When a teenager acts out, sometimes he or she is not the only one in the family who needs to heal. At Idaho Youth Ranch we're committed to treating the whole child, not just one symptom or issue. And in many cases, that also means treating the whole family. Thanks to the coordination bewteen IYR's Anchor House and Family Counseling programs, a family in southern Idaho is finding a new direction together.
Oscar is a 15-year-old boy whose life has changed quite a bit this year. He and his brother Juan used to get high together and drive around their small town listening to music. They never joined any gangs, but Juan admits they “ran with kids who were in gangs” and got into fights with rivals. Both boys got into trouble at separate times, Oscar for having drug paraphernalia, and his brother for having drugs. About 4 months ago, Juan violated his probation once again and was sent to Anchor House, the substance use treatment program in Coeur d’Alene operated by Idaho Youth Ranch.
Without his older brother, Oscar suddenly felt lost and soon became very shut off from his family. He either stayed out until late at night or shut himself in his room as soon as he got home. The more his family tried to figure out what was bothering Oscar, the more he got upset. He found it very hard to be around other people, especially his family, and would smoke marijuana before school and throughout the day just to make things bearable.
“He’s starting to do the drug stuff, just like his brother,” said Oscar’s mother. “I’m really worried for when I come home… I’m worried for him and for myself.”
Oscar’s family was able to get a referral to IYR’s Family Counseling program from Juan’s clinician at Anchor House. The service was provided at no cost to the family and their Family Services clinician was able to provide home-based counseling. Oscar was willing to participate in family therapy, even though he didn’t see the point right away and had no intentions of stopping his drug use. After a few weeks of therapy, the family began to understand that Oscar’s issues were in fact connected to the way the family as a whole struggled with relating to each other. Oscar was surprised to discover that the anger he had towards his family and peers was covering up even more uncomfortable feelings of sadness and loneliness. His mother and father began to understand that they were accidentally punishing Oscar’s honesty by their intense reactions to his self-disclosures.
As the family began to work on different ways of showing their concerns for each other, Oscar noticed that he didn’t dread being at home and could handle being at school a lot better. He also noticed that his desire to use marijuana dropped off a lot.
“I think it was maybe two weeks ago, the last time I smoked,” he said. "I can’t really remember!” Oscar isn’t ready to give up his habit for good just yet, but through family therapy he is taking big steps in the right direction. Oscar is starting to change his mind from thinking there’s no point in quitting to considering how it affects the people he cares most about, including his big brother, who is making great progress of his own at Anchor House.
The boys have become a source of support for each other’s recovery. “Juan told me he’s got to stop being my friend and start being my brother. I guess I need to start being a better little brother, too,” Oscar told us.