. Placed in an environment surrounded by other people who understand hearing impairments, who know sign language and the unique challenges of being hard of hearing, that individual can find help, support and a community. Alternatively, place that same individual in a community where no one knows that that person is deaf, then that person can be perceived as being defiant (he is not responding to me), dumb (he talks funny) and maybe even patronized (oh, this poor guy…). He will not be able to be heard, understood, supported or helped and will likely feel increasing lonely, isolated and angry.

At Venture Academy, we get it. It is easy to recognize physical challenges as discernible as blindness, physical handicaps or deafness, and society generally wants to help these individuals. But for those with behavioural challenges (related to mental health issues, ADHD, ODD, etc.) society understands this far less, and less inclined to know how to help (except to punish in some way). Society finds ways to be “inclusive” to people with disabilities – but for those with behavioural issues – their response is “exclusive” (suspended, expelled, kicked out, kicked off…).

At Venture Academy, our expertise is with these adolescents, those with often misunderstood behavioural challenges and resistance.