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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.
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…
…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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My pleasure. Take good care.
July 14, 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.
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
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.
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.
There’s also a gap between girls and boys. So girls, more anxiety and depression and everything
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
July 20, 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.
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)