Five Ways to Foster Purpose in Adolescents

teen headshot namaste family services

Research suggests that young people rarely have a sense of purpose—but we can take steps to help them cultivate it.


My research over the past fifteen years has focused on young people’s purposes in life. My colleagues and I have explored the things that inspire purpose in the lives of youth; we’ve studied the way purposes develop; and, we’ve investigated the difference it makes for youth to lead lives of purpose.



Over a decade and a half of work, at least two important findings have emerged. First, we’ve learned that leading a life of purpose is beneficial in more ways than one. Purpose is associated with physical health, including better sleep, less chronic pain, and longer lives; and psychological health, including hope, happiness, and life satisfaction. The second thing we’ve learned is that the experience is rare. Only about one in five high schoolers and one in three college-aged youth reports leading a life of purpose.


Taking these findings together—that leading a life of purpose is a beneficial but rare experience—members of my Adolescent Moral Development lab and I began to explore ways of fostering purpose among young people. In the process, we learned a lot about how young people identify meaningful, long-term goals that allow them to contribute to the broader world. Below I outline five empirically based approaches parents and mentors can use to help youth discover a personally meaningful direction in life.


Continue Reading Five Ways to Foster Purpose in Adolescents

4 steps to deal with anxiety, tragedy, or heartache

By Eric Baker, Jul 7, 2017- The Ladders 

You don’t remember me, but I was in your experiment a year ago. I just wanted to thank you. It changed my life.”

James Pennebaker has had a number of people say this to him over the years.

In the early 80’s he came across a study showing that people who experienced personal traumas but didn’t discuss them were more likely to get sick.

He wondered if just writing about their emotional upheavals could help people recover. And the research he did changed lives.

In the 30 years since, hundreds of studies have documented the effectiveness of expressive writing.

It helped with anxiety, tragedy, heartache . . . It even gave relief to those coping with cancer, heart disease, chronic pain, and AIDS.

People who write about their problems gain a host of benefits including feeling happier, sleeping better, and even getting better grades.


Continue Reading 4 steps to deal with anxiety, tragedy, or heartache

Teen suicide: Third Leading Cause of Adolescent Death

Factors that influence adolescent behavior and how they may be mitigated Confidence comes with every card

By Dr. Beecroft . M.D

Teenage and adolescent suicide is a very serious issue in the United States. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people 12 to 18. Each day in the U.S. there are, on average, more than 5,240 suicide attempts by young people grades 7-12. The National Center for Health Statistics, in 2003, reported the suicide rate was 7.3 per 100,000 among youth aged 15-19, making it the third leading cause of death among adolescents at that time showing an increasing During a recent continuing medical education conference sponsored by Harvard medical school, Marisa Silveri, Ph.D., a behavioral neuroscientist at McLean Hospital, shared some insights about why adolescents may be particularly vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and actions. We develop additional myelination of neurons as we age and for this age group this enhances the connection between the amygdala and the frontal lobe, Silveri said. This connection enhancement helps modulate the impulsiveness and “right now” thinking that characterizes adulthood. This helps us think through the consequences of actions rather than just act. Having more life experiences and learning from consequences of earlier decisions also helps us problem solve the options available to us as we age, she explained. This experience isn’t usually available to teenagers as they haven’t been exposed to as many life lessons and, therefore, have fewer options to choose from. The stresses on teenagers are immense. Pressure from peers, parents, siblings, bullying, news media, social media, as well as educational and vocational expectations can seem overwhelming. This is especially true if there is an unforeseen circumstance that occurs to derail future plans.


Continue Reading Teen suicide: Third Leading Cause of Adolescent Death

Understanding the Developmental Stage for Adolescents

“I just want to strangle her” said the exacerbated mom about her daughter. Of course she did not really want to cause physical harm to her child but similar statements of intense frustration and anger from parents are vented to me. So the question is why can a teenager trigger this reaction in one of their parents? The best way to understand this is by understanding the physical and developmental stage that adolescents must go through prior to becoming adults.

Anna Freud describes the teen years as “adolescent revolt” A period where the adolescent regresses to self-centered behaviors and will tend to reject their parents values and family norms while seeking their identity and place within society. Jean Piaget’s theory of development looks at how the teen begins to have the ability for abstract thought, struggles with moral and ethical dilemmas, and begin to have deductive reasoning, the process of analyzing problems and finding logical conclusions. This allows for the adolescent to challenge the beliefs and social mores they have been exposed to while finding their sense of identity and resiliency separate from their parents. Erikson’s theory of “Psychosocial Development asserts that from the age of 12 to 18 is the stage of “Identify versus Role Confusion.” In this stage, “a reintegrated sense of self, of what one wants to do or be, and of one’s appropriate sexual role. During this stage the body image of the adolescent changes.” (Bee, 1992) Add to this the hormones and testosterone that is raging as a result of puberty causing significant shifts in mood, running the gamut of dramatic highs to deep lows, sometimes cycling for only a few minutes or hours. (more…)

Continue Reading Understanding the Developmental Stage for Adolescents

35 Things People With ADHD Want Everyone Else To Know (Buzzfeed January 2017)

“I wish people understood that I don’t have a choice in how my brain works.”

Posted on Jan. 13, 2017, at 10:31 a.m.
Caroline Kee
Caroline Kee
BuzzFeed News Reporter ( )

We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community living with ADD/ADHD to tell us what they wish other people understood about the disorder. Here are some of the best responses.

(Quick note: ADD/ADHD is a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty sustaining attention, by lack of self-control, and by impaired working memory. It’s now more often classified in medical literature as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but lots of people (including some doctors) still refer to it as ADD. For the purpose of clarity and conciseness, we will refer to the disorder as ADHD for the remainder of this article.) (more…)

Continue Reading 35 Things People With ADHD Want Everyone Else To Know (Buzzfeed January 2017)

How to Pick the Right Therapist

A therapist-client relationship is similar in many ways to other professional relationships. It involves the components of confidentiality, establishing trust and confidence, has ethical and professional boundaries, and requires the therapist to have the expertise and experience needed to help you with your particular issue. It is also a very personal relationship that requires an intrinsic understanding of your personhood. By this I mean the therapist must accept you for who you are, what is troubling you, and where you are in your life journey.
There are several ways to connect with a therapist. You may be referred by another professional such as your doctor, or your insurance company. You may ask a close friend or colleague to recommend a therapist. Or you may look one up on the internet or phone book.

How do you know if a particular therapist is right for you? You could do the trial and error method, but that is time consuming and frustrating. However, there are steps you can take to increase your potential of connecting with the right professional. (more…)

Continue Reading How to Pick the Right Therapist