Writing Therapy for Troubled Teens


Writing Therapy for Troubled Teens

Teachers, Counselors, and Other Colleagues — We are happy to provide information for you on this web site about our approach in facilitating poetry for distressed youth.

But we are particularly pleased to announce that Richard Gold's book WRITING WITH AT-RISK YOUTH: THE PONGO TEEN WRITING MENTHOD is now available from Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Our acronym for the book is WAY.

This book is designed to give you the most complete support for this important work.

It explains how trauma affects youth, how you can guide the process in the most therapeutic way, how poetry enables healing, how to start a writing project, how to keep everyone safe, and how to use Pongo's specific techniques for facilitating therapeutic writing by distressed youth, both working one-on-one and in groups.

You can read the PREFACE, TABLE OF CONTENTS, and PRAISE for WAY here. Some words of praise are also included below.

Here is a link to ORDER.

“Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method provides a roadmap for therapists, counselors, and teachers to help troubled adolescents transform their lives through poetry.

Both wise and pragmatic, Pongo reminds us that healing is art; that listening, validation, and respect are core elements of therapeutic relationships; and that human connections underlie our most basic needs and our most rewarding experiences.”

                    Jack McClellan, MD. Medical Director, Child Study and                     Treatment Center; Professor, University of Washington                     School of Medicine. Seattle, Washington.”Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method makes a wonderful contribution to our collective response to youth affected by trauma and hardship. Facing up to trauma experiences and developing a new narrative is proven to work for recovery. Expressive writing is an amazingly powerful method of doing just that. This book helps youth to find their voice, learn their strengths, and give themselves hope for their future.”
                    Lucy Berliner, MSW. Director, Harborview Center for                     Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress; Clinical Associate                    Professor, University of Washington School of Social                    Work and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral

                    Sciences. Seattle, Washington.

 “Richard Gold's creativity, compassion, and empathy, coupled with his deep sense of the integrity of the human spirit, has allowed healing and restorative expressions to flow from adolescents who have experienced profound emotional traumas. The Pongo Method is essentially a way for these young people—many with severe emotional problems and some who have been ensnared in the juvenile justice system—to learn to communicate and think about their life experience through poetry and storytelling. Many are able to reframe horrific experiences and put some closure around “issues” that they have held back from feeling and thinking about. Although the Pongo “process” is not therapy in a traditional sense, it represents the essential elements of the most effective treatments and does this through a modality that youth can engage in with honesty and trust.”

                  Eric Trupin, PhD. Professor and Vice-Chair in the Department                    of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington                     School of Medicine; Professor and Director of the Division of                     Public and Behavioral Health; Director of Evidence Based

                    Practice Institute. Seattle, Washington.

Source: https://www.pongoteenwriting.org/Writing-with-At-Risk-Youth.html

Top Ten Therapeutic Activities for Troubled Youth

Writing Therapy for Troubled Teens

Let’s be honest. When your child becomes a teenager, you might have moments when you want to pull your hair out. Maybe your teenager has developed some behaviors that concern you. Don’t worry, there are therapeutic activities for youth to get your teen’s life back on a positive path.

No matter how challenging this developmental phase can be, keeping teenagers engaged in therapeutic activities can promote high self esteem and a positive perspective on life. All teenagers need help and support at one point or another.

  Here are a some effective therapeutic activities for troubled teens:

Equine Therapy

Equine therapy can be one of the most powerful tools in teaching troubled teens empathy, respect, and emotional regulation. Having a horse be reliant on a participant for instruction and guidance can also lend adolescents a measure of responsibility that they may otherwise never develop.


There’s nothing that transforms a troubled teen’s perspective on life helping others. When troubled youth realize that they have the power to leave a positive impact in other’s lives, the effects can be life changing.

Service and volunteer opportunities are a great way to help a troubled teen make positive friendships and develop leaderships skills.

Whether it be an animal shelter, an international service trip, or a food drive, there are many readily accessible service opportunities for teens.


Does your teenager struggle to talk about how they feel? Have they shut you out? One of the best ways to help troubled teens understand their emotions and behavior is through writing therapy.

Gift your teen a journal that they know can be a place for them to express their feelings.

You can suggest activities writing letters to those they’re hurt of frustrated with, or simply a daily place for them to check in with themselves at the end of the day.

Animal Rescue

Animal assisted therapy can make a huge difference in your teen’s quality of life. The companionship and lack of judgement from animals can be very healing. Is your troubled teen very introverted? Animal therapy may help them have the confidence to come their shell.

Drumming Circle

Therapeutic drumming can provide anxiety relief, increased self awareness, and promote healthy self expression in teens. The rhythms of drumming circles are a great right brain therapeutic intervention, which is imperative when treating trauma.


Much writing therapy, some troubled teens may find painting as a great creative outlet for their emotional and behavioral struggles. Some things, however, can’t be captured in words. Painting and other forms of art therapy are constructive outlets for self expression.


Sculpture and ceramics are another great expressive therapy for troubled teens. The creative process of clay sculpture is an engaging avenue for the imagination to solve issues on a subconscious level. Sign your teen up for a ceramics class with other youth. It’s a great way to help your teen through exposure to positive peer influence.


If your teen is struggling with depression, anxiety, or emotional trauma, exercise can help. Whether in a yoga class, team sport soccer, or just a run around the neighborhood, exercise releases endorphins that help balance brain chemistry and promote positive emotions. Exercise can also be a wonderful stress relief tool for your teenager.

Adventure & Outdoor Recreation

Adventure therapy will help your troubled teen disconnect from their iPhone, social media, and all other moderns distractions that keep them from looking inward. The healing power of the outdoors is gaining recognition and may provide a useful re-set for your teen. Sign them up for a backpacking trip, an international service expedition, or even a river rafting trip.

Need more support for your teen than these activities may provide? You’re in the right place!

We’re a therapeutic boarding school for girls age 14-18 and we offer these therapeutic activities in some form or other within our 4 month program.

To learn more about how we can help, give us a call today at 1-877-788-8422

Source: https://greenbrieracademy.com/2019/04/15/top-10-therapeutic-activities-for-troubled-youth/

Residential Treatment Programs for Teens

Writing Therapy for Troubled Teens

Private residential treatment programs for young people offer a range of services, including drug and alcohol treatment, confidence building, military-style discipline, and psychological counseling for a variety of addiction, behavioral, and emotional problems. Many of these programs are intended to provide a less-restrictive alternative to incarceration or hospitalization, or an intervention for a troubled young person.

If you are a parent or guardian and think you have exhausted intervention alternatives for a troubled teen, you may be considering a private residential treatment program. These programs go by a variety of names, including “therapeutic boarding schools,” “emotional growth academies,” “teen boot camps,” “behavior modification facilities,” and “wilderness therapy programs.”

No standard definitions exist for specific types of programs. The programs are not regulated by the federal government, and many are not subject to state licensing or monitoring as mental health or educational facilities, either.

A 2007 Report to Congress by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found cases involving serious abuse and neglect at some of these programs.

Many programs advertise on the Internet and through other media, making claims about staff credentials, the level of treatment a participant will receive, program accreditation, education credit transfers, success rates, and endorsements by educational consultants.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, cautions that before you enroll a youngster in a private residential treatment program:

Here are some questions to ask representatives of any program you may be considering. The responses may help you determine if the program is appropriate for your child.

  1. Are you licensed by the state?

    If the answer is yes, find out what aspects of the program the license covers: educational, mental/behavioral health, and/or residential?

    If the program claims to be licensed, get the name of the state agency that issued the license and contact the agency to verify that the license is current. Often, the licensing will be through a state Department of Health and Human Services or its equivalent. If the program’s representative can’t provide the name of the licensing agency, consider it a red flag.

    If the program is unlicensed and you still want to consider it, contact the state Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau, and the local consumer protection office where the program is located.

    Regardless of whether a program is licensed, when contacting any of these groups:

    • Ask for copies of all publicly available information, including any complaints or actions filed against the program, site visit evaluations, violations, and corrective actions.
    • Pay particular attention to any reports of unsanitary or unsafe living conditions, nutritionally compromised diets, exposure to extreme environmental conditions or extreme physical exertion, inadequate staff supervision or a low ratio of staff to residents, medical neglect, physical or sexual abuse of youth by program staff or other residents, and any violation of youth or family rights.
  2. Do you provide an academic curriculum?

    If so, is it available to all program participants? Do you have teachers who are certified or licensed by your state? Some programs may offer only self-study or distance education. Sometimes, educational options are not made available until a resident has reached an advanced phase of the program.

    In addition, some programs may claim that academic credits will transfer to the resident’s home school and count toward a high school diploma.

    Check with the board of education in the state where the program operates – and with your state board if you live out-of-state – to verify that academic credits will transfer.

  3. What about accreditation?

    Several independent nonprofit organizations, the Joint Commission (JACHO), the Council on Accreditation (COA), and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), accredit mental health programs and providers.

    • JACHO accredits and certifies more than 15,000 health care organizations and programs in the U.S.
    • COA is an international child- and family-service and behavioral healthcare organization that accredits 38 different service areas, including substance abuse treatment, and more than 60 types of programs.
    • CARF International is an independent accreditor of human services providers in areas including behavioral health, child and youth services, and employment and community services.

    Ask whether all components of the program are accredited, for example, the base program, the drug and alcohol component, and the wilderness program. Then contact the accrediting organization for confirmation.

    The GAO’s Report noted that one program claimed to be accredited by the JACHO, but in fact, only the base program was accredited. Neither the wilderness program nor the drug and alcohol component was accredited.

    The organizations above grant accreditation and certification after evaluating the quality of services provided by a treatment program.

    Parents and guardians should be aware that some other organizations that claim to accredit schools may serve merely as membership organizations, and may not conduct site inspections or otherwise evaluate the quality of the programs they certify.

    If a treatment program claims to be certified or accredited, parents and guardians should contact the accrediting organization and ask about the standards the organization uses when issuing a certification.

  4. Do you have a clinical director? What are his/her credentials?

    Typically, a clinical director is responsible for overseeing, supporting, and maintaining the quality of care for the program. A clinical director may have an advanced degree in a related field, clinical psychology, and may be involved in providing individual therapy, assessment and consultation, staff training and development, and managing or supervising the components of the program.

  5. What are the credentials of the staff, especially the counselors and therapists, who will be working with my child?

    Do they have appropriate and relevant advanced degrees a Masters in Social Work, a license to do clinical social work (LCSW), a Ph.D., or an M.D.? Are they certified or licensed within the state? If they are, by what agency or organization?

    Ask to see copies of relevant documents, and consider contacting the certifying or licensing organization to confirm the staff credentials. The GAO found that some program leaders falsely claimed to have credentials in therapy or medicine, which led some parents to trust them with teens who had serious mental or physical disabilities requiring different levels of treatment.

  6. How experienced is your staff? Have they worked at other residential treatment programs? If yes, where and for how long?

    Ask to see current certifications in CPR and other emergency medicine. For wilderness programs, also ask for proof of relevant training and expertise.

  7. Do you conduct background checks on your employees?

    If the answer is yes, find out who does the background check and how extensive it is. Call the company to confirm that it provides background check services for the treatment program. If the answer is no or the program does not conduct background checks, consider it a red flag.

  8. What are the criteria for admission? Do you conduct pre-admission assessments? Are they in person, by phone, or over the Internet? Who conducts them?

    If your child has serious addiction problems or psychological issues, take special care to ensure that the program is equipped to deal with them. Discuss the appropriateness of the program with your child’s psychologist, psychiatrist, or other healthcare provider.

  9. Will you provide an individualized program with a detailed explanation of the therapies, interventions, and supports that will address my child’s needs? When is this done? How often will my child be reassessed?

    Ask whether your child will have group or individual therapy sessions. If the answer is yes, ask how often the sessions will take place and who will conduct them. Once enrolled, confirm with your child that the promised level of care is being received.

  10. How do you handle medical issues illness or injury? Is there a nurse or doctor on staff? On the premises? Will you contact me? Will I be notified or consulted if there’s a change in treatment or medication?

    Ask for copies of procedures the program follows on dealing with medical emergencies.

  11. How do you define success? What is your success rate? How is it measured?

    Some programs make specific success claims in their advertising materials. To date, there is no systematic, independently collected descriptive or outcome data on these programs.

  12. How do you discipline program participants?

    Ask about policies and procedures for discipline.

  13. Can I contact/speak with my child when I want? Can my child contact me when he wants?

    Some programs prohibit, monitor, or otherwise restrict verbal or written communication between you and your child. Find out what is allowed and prohibited before you enroll your child.

  14. What are the costs? What do they cover? What is your refund policy if the program doesn’t work out?

    Private residential treatment programs often charge hundreds of dollars per day. While health insurance sometimes may pay a limited amount, for the most part, the youngster’s family is responsible for paying the fees and bills.

  15. Do you have relationships with companies and individuals that provide educational and referral services?

    Some companies may provide services, claiming to match troubled kids with an appropriate treatment program. Be aware that although some of these services represent themselves as independent, they may not be. They may actually be operated or paid by one or more of the treatment programs. Ask the service if it receives commissions from the treatment programs.

Among the sources of information for families researching private residential treatment programs for troubled youngsters are:

This article was previously available as Considering a Private Residential Treatment Program for a Troubled Teen?  Questions for Parents and Guardians to Ask.

Source: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0185-residential-treatment-programs-teens

Here’s How Journaling Can Benefit Teens

Writing Therapy for Troubled Teens

You might already know that journaling is a great outlet. It’s recommended for anyone, from children to adults, who wants to relax, become more grateful, and get to know themselves better.

If you have a teenager who is struggling with stress, strong emotions, or other similar issues, encourage them to start writing in a journal.

Here’s a list of five benefits that they can experience from doing this.

1. Journaling Helps Reduce Stress Levels

Journaling is a great way to relieve stress.

Today’s teens are under more stress than some adults; not only do they have school and extracurricular activities, but many of them also have part-time jobs, volunteer obligations, and a host of personal difficulties, including family issues and friend drama. Taking some time each day to write in a journal can help a teen keep his or her stress levels manageable.

There are a few ways this happens.

First, journaling requires the person to stop what they are doing and focus on what is happening at that moment. Putting down their smartphone and forgetting about school work or personal issues is a break that all people need from time to time.

Second, journaling allows teens to write down their many thoughts, effectively getting them their head and making room for new ones. If you’ve ever felt less overwhelmed once you wrote down everything you needed to, you understand this phenomenon.

2. Journaling Can Raise a Teen’s Knowledge of Self

Busy teens often go from activity to activity without taking a lot of time for self-reflection along the way.

They might feel pressured by peers and family members to follow the same belief system and to accept the status quo.

Only when a teen sits down, puts away the constant pull of electronics, and puts pen to paper do they really have the time to reflect and write down their thoughts.

When your teen goes back and re-reads what they’ve written, they might be surprised at how much insight that had at that particular point in time. Over time, your teen will be spending time with him- or herself and getting to know what kind of person they are growing up to be.

3. Journaling Can Help Teens Process Strong Emotions

There’s no doubt about it: Adolescence is rife with strong emotions. It can be difficult for teenagers to handle and process these emotions, and sometimes they lead to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Taking some time to write down what they’re feeling and processing those feelings can help your teen get through difficult feelings.

Your teen might also be able to notice some patterns when it comes to these emotions.

For example, if they notice that they’re often writing about their sadness during the winter and that sadness lifts once the days begin to lengthen again, they might realize that their moods are affected by the seasons.

This is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. He or she might also notice that they feel angry and irritable when they need to participate in a social function; in this case, they might have a bit of social anxiety.

Encourage your teen to look back over his or her journal entries to see if any patterns emerge. A mental health professional might be able to help them make sense of these patterns and give treatment options for any issues that arise.

4. Journaling Can Raise a Teen’s Grades

Although you might not realize it, any writing practice can raise a person’s vocabulary, syntax, spelling, and general language usage. This can, in turn, lead to better grades. If your teen doesn’t English class, journaling might be just what the doctor, or, more accurately, teacher, ordered.

Spelling and punctuation don’t count when someone is writing in a private journal, of course, but your teen might begin to make the effort to make his or her thoughts more clear to look back on later. Also, as they learn grammar rules in school, they might unwittingly practice them when writing in their journal.

5. Journaling Can Help a Teen Solve Problems

While thinking through problems can help you learn to solve them, there are some issues that really require the right side of the brain to solve well. This is because the right side of the brain is associated with creativity. Writing in a journal can help unleash that creativity, and this different way of thinking about events and situations can lead to problem-solving prowess.

You have probably experienced something similar if you’ve ever been in a brainstorming session. That’s one way journaling can be used to boost brain power when it comes to solving a problem.

Encourage your teen to write down anything that comes to mind that might possibly help solve whatever problem they’re navigating. Tell them not to judge or edit in the beginning stages; just write down any thoughts that crop up.

A little later, your teen can look back with fresh eyes to see what might make sense. His or her problem-solving skills might surprise you!

Doodling, drawing, and other creative pursuits can have the same effect. Some teens enjoy Zentangling, which is an exercise in mindfulness that allows the creative brain to take over. If your adolescent would to try it, encourage him or her to write down any solutions that come to mind during the process.


Whether your teen is looking for help achieving their goals, new problem-solving skills, a way to learn more about themselves, or an effective method to fight stress, journaling is a great practice to begin during the adolescent years.

It can be a treasured hobby for decades, and one day, your middle-aged or elderly teen might choose to look back and read the journals they kept throughout their life.

Remember, also, that it’s never too late to start journaling! If your teen is hesitant, buy yourself a journal, too, and see if you reap the same benefits.

Source: https://paradigmmalibu.com/journaling-benefit-teens/