Parenting Recovery

5 Challenging Teen Behaviors: Parenting With Awareness

Parenting a teenager is no walk in the park.

Embarrassing parents – swan duckling (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

They are hard-wired to defy, irritate, be irritated,rebel,question, and be dramatic; what better way for a human being to learn how to be authentically who they are, right? As a parent, however, those adolescent behaviors can be frustrating and overwhelming. A key component to working with this behavior is creating good boundaries. Setting really clear boundaries shows teens they are safe.


Here are 5 challenging teen behaviors and suggestions for healthy parenting responses:


1:  Oh the Drama! Everyone is horrible and out to get them, life is full of “he said,” “she said” problems and absolute statements like, “Mom! You just don’t UNDERSTAND!”

Parents, this is a great opportunity for mirroring. While you know that the world isn’t out to get your teen, learning how to respond to them kindly is important for their emotional safety. With mirroring, your job is not to analyze or sympathize but to reflect back what was said. In doing so, you are saying to your teen, “I see you,” something teens often don’t feel from adults but desperately need. Being “seen” is something vital to building self-awareness and confidence. They need to know they are being seen and heard without being judged. Here’s an example of mirroring:

Teen: “School was horrible, everyone’s a jerk,”

You: “I hear today was difficult at school.”

In this example, you are actively listening instead of analyzing the problem or trying to fix it. Sometimes, kids just need to vent.


2: “I hate you!” “You’re ruining my life!” “Why don’t you let me do ANYTHING?!”

In adolescence, teens are continuing to individuate. They are trying to find out who they are as individuals — separate from who their parents are. As a result, teens attempt to pull away from the familiarity and safety of their familial setting in order to find their own authenticity, and often times they do this harshly. This is not easy to watch and it is harder still not to take the behavior personally. However, this doesn’t mean parents become doormats for their kids or receptacles for abusive behavior. Create boundaries and disallow abusive language or violent behavior while continuing to support the process of discovering oneself. Your job as the parent is to remain calm amidst the storm: A:  adolescence is temporary, and B: your parents survived. Ensure you are getting time for yourself and for self-care. Remember, if you are an empty well for yourself, you are an empty well for your child.


3: Not THAT friend.

Rest assured, there will come a time where you will feel with absolute certainty that one of your teen’s friends is questionable. Before you toss this friend to the wolves, ask yourself why this kid is so triggering for you. Are you reminded of something? Do you see yourself in this child? Are the parents troublesome? Do you have information your child doesn’t have about the family? Understanding why we’re reacting the way we are can be profoundly helpful. It may prevent us from projecting our fears onto the innocent. This also presents an opportunity to open up a dialogue with your teen about safe friends, safe behaviors, as well as to talk about the red flags for dangerous behavior. After that discussion or series of discussions, if a friend is truly dangerous, you have to set firm boundaries. Sometimes arming your teen with knowledge will allow them to see the wolf in sheep’s clothing themselves. However, sometimes, it won’t and it will encourage a teen to rebel further. In this case, you may have to set firmer boundaries or take more drastic measures. You are at the helm of the parenting ship and it remains your responsibility to create and maintain safe boundaries for your teen and your family.


4: “You’re so embarrassing!”

It’s so tempting to hug and show affection to your teen, especially if you come from a family that is demonstrative with their expressions of love. But nothing is more embarrassing to a teen than having their overenthusiastic parent insist upon squishing their son or daughter in front of their friends. In fact, it’s mortifying. So, as much as you hate to do it, try and curb your enthusiasm, at least while you’re in public. The overarching message: love your teen but don’t show it. Ew.


5: “Put the phone DOWN!”

Oh, technology, what would we do without you? Everything has been made so much easier because of the advances in this area, and we are at a place in our culture where we depend upon it for efficiency. As I’ve mentioned in another post, we have unfortunately taken this tool for connection and unfortunately become terribly disconnected. To help families reconnect, I suggest setting some rules aka boundaries around phone use. Limit phone use (texting and calls) until homework is done and ask everyone to turn them off at dinner.  Make a commitment to connect in real time, it’s invaluable for opening the heart.


Our teens are growing up and becoming the best humans they can be. Our job as parents is to nurture them into the big shoes of adulthood. We have to do our best not to take their sharp twills to heart, to honor them as individuals, and to provide them with support, boundaries, and encouragement. Parenting teens can be extraordinarily challenging, especially if there is substance abuse or mental illness involved. If the latter is the case, please seek help. You don’t have to trudge the parenting path alone.

Adolescence Mental Health Recovery School Treatment

The Benefits of Blending School and Treatment

There is tremendous value in blending school and treatment. Many clients come to us

(Photo credit: theirhistory)

having fallen off-track in their education as a result of substance abuse and mental health issues. There may also be undiagnosed learning disabilities that need to be addressed. Falling grades and school pressure can create another layer of stress and panic for a teen. When an adolescent comes to treatment, it is our responsibility to provide them with both treatment and educational support that fosters an environment of safety and encouragement around learning and healing. At the same time, providing school and treatment simultaneously allows us to notice where an adolescent needs extra support so we can provide that client with adequate educational and clinical support.


I looked to Daniel Dewey, our Residential Director of Education, and Joseph Rogers, our Educational Coordinator at our Outpatient Day School for some insight and perspective, particularly since they each see both sides of the education/treatment pendulum. Daniel sees our clients from their initial point of treatment, while Joseph spends time with our clients during their aftercare process. Both of them promote and create foundational pieces to add to the bedrock of an adolescent’s recovery; they invite curiosity about learning, provide support during times of difficulty, and provide individualized methods of teaching to facilitate and nurture a healthy outlook on education.


Daniel gave me some wonderful insight when he said, “School is important for treatment success; when a resident can stay on track (or in many cases gets back on track) they will have a stronger foundation for their aftercare. School can be a big stressor, so if school can work with treatment, we feel residents will be better equipped to leave Visions and follow their academic path. Additionally, doing well in school tends to be a source of self-esteem for adolescents.  We want our clients to feel good about learning. Many of our clients come into treatment hopeless. It is our goal to help them see the intrinsic value in education and to guide them toward a meaningful life.”


Joseph gave us similar insights, which also help identify the continuum that occurs with school and treatment. He said,  “The practical piece of joining treatment and education is having the benefit of rolling enrollment – clients can enroll at any time, increasing their opportunities of getting back on track. Additionally, students may not be emotionally able or prepared to go back into a normalized educational setting. Having them in a setting that is therapeutically structured for their safety gives them the chance to practice their new behaviors before they go back to their regular school, and because we have clinicians on staff, we can react to and notice a change in behavior quickly and effectively.”


We understand the importance of creating a therapeutically alive and nourishing environment for our clients and their families. Placing school in the treatment arena allows us to support our clients at optimum levels, and it provides a multi-level aspect to the healing process. Blending school and treatment from the residential and outpatient perspective is a necessary stone in the path to wellness. It is beneficial to the adolescent, building confidence and self-esteem, and it is advantageous for parents to see their children simultaneously succeed in their education and in their substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Adolescence Bullying Mental Health Parenting Prevention Safety

Cyberbullying And Teens: The Facts

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve recently talked about text bombing and sexting, with the overlying arc being cyberbullying. It is defined as pervasive, relational aggression, also known as “covert aggression.” It is carried out via the use of electronic technology, such as cell phones, computers, and tablets by means of text messages, social media sites, and online “chatting.” For example, someone may create an online rumor by posting an embarrassing, or inflammatory image or story on social media or in an email. Because it’s online, it has the capacity to spread much faster and have a longer reach.  Cyberbullying intimidates its victims with its intent to control, isolate, shame, and instill fear.

Some forms of cyberbullying are: 

1. A person pretends to be someone else and chats or messages someone online with the intent to trick, shame, or embarrass someone else.

2. Extremely sensitive or personal information is posted and shared online.

3. Lies and gossip are maliciously posted or shared online.

4. Digitally manipulated, often pornographic images are posted or distributed without consent.

5. Online threats. These can be vague or specific.

6. Exclusion, or intensionally excluding someone from an inner or online group or site


Why is cyberbullying different?


1. There is no “off” button: this type of bullying can happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The aggressor can reach its target when they are alone, late at night, and early in the morning.

2. Images and/or messages can be posted anonymously to a wide audience, and they can be difficult to trace.


What can you do?


1. Monitor your child’s web activity. Take care to really pay attention to what sites they are using and how “connected” they are. Increase your vigilance if you notice your child is showing signs of depression, becomes withdrawn,  or suffers from low self-esteem.

2. Teach your kids to avoid environments rife with cyberbulling: Facebook, chat rooms, Snap Chat are some of the many sites out there that are breeding grounds for this behavior.

3. You decide what places are unsafe for your child, taking age, maturity, and other factors into consideration.

4. Arm yourself with information. Become well-versed in the ins and outs of social media sites. Get tech savvy, folks and embrace your inner geek!

5. Express the importance of keeping personal information personal and off of the Internet.


Unfortunately, statistics are showing an increase in cyberbulling not a decrease:


1. 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out of 10 say it has happened more than once.

2. 53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.

3. 58% of kids have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.

4. 40% of kids have had their password(s) stolen and changed by a bully.

5. Cyberbullying victims are eight times more likely to report carrying a weapon to school in the last 30 days than non-bullied teens.

6. Cyberbullying has led to at least four documented cases of teen suicide in the United States.

7. Only 15% of parents polled knew what cyberbullying was.


Cyberbullying isn’t going away right now; it’s an unfortunate byproduct of the increase and variability in technological tools and means of communication. We as parents and teachers need to arm ourselves with information and learn to make better, safer choices. Frankly, most kids don’t need smart phones, but they have them and as a result, they have easy access to a multitude of apps that are designed for online social activity. Some are even designed to promote anonymity or to delete messages as soon as you’ve sent them.  This is a good opportunity to have stronger, more defined boundaries and some dedicated time set aside that is technology free.


You can:

1. Have a no-tech zone around meal times.

2. Go on an outdoor adventure with your family that is technology free.

3. Embrace the value of direct communication. For example, call someone instead of texting.

Technology was designed to make things more efficient and interactive. It has the capacity to reach into spaces we never thought possible. Still, we must harness its dark side for the sake of safety and well-being.


Internet Safety Project

Psych Central

Bullying Statistics


Adolescence Communication Safety

Texting and Driving: It’s Not Worth It

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Texting and Driving: Are you guilty of doing it? Even for a second? To an extent, we all are. Even if it’s at a stoplight, and no one is moving, many of us will check our phones. Gone are the days of “just driving.” We have evolved into a culture of fast-moving, busy, multi-tasking folk, and the importance of checking a text or checking our email or checking social media outlets has consumed us.


When we text and drive, we are driving blind for short periods of time.  According to this study, “Texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving the length of a football field at 55mph BLINDFOLDED.”


The University of Utah did a study, comparing drivers who are texting and driving versus those drinking and driving and found “Texting while driving is the same as driving after drinking four beers.” That same study also “found that cell phone drivers had slower reactions, had longer following distances, took longer to recover speed lost following a braking episode, and were involved in more accidents. In the case of the cell phone driver, the impairments appear to be attributable, in large part, to the diversion of attention from the processing of information necessary for the safe operation of a motor vehicle (Strayer et al., 2003; Strayer & Johnston, 2001).”


One of the things I do like about texting is the fact that it is a form of non-contiguous conversation. It was originally designed as a way of communicating necessary information that didn’t require an immediate result. Times have changed, however, and the need for instant gratification has trumped the original utilitarian modality of the text message. The current generation prefers using text messaging to live conversation. In fact, that is often the primary means of communication.  It’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s non-confrontational. It’s not uncommon for breakups and arguments to occur via text. And with the advent of smart phones, one is afforded less character limitations, so the “text” book has evolved. Texting is so easy that one can do it anywhere and at any time; ironically, the danger is the same: you can do it anywhere and at any time.


Let’s make a concerted effort to be more responsible and more aware of our actions and interactions with those around us. We can start with implementing the following actions to stop texting and driving:


  • Put your phone in the trunk or the glove box when you’re driving.
  • Wait until you are parked to respond our check your phone
  • Let your friends know you won’t be responsive if you’re driving.
  • When you’re not driving, try calling someone instead of texting. Make an effort to make contact beyond your fingertips.

 Notice any changes that may occur:

  • Are you more or less stressed out?
  • Are you more or less aware?
  • Are you less distracted and more engaged with the activity of driving?
  • Are your interactions with others more or less engaged?


Next, take the  “It Can Wait” pledge here and make a commitment to stop texting and driving. Encourage your friends to do the same. This is how change happens: one positive decision at a time; eliminating texting and driving is a wonderful step in a positive direction.


Watch this trailer for Werner Herzog’s documentary “From One Second to the Next” which documents four lives that have been impacted by texting-related accidents.

Mental Health Parenting

Splitting: Mom Said I Could!

Two proud zebras (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Psychology, Splitting refers to black and white thinking and is according to Wikipedia “the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole.” According to Dr. George Simon, PhD., it is “an unconscious ego defense mechanism by which a fairly complex entity cannot be accepted into consciousness in its entirety because it contains aspects that are both acceptable to a person as well as unacceptable.” It is a common defense mechanism in people suffering from personality disorders, whose modus operandi is endless patterns of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships.


For the purpose of this particular blog, however, I am addressing the behavioral issue of splitting we most commonly see amongst kids in relation to authority figures. I’m referring to the common use of the phrase, which is used loosely in reference to kids and teens attempting to separate their parents with the intention of getting what they want. The behavior is similar in that it is an attempt to create a “good guy/bad guy” scenario. Splitting is an often misused term, and even I am misusing it in this blog as I am not referring to its true psychological meaning. This divisionary behavior is what we refer to as “staff splitting” and is loosely used by parents and staff members in the culture of treatment environments.

“No” is difficult to hear for most of us. It evokes a sense of disappointment and perhaps even a sense of loss. If we’re being honest with ourselves, none of us really likes a “no.” It’s difficult to accept such an answer to a request, as it tends to be attached to the outcome. When we can’t accept an answer we’ve been given, then our request is, in fact, a demand. Driven by the cravings of selfishness, our perspective can become skewed and we will often search out the justification we need for indulgent and often unhealthy behavior. Here is where we begin the search for the answer or answers we want, intent on defying the one we have been given. Kids tend to do this all the time, which is what we refer to as “splitting.” It typically looks like this: “But Mom lets me,” or “Dad said it was OK.” It’s a way for kids to find control in a situation that feels unacceptable to them, or to avoid feelings of dissatisfaction.


Not all kids behave in this way, however. The more aggressive personality types are more prone to this behavior, and they lean toward bullying one parent or staff member as they attempt to get what they want. Some key things to remember are:

  • Firm boundaries
  • Clear communication
  • Clear set of rules and expectations
  • No is a complete sentence.
  • Maybe isn’t an option.
    • Remember, backing out of a “No” is far easier than backing out of a “Yes.

No one said raising kids was easy. Remember, it didn’t come with a manual! The individuation process is smelly and rude and full of adventures and testing of limits. As the adults in this scenario, we have to try and remember what it was like. We also pushed boundaries (some of us pushed harder than others –ahem), but, once we lose it, the scale tips in the wrong direction. It is our responsibility to stay grounded.


If you are dealing with a legitimate psychological situation where the truest form of splitting is an issue, I encourage you to seek the appropriate care. You can find more information on splitting here and here. If you need help with mental health issues, please contact us; we are here to help.

Adolescence Feelings Holidays Mental Health Parenting Recovery

Healing the Heart: Father’s Day

Healing. (Photo credit: WolfS♡ul)

Father’s Day came and went, but I was struck by the aftermath of the day, nonetheless, when my son sat in the midst of his anger and disappointment after his own father didn’t show up for him. When my son said, “Not only did my dad not show up, he only spent 2 minutes with me on the phone,” I felt his deflation. I felt the letdown and longing for a father that would never be. And I had a visceral memory of what that was like. However, as a parent, my role isn’t to project my past onto my son’s present. Rather, my role is to hold space for him to feel and experience that which ails him, allowing his emotions to safely ride though his body. As a parent, I have to do my work on my own. Not via my son.


Father’s day, like Mother’s day, can elicit a varied set of emotions for our kids and for us as parents. They can range from untended loss, or expectations, abandonment, and deep grief rising internally around parents that were never available for us, be it physically or emotionally. When I first became acutely aware of this in my own life, I did what many of us do: I spiritually bypassed the situation and filled my time with practices of avoidance. At that time, my outsides appeared to be ok, but my inner voice remained devastated. The scary part is finding our voice amidst that loss. Sometimes it wobbles. Sometimes it screams. But it’s there, waiting to come out.


My son found his voice yesterday; he used it well. He leaned into his resources and shared his frustrations and sense of loss. He really discovered how available his step-dad is for him, finding grounding in the emotional presence and support that has been made available to him over the last 5 years. I had the honor of baring witness to such splendor.


Sometimes, we find ourselves grappling with the reality of having what we need but still wanting something we cannot have: my son wanting his father to be a dad but having a step-father who gives him everything he needs. On Father’s Day, we ventured to the beach, and when Joseph dried him off and kissed his head, my son giggled and said, “My dad would never do that.” It is in these moments where we hold space for that grief I was speaking of; here is where we can allow this young man the time to process the weight of his loss while reveling in the joy of the experience itself.


Parenting is a process and being a kid is a process. Somewhere, we meet in the middle, knees and hearts bruised along the way. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s this: our hearts have a tremendous capacity to heal. The heart, I know, is a muscle of great resilience. It can even open to the tumult of holidays, learning to forgive and/or navigate the foibles of clumsy parents and the awkwardness of adolescence.

Addiction Adolescence Recovery

Addiction: Starting Anew and Letting Go

Stop! Are you being of service? Are to being kind? Are you hungry? Are you angry? Are you lonely? Are you tired? #recovery #selfcare #love #kindness #VTeam


It creeps up on you, biding its time, weaving its way into your mind and body, wrecking your resolve, staining your spirit. It plays a game of cat and mouse, its talons elusive, its manipulation brilliant; it captures you like a rat in a cage. I want to say that we can prepare our teens for treatment, but once those talons of addiction are embedded, nothing sane makes sense until the talons are removed and the healing begins. Addiction effects more than the user: it affects the family as a whole, nuclear or otherwise; it doesn’t give two shakes of a lamb’s tail who you are, where you come from, your financial status, race, color, creed, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.


Addiction is a hopeless affair until you stand up to it and take the reigns of your life back. But that process takes work; it takes dedication; it takes a commitment to yourself, to your family, and to the world in which you live. It means looking at the ugly, dark, and terrifying thing in the recesses of your mind and body and naming it. It means recognizing the warrior within and ultimately dealing with whatever it is you’re running from. Something to note about drugs and alcohol: their numbing properties are merely a temporary Band-Aid for a much larger problem.


When a family comes to us, broken and scared, we understand the complex characteristics of what addiction does. It erodes trust, negatively impacts emotional safety, creates an environment fueled by fear and anger, and depletes the coping skills of the family as a whole. As a result, everyone is vulnerable. It is here where the work begins. Often, it is within that vulnerability where one finds the opening in the heart and mind that allows the healing to begin. We understand that the work of the family is layered: it requires honesty, and an ability to look at oneself; it requires willingness to separate your reactions to your child and to develop compassion; it requires a desire to forgive, and a desire to be forgiven. The treatment process allows for a new beginning, if you will, something many don’t ever have a chance to access. It’s an opportunity to recognize the warrior within—we all have one!


I can give you a million tools that may or may not prevent addiction from effecting your life, but the truth is, there’s no one way. For some, addiction is a something they are born with, for others, the spark is triggered by a traumatic event, and for others, it’s something unknown. As parents and support persons, it behooves us to let go of our laundry lists of the woulda-coulda-shouldas, and show up for our suffering teens. We can be supportive, we can get them help, we can love them in spite of their behavior, we can show them the meaning of unconditional love, and we can create safe, healthy boundaries for them and for ourselves. It’s not unlike an addict or alcoholic to push your every button to get a rise out of you, so boundaries are an imperative. Just because you’re showing support doesn’t mean you may continue to be a battering ram. You can love with boundaries: it’s not easy, but once you get the hang of it, your life will change for the better.


Try to remember to be kind to yourself as parents or kind to yourself as the teen in trouble. Allow the clinicians and supporting staff guide you back to wellness and stability. If there’s one thing that has stuck with me since I got sober it’s this: remain teachable. Once you think you know everything, you can’t learn anything new. Taking these early steps onto the recovery path is part of a letting-go process: we let go of what we think we know so we can learn a new way of living.

Allow yourself the opportunity to begin the healing process and embark on this path out of the darkness of addiction and be welcomed into the arms and support of the recovery community. With recovery comes grace and dignity, and those are qualities lacking in the addiction realm.

Mental Health Recovery Treatment

Teen Rehab: A Space for Healing

Making the decision to send your child to teen rehab is emotionally complex. It takes great courage to pick up the phone and ask for help when your family is in crisis. Harder yet is the process of following through and accepting the help you are given. A suffering teen, who is spiraling quickly down the rabbit hole of addiction and mental health isn’t exactly a pillar of willingness; parents are sure to be confronted with resentment and resistance. The truth is, a teen who is in trouble more than likely won’t look at going to a teen rehab as a viable option, let alone a necessity. For some, however, it is a life-saving necessity.

As we enter into our second decade of service, we want you to know you have a safe refuge to turn to.  At Visions, we have built a treatment facility ready to provide you with the tools to heal from the wounds of addiction and mental illness, while providing you with the skills to love without crossing the boundaries into co-dependence. We have two residential houses: one that caters to mental health issues and one to addiction. We also have an outpatient facility, a day school, and a young adult program, and gender specific sober living facilities. The varying levels of care we provide are broad. Teen rehab need no longer be considered a frightening place to send your adolescent, but rather a refuge for your teen to heal and rediscover a space of emotional and physical safety.

Curious about whether or not your child needs teen rehab?  Check for these warning signs:

  • Is your child away from home for long periods of time and unable to communicate where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing?
  • When they do come home, do they beeline for their room, making no eye contact or conversation?
  • Is there a profound change in behavior: is your child especially angry or easily agitated or are they showing signs of depressions or apathy?
  • Are their grades suddenly dropping?
  • Has their social circle suddenly changed?
  • Have they radically altered their appearance in some way?
  • Are their moods markedly changing?
  • Has there been an abrupt change in weight?

Some parents are fortunate enough to have a child who attempts transparency and who tells them they have been using. Keep this in mind: if your child does tell you they’ve tried drugs or are doing drugs, you more than likely need to multiply the amount by 3,  if not more.  Teen rehab isn’t just about your teen; it provides a space for the family to heal as a unit. A teen using drugs and alcohol, cutting, or starving themself is voicelessly begging for help. As parents, we have to step outside of that place of blame and anger to help our teen step on a path to recovery. Teen rehab can facilitate that process.

Addiction Adolescence Mental Health Recovery Treatment

Adolescent Residential Treatment: Visions Style

Adolescent residential treatment can seem like a daunting place to send your child, even if the situation warrants it. We know how overwhelming adolescent addiction and mental illness is to the family and friends of the person or people suffering. There is fear, anger, shame, love, fury, disappointment, numbness, and depression, among other things, which typically surface in a family affected by addiction. That’s where a safe container for healing is necessary, and it is also where adolescent residential treatment comes in.


Visions adolescent residential treatment is unique because we make every effort to provide individualized treatment for our clients. We understand there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for addiction and mental illness and we also are aware that no two clients are the same. For example, a client suffering from trauma will participate in an expressive dance class to encourage the trauma to exit their body. Or a surfer who looks to the ocean for spiritual growth will surf as part of their treatment plan. If someone comes into our adolescent residential treatment facility with mental-health issues or their primary addiction is gaming or love addiction, we modify our step-one packet to meet their specific needs. For example, we might take some of our clients to a local Buddhism in Recovery group  (in addition to the usual 12-step groups) where they are able to confront their addiction issues and find cohesive support in a different but safe setting. We essentially provide options above and beyond the normative curriculum in many adolescent residential treatment facilities.


Student-led groups are encouraged. They not only empower the clients, they teach them to walk through their fears while honoring their process of recovery. We offer art therapy with the amazing Susan “the Art Lady” O’Conner, equine therapy, music groups, nutrition counseling, and we have both eating disorder and trauma specialists available. We will do whatever we can to meet our clients needs while ensuring a solid foundation of recovery. Visions adolescent residential treatment is a safe place to begin. We have created an environment that honors the client, supports the family, and offers the greatest opportunities for adolescents and their families to heal. We know that addiction and mental health are family issues.


We have an absolutely phenomenal team of recovery professionals. They happen to be some of the most dedicated people I’ve ever come across. They are particularly skillful at finding the many ways to laugh in the face of adversity. The Vteam, as we so lovingly call ourselves, understands the healing capacity of laughter and the deep need to let it all go. How often does someone come into treatment barely “holding it together,” right? Another incredible asset of our team is the amount of alumni that have come back to work with us. Note, I said “with” us not “for” us. That right there is a key factor of being part of this team.  To quote Patrick, who says it beautifully, “Our staff is unmatched. We have the perfect blend of compassionate, hard working, fun-loving professionals in the Western Hemisphere.  Everyone here loves this work and it shows.” So, is adolescent residential treatment a death sentence? Nope! It’s more like a prescription to “get your life back in order.”

Anniversary Blogs Recovery

Susan “The Art Lady” O’Connor, B.A. – Art Therapist

Susan O’Conner, aka The Art Lady, has been with Visions since the very beginning. She is literally part of the foundational framework of our residential and outpatient facilities. Susan is also the creator of Art as a Language—a means of using art to “tap the unconscious, release blocked emotions, face vulnerabilities, and acknowledge addictions.” Using art in this way allows our teens to viscerally and tangibly access the underbelly of their emotions in a way that is healing and liberating. Susan is all heart:  she is creative and kind, of service, and full of healing energy. Susan is  lovingly known as the Art Lady in many recovery environments, having worked in recovery for a decade. Her signature paint-splattered overalls are an indelible symbol of love and heart. We are beyond blessed to have Susan in our midst.The staff completely agrees:

“What an original and special gift Susan brings to Visions.  You can see this whenever she arrives at our facilities, as the kids all yell out excitedly, “ART LADY!”  She has such an amazing ability to bring out the unconscious creative faculties of the clients, allowing them expression of difficult and otherwise unreachable emotions.  She clearly cares about our clients and helping them on their journey of healing.  To see Susan in action is to see love itself at work.  We are lucky to have her in our Visions family.” – Joseph Rogers

“Art lady: Charisma, charm and creativity sum her up!” – Heather Colligan

“You could never run out of things to say about Susan the “Art Lady.”  Susan brings creativity to Wednesday nights and truly adds so much to our program.  The clients love working with her and she spreads positivity whenever she is here.  In addition to taking care of the kids’ creative voices, she is in tune with the staff’s need to also express ourselves; she often hosts workshops just for us!  These past 10 years working with Susan have truly been a gift.  Thanks, Susan!” – Chris and Amanda Shumow

There’s more! Read on for Susan’s answers to our questions. She never ceases to amaze, really:

1: What is your favorite artistic medium?

It changes quite regularly.  Some favorites are collage – paper and
fabric,  painting with acrylics,  painting with gouache, clay people,
and printmaking, to name a few.  Right now it is small clay people in
all sorts of different positions (mostly making social or political
statements) that I quietly put out on the streets, wall, stop signs…

2: Were you always encouraged to follow your artistic path?

Some, but it never mattered.  Even as a small child, I drew all my
feelings.  I am good at science too – and I like it, so those that
wanted me to get a “real job” thought I should go in that direction.
Needless to say…

3: Where do you go for peace and quiet?

My garden… I sit by my herbs in my garden with any kind of art supply.
So easy to be calm and creative with lavender, rosemary, lemon balm
and basil filling the air.  The birds like it when I am out there too.

4: You work with adolescents as well as adults, how are they different in terms of their application of artistic expression?

Adolescents are much more available and still have a bit of hope. My goal is to let them experience the language of color and shape and possibility. Besides, I really like teens.  They may be angry but have not yet turned to adult bitterness. Adults require more sensitivity in getting out of their perceived safe heads that are cemented in denial.  Most have been addicts for a long time.

They are both fragile groups of people and require a tender solution-oriented touch. Art never lies, so it cracks open even the toughest egg and that can be frightening. My hope is that this new way of expression will help them access the deep profound words that have eluded them for so long.

5: If you were stranded on an island, who or what would you want as company?

My stone-carver husband, our children and grandchildren, lots of art
supplies, a few musical instruments oh, and I guess a way to grow

6: What would you do if you ever stopped painting and drawing?

I would die.

7: Where do you feel most at home?

My studio in the little retro trailer we call home – and always with
recovering addicts.

8: What makes you laugh out loud?

My funny husband and very funny grandkids… they are my life’s blood.

9: Spring, Summer, Autumn, or Winter?

I actually love all the colors, smells and feelings of all the different seasons.  If I have to pick one, it is Fall.  My babies were born in October and I travel back to those times every year.  I also got clean and sober in October.  A very special month.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I remain honored to have worked for Visions since the beginning. Their philosophy of treating the adolescents with dignity, in turn teaches the kids self respect and respect for others. They are Twelve Step Program oriented.  I truly enjoy all these young people, and
their funny humor and crazy music.  I am amazed at the openness and willingness they have to understand that Art is truly a Language. Additionally, I think the staff is a committed, supportive, kind group of people that work very hard at understanding the teen mind.

Exit mobile version