Janet’s Story on Navigating the Hardships of Adolescence

Adolescence is a difficult transition for many teens and their families. They face transitions in the home, school, and socially with peers. This is when so many physical and emotional changes occur, which may be critical for their overall success into adulthood. However, this transition may be even more difficult when our teens face additional stressors in the family.

Janet began treatment when she was 14. Mother had requested assistance at the school, who then referred her to El Centro de Amistad. Janet, a Mexican-American teen, was open to therapy. She shared that she was the oldest of three children living with her mother and on and off again with her father, who at the time was battling drug abuse. Mother and Janet reported she was isolated from family members, appeared irritable, expressed anger outbursts, and had poor eating and sleeping habits. Moreover, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) had gotten involved with the family, and Janet shared being fearful of being removed from her mother’s care.

During the course of treatment, Janet was able to work towards learning and implementing coping skills to utilize when feeling angry, anxious, irritable, nervous, and worried due to ongoing home stressors. Janet was able to process feelings regarding her relationship with her father and his substance use. She expressed being able to separate his drug abuse from his role as her father and set boundaries when needed. She shared with her therapist ways to reach out to her support system composed of family, school staff, and extracurricular activities. Among these activities was the LAPD Cadet Program. Janet shared wanting to join the armed forces upon her high school graduation as her involvement in the cadet program had inspired her.

Additionally, Mental Health Clinician, Peña was able to work with the mother to strengthen the child and mother bond. Mental Health Clinician, Peña assisted the family in understanding drug abuse and dependence, increasing their support system, and establishing boundaries with Janet’s father. The family also benefitted from Case Management support, who referred them to domestic violence resources to help them navigate the father’s addiction and destructive behavior. Mother eventually began participating in her own mental health services as she felt the need to better herself and focus on caring for Janet and her siblings.

Janet eventually graduated from therapy upon completion of her treatment goals. She shared her desire to help others and to focus on her future by enlisting into the US armed forces upon her high school graduation. Her relationship with her mother began to improve, and both showed solidarity in coping with her father’s substance abuse.

Therapy was able to assist this family in navigating the hardships of adolescence in improving the teen’s relationship with her mother and helping to guide the substance use of her father. Janet is now stronger, understands her symptoms and needs, and is focused on a better future for herself and others.