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We hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch our videocasts. A videocast, also known as a video podcast or vodcast or Vlog, is similar to a traditional podcast, but incorporates video content as well. We are always seeking guests with insight and advice that will be practical and useful to parents of teens struggling with mental health and substance use issues and their families. If you have feedback or would like to join us for a videocast, contact Pat D’Amico, CMO.

Episode 9: January 25, 2024: Trey Ellis, a 2015 graduate of our Skillman Program, shares his remarkable journey from the depths of Adderall addiction to his budding career in the teen treatment field.

Episode 8: November 5, 2023: Ella P., a 2023 graduate of our Lohrman Program, is joined by her mom, Heidi R. Together they share their journey from crisis to recovery. Ella is an amazing, self-aware kid who has a lot to say about her time before and during treatment.

Episode 7: October 21, 2023: Former Muir Wood client, Wesley McDonald, who attended our program in the midst of the Covid epidemic, talks about his time in treatment, his commitment to sobriety, and his budding career as an Addiction Counselor in South Dakota.

Episode 6: September 27, 2023: Nicolette Gottuso, LMFT, SUDCC and Clinical Director for Muir Wood’s boys dual-diagnosis treatment program in Petaluma, CA, talks about the challenges and opportunities presented when treating adolescent males in a residential setting.

Read the transcript of this videocast…

Pat D’Amico (00:02.113)
Hi and welcome to another episode of Talking Teen Treatment. Talking Teen Treatment is a production of Muirwood Adolescent and Family Services. Muirwood, as you know, is a residential treatment program for teens with substance use and mental health issues. We’re located in Northern, Central, and very soon we’ll be in Southern California. I’m Pat D’Amico, Muirwood CMO, and I’m really excited to have one of our own with me today, Nicolette Grotuso.

is an LMFT and an SUDCC and clinical director for the Skillman Boys Dual Diagnosis Program here at Muirwood. Hi Nicolette. Nice to see you. Let’s start with the basics because mom and dad don’t know what all the alphabet suit might be about. So tell everyone what an LMFT and SUDCC is and we’ll go from there.

Nicolette Gottuso (00:40.427)

Good to see you as well.

Nicolette Gottuso (00:50.382)
I’m gonna go to bed.

Nicolette Gottuso (00:58.958)
Alright, so I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and I’m also a substance use disorder certified counselor.

Pat D’Amico (01:05.845)
So that’s great. So that puts you right squarely in your job at the dual diagnosis program for boys at Muirwood. So dual diagnosis, as we know, refers to kids who are presenting with both mental health issues, whether it be depression, anxiety, personality, or mood disorders, but they’re also misusing substances. And one is usually a,

symptom of the other. So hence, you know, dual diagnosis, treating both at once. And that’s what you’re a pro at. And that’s why you’re the clinical director. So, so let’s, let’s start kind of broad to, you know, clinical director at the boys program. Tell, tell us about your job, what your, what your day looks like really from start to finish, you know, walking in and, you know, it’s not an easy job.

Nicolette Gottuso (01:44.758)

Nicolette Gottuso (02:01.646)
I was gonna say, I wonder if there is a normal scheduled day. I think that’s what I love the most about my job, honestly, is that there is never, there is never a, I’m coming to work and here’s all the things on my calendar and I’m gonna complete them all in a timely manner in this order. I think the gift about working in residential treatment, especially,

And I think, you know, as my experience moving through the ranks here, right, I’ve done a lot of different jobs here at Muirwood. You know, I started as a floor staff and then I became a recovery counselor. And then I became the recovery program supervisor. And then I became the clinical program supervisor. And I’m the clinical director. I think definitely as the clinical director. It’s so much more touch and go than any of those positions in terms of, you know, thinking I’m going to have a day.

that’s scheduled and goes well and needing to be available and be really, really flexible with my schedule. So typically, you know, we have a flash meeting every morning at 9.15 where the clinical team gets together, the ship supervisor, and staff from nursing, and our director of education comes in and we all kind of talk about the hotspots. What clients had a really difficult night?

the night prior, if we have any admissions this day, if we have any discharges, any changes to the program schedule, things like that. So we all kind of get to be on the same page bright and early in the morning. And then after that, it could be a variety of meetings, right? So today we had this, right before this, I met with a client. So I do carry a caseload of about two to three clients and their families.

Um, and then around one o’clock we do a small group process. So around that time, uh, each clinician meets with their caseload and every day, Monday through Friday. And it’s really just a special time for all the kids to be together. They have the same therapist. They get to build a special and more deep bond with those clients because they’re seeing them every day. Um, for this kind of more intimate group process session. Um, and then.

Nicolette Gottuso (04:27.47)
Two to four, a lot of family therapy, a lot of individual therapy, touching in with the other therapists, providing a lot of support, working and reworking, program structure, groups, you know, honestly, a lot of it is really just supporting all of the kids. So yes, I’m supporting clinicians, but I’m supporting the clinicians to better support the kids. So I’m on the floor a lot.

The kids see me a lot, they know who I am, they know what I do, and that’s really important to me. So it’s a lot of different things, and I do a lot of different things. And sometimes, like the other day, I’m in my car driving around looking for kids that may have walked off campus. So I just, I really put myself in the weeds a lot, and that’s where I feel the most comfortable, and that’s why I do what I do, to be super involved with the clients and their families.

Pat D’Amico (05:24.677)
Um, you work exclusively with boys. So talk about what’s, um,

Pat D’Amico (05:35.049)
As a woman, what is that like working with boys? How are they with you? What are the challenges associated with that? Are they receptive? Or do you feel like that’s a really, you know, completely non-issue in your work?

Nicolette Gottuso (05:43.836)

Nicolette Gottuso (05:52.558)
I’ve seen it different ways. I would say now I feel that it is a non-issue. I mean, there’s certain things I cannot ever know and I will not ever know. I don’t know what it’s like to be a male. I don’t know what it’s like to be a teenage male. I can’t possibly understand all of the different things that experience embodies. And I think

what makes a good clinician or just, you know, even our floor staff, right, is the ability to maintain and obtain rapport. And you can do that in a variety of ways. I never thought I would work with teenage boys and I started working here and I was like, oh, this is, I’m really good at this. And I still don’t really quite understand why. I think it’s because I have.

you know, the relatability piece, but also just meeting them where they’re, it’s not really that hard. I think people really overcomplicate how to speak to teenagers. I think there’s a lot of fear associated with teenagers of any gender. For me, I just feel the most comfortable working with boys, maybe because working with girls would be a little bit too close to home for me.

I can deal with them a lot easier. I have a special place in my heart for them. The only challenges I’ve really seen is like, you know, when we have a teenage boy who’s had a lot of trauma with females in their life, whether it’s biological mother, siblings, grandparents, aunts,

or any kind of other relational wounding. It does make it more challenging, but I think you see that with every gender, that possibility or that barrier. So no, I don’t think it’s that much of an issue. I handle myself pretty well with them, and it works for me.

Pat D’Amico (08:04.013)
Good. So, Muirwood, for mom and dad at home watching this, Muirwood is one of the things that makes us unique and special is the fact that we offer gender specific and gender separate programming. And, you know, in my experience, having worked with…

Nicolette Gottuso (08:21.6)

Pat D’Amico (08:29.881)
programs that co-mingle the genders and programs that don’t. Murewood is one of very few that do not. It seems like a lot of drama and heartbreak and the like is eliminated. So talk a little bit about the gender separate milieu, if that’s the right word for it, and how

Nicolette Gottuso (08:48.494)
Thank you.

Pat D’Amico (08:57.909)
how that’s, you know, what you think about that, if you think that’s a good thing.

Nicolette Gottuso (09:04.842)
Such a big conversation because I think that it’s really easy to miss the mark on gender neutral programming and what that really looks like here, right? I mean, I think that it’s important to be gender specific. And we also have so many kids that do not identify as male or female. And we’ve also treated, you know, a large amount of trans kids. So

I think that portion gets tricky and I don’t think we have enough time to get into that. What I will say about gender specific programming is that it does offer more focus for the kids, right? If we have, and again, this is assuming that all of our kids are straight. So this is why I think that this is such a deep onion question. There’s so many layers to it.

Pat D’Amico (09:52.949)

Nicolette Gottuso (09:58.602)
But for biological males that are heterosexual, I think gender-specific programming is essential because of all the things that you mentioned, the drama, the heartbreak. There’s not the issue of kids running off together and doing things they’re not supposed to do and running all of those risks. There’s a better ability for them to focus on them, focus on their treatment.

and be able to gain what they need to gain by being here in order to go home and be successful. I also see a con of that though being a lot of these kids use drugs and have mental health issues because they don’t know how to be in relationship with people. And so, you know, I do see some of the benefits of having blended programming to be able to have a child experience,

or having a feeling and being able to work through that in a residential setting, I think there is benefit to that. And I don’t want to manage that. Personally, that feels like a lot. So I think it’s good the way that it is. And I think we always have room for improvement. And I think it’s a conversation that, you know, we’ll always have about, you know, is this the right thing? Are we doing are we doing right by everybody by having it separate? And

I think that yeah, parents are really looking for that because their kids do have a lot of issues with relationships.

Pat D’Amico (11:32.549)
Yeah, you know, I sent my then 16 year old daughter off for residential, short time residential treatment many years ago and she’s doing great today. But I was really relieved that it was an all girls setting.

Nicolette Gottuso (11:47.744)

Pat D’Amico (11:58.061)
It was at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence. And they did such a wonderful job, but I was really relieved. And that’s what I would look for today as well, which is why I’m glad we do that. But also, I guess another question for you is, would you agree or do you feel like, whether it’s boys’ treatment or girls’ treatment, which is happening at our other campuses, are the kids more able to kind of…

open up without the pressure of, you know, having to posture and like that, you know, in an all boys or all girls setting, it’s like, okay, I don’t have to worry about what these girls think I am if I kind of, you know, let my guard down and open up. Do you see that?

Nicolette Gottuso (12:49.806)
I mean, I think we get far more authentic versions of the kids without, you know…

Nicolette Gottuso (13:00.198)
without it being blended programming. I really don’t imagine some of these kids would share what they share, would act how they act, if they were trying to impress somebody. So yes, I mean, I do think that is very, very true. As someone who went to treatment and it was blended, that was a challenge. I mean, it was really difficult. I really…

Pat D’Amico (13:13.459)

Nicolette Gottuso (13:28.094)
you know, I really noticed myself and my peers wanting to manage our appearance, what we said, how we presented, to kind of appeal to whoever we were attracted to or that sort of thing. And I think that that’s detrimental because this is life or death for a lot of our kids. And so we wanna take that really serious.

Pat D’Amico (13:49.149)
It just seems like… Sure. Yeah, not only is it, you know, a life and death situation at its most intense, it’s also a short period of time, potentially. So there isn’t time to waste with drama and everything that comes with that about having to worry what you look like and all of that. So…

Nicolette Gottuso (14:05.003)

Nicolette Gottuso (14:12.514)

Nicolette Gottuso (14:15.819)

Pat D’Amico (14:18.957)
So let’s geek out on the clinical piece a little bit. So I read that you take a trauma-informed approach to CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy. What does that mean exactly? For those playing at home, what is a trauma-informed approach? And is that, by the way, is that throughout the organization?

Nicolette Gottuso (14:46.798)
So it’s interesting because I am like, I’m a Jungian at heart, right? I went to a very niche school for Jungian psychology. And so CBT is not really a thing that we practice there. And you kind of said it, we’re a very short term program. We don’t have these kids for, you know, we don’t do Jungian analysis with teenagers. And so, you know, for me, it’s important to do evidence based therapy with the kids.

because it shows results, it’s fast, it’s evidence-based, we know it works, and we do have just a short period of time. The problem that I think older takes of CBT has is that we are not looking at human beings from a trauma-informed lens, which just means that we have a lot of teenagers that are coming in with emotional abuse, a history of sexual abuse, physical abuse, grief.

is a huge trauma for a lot of our kids. You know, because fentanyl is on the rise, we have a lot of clients that come in who have lost friends, family members, all of those things, and just the normal ways that teenagers lose family members, grandparents, aunts, uncles. And so really what it is, it just gives the caregiver a better understanding and idea of their child. And it also addresses the needs of the child.

from the lens of, okay, we can change the narrative, right? Cognitive behavioral therapy. We’re changing the thought pattern, changing the behavior. And the way that old school CBT does it is it just really does not take into consideration the shame-based aspect of trauma. And so I really work on it from an approach of, I know this kid, I know their trauma.

Maybe they have a history of physical abuse. I’m going to tailor how I do cognitive behavioral therapy from that specific lens. And it’s called TFCBT and it’s expanded so much over the years. I think it’s a lot more widely used now. It’s a lot about narrative, how we tell our story and what our narrative is about our abuse or our trauma and how we speak to ourselves in life and how that creates more depression and anxiety.

Nicolette Gottuso (17:10.09)
Um, and so, and I don’t think that was really present with, you know, our old school CVT, which works still, um, but we like to take a trauma informed approach to all of our clients. It doesn’t matter what evidence-based practice we’re using. Um, you know, even our floor staff, you know, we tried to, to inform them of, of the realities of trauma and kind of how to speak to kids in a non-shame based way.

Pat D’Amico (17:38.685)
Great. I also read that you studied depth, what was it called? Depth psychology. What is that and do you use it in your work?

Nicolette Gottuso (17:55.462)
Yeah, it’s so funny because I’m thinking of like a specific professor. I asked that question too. I’m like, what even is this? And she said it really well and I’ll say it It’s a lens. It’s it’s not even really a practice. There’s no like particular practice of depth psychology. It’s more of a way in which we see the world and so I see things in metaphor in symbol. I’m really always looking for what’s not being said

That’s like pretty classic depth psychology. You know, doing some dream analysis, doing art therapy, doing some more experiential things. Shadow work is another one. I do it all the time. I mean, that’s just what I love. I just love it, so.

Pat D’Amico (18:42.611)
It’s really about probing the unconscious. Is that? Okay. There.

Nicolette Gottuso (18:45.586)
Yes, correct. Yeah. So I mean, there’s a lot of like amazing pioneers for depth psychology. I have, you know, a lot of kids ask me questions, because you know, we have a lot of kids who have using dreams. And that’s a that’s a great place to start. And that’s a that’s a huge place in which I practice what I you know, what I specialized in grad school. Because there’s a lot there’s a lot there. And a lot of them do not know how to do talk therapy. And so to suggest that

we should only have clinicians who are capable of doing just talk therapy is kind of ridiculous because they’re teenagers. And so the depth psychological lens allows us to do therapy outside of the confines of talk therapy. So we can do a bunch of different types of things, somatic healing, breath work, art therapy, experiential therapy, psychodrama, things that however we can connect with them and get them into their healing, talk therapy is not always the way.

Pat D’Amico (19:45.977)
Before we finish up, you mentioned early on that you’re not just working with kids, you’re working with their families. So would you talk a little bit about your work on a daily basis really? What does that involve working with mom and dad or a guardian for that matter?

Nicolette Gottuso (20:05.238)
So in terms of my specific clients, which is true for all of our clinicians, my goal is to make sure that the parents feel informed about their child’s care, that the parents are being coached therapeutically on the changes that might happen, what to expect, boundary setting, doing a lot of psychoeducation. We get a lot of families who have never experienced, who don’t understand mental health, who don’t understand substance use, and their child’s never been to treatment before.

And then we have parents who are a little bit more experienced with the process. But not only with my clients, you know, I am basically available to all 28 of our kids’ families, their parents and guardians. And so if I have a therapist who’s really struggling with an issue with a family, you know, I always make my

self available to step in. So it’s not just my two to three clients, parents, it’s so much larger than that. I am just really available for the extra support. I don’t really do anything that’s that much more special than what my fabulous clinicians do. It’s just a little bit more, I really want to calm parents anxiety about what this process is like. My job,

really feels with parents like meeting their needs, hearing them out, setting boundaries with them, helping them set boundaries with their child, and really validating that this experience is terrifying. And also, I don’t know what it’s like. I don’t have kids. I can only imagine. And just offering myself for support of how to best serve the parent as well.

Pat D’Amico (21:43.349)

Pat D’Amico (21:53.921)
Great. Well, I’m going to editorialize a little bit. You’re obviously very talented. And I think, you know, I think any parent who’s thinking about sending, you know, their son to our boys program would be, you know, very lucky to have an opportunity to work with you.

Nicolette Gottuso (22:02.69)
Thank you.

Nicolette Gottuso (22:13.883)
Oh, I appreciate that.

Pat D’Amico (22:15.217)
So I just wanted to, you know, my last question, well, you already answered my last question, which is always, you know, what do you like most about your job and blah, blah. But let’s do something a little different. What advice, you know, sending your kid off for residential treatment is, having been there, it’s terrifying. And, you know, things go through your head like, am I going to be putting a label on them for the rest of their lives?

Nicolette Gottuso (22:42.978)

Pat D’Amico (22:44.701)
if I send them to residential, if I send them to treatment, or are they going to have to account for that down the road?

Nicolette Gottuso (24:06.094)
Well, I don’t typically, well, sometimes I disclose this. So I went to treatment for two years from 15 to 17. I did wilderness and then I did a therapeutic boarding school. I have no problems. I have no problem, right? I very literally do not. Right, I don’t have any issues. If anything, right, I mean, again, it depends on what career path your child chooses.

Pat D’Amico (24:24.717)

Nicolette Gottuso (24:33.766)
I chose the healing arts and it works in my favor. I see it more with parents of kids who are athletes, right? I don’t wanna send my child to treatment because it’s gonna reflect poorly on, you know, whether or not they get into a D1 school or if they play in college, you know, whatever. Nothing is worth your child’s life. I just do not, that’s it. I mean, point blank period.

no reputation, battering of questions, no job, nothing is worth your child’s life. And so to me, it feels like a no-brainer. And again, I’m not a parent, but as someone who has that as a part of my life story, it has absolutely no definition on who I am as a person.

uh, it informs who I am, but it absolutely doesn’t change that. And so I would, I wouldn’t be alive if my parents hadn’t made that choice for me. And the gratitude is just so loud. And so I think if you’re at the point where you’re a parent and you’re even considering residential treatment, chances are your child needs it and you are doing the right thing, regardless of those.

doubts or those thoughts or the anxieties, we can help with that.

Pat D’Amico (26:02.133)
Yeah, great. Well, I couldn’t have provided a better answer. Plus, I’m not a clinician. But I could not have answered that better. I want to say thanks, Nicolette Gautuso. Thanks for being with us. And I know this is going to be this particular segment. It’s going to be very helpful to a lot of parents and families and caregivers and guardians who are thinking about treatment.

Nicolette Gottuso (26:07.214)
Thank you.

Nicolette Gottuso (26:16.799)
Of course, thank you.

Nicolette Gottuso (26:30.663)
I sure hope so.

Pat D’Amico (26:31.913)
You have a great weekend, happens to be Friday here, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Nicolette Gottuso (26:34.87)
Thank you. All right, talk soon. Thanks, Pat.

Episode 5: September 22, 2023: Former Muir Wood client Chaylee Baumgardner talks about her life before treatment, her time at Muir Wood, and the journey she has been on since graduating from treatment to become a professional artist.

Read the transcript of this videocast…

Pat D’Amico (00:02.726)
another episode of Talking Teen Treatment. Talking Teen Treatment is a production of Muirwood Adolescent and Family Services. Muirwood is a residential teen mental health and substance use treatment program with 16 locations in northern, central, and soon southern California. I’m Pat Tomiko, the CMO at Muirwood, and I’m really, really excited today to have as my guest,

Pat D’Amico (00:32.938)
And she recently agreed to talk to us about her time at Newwood and her life then and now. So let’s say, hi, Chaley. Thanks for joining us. Nice to see you. And you and I have not met, so this is exciting. And so let’s do this. Let’s start at the beginning. I understand you’re doing great, that you’re an artist, and that’s going well for you. But I want to take you back.

Chaylee Baumgardner (00:47.697)
to see you. Thank you for having me.

Pat D’Amico (01:02.914)
before meal would and you know and talk about what was going on um uh you know what you’re getting into risky behavior you were you were involved in and um you know kind of leading up to you know mom and dad telling you that you were going to be uh going away for treatment all yours

Chaylee Baumgardner (01:26.412)
Sounds good. Um, so, I don’t remember my childhood. So that’s a big chunk gone that I can’t give any information of. Um, I really lost all my memory of it when it started getting to the bad points of my life. I feel like it just kind of like, I erased it for some reason and it kind of just never came back. Unfortunately, because I would love to have those feelings, the memories, the thoughts and everything. Um, it would be great to relive again if I could, but I can’t.

But just growing up and things like that, it was kind of weird. I was really a rough child, as my parents would say. I was really disobedient. I was disrespectful sometimes. Like, I had a mouth on me. I didn’t like to listen to them. I thought I knew everything. I was definitely those, okay, I’m gonna go out with friends and I’m gonna go hang out and watch movies. But, you know. And I started smoking weed at 12. 12 and a half?

12 and a half and Nicotine at around 13 and so that was started from just being like, okay This is a new thing, you know, I just want to try see how it feels like maybe cool or whatever So tried it then it got progressive then it got worse and I know people are like He’s not addictive we can’t be in enough and I thought that too and I’m not gonna say it’s like fully addictive because in some In some categories it can help

Which it did help me for a little bit when it came to my anxiety and things like that. But other than that, I feel like it was just I needed to smoke before I needed to do everything. I needed to smoke before I went to sleep. I needed to smoke before I eat. I needed to smoke before I went out the house. Like it was a thing. Like when I had to smoke before I eat to eat, that’s how I knew about that. But I just, it was really hard to stop the cycle. Like I told everybody I was gonna quit for two years and I never did until I finally did. But.

I got myself in like really rough crowds, bad environments and things like that. A lot of people that were doing drugs. The drugs that I was surrounded with weren’t like, I wouldn’t say like, because all drug is a drug, but they were more like pills and coke and just things like that are just really…

Chaylee Baumgardner (03:44.956)
really easily.

really easily handled throughout where I was staying at. People got a hold of those stuff really easily. So it was really easy for me to get in contact with people that had things and go hang out with them and things like that. So that was a thing, but I just never really figured out what was my why of doing them? What made me wanna go, oh, hey, I’m gonna go do this. You know what I mean? So I just never really figured that out. To this day, I don’t know. Guess it was just convenient for me.

I don’t know, I can’t tell you. The relationship with my parents were slightly rough. I, like I said, I never really listened to them. I started stealing from them for drugs and things like that, which that’s how I knew it also started getting bad, but I never wanted to acknowledge that because I thought I was okay. I thought I was fine. Everything’s fine. I had an ex at the time that introduced me to Percocets, but ends up that they were laced with fentanyl, which now…

days is very common and is now starting to take lots of lives which actually sucks because I’m luckily being one that has survived but it really sucks because a lot of people that I knew or that I know that new people that have passed away from drugs like that and it’s starting to be a more common thing and so it’s really scary because this world is coming to a big thing that it shouldn’t. I should say that.

But yeah, that relationship I got into when I was around 15, 16, it was really toxic, really toxic. And, like I said, it was still around that same bad crowd. So then my parents kind of found out that I was on active drugs when they kind of seen my body language, how I was itching and withdrawing and things like that. And then I had a friend that told them and was like, hey, I’m worried about Shay. Like, can you check on her? I think she’s on. Da da da. And they were like, oh crap. So they didn’t tell me.

Chaylee Baumgardner (05:46.164)
that they knew so they kind of were just trying to watch me they were being extra skeptical and i’m like sitting here like why you guys looking at me hella weird like i feel super uncomfortable but then i found out why and then they were like freaking out they wanted to get me help and things like that so they’re like hey we want to send you to treatment i’m like great i’ve seen it coming but i’m yeah

Pat D’Amico (06:08.898)
How did you get to that?

Chaylee Baumgardner (06:12.949)
I’m sorry?

Pat D’Amico (06:14.51)
How did you react to that? To the idea of like, going away?

Chaylee Baumgardner (06:16.344)

Chaylee Baumgardner (06:21.69)
I asked where. The first word that came out of my mouth was like, where? Just like that. And so they were like, well, we’re still kind of looking, but we found a place, Muir Woods, we found a place that we think you might like, da da. So they showed me a picture of the main house, absolutely beautiful. I still love it to this day. I just like the architecture. I’m a really like, I’m an artist, so like I really find beauty in like all the really little things. It’s weird.

Pat D’Amico (06:43.678)
Which program were you in? Or Penn Grove or Lorman?

Chaylee Baumgardner (06:49.192)
I went to there was Norman. I started off in Norman and then I was in the Rebecca house Middle by treatment so which was fun When I first got into like I packed my own stuff like they didn’t have to pack me I Thankfully didn’t get gooned, but they didn’t have to pack any of my stuff. I was just like okay Let me just figure this out. I guess we’ll have to deal with it. You know what I mean? I want to get off. I want to get clean too. I’m in a toxic relationship. Let’s do this

Pat D’Amico (06:56.17)

Chaylee Baumgardner (07:16.348)
I’m 16 at this time. And so I’m packing my stuff and they get an email saying, we have an opening tomorrow. And so I’m packing my stuff and I leave tomorrow morning and I didn’t even know I thought it was gonna be the next few weeks. So I’m saying like, oh crap, like everything’s hitting me. Like they’re taking my phone. Like I didn’t got nothing. I’m pissed off now. I’m mad. Cause I thought I had a little bit more time, you know? So I pack up and I’m sitting here upset or whatever. Then I get in the car the next morning.

I fall asleep, I can’t, I can’t, I fall asleep at like late at night because I’m just thinking all these things that I might have like where am I going? What is it going to be like? Who am I going to encounter? What type of people are they? Like are they going to be like, is this going to be a traumatizing experience or a helpful experience or am I going to hate it to the day I die and never want to go back? Like is it, you know, it’s that type of thing. So I got there, pissed off, did not want to talk to my parents, my mom’s in tears. I’m sorry? Yeah. Mm hmm. I get there.

Pat D’Amico (08:11.686)
So you arrive at Mirawar. And what’s the first thing that happens? What’s it like? What’s the arrival? What do you remember that? Do you remember the first day? Which must have been the most memorable, traumatic. What was that first day like?

Chaylee Baumgardner (08:17.481)

Chaylee Baumgardner (08:25.352)

Chaylee Baumgardner (08:30.46)
Yes. So we pulled up into the gravel driveway. And I’m sitting here like, okay, this place is kinda cute. Like I like the little setup they got here. They got a big like nice garage and I’m liking it. It’s kinda cute, but I’m mad at my parents right now. Because they’re sitting here just like, okay, we don’t know when you’re coming back. And I didn’t know that. I thought I was gonna be there for a week or so. So I’m sitting here like, oh crap, I’m gonna hate this. So then they leave, my mom’s in tears and I get welcomed in the house. So.

course they do a search or whatever and I’m okay with that type of thing didn’t really bother me I was still mad at this point and then around that time that I arrived it was lunchtime which I don’t remember exactly I think it was spaghetti that we had or sandwiches or something we had for lunch yes and as soon as I walked in I was like okay there’s so many girls here like okay and I’m not really like even though I came from that like

Pat D’Amico (09:14.198)
Never good.

Chaylee Baumgardner (09:27.296)
that environment kind of people, a lot of people, things like that, I was still anti-social. I was in a big crowd always, but by myself, if that makes sense. But only talk to people that I was close to. So at that point, I didn’t know anybody there. I didn’t know anybody there. And so I got in, did the search, got settled into my room, and then went out to the kitchen. We sat down for lunch and I sat between, no, I sat between these two people.

Still to this day I met still to this day. I’m close friends with They are one of the best people I know and I don’t one of them. I don’t talk to as much but another one of them. I’m trying to see soon It’s just it’s hard because they’re kind of far away, but I’m it’s gonna make it happen But I met a lot of great people there staff was amazing. I love staff. I Was I was that person in the

Pat D’Amico (10:01.376)
Oh, that’s good.

Chaylee Baumgardner (10:25.728)
In the clients, I was like, we should all get pancakes tonight. And I was always advocating because I love the pancakes there. And so everybody got pancakes because I like pancakes and I want to pancakes. And so we got pancakes. Like I always try to make it fun the best I could, because I know a lot of people have like hard times when it comes to like that places like that and like, so it was I, but I was the type of person like, okay, I’m having a crappy time, but. I’m make the best of it. But at the first week, I didn’t like it. I was pissy. Like.

Pat D’Amico (10:35.31)

Chaylee Baumgardner (10:55.208)
I was like, I don’t want to be here. Like I just threw it off my shoulder and everything. But I kind of tried, like as I got comfortable with the people and the staff and things like that, I was able to warm myself up and have a little bit of fun. You know, I thought I was faking it, thought I didn’t like it, but it progressed. And the thing that I did, I still don’t like is the hikes. I’m terrible with outside. I’m terrible with the heat. I couldn’t do the hikes only because I’m so not.

Like, I’m an artist, so I’m like not athletic or anything. Like, I don’t work out as much as I should, so I’m sitting here like drenched in sweat. My feet are throbbing. Like, I can’t, no, like six miles.

Chaylee Baumgardner (11:39.618)
Crazy. But I did have fun. Everybody made it fun. It was cool.

I don’t know, there was just a lot of fun times.

Pat D’Amico (11:46.574)
But what did you like most? You didn’t like hiking. What did you like most? Besides spaghetti. Besides eating. Really nice, okay.

Chaylee Baumgardner (11:55.22)
Movie nights.

Movie nights, okay. Movie nights, I loved how we were able to go out to the garage and just listen to music or scream and get our feelings out or just sit there and draw or, you know, I really liked school because we had a little bit of free time of like, because I always drew through school and I was in a charter school. So my charter school didn’t really connect good with the teacher there. So it was really hard to get my work. So for the most of the part, I was just trying to work the best I could on my work, the work that I did get.

and my art. I basically drew the whole time. And then when I earned my music back, that was cool too. That was like a highlight of my life because I’m a really big person when it comes to music for my therapy. I did like going out to the backyard and eating our food, dinner, lunch and dinner. Cleaning up actually, I don’t like cleaning up in general, but cleaning up there was kind of fun because like, you know, I like to clean up there. I don’t know, it was weird.

I feel like my whole life perspective just changed because I was like, okay, I’m on my own now, but it’s kind of fun. You know what I mean? Like I was just more worried about getting myself out of there because I didn’t like it so much.

Pat D’Amico (13:05.902)

Pat D’Amico (13:11.707)
How is working therapy for you?

Chaylee Baumgardner (13:14.76)
It was fine. It was cool. I was it took me a while to warm up.

Pat D’Amico (13:19.574)
Group sessions, one-on-one sessions.

Chaylee Baumgardner (13:22.172)
Yeah, it took me a while to warm up, that’s for sure. It took me a while to be like, okay, my barrier’s down, I can talk to you. But I didn’t normally sat there and just shared the brief things, but then I started getting more comfortable, be like, okay, I can trust these people. So then I started talking about deeper, explaining things, what’s going on in my head for no reason, like why I have, why I do the things I do, but don’t know why I do them, if that makes any sense at all. Like it was exactly that though, that’s how I felt. And…

It was kind of cool. I don’t know. Like I said, a lot of cool staff came in. There was one speaker that came in one time and I was just sitting there and I was like, that would be so cool. But I have social anxiety so I can’t do it. Which I did end up going to speak last month. So that’s cool.

Pat D’Amico (14:08.546)
Oh, that’s great. You did. You went back and spoke. Oh, that’s great. Fantastic.

Chaylee Baumgardner (14:09.984)
Mm-hmm. Yeah. And I don’t know, it was really fun. There was a lot of highlight moments there, watching movies, like I said. The people really made it worth it, though. Like I said, a few people that I can connect to this day deeply that I would only go back if I wasn’t 18 and if the same people were there because I just feel like I could click better. Yeah.

Pat D’Amico (14:36.75)
Let me ask you a different question now. So, Muirwood, one of the things that makes us different is that we don’t treat boys and girls together. They don’t mix. So, how did you feel about that, that you were going to be with girls and only girls? And did you feel like that was a good thing without that distraction? What was that like for you?

Chaylee Baumgardner (15:02.136)
Uh, so before I arrived, I was like, okay, because I knew it was girls, it was all girls facility. So I was sitting there and I was like, oh gosh, I don’t get along with females. Like I was never a female girl, but nor was I never a boy girl. Like I was always just by myself and I get along with who I get along with. But I don’t really like females because they were really like messy. But like when I got into the facility, they were all just chill and cool. Like there was nobody had problems with like, it felt better. And I feel like, you know,

I feel like if it was mixed with boys and girls, I feel like it would just make the environment so much more uncomfortable for the majority of us. That and like, you know, it’s just, it’s just girls understand girls more than anybody else. You know what I mean? Like it’s just, it’s just the thing. So I feel like we all connected on a certain level. So that part was cool. I got a lot of fun. Yeah.

Pat D’Amico (15:37.42)

Pat D’Amico (15:51.246)
and your therapist for all women.

Chaylee Baumgardner (15:56.832)
but it was hard to adapt though.

Pat D’Amico (15:57.614)
Great. Okay. So.

Pat D’Amico (16:02.542)
But you did it. You did it. What did, you know, you’re 18 now, right? You’re still young, you’ve got a long ways to go, and you’re off on a great restart, a great reboot. So what did you learn, you know, one thing, two things, what did you learn there that you’re applying in your life now? Applying as you pursue your art, and you start thinking about…

Chaylee Baumgardner (16:03.644)
Yes. Yes I did.

Chaylee Baumgardner (16:11.913)

Pat D’Amico (16:32.59)
know, the future a little bit, you know, you don’t have to know what you want to do, but, you know, what did you learn there that is helping you today?

Chaylee Baumgardner (16:42.42)
Patience is a big thing. I’m really bad with patience still to this day But I feel like it calmed it down a little bit more because I’m like, okay Because I had we mostly had to earn everything there We had to earn our music we had to earn things that we personally liked so For me to have to sit here to this day be like I want to sell this painting now Like this person wants it. I want to sell it now, but I got to realize Let time take its course if they don’t want it and they don’t want it You know what? I mean, like it’s just it’s just a piece of patience thing

Yeah, I gotta learn and take it easy on myself as well as overthinking. Overthinking was a big thing here before Meir Woods and there at Meir Woods, but once I got out, I was like, if I overthink too much, and this helps a lot with from my personal therapist, my one-on-one therapist, which I absolutely love her. And I was able to kind of calm my mind down, I guess, because I had ADHD. I was diagnosed with ADHD. So…

overthinking for me came with that. I’m not saying for everybody, but it was a really a lot

lot of stuff going on up there and so it helped me calm down a lot when I got out because I’m sitting here like okay, there’s not too much I need to overthink about. I just went through something that helped me be patient with and within myself and learn to love myself more. I was able to talk to somebody that understood where I was coming from. I could take a deep breath and be like okay, I’m good. I’m so low. You know what I mean? Like I was able to really look back at myself and be like it’s really not that serious. Chill out. You know?

Pat D’Amico (18:13.134)

Chaylee Baumgardner (18:17.6)
That type of thing.

Pat D’Amico (18:20.014)
Have you learned to like, do you have relationships now with, do you have like a boy relationship or a girl relationship? Do you have a significant other?

Chaylee Baumgardner (18:32.936)
Yes, I do. I have one going on two years now in December.

Pat D’Amico (18:39.119)
What you learn there, and I’m not trying to pry, but what you learn there is it helped you to kind of like set rules for you and respect yourself and not let someone, you know, not let someone, you know, like you said, you know, you were hanging out with people and boys who were like, here, snort this, but did you learn to like have more respect for you?

Chaylee Baumgardner (19:04.06)
Yeah, after I got out, after I got out, I met him around.

Pat D’Amico (19:04.638)
and you’ll apply that today.

Chaylee Baumgardner (19:11.34)
two, three, two, three months after I got out. I was still kind of around the same crowd, but it wasn’t the crowd that was doing the bad things. It was more of the crowd that I kind of like pushed myself away from, because I didn’t want it to escalate. But that crowd got kind of crappy. And then he was the only person that stuck out to me. And he was the one that always stuck up for me. He was the one that was there and kind of like told them to go off because.

They were disrespecting me behind my back and he knew it so he left them and we’ve been together ever since. And I have, Mirrorwoods did help with that in a way because I still have an attitude on me, which I’m still getting a hold of but in most aspects it has. I’m able to set boundaries with myself. I’m able to think. Sometimes before I speak I’m able to let them know, hey these are my triggers. I’m going to get pissed off right now. Please.

exclude yourself from this room. Like I need to, I need my time. So I’m able to do that type of thing. That is, that has helped a lot.

Pat D’Amico (20:17.494)
All right, so we’re gonna finish up. I wanna get into some of the fun stuff a little bit. You’re an I hear, I’m told you’re an artist. And in fact, I learned about you. Someone sent a painting that you sent to, did you send a painting to me, Lord? So, oh, so tell me about your art and do you have anything we can see?

Chaylee Baumgardner (20:22.249)

Chaylee Baumgardner (20:34.856)
Yeah, I took it there when I went to speak. I painted one.

Chaylee Baumgardner (20:44.216)
Um, so I do, I have a few actually sold out most of my originals, but here’s some. I, uh, did start my business in last year, last year, 2022 and around July. It was under kind of under me, my dad’s name, cause I was a minor still. So this year I just recently got approved for an LLC and business license under my name as we speak. So I am a legal business, which is cool. Um, I’ve been selling it a lot.

Pat D’Amico (21:09.738)
That’s great.

Chaylee Baumgardner (21:13.16)
Yes I do. I do have a website.

Pat D’Amico (21:15.382)
Let’s plug it here.

Chaylee Baumgardner (21:17.021)
I can’t, I can do that.

Pat D’Amico (21:19.126)
Yes, of course you may.

Chaylee Baumgardner (21:20.864)
Wow. It’s just… Oh, I was gonna say I’d like you to type it. I was like, what? No, it’s www.shayscreations with two S at the end dot com. And it is powered by Shopify, but the domain, the domain has changed everything. But I’m, it’s, it’s still like trying to be perfected the way I want it to. I still want it to put my own oomph in it, but I could show you what I do have. There’s only three, bear with me.

Pat D’Amico (21:23.102)
Oh no, I mean you could tell your URL is.

Chaylee Baumgardner (21:49.972)
This is older. This is older. It’s kind of like kind of shiny. It’s old though, but you know, I do more abstracty kind of stuff now. Um, this is a one, I’m going to make it into a functioning clock. Like the clock face is going to be right here. So it’s wood. Thank you. In the back. And then this last one, sorry.

Pat D’Amico (21:50.722)
Yeah, let’s see.

Pat D’Amico (22:09.658)
Awesome. Uh-huh. You’re gonna put a clock.

Pat D’Amico (22:16.534)
You’re gonna put a clock in the middle of it.

Chaylee Baumgardner (22:18.088)
Yes. I’m gonna try to make it a function and clock the best I could. This one’s gonna be sold, but this is one of my favorite ones.

Pat D’Amico (22:25.462)
Beautiful. It’s awesome.

Chaylee Baumgardner (22:27.86)
Thank you and a sparkly so.

Pat D’Amico (22:30.178)
You paint mostly on wood?

Chaylee Baumgardner (22:32.925)
No, this is all canvas that just the this one was wood

Pat D’Amico (22:36.618)
Okay, great. So what do you want to do? I mean, so is that what you want to pursue? Is that what you want to do?

Chaylee Baumgardner (22:43.22)
Yes, I do want to pursue my art. As of right now, I do feel like that is what I want to continue with the rest of my life, but I do want to try and get into graphic design. I do want to get into different areas. I was thinking about interior designing one time. I’m still kind of figuring out my path, but I know I want it to have something to do with my art and my style and things like that. I just recently started a mural on Monday. I’m sorry.

Pat D’Amico (23:05.843)
is college.

Pat D’Amico (23:09.386)
I’m sorry, say that again.

Chaylee Baumgardner (23:11.024)
Oh no, I started a mural on Monday in a restaurant, so that’s cool too.

Pat D’Amico (23:16.17)
Oh, that’s great. So you have a commission.

Chaylee Baumgardner (23:18.472)
Yes, I get quite a few of those. I mean, mostly on canvas, but I want to start reaching out and getting bigger spaces and bigger corporations that I can put my pieces into.

Pat D’Amico (23:30.174)
Is art school in your future? College and art school?

Chaylee Baumgardner (23:33.532)
I was actually thinking about it in San Francisco, they have an art school and university. And I was thinking about it because I feel like it would be really good for expanding my techniques and expanding my knowledge of what I do and the history behind it, more history and just different areas of art that I would love to put into my main style and my main medium, which is acrylic. And

Pat D’Amico (23:54.382)

Chaylee Baumgardner (24:00.832)
There would just be a lot of different things. I just don’t know if I’m gonna have the time. Plus, tuition’s quite a big thing, and I’m not doing student debt. I’m not doing student loans because I cannot take that risk. So I would rather pay it off, but that’s hopefully a thing in my future, yes.

Pat D’Amico (24:18.51)
So, what advice would you give to a mom or a dad who’s watching this vlog right now and thinking about sending their child away to treatment? Not necessarily, but they’re, you know, wondering should we do this or not? What would you tell them?

Chaylee Baumgardner (24:40.864)
So I can’t speak for all children, but I can definitely speak for most. Oh, for the parents, listen, always have, if you’re thinking, okay, if you’re thinking about sending your kids to treatment, right, bring it up to them first, and if they seem hesitant on it, it could either be a, you could either take it as a sign or you can considerate their feelings. I was always told to be considerate with,

feelings when it came to that type of things because you don’t want to put them there against their will. You don’t want to have them to hate you because you did something that did they absolutely did not want to do. You can, if they’re up to it, if they want treatment and you’re also able to have that outlet to have them look for a specific place that would help fit them and fit you for the most they can compromise. I personally don’t, I personally don’t think that throwing them in a place that you think will help that they don’t even really know about is the best idea. Only because

One, that’s traumatizing and two, they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into and they don’t know why you did it because there’s no explanation. But always listen to the feelings. The feelings behind everything is going to be a big thing. Yes.

Pat D’Amico (25:47.182)


That’s good advice. So, here’s my last question. Do you have a superpower?

Chaylee Baumgardner (25:58.944)
I don’t know. Probably.

Pat D’Amico (26:03.135)
What do you think of my feet?

Chaylee Baumgardner (26:05.868)
shoot… I hope my creative mind…

Pat D’Amico (26:11.559)
Yeah, there you go.

Chaylee Baumgardner (26:11.56)
I think, I think maybe not on canvas, but like in my own mind, I feel like that could be a really big thing when it comes to not even just art as it is, just like scenarios and things like that, figuring things out within life. I feel like having a creative mind is really important because you can kind of, kind of like not common sense it because artists are crazy, but like you can kind of like manipulate it to be like, okay, I know how to find a way around this. I know this is gonna work out for me in another way I wanna do it.

type of kind of thing. So.

Pat D’Amico (26:45.794)
Well, Chaley, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Loved meeting you and very excited about you and your future and in your art. I’m an artist too, I’ll send you some pictures. And I hope I’ll run into you when I’m on campus one day when you’re.

Chaylee Baumgardner (26:56.704)
Thank you. Yes.

Chaylee Baumgardner (27:07.132)
Yes, I should be going out to speak another time or so. Yeah. All right. Thank you so much. Of course. Thank you so much for having me.

Pat D’Amico (27:12.679)
Okay. Well, take care. Thanks for doing this. Bye bye.

Episode 4: August 20, 2023: Jason Garriott of Music Neighbors talks about his dad’s suicide and the resulting trauma that affected his teenage years. He also discusses Music Neighbors, a platform he developed to support the mental health needs for Nashville’s music community, and using music in his healing journey.

Read the transcript of this videocast…

Pat D’Amico (00:01.323)
Hello and welcome to another episode of Talking Teen Treatment. Talking Teen Treatment is a production of Muirwood Adolescent and Family Services. Muirwood is a residential teen mental health and substance use treatment program with locations in Northern, Central, and very soon in Southern California. I’m Pat Tomiko, the CMO at Muirwood, and I’m really excited to have as my guest today Jason Garriott of Music Neighbors. Jason.

developed a platform for Nashville-based music artists to discuss how they utilize music to self-heal. And it sounded intriguing enough to me that I decided to invite Jason on today to talk about what they’re doing. And hello, Jason, welcome.

Jason (00:47.714)
Hey, Pat, nice to meet you. Thanks for having me on today.

Pat D’Amico (00:50.411)
Oh, my pleasure entirely. This should be interesting. As a sometimes musician, I, you know, I find it, I always find that sort of thing interesting. So, you know, let’s start here. I know you have a story, but I just wanted to start by giving the folks who watch this a good understanding of what Music Neighbors is.

Jason (01:18.762)
Yeah, so Music Neighbors, we help support the local music communities of Nashville. Even though we’re known as Music City, independent artists really don’t get a lot of support. And we want to make sure that the artists feel valued, appreciated and seen. And we actually provide a lot of support and valuable resources for them through our core programming. Our main programs are Play it Forward sessions, which we provide free recording studio time for artists. So we actually pay

for this full day of recording, and we go in with our video crew, and we film the live sessions. So that way they have the content to help connect their music to more people. And there’s so many financial barriers that go involved into making a record because the cost of living in Nashville is increasing. And when you’re doing everything yourself financially, and you’re running a business, because essentially when you’re an artist, you’re running your own business, you just don’t get a lot of financial support. So we wanted to make sure that

we provide this program in order to give artists an opportunity to get into nicer studios so that way their quality of art can be adequately represented. And then we have another program called Songcraft Sessions where artists talk about the artistry behind the music. So what influences them as a songwriter, how they go about their music compositions, and just kind of like a behind the scenes story about them as an artist. But our third program is called Good Neighbors Listen.

And this is a platform that we provide artists where they talk about how they use music therapeutically to help themselves, heal themselves as individuals, as well as how they’re helping to better the community through their music.

Pat D’Amico (02:59.435)
So that part of the program is really what caught my attention. So when we spoke earlier in the week, you were telling me about your own mental health struggles and the trauma that you experienced as a kid.

which I think is, you know, would be relevant and interesting to the people that we serve. So just, you know, talk a little bit about that.

Jason (03:37.098)
Yeah, so I, you know, growing up in general can be really difficult for different people. And it’s especially true when you grew up in an abusive household. I lived with my father who is undiagnosed bipolar. He had major depression issues and anger issues. And, you know, he kind of took them out on us as the family. You know, mental abuse was probably one of the more prominent things, but he could be physically abusive sometimes as well.

Um, so, you know, it wasn’t always like a very happy environment growing up. Um, you know, I felt really isolated and alone growing up. And then when I was 12 years old, that’s when I got a phone call. It changed my life. And that’s when we found out that my father had passed away either from an accidental overdose or death by suicide. And at the time, uh, cause there wasn’t a note that was left or anything. So we didn’t have a way to like confirm it. That made it harder for me to process it because I wasn’t sure.

if it was an accident or if it was intentional, and not knowing for me made it worse. The last time that I saw my father alive too, I got into a yelling match with him because being 12, I was more aware of what was going on in the house, how he was talking down to my mother regularly, how he was getting into it with my brother regularly. And I just got to the point where I stopped, like I just wasn’t okay with the abuse I was witnessing.

you know, going over to my friend’s houses, their parents didn’t talk like that to each other. They didn’t talk to their kids like that. And growing up, I thought that was normal. And then I started to realize this was not normal. And I just got to the point where I decided to stand up for my mother. And I yelled at him for several minutes. And to my surprise, he didn’t yell back at me. He didn’t hit me or do anything like that. He just sat there and listened. And before he left that day,

He said that, like he was hysterically upset. He apologized and he got down on his knees and hugged me and he said, I am so sorry for being a terrible father. And even as a 12 year old, I could sense the desperation in his demeanor, the way he talked. And after I got the news a week later that he was dead, I instantly blamed myself. I just said, hey, I pushed him over the edge.

Jason (06:05.15)
of him getting to the point where he would put himself in a situation where it would be accidental overdose or death by suicide. I thought that I cut him too deep that day. So as a 12 year old, like, it’s hard enough to be a teenager. You have so many changes going on in your lives. And I know that’s even more true today, you know, but I didn’t know how to talk about it. I didn’t know how

Jason (06:34.626)
uh, mental health was very stigmatized. People didn’t seek help as often. They weren’t encouraged to seek help because this happened back in the early 2000s. And, um, I, we didn’t go see a therapist afterwards. And even if it be like for me, like, I didn’t know how to talk about it anyway. So I, you know, I wish I would have like, if things would have changed, going to get talk therapy sooner from a professional, I think really would have helped me to be honest. But since I didn’t have anything at the time, I found music. Um,

My mom, like I started to like see like guitars, like I’m really interested in this, this is really cool. Like maybe this is a way for me to meet people or just do something cool, you know? Cause I’ve always been kind of a, like a guy that believes in Bigfoot and aliens, you know? So it’s like, you know, that’s me. So like, I thought this could be a cool way to meet people. But my mom for Christmas that year, she was really adamant about.

trying to make it as good of a memory as possible. And I was treading Christmas because I knew that it was gonna be very awkward and sad that my father wasn’t there. You know, like we didn’t always have the best relationship. Like I still missed him, you know? And that Christmas, my mom, she got a guitar for me. She got me my first guitar. And when she was walking down the hall, like, it’s hard to explain, but like later in life, you kind of catch yourself like.

experiencing that present moment, you’re like, I’m going to remember this forever. And that was definitely one of those moments. And as soon as like I had the guitar in my hands, I felt like I had a life preserver. I had a way to get through this. I had something to hold on to. Because for me, like not being able to talk about it, like especially since I blame myself for my father’s passing, it became a form of talk therapy.

I was able to get out all of these negative emotions I have of abandonment, anger, frustration, sadness, feeling guilty that I was the cause of his death and not feeling like I didn’t have a lot of value for myself either because if I was that good of a person, why wouldn’t my dad leave the way he did? I didn’t know at the time how to express all those things. Even saying them now, the words don’t capture the emotion.

Jason (08:59.038)
For me, at least, it doesn’t. And so being able to play guitar and channel all this negative energy, putting it into something constructive and positive was so absolutely therapeutic for me. I was able to work out my problems. I could go into a meditative state essentially and just have a stream of consciousness from just whatever I was feeling and it would just channel through my guitar. So if I was angry, my guitar would be more intense. If I was sad, my guitar would be more bluesy.

if I was in a better mood, it’d be more fun. And one thing that really helped me too, beyond having a way to channel all of these negative emotions, the therapeutic powers of music, it gave me goals. The first time I heard Voodoo Child from Jimi Hendrix, the guitar was so chaotic, wild and intense and so intriguing, which is how I felt. I felt messy on the inside.

But somehow I still felt optimistic, like my life would be better, but I didn’t know how. And when I heard that song, I was like, that’s my ticket. This person has clearly been through a lot in life and they have mastered this guitar. And like, you know, there’s this outlet for me. And when I heard that song, I’m like, I’m gonna learn how to play that riff at some point in my life. Like even if it takes 10 years, which, you know, it took several years. But having…

the goals, something positive to look forward to, something to build, something to give my life purpose. That was something that was very profound for me. Because at the time I didn’t have anything to look forward to. So like when I finally got that, that was great. And then eventually as I was playing guitar, I started to like my senior high school, I started to finally feel.

confident enough to play around other people. Because since it was so private for me, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing it with other people because that can be kind of scary. Like when you first start to play music with people, not everyone has that, but I’m kind of a reserved person that I would retreat in my shell. So I didn’t want to share that until I got confident in my guitar playing like, okay, I think I can jam with people. And when I started to do that though, I regretted not doing it sooner because everyone’s kind of on the same page.

Jason (11:20.658)
you know, as you’re a teenager, you’re all kind of picking up different stuff. So some advice I would say is don’t hold yourself back. Like try to connect with people as soon as you can. Because as soon as I started to do that, I finally got to a place where I felt comfortable telling people about what I went through and getting their perspectives. Because up until that point, I felt so alone. Like…

I know you can’t see it right now, but I’m a six foot five, 230 pound person. I am very hard to miss in the hallways at school, but I felt very much not seen. And as ridiculous as it sounds, my spirit animal is big foot for that reason, because a nine foot creature can hide right in front of you in the woods and you would never see it. So I’d rather you believe it’s a real creature or mythological. For me, that’s my spirit animal because I would be walking down the hallways at school and I had to walk out of.

away of people because they just didn’t see me. You know, I just… Yeah, or so I thought, you know. And but when I found my community, it allowed me to like instantly have this connection with people. That’s one thing about music. Like if you’re at a show and you’re going to see a band, everyone that’s there likes that music. Like you instantly have something in common with somebody. And that was really powerful for me too, is finding a community.

Pat D’Amico (12:21.107)
Or so you thought.

Pat D’Amico (12:43.938)
How did your brother fare? Is he your only sibling? How did his experience after your dad’s passing, what was his experience like? Or was it like yours or did he react in a very different way?

Jason (12:48.182)
Yeah, he’s my only superman.

Jason (13:02.918)
So that was something else too, like back then, like because mental health was stigmatized, as a family we didn’t talk about it. And honestly, we didn’t really start talking about it until 2020 when everybody started to kind of really come full circle. Like, I mean, we talked about it like a little bit, but not in depth, like how our experiences were. For him, he didn’t really have the creative outlet that I did with music.

So he would hang out with friends and he’d party harder than I did. Like when he was like in his early twenties and stuff. And yeah, he never really had like substance abuse issues or anything, but he had a lot of anger. He had a lot of repressed anger because my dad’s relationship with him was a lot worse than mine. Like I did have some good memories with my father, which like later on in life, like I

came to realize that my dad was more than his mental health issues, which was a huge breakthrough for me. Because I was able to forgive him for how he left. I wanted to forgive myself that it wasn’t my fault. But coming full circle with he was more than his mental health issues was huge. And my brother finally got to that place too. But he didn’t have good memories with my father like I did. Not nearly as many anyway. So he…

kept it all bottled up inside for a while. And he was a really angry person for a long time, up until the last three years or so, when we’ve all kind of finally processed it fully. So I wish we would have all have gotten to talk therapy sooner. I think it would have been really helpful for my brother and myself and my mother too, to just all sit down in a room and seek help because there’s…

have the right therapist that can really help rationalize your feelings in a way that makes you feel that you’re human. Like it’s okay to have those feelings and like, you know, here’s a way, here’s some tools to help you manage those feelings, you know, whether that’s medicine or whether it’s talking about it or whether that’s, um, whatever issues you’re going for. Um, but some sense of these issues, luckily that was something that our family didn’t really weigh too heavily on.

Jason (15:20.878)
But for me, I think honestly that playing music kept me from seeking that escape. Because I was able to escape healthily through playing music. I didn’t need to use substances to do that. And I have a lot of musician friends who used to have substance abuse issues who have come clean, you know, and they’ve got themselves straight and music’s a huge, huge part of their getting over their addiction issues.

Pat D’Amico (15:47.315)
You mentioned community, having a community. So what ended up being your community and how did you come to find it, find your place in it?

Jason (16:01.598)
Yeah, so when I started playing guitar with my friends in senior high school, when I started going to concerts, it’s realized when there’s this whole community out here of people for me to meet. So for me, my community are people that really love and appreciate music. Like go to shows, they don’t play any music. And to me, that’s also magical too, because for them, you know, they’re not thinking about, oh, they’re playing in this scale or this format, you know, it’s just, they’re able to absorb it. But when you take the next step of playing music.

that connection that you have with people super strong. Like when you sit down with people, you’re opening yourself up emotionally so much with that person that’s sitting across from you. And for me, that’s kind of my community are musicians because we’re able to connect like through the art form and appreciation of the music and they’re like-minded people, you know, that they’re, I think the thing that I like about the music community most is they’re so open to everything. You know, they’re

champions for talking about mental health issues. I mean, how many heartbreak songs have we heard or how many love songs have we heard? You know, they’re not afraid to share the privacy of their life through their music and that makes us feel not alone. And that is something that I respect so deeply with musicians that get on stage and talk about how they use music therapeutically. Our one of the artists we work with, she was a sexual abuse survivor and she actually

advocates for that on stage. She tells people what her songs are about and she’s had so many people come up to her who have never told anybody that they had those experiences because they, I’m not alone. Like I, I can’t, like I don’t know who that song is about. That song is me, you know. So that’s one thing I like about musicians is they really put themselves out there and they are who they are and there’s no judgment for that either.

And I like that kind of acceptiveness in a community that you can be yourself and not be judged for it. You’re actually embraced to be your unique self.

Pat D’Amico (18:01.304)
So, so many of the kids, teenagers who come through Muirwood, you know, are.

Pat D’Amico (18:13.127)
have experienced trauma of some sort, whether it be physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, grief and loss, whether it be a parent or a friend. And a lot of these kids were running circles where they’re losing friends to fentanyl therapists that.

I just recently spoke with on the podcast was telling me, you know, that a lot of the kids are, you know, losing friends to Fentanyl at an alarming rate. But there is, you know, there’s so much trauma that they bring to the table and our clinicians view them and…

focus their treatment or see their treatment through, you know, a trauma, they call it trauma informed, a trauma informed kind of lens. So and we do have a music therapy, a music component to what we do. But you know, but for the kids who

will leave treatment, maybe watching, or mom may be watching, when kids do leave our umbrella and go back to their lives, what advice, what can they do to use me, even if they’re not an accomplished musician, or if they’re just budding or curious about it, what can they do to…

you know, use music to kind of help heal themselves. What advice would you give?

Jason (20:04.47)
Um, you know, if, if they have, uh, if you have an inclination to, like, if there’s an instrument that really intrigues you, try it out, go to a music store, see how you feel about it, you know, or if you don’t want to pick up like a guitar and learn how to play it, you know, you can do songwriting. Yeah. Um, Bethany who, who’s the sexual abuse survivor that I was talking about. Um, she.

used songwriting as her first form of therapy. That was the first time that she talked about those issues because unfortunately it was from a family member and that made it more complicated and especially with how her parents were intertwined in the community through their church too. So it was something that was very much not talked about in the family. So you could use writing like songwriting as a form of therapy.

if you’re intrigued to play music, I will say this, I have very large hands. I had to pull my fingers apart to make a G chord. But when you have the trauma and this negative energy, negative energy is very powerful. It can consume your life. And, you know, it consumed my father’s life and he made a huge mistake that he couldn’t take back. That if you can turn that

into something useful, whether it is through music therapy or visual art, find a creative outlet to channel that negative energy through and you will feel a lot better. And also be patient with yourself. When you see guitar players, you think like Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page or whoever your favorite musician is, they took years to get there.

Yeah, it took a lot of dedication and practice to get there. And to me, that was the fun part of the journey was like, even though I had to pull my fingers apart to make a G chord or a C chord, it gave me something to do to take my mind off the trauma. Um, I needed to give my brain a break from going in circles with the issues that were going through my head. Um, the spiraling that can go, it’s obvious for me, the spiraling that was going inside my head was just.

Jason (22:24.23)
so chaotic, but just consumed me all day long. So to be able to turn that off through music was so fundamental for me. Yeah, I would say just do it, try it, try to.

Pat D’Amico (22:36.447)
Yeah, and the music is, you know, sitting, you know, as someone who plays as well, um, you know, sitting with a guitar. And by the way, you don’t have to play, you don’t have to play well. You know, you can make three, you know, three chords and a, what do they say? Three chords and a, um, it’s lost on me now, but, um, but you know, if you can make two or three chords, very, very simple, two, three finger chords, you can sit and you can play and

it’s very meditative in that it fills your head. You can’t really have, you know, you can’t really have two things at once. It really, you know, lets you focus on what you’re doing in the moment and then kind of handle that to try to, you know, get some of that out or just, you know, just listen to yourself play. And you kids might be watching.

You can buy a guitar for 25, 30, $40 on Facebook Marketplace, like all day long. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. And even a ukulele, it’s just so, so easy to learn to play and you can become actually, it’s like the pickleball is to tennis, ukulele is to guitar. It’s like really, really simple. And you can, you know, and it provides that, you know, that.

channel to get some of those feelings, you know, out rather than keeping

Jason (24:08.054)
Yeah. And if you’re a really private person, a good place to start could be a keyboard because you can plug in headphones and the only person that’s going to hear it is yourself. So, you know, it kind of depends on how you are too. Like, luckily, my mom was like, totally fine with me blaring my electric guitar as I was learning. She’s, she’s an angel. But, you know, I just find something that feels right to you.

and be patient with it and look forward to learning that song that you really want to learn. Like, and it’s okay if it takes months or a year or two years or three years. Like for me, if you’re a child was several years to be able to get to that point. I mean, that it’s a complicated song, but start with something simple that you really enjoy and learn how to play that. And, um, yeah, there’s plenty of guitar lessons that you can take online for free too, like through YouTube. So like.

to your iPad, you don’t have to have a lot of money to learn how to play the instrument anymore.

Pat D’Amico (25:09.579)
No, no, you there’s nothing that you can’t learn that When it comes to YouTube it’s just it’s right there So well, this is well, you know first and foremost, you know, I’m terribly sorry for you know what you went through but I’m also You know, it’s a nice feeling to see you have come out on the other side of it now you’re helping other people

Jason (25:18.007)

Pat D’Amico (25:36.007)
And do you cross paths with kids who’ve been through a lot? Or is your community mostly adults?

Jason (25:46.934)
Our community is mostly adults, just because people that are really trying to start their music careers, they need a lot of help. Those are the people that are 18 years old or in their early 20s or they might have been doing it for years and they’re in their 30s or 40s. We typically don’t, but whenever I get a chance to obviously, her niece, she’s six, and I had my first jam with her when she was maybe a year old.

And Rakesh, his presentation at psych congress was really eye-opening because he was like, our first language really is music. That’s the first thing that we really learn language-wise, is music. And it’s something that is, yeah, and it’s so universal. Even if you don’t speak the same language as someone, you can like the same song. It’s a powerful thing. But yeah, just be patient. And if you really want to learn, I highly encourage that.

Pat D’Amico (26:30.867)
So, do you want to know the truth?

Pat D’Amico (26:40.444)

Jason (26:46.51)
It’s so fundamentally beneficial to, I think, everybody that you could have a form to get those negative thoughts out, that you have a way of talk therapy with yourself if you don’t know how to put it in the words and to give yourself goals, something to look forward to. Because I can tell you that, you know, as no matter what you’re going through, it’s worth pushing forward. It’s worth…

trying to find a silver lining in whatever experience or hardship you’re going through, because there’s always something you can take away from it positively. And if, and once you’re able to get out on the other side, one thing I learned recently, people that have come out the other side and they’ve come full circle in their healing journeys, they become wounded healers. And at least for me, that’s something that I’m very grateful that we have a nonprofit and a platform that we can use.

for music therapy, because obviously it’s helped me out a lot. And I hope that it helps you out a lot too. It gives you purpose and connection to yourself, but also to others, because we all can use some help, right? I lost a father figure a couple years ago. He was really important to me. And the song, Lean on Me, by Bill Weathers. That’s, if you don’t know that song, like, look it up.

I, it’s a song that I’ve heard for years. And when I lost my uncle and I heard a, an artist that we actually helped, um, through a studio session, her name’s B. Taylor and she played it with her band. And it just hit me. I’m like, I get what this song means now. Like, cause I usually try to be the one that’s strong for people. When I lost my uncle, uh, his name’s Uncle Bruce, when I lost him, I told my brother, he’s like,

I can’t be strong this time. Like, I just can’t. And that song for me, like, everyone needs someone to lean on every once in a while. And when you’re able to return the favor, it feels just as good, you know, like to be embraced or to embrace somebody. So whatever you’re going through, I can tell you that I never, like, if I was myself as a 12-year-old, if you told me I’d be running a nonprofit, living in Nashville, married to my best friend.

Jason (29:09.514)
I would have told you who you’re even looking at. You know, your life will bring you some really good experiences. So just try to really find the lessons in your hardships because when the good times come, those hardships and experiences you have will really make you appreciate the good things that happen in your life. And I’m so glad that I didn’t give up because, you know, I went through suicide.

myself with my father, I still had suicidal thoughts when I got into college. And I knew that it was wrong. Like, I shouldn’t be thinking that way. And I went and got help through a counselor in college. And that really helped me. So you know, don’t be so hard on yourself. I know that it’s easy to do that to yourself. It’s cliche as it sounds. We can be our own worst enemies. And just know that you’re not alone. That there’s a lot of people that are.

No one knows exactly how an individual person is feeling because that is their own world, but we can relate to other people. And I just want you to know that you will come out of it, you know, as long as you really keep looking for it and try to find lessons in those hardships and talk with people and seek help when you need it, because that’s something that could really truly benefit you. And I just know that you will have good things that happen in your life, so.

It can be hard to see that when you’re in the moment, but yeah.

Pat D’Amico (30:39.196)

Jasopn Garriott of Music Neighbors, musicneighbors.com. Go check out the platform that Jason and his wife have created, it’s very interesting, it could be very, very helpful. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us, especially on music and music therapy, and maybe bump into you at the Bluebird next time we’re in Nashville.

Jason (31:08.138)
Yeah, that would be awesome to meet up with you next time you’re in Nashville.

Pat D’Amico (31:11.763)
Well, good to see you and hope to talk to you soon.

Jason (31:15.434)
Yeah, thanks again, Jason. I appreciate the opportunity.

Episode 3: July 22, 2023: Erica Komisar, LCSW, psychoanalyst and author of the book “Chicken Little, The Sky Isn’t Falling: Raising Resilient Adolescents in the New Age of Anxiety” discusses adolescent anxiety and how parents can prevent, identify, and act on mental health issues in their teens.

Read the transcript of this videocast…

Pat D’Amico:
Welcome to Talking Teen Treatment. Talking Teen Treatment is presented by Muirwood Adolescent and Family Services. Muirwood is a residential treatment program for teens 12 through 17 who are struggling with mental health issues and substance use disorders. We’re located throughout California.

Today, our guest is Erica Komisar. Erica is a licensed clinical social worker, a coach, a psychoanalyst, and the author of the book, “Chicken Little the Sky isn’t falling, raising resilient adolescents in the new age of anxiety”, which obviously begs the question, what is this new age of anxiety? And if you would talk about that a bit and tell us why you wrote the book.

Erica Komisar, LCSW:
Well, I mean, one in five children will not exit childhood and adolescence without some severe mental health issue. And so by labeling it the new age of anxiety, it is basically identifying that we have an epidemic of anxiety, depression, attentional issues, behavioral issues that is on a scale that we’ve never seen before in history. Although some people might come back and say, isn’t it just that we can identify it more? And the answer is, of course it’s that we identify it more, but it’s also that there’s more of it to identify

Pat D’Amico:
Great. So tell us a bit about the book and what inspired you to write it.

Erica Komisar, LCSW:
So, I mean, basically I’ve written two books as of now, and they’re both about the two critical periods of brain development, zero to three. And the second book, Chicken Little, is really about adolescence, which is nine to 25. And we call these two periods, these two periods, critical periods of brain development, because the right brain, or the social-emotional part of the brain. is developing in these two periods. In the first period of zero to three, there’s a lot of what we call neurogenesis, a lot of cell growth. And you could say by 85% of the right brain is developed by the end of the third year of life. And you basically have an excess of cells. And so then adolescence is a pruning and reorganizing period of development. And interestingly, a lot of the same things are happening in these two periods. Most importantly, these two periods are very sensitive to the environment, meaning the environment has a great deal to do with whether your child develops in a healthy manner and whether their right brain develops in a healthy manner. And so, yeah, so these two periods of zero to three and nine to 25 have a great deal in common. But that’s why I wrote the second book to help parents understand that they are their children’s, a good part of their children’s environment. And they matter greatly in terms of whether their children exit adolescents in a resilient and mentally healthy state.

Pat D’Amico:
Um, according to, you know, most of the reliable statistics that are out there, there’s a 31% prevalence of anxiety among, you know, the adolescent population, but only 18% are receiving some sort of treatment. What do you think is, um, what do you think’s driving that 13% gap?

Erica Komisar, LCSW:
Well, I mean, and also, you’re saying 30% or 39%. Those are the ones that are recorded. So we’re really only recording what is more obvious to us. We’re not seeing all the kids who are suffering who we haven’t recorded. So I would say it’s probably higher. The number that are treated is not higher, but the number that are suffering is higher. So just to say that. I think that there’s just not enough clinicians and there’s not enough resources to really meet all the needs of the kids who are suffering right now. And I think it’s really hard. It’s painful for me as a therapist who refers to other therapists, who refers families every day. It’s painful for me to see this discrepancy between the number of kids and adolescents who are suffering and parents who are suffering because they say, you know, a parent is only as happy as their least happy child. Parents are also suffering because they see their children suffering and oftentimes there’s three month wait lists for services for children and a lot of those services are not even the correct services. It’s sort of like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing if it sticks. And so, you know, to say that I’m critical of the way our system works is an understatement.

Pat D’Amico:
There’s also a gap between girls and boys. So girls, more anxiety and depression and everything

Erica Komisar,LCSW:

Pat D’Amico:
else, girls versus boys. So we see that gap, but how does it present differently in adolescent girls versus boys, anxiety?

Erica Komisar, LCSW:
Well, so boys and girls have different issues, just to say. Boys suffer from more attentional issues. And that has, you know, that has a lot to do with the way that we are raising boys. I would say that we have unrealistic expectations of boys. Boys brains are much more sensitive, according to research, than girls to stress. They’re much more sensitive to cortisol. And it’s why more boys are born in the world, but more girls survive. Boys are actually more sensitive to stress than girls. Having said that, so boys do suffer from more impulse disorders and a distractibility. Notice I don’t call it ADHD. Notice I call it distractibility, because again, ADHD is labeling a symptom as a disorder. A symptom is not a disorder, a symptom is a symptom. But, and girls suffer more from anxiety because there is a great deal of amygdala activity, which is the stress regulating part of the brain in adolescence, and it’s very hot in girls. And it causes them to be incredibly vigilant to criticism, very susceptible to an environment where things like social media and technological. bullying and you know, girls were already very self-conscious and susceptible to criticism, but it sort of amplified what was already happening. So girls are very sensitive to any kind of, you know, hurts or rejections or criticism. So again, social media and technology has amped that up. But boys and girls do suffer. They just suffer from different. kinds of disorders at greater rates.

Pat D’Amico:
So going back to your book, your book offers practical tools for parents to prevent, identify and address anxiety, depression, substance use disorder and the like. So talk a bit about those tools and what can parents do to alleviate some of these conditions.

Erica Komisar, LCSW:
Be as present as possible. People misunderstand adolescence to mean that they are less needed, and they’re just as needed as when your child was small, but in a different way. In the book, I write, when the door opens and you’re there, and I mean literally when their door opens, but also when their emotions allow you in, when their defenses are down. If you happen to be there, they’ll process their day with you, which they still tremendously need from you. They need you to help them to regulate their emotions and make sense of their experiences and put things in order in their minds. And so if you’re there when the door opens, then they process things with you. If you’re not there, they go back inside and shut the door. And just because you come home at 7 or 8 o’clock at night from work and you knock on their door, that doesn’t mean that they’ll talk to you. And so what I say to parents is if you really want to have an influence on your child, and no one can be there all the time, and that’s not the point, but be there as much as possible physically as well as emotionally, just as you were when they were little.

Pat D’Amico:
Studies also show that anxiety in children and adolescents is a fairly good predictor of anxiety and other mental health issues on into young adulthood and into adulthood. So in my mind, that would indicate that we need longer term approaches to identifying treating these disorders. What might… long-term approaches look like?

Erica Komisar, LCSW:
Well, long-term approaches would be educators, because usually the people on the first line of defense are teachers, preschool teachers, dare I say daycare workers, I’m not a fan of daycare. If you’ve read my books, you know that I’m really not a fan of daycare, but, and pediatricians, you know. There are people that are sort of on the first line of defense who can help to identify that there are issues. without overly diagnosing children, but by just identifying signs. As a therapist, we always say, what are the signs and symptoms? We don’t label that as disorders. And I think there’s a quickness to jump to, particularly in preschools, oh, your little boy is distractible, they have ADHD. And I’m like, no, don’t do that. Your child is struggling with some distractibility. It actually may be normal because little boys are distractible and need a lot of physical release. But it also could be that there’s stress at home, and you need to look at that. Really educating the first line of defense workers and also educating parents. Parents really need to go into parenting, very well-versed and educated. They have to be consumers. rather than just listening to the professionals around them. Because I think it can be very confusing when a pediatrician who doesn’t have a very deep knowledge of development, but is very behavioral, says to you, yes, of course your child has ADHD. We’ll just medicate them and it’ll be fine. As opposed to saying, you know what? Your child is showing some signs that they’re under stress. Why don’t you go talk to this child therapist or adolescent therapist and they can help sort it out and see if there’s some underlying causes are really causing some of these symptoms to occur. So I think really, you know, being a consumer, I think is really important that you, that you as a parent have a deep understanding that children’s behavior, children’s symptoms and signs express stress. And then you have to, like a good sleuth or epidemiologist, have to try to understand deeply what may be causing that stress.

Pat D’Amico:
What sort of assessment tools are available to parents that will give kind of self-reporting sort of thing for kids? Are there tools that are available to parents? We know that the mask and the revised mask, those are available to primary care people, but what’s available to a parent?

Erica Komisar, LCSW:
Well, I mean, I hope my books help with that because each of the books has a diagnostic chapter in it and it’s not diagnosing them in terms of saying, you have ADHD, you have depression, but helping parents to at least understand what those terms mean so they can make sense of them, but also offer alternative treatment options. Meaning, if you go to most, as I said, pediatricians and educators, they want the quickest way. to relieve symptoms because they think that’s what parents want. Parents come and they say, fix my child. And they say, right, we’ll fix your child. Let’s put them on some meds and we’ll fix the symptoms. So I think one thing that’s really important is that we get away from that mindset. And one resource that we don’t often, before they get to you, Pat, one resource that parents don’t know about is that every psychoanalytic institute in America, and there are many, many. So psychoanalysis is the terminal degree in our clinical field. It’s the deepest understanding of human behavior and the human psyche, and the deepest training you can have, right? That doesn’t mean that psychoanalysts don’t also use some behavioral methods when necessary, but they have a frame of reference that… that takes the whole person and the whole history of the person into consideration. Psychoanalytic institutes have low fee referral services. They have referral services and people don’t know that. You can go to a psychoanalytic institute and you can get a very well trained therapist in training who is training to be a psychoanalyst who is already very experienced as a therapist. You can get a therapist for as low as $35 in some places. people don’t know about them. So that would be the first thing I would say is, you know, be a consumer, turn to the psychoanalytic institutes, turn to talk therapy and play therapy first before you go to a psychiatrist. Don’t go to a psychiatrist first. A psychiatrist is the end of the road when all else has failed unless your child is in crisis. If your child is suicidal. you should take them to an emergency room. If your child is bipolar or schizophrenic, yes, they have to be medicated. But if your child is saying, I feel a little bit depressed or a little bit anxious, don’t rush them to a psychiatrist because they are not the best option for you in that case. The best option is to go to someone who can help you sort through the underlying causes.

Pat D’Amico:
Great. What is your hope for the book? What do you hope the book accomplishes?

Erica Komisar, LCSW:
What I hope is that it educates parents because as I said, you can never have too much education and the more you know, the more equipped you’ll be to deal with any situation. People pick up my books and they wanna just read the chapters that apply to them then. And I say, read the whole book because you never know what you’ll learn by thinking about your child as a whole from the beginning to where they are now. And they may never have any of these signs or symptoms, but it’s always good to be prepared. So don’t just grab for a book like one of my books when you are in trouble, read it preventatively. Read the first one preventatively if you have young children or grandchildren. Read the other book that on adolescence, if your child is starting to enter adolescence. So you can be prepared. So you can do things like be less judgmental. of your child so you can understand how you allow your child to be separate from you rather than in the mirror image of you which allows them to be their true self and you know just little things that might help you along your path.

Pat D’Amico:
Erica, thank you so much. Erica Komisar is a licensed clinical social worker, a coach, a psychoanalyst, and the author of the book Chicken Little, The Sky Isn’t Falling, Raising Resilient Adolescents in the New Age of Anxiety. You can get Erica’s books, plural, on Amazon and anywhere else that you buy your books. And thanks again for joining us.

Episode 2: July 14, 2023: Author Shawn Langwell shares his recovery story and the impetus behind his two books; “10 Seconds of Boldness” and “Beyond Recovery”. Shawn also imparts advice to at-risk youth and those in recovery.

Read the transcript of this videocast…

Shawn Langwell (12:41.886)

Pat. And, you know, life happens, you know, in one of the books, I’m entitled for the chapter, S–t happens, deal with it. But when you’re an alcoholic in recovery or a drug addict, or you’re dealing with other mental and emotional issues, tough love doesn’t always work. But for me, it was a combination of compassion, of a sponsor that actually guided me through, of therapy. I spent five years in…

deep therapy dealing with some of these unresolved anger issues and lousy relationship stuff. And, you know, the incidents that happened with my brother, he was trying to get sober and he, I couldn’t sponsor him, but I did my best to try and help him find it on his own and it wasn’t working. I still don’t know what happened. He technically fell asleep at the wheel literally outside here in Petaluma. Anybody who’s at the Petaluma property here.

East Washington before they tore down all those redwood trees. That’s where he fell asleep, the wheel behind the old Kmart and a little close to home for me for many, many years. So how did I deal with it? I prayed a lot. I helped other people. I talked about it nonstop in meetings and I relied on my sponsor to help walk me through it and the part about my father, you know, these resentments.

Part one of the steps in the program, if you haven’t gotten there yet, there’s the fifth step and there’s also the ninth, which is making amends. And I tried to make amends to my father as best I could to look at my part of what I had in this, which sounds really crappy for some people, but in any relationship that’s broken, there’s two sides that cause that break. And for me, as it was taught to me, there were certain things I had to bring to the table because to hold on to the anger and resentment was not doing anybody any good. It’s been said in the rooms many, many times that resentments are basically giving people free rent in your head without your permission. And that’s detrimental. So what did I do? I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version. I tried to heal it as best I could, and then I got a call in September of 2005 from my mom saying that, you know, my dad was sick and not doing too good.

I wrote a short story about it called Milkshakes in Heaven that hopefully one day will probably become a movie. I just can’t write it yet. But the long and short of it was I showed up and I hadn’t seen my dad in two and a half years. He’s a painter. That painting behind me on this wall right here is one of my favorite paintings of his. It was on my grandmother’s wall. And he expressed himself through that. There was always love there. He always had a great heart and a great spirit. But he was a great man.

The anger and angst that I had because he left and didn’t really try to connect with us hurt a lot, but I knew I had to try and heal as best I could. And I showed up. He was emaciated in a spotted gown, gaunt, stubble beer. And what we did, the Cliff Notes version is I just said, Dad, you know, I want you to know I’m really sorry for all the anger I had against you for so many years. And he said, Sean, I’ve always loved you boys. Even Seth before he died.

And I may not have shown it, but I want you to know how much you all meant to me. And in that moment, you can’t ask for anything more. I was, I had an opportunity to actually heal that break and I felt clean about it. And I said, dad, you don’t look so good. Is there anything I can get you? And he says, you know, come back tomorrow and say, hi, you had like a milkshake. What kind? Chocolate.

Unfortunately, you guys, you can’t write the script, but he died three days later. I never got to get him that milkshake. So I’m okay with that today. It’s not an easy thing to swallow. There’s more guilt and shame attached to that, but I turn it over and let it go to the universe because wherever we end up, I know that somewhere, someplace, sometime in the future, or even now, I can always have a milkshake with my father.

Pat D’Amico (16:49.804)

Thank you. Thanks for sharing that. I know it’s hard. I’m sure it’s hard. You know, um, just kind of shifting gears just a little bit. Muirwood, you know, in addition to everything else we do in providing treatment for girls and boys, um, teens who are struggling with mental health issues, some moderate, some severe and substance use disorder as well. And sometimes both, which the industry calls dual diagnosis.

In addition to doing all of that, all of the therapeutic work we do, at the end of the day what we’re also doing is teaching kids to manage their emotions so that they can rebuild their self-esteem and their self-confidence so that they can go out in the world and start again and build something so they can build something better. You recently, you wrote another book. You wrote…

Well, you recently wrote another book about your struggles with, you know, those same kind of issues, even with decades of recovery under your belt. So tell us about your second book, Ten Seconds of Boldness, what drove you to write it? And before you do, I just want to say I loved and I was drawn to the five basic principles. So why don’t you tell us a bit about that?

Shawn Langwell (18:07.594)

Yeah, and thank you for this, Pat. I mean, this is an incredible opportunity. And if anybody gets anything out of this, I’m going to end with it when I get done answering this question. But my mission and purpose in writing this book, I felt compelled to have to come up with a mission and purpose. Pat already talked about the mission earlier. But the purpose is something that drives us. It gives us that reason, which is basically the reason for living.

Carpe diem, you wanna seize the day and live life to your fullest no matter what, because life is gonna happen to us. And there’s always hope. So my purpose is really to love and inspire people to believe in themselves. Anything and everything I do, including this and my relationship with, as a client with Pat, is all designed with that thread line. That is my pillar and there’s other ones there, but that is what holds us up. So it ain’t easy, you know, teenagers.

There’s something that happens in a teenage mind that I’m not a doctor and I don’t know how to explain it from a psychoanalytic standpoint, but I know from being a teenager that there’s something that happens hormonally that your brain just goes, and you can’t think straight. You can’t make clear decisions. Now after you move past the teen years into young adulthood, usually around 20 or 25, 25 or so from the research I’ve done, the switch kind of goes back.

But what happens from 25 till you’re 90, that switch is still there and we still have this tendency to gravitate back to what was comfortable, what we knew, what our mind, body and spirit knew was our Amarita Soparande. And for me, it’s anger, it still comes up. When things don’t go my way, I get angry and it’s not healthy for anybody. That’s my emotional immaturity. So over the years, I’ve had to learn to try and contain this, to learn to let go. And…

This book was really a result of lots and lots of study, research, books, seminars, all kinds of stuff. Ever since I was 17 years old, I had this dream and ambition to be a motivational or inspirational speaker. That in the background has been running on my subconscious for years. And when this came up and I had a great successful career,

that during the pandemic, before the pandemic, I’m like, oh my God, I’m not hitting my sales goals. I might lose my job. Then what am I gonna do? The wheels started to come off the cart and I got scared. But instead of getting ticked off, and I did get a little ticked off, I grabbed a Post-It note, quite literally. I grabbed a three by three Post-It note and I said, not on my watch. And I wrote these words, 10 seconds of boldness, and I put it above my phone. And you know what, you guys?

I stared at it for three weeks. I was too chicken to pick up the phone and make cold calls. And as I started to do that and come out of it, I had already started this book years ago when I put it on the back burner after I finished the last one, because how could I write a book about lifting people up when I couldn’t even do my own sales job? I just felt like a fraud, an imposter. So the book came as a result of that. And what ended up happening

five principles that I’ll tell you in a second. The concept of 10 seconds of bulliness can be practiced anytime, anywhere, in any moment with anybody, including yourself. It’s just take a breath and have 10 seconds to take a step forward into whatever it is that you fear. And I started to do that. And the results were my sales in that pandemic when everything else is coming on, my sales went through the roof. So you want me to tell them what the five steps are and not leave them hanging?

Pat D’Amico (21:53.206)

Yeah, go ahead, tell us about the class.

Shawn Langwell (21:54.378)

Right, so these are not rocket science for anybody and they’re applicable regardless of how young or old you are. They’re real, real simple and applicable to a recovery setting. Number one is identify the problem or opportunity. Number two is clearly decide what the heck you want to do with anything in a relationship, in a job, in a career. Number three is know why you want to do it without a clear and convicting.

reason why you want to do something, guess what? That’s where most people fail. In recovery, it’s because I don’t wanna die. In this book, I didn’t wanna die with any regrets because I’ve been carrying around this information for four decades and I felt an obligation to share it with the world. Number four and five are super easy. Make a plan and follow the plan. The plan and recovery, if it’s 12-step based program, is the outline for you.

with 12 steps and 164 pages of a program. There are other plans that work in collaboration and conjunction with that. There are plans that I don’t even know exist. But the key determinant is, find a plan, create a plan yourself, and then work it. So at each of those steps, there’s opportunities to…

not have the discipline to follow through, to give up because I feel like an imposter, I don’t believe I can do it, I feel like I’m failing. The biggest thing that I learned in all of this is failures are not fatal. And that’s not original for me. In fact, I encourage people to fail more. And what I mean by that is if we are not failing, we’re missing out on the greatest opportunities in life because we’re sitting in a state of complacency scared to take a first step forward. We’re stuck up here. And until we take it from here down into the heart to our hara and our gut and get all of this integrated, whether in recovery or outside of recovery or whatever, we have to have all those things in alignment if we’re to move forward and be full and productive members of society. So that’s the story. Ten seconds of boldness and basically…

Pat D’Amico (24:12.868)

So you may have answered my last question here, but I want you to put on your teen head. And so if I invited you to Muralwood for a day to speak to the 64 kids that are going through treatment at any one time, and you could take the stage, what would you tell them that would potentially reach them and inspire them to step up and do the work and come out of the other end a very different person.

Shawn Langwell (24:58.954)

I think the biggest thing, whether it’s for teens or even adults, is that most people have a tendency to think too much and act too little. We get stuck in our heads. We start analyzing and psychoanalyzing and playing doctor-psychiatrist with ourselves and thinking that we’re not good enough, that we don’t belong. I think the biggest thing that I could impart is to give yourself a little bit of grace.

Give yourself a little bit of grace. Understand that failure is a natural part of learning. And if it may sound trite or cliche, but when you get to a place where you start to understand that failure is a natural part of personal and human development and growth and self-improvement, then that little tiny shift from of it being a failure to I’m being a failure.

It’s not about you being a failure. It’s about it didn’t work. Let’s go find something that does work and keep tweaking and moving forward. So don’t look at it as a fatalistic, uh, circumstance. Even people who go back out, people slip all the time. There are people that relapse and there are people that relapse and come back and relapse and come back. I’ve seen people that have done that 20 million times. Is it ideal? No. What’s that?

Pat D’Amico (26:22.26)

And that’s it. And that’s.

And that’s okay.

Shawn Langwell (26:27.91)

And it’s totally okay. One of my friends during the pandemic that I met online has 55 years of sobriety. He went in and out 55 times before he found recovery. Now he’s got 55 years. So it takes what it takes.

Pat D’Amico (26:39.924)

Yeah, you know, if you have cancer, God forbid, no one beats you up if it comes back when you’re in a remission. So it’s just the way the universe works. Just one little piece of thing and it touches on something you said. There’s an Indian guru, for lack of a better word, that I follow on Instagram. And a kid stood up in one of his lectures and…

Shawn Langwell (26:49.899)


Pat D’Amico (27:09.28)

And he said, he asked him, he said, you know, what am I to do, everybody around me is just lying all the time. And he said to the kid, he said, he goes, I don’t think everybody’s lying that much. He said, if everyone around you is lying all the time, you might be hanging with the wrong people. He said, but he said, but just do this one thing. He said, do this one thing. He said, think about,

every action you take, everything you think, every move you make and consider, is it for you or is it for someone else? He said, get that right. He said, get that one thing right, everything else take care of itself. And it sounds like that’s, you know, that’s what’s really kind of, you know, kind of moved you forward. I can’t, I can’t let, you know, we talked a lot about your books. This wasn’t, I didn’t intend this to be a commercial for your books, but they are.

very good actually. And so I can’t let you leave without asking you to tell us where can we get your books and where can we learn a little bit more about your personal journey.

Shawn Langwell (28:19.238)

Yeah, the easiest thing is, you know, it’s SeanLangwell.com. You can find where everything’s at there. If you remember nothing else, first name, last name, SeanLangwell.com. The books are available at Copperfields here in town on consignment. They’re also available on Amazon and also wherever books are sold. And the other thing is, you know, just go back real quick, Pat, the grace part, but understanding that

A lot of the things that are really, really urgent for us now, if we do the best we can, two, three, four, five years from now, there will be a blip on, they won’t matter. So when we’re in the throes of this, that’s what I wanted to say is when we’re in the throes of these crises, it’s not permanent in most cases. But that’s hard to get your head around when you’re in the trenches and feeling so low. So you know,

Pat D’Amico (29:11.348)

for the past.

Shawn Langwell (29:19.562)

If anybody wants to get my books, great. If you’re here local and you ever want me to autograph them, I’m happy to do that too. But it’s not about the books. I am grateful that you gave me this opportunity to share to a very select group of folks that are the one of the primary audiences of both of these books because you find something you relate to.

Pat D’Amico (29:41.688)

I appreciate you taking the time to do this. This is where I have to read a little bit. Sean Langwell, spelled S-H-W-N, Langwell the way it sounds, is the author of Beyond Recovery, A Journey of Grace, Love and Forgiveness, and 10 Seconds of Boldness, which you’ve got to read, The Essential Guide to Solving Problems and Building Self-Confidence. I think it even comes with a workbook these days. You can find his books on Amazon and at his website, like he said,

Shawn Langwell (30:05.244)


Pat D’Amico (30:11.464)

Sean, thanks so much. Maybe we will get you over to Mewa to talk to the kids. And let’s do this again. Appreciate your time.

Shawn Langwell (30:20.354)

I’d be delighted to Pat, thank you for this opportunity and to anybody who’s watching this you know, I believe in you, somebody else will believe in you as well, somebody else will love you until you learn to love yourself and that’s what matters most. Never give up on yourself.

Pat D’Amico (30:37.364)

Thanks Sean, appreciate it. Have a good one, bye bye.

Shawn Langwell (30:39.982)

Thank you.

Episode 1: July 4, 2023: Jessica Mahn, LMFT & Clinical Director for Muir Wood’s Girls Mental Health Residential Treatment Program in Riverside, CA, discusses teen suicide with Muir Wood CMO Pat D’Amico.

Read the transcript of this videocast….

Pat D’Amico:

Welcome to the first episode of Talking Teen Treatment. My name is Pat D’Amico, I’m the CMO at Muirwood Adolescent and Family Services. Muirwood is a 10 year old, a highly regarded teen treatment program that addresses substance use and mental health disorders. You can read all about Muirwood and our programs on our website at muirwoodteen.com. I’m joined today by Jessica Mahn, Jess is a licensed marriage and family therapist and the clinical director at our girls primary mental health program in Penngrove, California. She’s also fresh off raving reviews of a presentation that she did at the Adolescent and Young Adult Collective in Malibu last month on teen suicidality. So we’ve asked Jess to join us today on this inaugural podcast to talk about how we talk about and treat suicidality in teens. Thanks for joining us today, Jess, especially today on the 4th of July…


You’re welcome.

Pat D’Amico:

…when the rest of the world is out eating hot dogs. But in this business, treatment providers never, never get a vacation. So thank you so much. So let’s start with the great big picture. What do you think, what do you think is driving, you know, the elevated rates of suicidality that we’re seeing in teens coming into treatment at Muirwood and also not only what’s driving it for most teens, but also talk a little bit about the LGBTQ plus community where we’re seeing, you know, 400% incidences of suicidality among that population.


Yeah, I mean, when I was asked to do or present at the collective…when I was asked to speak at the collective, I came up with the thought of teen suicidality right away because we are the people that treat suicidality. You go to hospitals, you get placed on hold, then you go into treatment with us. So it is really common right now. I would say what the biggest thing that is kind of impacting the teens today is social media. TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, all those things intended to be for various reasons are actually kind of what drives teenagers to really. compare themselves, judge themselves, get cyber bullied, feel included, feel excluded, feel alone. And it’s just, it’s a dangerous world out there in the internet. And I definitely think that has impacted it. And COVID, I mean, everyone hates to say it, but COVID in the last however many years, three, four years, has increased the feelings of isolation and loneliness and helplessness exponentially. And You know, we did the best we could with COVID. It was all kind of thrown at us and, you know, as a world, as a society. And the teenagers just didn’t know what to expect.

Pat D’Amico:

That’s interesting, a very well-known clinician whose name escapes me once said that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s community.



Pat D’Amico:

I think you’re dead on at the isolation that the pandemic created, particularly in social settings where kids They were gone from their friends and they missed, you know, milestone events, whether



Pat D’Amico:

it be dances and graduations and, and whatnot. It’s, it seems like it’s going to be with us for a while. Would you agree?


Yeah, I definitely agree. You know, and to tie it with the internet and social media, when we were in the pandemic, like in the thick of it, and we were in isolation, the only way we had to connect with people was through social media and FaceTime and text message. And so those people that just didn’t have the friends or maybe didn’t have the courage to reach out to people online were even more isolated. It was really hard.

Pat D’Amico:

Yeah. Now, the title of your presentation at AYAC was, “I Want to Die”. And I personally found that very interesting, because if you look at the definition of a suicide attempt, it’s defined as a potentially self-injurious behavior associated with expressed or implied intent to die. So. And I’m sure you chose that title intentionally, no pun intended. So how do we get at it? In treatment, how do we get at that intent? How do we, and not to trivialize this, but how do we, you know, how are we able to kind of categorize a teen as someone who’s, you know, seeking attention versus someone who has the intent to… hurt themselves or even worse. How do we get at that intent?


I mean, I think that’s a really good question. And I would say intreatment, at least, it’s all clinically relevant, whether they’re doing it because they have a true intent or whether they’re doing it to seek attention. Both are clinically appropriate because if it’s for attention, you wanna know why to the extreme that they’re going, is that their desire? And what are they not getting at home or with their friends that’s making them have to threaten their own life in order to get that attention? If they really do have the intent, then you treat it as that as well. So I initially approach it all the same. Because whether their intent is there or not, the thought is there. And the scary part is, if they are doing it for intention, for attention, excuse me, and we don’t believe them, teenagers are creative. What if they take it to the next level and say like, yeah, actually, let me prove to you how much I really want to do this. There’s always an underlying message being said, whether it’s true intent or for attention. And as we as clinicians have a responsibility to those individuals to take them at their word and do the best that we can.

Pat D’Amico:

We certainly don’t have the luxury of making that call and taking that risk. So looking at every expression of suicidality as in the worst possible scenario,



Pat D’Amico:

I believe is what people like you who are on the front lines of this have to do.


Right, and I think to add to that before you go on, I also think that is where clinicians in residential treatment get stuck in assessment. And that was kind of the driving force behind my presentation is oftentimes clients will voice their suicidality in treatment and then a therapist or a staff will go straight to hospitalization. But them saying it is the treatment. That’s how we get to the bottom of it. So it’s really about our own comfort or discomfort with talking about suicide. They’re comfortable talking about it or else they wouldn’t bring it up.

Pat D’Amico:

And that makes, you know, that’s actually a really good point, that just by getting it out, they are beginning the process of, I mean, they’re seeking help. And yeah,



Pat D’Amico:

that’s a really good point. This goes back a ways, this data goes back a ways, but the treatment for adolescents with depression study, TADS it’s called, they were looking at comparing monotherapies or therapies that are done alone, one thing done.



Pat D’Amico:

And they found a higher incidence of suicidality in cases where fluoxetine, which we all know as Prozac, alone was used for treatment, about 14% suicidality. However, when cognitive behavioral therapy was added to the medication, something we’re very good at and very adept at, when CBT is added to the medication, they saw the suicidality kind of dropped to eight, around 8%. And I imagine that data might still hold today, it wasn’t that long ago. But clearly adding cognitive behavioral therapy to the fluoxetine attenuated the suicidality, kind of dropped it down. What in your life of a therapist, LMFT. What do you think it is about CBT, cognitive behavior therapy, that has that effect to bring down thoughts and actions associated with suicide?


I mean, I think the nice thing about CBT is that it’s really structured, it’s really easy to understand and use. I think medication can be great, but it doesn’t help the person get to the core of the understanding. And adolescents specifically benefit so much from just understanding why. Sometimes they don’t know why they feel this way and then that leads to hopeless feelings. So the CBT or DBT or any type of… you know, modality that we might use in our treatment is it’s evidence based. It has a step-by-step process. It helps you anticipate the behavior, anticipate the trigger, um, challenge some of your negative thoughts. It really puts your mind to work rather than just taking a medication and letting your body feel different. Um, that’s great, but then one day if you don’t take your medication anymore, you still don’t have tools to take care of the feeling. So, The toolbox is what’s going to help long term.

Pat D’Amico:

Excellent. Well, you know, on that same kind of subject, you work in concert with, you know, our team of full-time on-campus psychiatrists. There’s a psychiatrist who’s assigned to your girls’ mental health program in Penngrove. Talk about, you know, the relationship you have with the psychiatrist, how you work together on a daily basis, because I imagine you’re like… really tight and lockstep with each other. And so talk about that a little bit and then talk about your take on the, you know, the role of medication in treatment.


Yeah, I mean, I would say first and foremost, we’re a clinically based program, right? And so there are the medically based ones where you have your primary psychiatrist mainly doing the therapy and the medication management. But at Muirwood, our clinical team really drives the treatment and our psychiatrists are incredible. They are very team oriented. They come to every treatment team meeting every single week when we talk about our clients and talk about their treatment plans. what might be coming up that week. And if you were to sit in or be a fly on the wall in our treatment program, you would really see our psychiatrist observing what we’re saying. Are psychiatrists listening to what’s working and not working? Are any of the symptoms that are coming up that week possibly from the medication change that may have happened? Yes, there are the moments where they present the client and talk about the medication history, but you really see the change in their. prescribing or their medication management based on how they’re presenting clinically. And that’s kind of awesome, I would say. They really take what we say and use it to the treatment of the client. You don’t see that a lot. You see a lot of times the medical team kind of drives the treatment and then the clinical team kind of follows and does the therapy. But that’s just not how we do it here. Our psychiatrists are wonderful. They’re even really family oriented. They talk to the parents all the time. They don’t do anything, obviously, without the parents’ consent, but they really help them understand because treating adolescents medically is often really difficult for parents. There’s the parents that have stigmas about medication, and rightfully so. Maybe they have addiction in their family, or maybe they had a bad experience with medication. Our psychiatrists are gentle and patient, and they walk through it. The family doesn’t feel like that’s what they want at that time. They don’t push. They just help educate. And I think that’s a big factor in adolescent treatment is the education for the parents and the clients.

Pat D’Amico:

Thank you. You know, in my own life, in my own personal life, and I’ve been around a little bit, you can tell by the color of my hair, but I have not one, but four friends who have lost teens to suicide. You know, it’s… it’s something I, you know, I can’t even wrap my head around. And I’m from a family that lost a child to a traumatic accident. But that is like it’s a whole other beast. And as a dad to daughters in their 20s, you know, I think about it more than I probably want to. So, you know, for mom and dad at home, you know, possibly watching this and we hope they will. You know, what advice do you have? parents, what should they be looking for, what should they be listening for? And if they do, you know, discover that their, you know, their teen is having suicidal ideation or worse, you know, what should they do? What are the steps they should take and when should they take?


Well, first of all, thanks for sharing your own personal experience. And I mean, that’s not easy to be on the outside and experiencing your friends losing children or losing family members of your own. So I’m in my presentation at the conference. I put up a slide of someone that I lost recently and just talked about that being a big part of why I feel so driven to talk about suicidality so I can understand that. But what I would say to parents is ask questions. Yes, look and listen, but also talk and be curious. Seek to understand. A lot of parents and individuals and even clinicians are kind of scared to ask the direct questions. What stopped you from killing yourself when you were feeling suicidal? That question is so controversial because some people are like, well, I don’t wanna ask them what stopped them because what if they say, well, I don’t know, and then they go do it? But if a client or a human can identify what stopped them from following through with their suicidal ideation, that is like a little aspect of hope that they identified before following through with a plan that they might’ve had. And that is what you can work with. I also would say for teenagers specifically, look at their hygiene, look at their motivation. If they’re not taking care of their basic needs, and they’re sleeping a lot or not sleeping at all, or they’re feeling hopeless and they’re making really grandiose statements about everything and always, those are red flags for me. Having a hard time really identifying any hope at all is a big piece. And if you do come to find that your teen is suicidal or experiencing suicidal ideation, ask for help. Depending on the urgency, that’s. That’s what you first have to assess. If it’s like an imminent risk and they, you don’t even feel like you could leave the house, then you would call your local crisis team or 911 or the local sheriff. Um, if it’s something that they’re having ideation about, but they don’t have a plan or they don’t have intent schedule a session with a therapist. If they don’t have any therapists schedule an assessment at a local PHP or IOP. Um, because they will have the assessment happen soon. And then if they feel like your child needs to go to the hospital, they’ll recommend that. But if your child doesn’t feel like they can stay safe at home, definitely call for help and definitely look for your local psychiatric hospital or local emergency room because the emergency room will then transfer you to the local psychiatric hospital. Yeah.

Pat D’Amico:

Thanks, Jess. Jess Vaman is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She’s the Clinical Director at Muirwood Teen Girls Primary Mental Health Program in Pengrove, California. Jess, thanks so much for joining us and let’s do it again.


Yes, anytime. Thanks for having me.

Pat D’Amico:

My pleasure. Take good care.


Thank you.