Changing Pathways with Troubled Teens

Today I spent time with the troubled teens in my therapy group at the East campus discussing some of the science behind the addicted brain.  This topic was started because we were discussing how to change deviant thoughts into thoughts that are healthy and consensual.

Some of the phase work in the program focuses on gaining skills that will help them to change their thought patterns.  We watched a couple of short videos (thank you, YouTube) showing neurological pathways and how information is sent to the brain and how “pleasure chemicals” are released in connection with certain thoughts.

After discussing briefly the science aspect, I helped them to understand that the things that they choose to think about can create new, fortify existing, or make dormant certain pathways in their brains.  I emphasized the power that each student has to control some of the pathways in their brains, focusing especially those associated with addiction.

Although difficult, we know that we can control our thoughts, or how much we dwell on and think about things.  We have choice and we have control.  Our brains are able to create new pathways, new connections and new associations.  Although we may not be able to completely physically remove pathways, we can leave some dormant.

Knowing that we have some say and control over our thoughts and responses to those thoughts can be empowering.  Some group members appeared to be affected by this discussion today. I even got a couple of responses such as “This was a good group today” and “Wow, that’s why you have us do these assignments in therapy.”

Recovering from sexual behavioral problems is a long and difficult process, but recovery is possible.  First we have to take control. When we choose to thought-stop or alter deviant thoughts to those that are positive, our behaviors change. Behaviors change because we are literally altering the neurological pathways in our minds to those that are healthier.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said,   “You become what you think about all day long.”

We can all use this reminder from time to time.  – Rachelle Gallup, CSW