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Melissa McLain - 03 - TOP CHOICEIn the second post on the seven developmental keys series, Senior Director of East Coast Clinical Programming Melissa McLain, PhD, CEDS shares about the next two keys: meaningful participation and positive social interactions. Dr. McLain explains how Clementine adolescent treatment program supports adolescents in learning to meaningfully engage with themselves, leading to positive social interactions with others as well.

The Center for Early Adolescence has defined fundamental developmental needs during adolescence as the following: Self-Definition, Meaningful Participation, Competence, Creative Expression, Physical Activity, Social Interactions and Structure. Today I want to write about the combination of Meaningful Participation, and Positive Social Interactions and how those can be integrated in treating adolescent girls.

Meaningful Participation:  Research from the Center for Early Adolescence stresses that adolescents “need to participate in activities that shape their lives.” That is, they need opportunities to identify, develop, and use individual talents, skills, and interests in the context of the real world. They need to participate in activities and experiences that allow them to reflect on and shape their personal values, beliefs, and goals. They need opportunities to make positive connections between their personal priorities and the needs and interests of others in order to become contributing members of the local and global community.

Positive Social Interactions: Though the family remains of primary importance to early adolescents, they need increasing opportunities to experience positive social relationships that allow them to explore emerging ideas, views, values, and feelings with peers and adult friends.

When we treat teens we consistently ask them to “meaningfully participate” and thus “show up” while spending time with us in treatment. We are working to engage them in their individual, family and group therapies, in their school time, in their social time with their peers and in time spent engaging in exposures and challenges.

It can be quite a challenge to fully participate in life when an eating disorder is taking up so much of one’s time. However, the great gift of engagement is connection. We find that oftentimes, even while in the midst of doing what may be the hardest thing they have ever encountered in their life before, our teens are gifted the experience of fostering and enjoying true connections with their family, their peers, the staff, and, most importantly, themselves. Being able to meaningfully engage with their newly discovered “healthy self” fosters improved self-esteem and oftentimes results in an increase in positive social interactions. As Daniel Siegal says in Mindsight, “The brain is a social organ, and our relationships with one another are not a luxury but an essential nutrient for our survival”. When treating adolescents, we feel privileged to be able to foster this improved connection with self and others.

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