Family Therapy: Working with Adolescents After Brain Injury
Well, first of all, adolescence is a tough stage of life regardless of whether or not there's a brain injury, and there are reasons for that. A lot of it has to do with the fact that the adolescent brain is not fully developed, and a lot of people don't know that. So adolescence is a time when the brain is going through major, major changes. The brain matures from the back to the front. So the last part of the brain to mature is the frontal lobes or the prefrontal cortex which is involved in emotional control, judgment, planning, organization, making good decisions, and these are some of the things that we often see in adolescents. They may be impulsive. They may be quick to react. They may engage in risk-taking behavior, and that's because their brains are not fully mature, and that's why we're seeing that. Now you add a brain injury on top of that, it makes it really complex for families because then families don't know, "Is this brain injury or is this adolescence?" So part of what we have to do is to help families figure out strategies that incorporate the fact that they do have an adolescent whose brain is maturing and not fully developed yet, but at the same time, there may be brain injury-related changes that they could learn some strategies that will help to make their lives a little bit easier.
Posted on BrainLine April 29, 2009. Reviewed January 16, 2018.
Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Brian King.
Caron Gan is an Advanced Practice Nurse, Registered Psychotherapist, and Registered Marriage and Family Therapist with the Ontario and American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). She has worked with clients with brain injury, providing psychotherapeutic intervention to youth, adults, couples, and families.