I started working with teenagers in 2003 in the residential treatment setting. These teens had experienced the full gamut of abuse and neglect which led to very severe behaviors and survival strategies. In these treatment centers, we attempted point systems, incentives, grounding, and level systems to get through to teens. We expected that they should be able to manage their maladaptive behavior if we could just find a way to motivate them.

With the development of trauma-informed and trauma-specific care, we’ve learned that the brains of people who have experienced trauma are physiologically different. We’ve learned that as these kids are stressed, many are nearly incapable of calming themselves down through self-regulation. Now more than ever, we know that teaching skills and strategies for calming oneself are essential components of interacting with kids from hard places.

Kids from hard places, a term coined by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross, aren’t just the kids who are in residential care, foster care, or who have been adopted. This past fall, Angie Turbyfill and I co-facilitated the first Overcome Class for teenagers who are struggling with mental health issues. We quickly learned that the teenagers from our church, even those who were excelling in school and maintaining in their homes, had painful stories of divorce, incarcerated or absent parents, crippling anxiety, and battles with self-harm.

As we navigate serving teens, we consider the unique challenges that teenagers face in 2019. The fear of missing out, pressures from social media, school shootings, suicide, and bullying are impacting this generation in literally life threatening ways. This means we need to listen like never before. I believe one of the most effective ways we can reach teenagers is through group work. Teenagers listen to their peers more than they listen to adults. As we facilitate safe environments where teens can have their situations normalized and understood by other teens, with the oversight of a trained professional, they are more responsive to learning tools and attempting healthier behaviors. If you are interested in learning more about my private practice and teen group opportunities, please feel free to contact me at megan@familytherapydtc.org or explore familytherapydtc.org website.

Monthly Lunch & Learn for Faith Leaders

Megan will be speaking on this topic at our monthly Lunch & Learn for Faith Leaders on Thursday, March 14th at 11:30 a.m. To join us for this free luncheon, register here.


Megan MagelMegan Magel is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She has been practicing since 2005, working with teens, addiction, trauma, and foster and adoptive families. Megan is a Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) Practitioner, which means she has a holistic perspective regarding healing trauma through attachment and meeting neurophysiological needs. Valuing the power of authentic relationships, Megan is eager to provide services for: Anxiety, Depression, Trauma Experiences, Addiction, Teenagers, Family Relationships, Attachment, Foster Care , Adoption & Infertility through her private practice with Family Therapy DTC (familytherapydtc.org). Megan also frequently facilitates group training for TBRI and other trauma-informed care for community services.