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  • Robert Davies

a Depressed teen: (Part 1)Culture Shock

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

Mr. Jenkins meets with a grade 9 student, Jusuf, who was from Romania and who was dealing with being in Canada.


Mr. Jenkins Respected Jusuf's Chosen Path

Robert Davies (C) 2018


Counselling a Depressed Teen: Fantasy from Culture Shock


Bob-the-counsellor remembers Jusuf taking him on a trip of fantasy one morning.

A trip that would both raise Jusuf’s anxiety while exploring Jusuf's depths of despair. Still, Mr. Jenkins always felt delighted that students trusted him enough to take him on these trips of fantasy known only to themselves. Here was Jusuf at his most honest, opening up and revealing his vulnerabilities. It is always an act of courage.


Mr. Jenkins knew that counseling requires leaving one’s ego at the door and looking at one’s self, warts and all, honestly, directly. It is not something everyone is prepared to do even the counselor himself. When a student opens up, Bob respectfully listens, not questioning, not weighing pro’s and con’s of the student’s narrative but in agreement. Eventually, inconsistencies and untruths begin to show themselves simply by following this road of agreeing and clarifying, no matter how fantastic.


“Bob, you have to see Jusuf,” said the tall grade 9 teacher with the shortest of the trio chiming in, “He’s down, Bob. We think he’s depressed. Can you see him?” While, the third silently nodded her head in agreement.


Jusuf and Mr. Jenkins met the very next day.

As per usual, Mr. Jenkins began with a Brief Mood Survey which takes all of one minute with the student ticking off boxes under the titles of depression, anxiety and anger plus relationships. At one glance of its tally, Jusuf was reporting he was very depressed.


“Jusuf, what’s going on? You are not a happy camper; you are feeling pretty sad.”

“Mr. Jenkins, I didn’t want to come to this school. My parents sent me from Romania wanting me to perfect my English.”

“Well, your English seems pretty good to me, Jusuf, but I suppose being exposed to Canadian culture would round you out in your English. But you are not happy.”

“No, I am living with my grandparents. I have nothing in common with them. I don’t know what to say to them. I spend a lot of time in my room. ” “That must be hard not connecting with your relatives and being new to Canada.”

“I skype with friends back home in Romania.”

“That can be good. It is always good to talk to old friends. But I was wondering about new friends at this school. Who do you hang out with?”

“No body.”

“Well, who do you talk to sometimes?”

“No one.”

“That sounds kind of hard, Jusuf. In one word, how are things at school?”

“Terrible. I don’t want to be here. After the summer, I expected to be sent home, but my parents in Romania are insisting that I finish the year here.”


Mr. Jenkins left some silence, nodding his head and looking at Yusuf with an open look, eyes wide with his look, direct but welcoming. Then after a long pause, all of fifteen seconds, Mr. Jenkins started up again.


“Yusuf, it must be one, long, hard day at school. I am just guessing that this must be hard on your learning. Are the teachers happy with your work?”

“No.”

“I notice your anxiety is up, too. Are you worried?”

“Yes, I am. I don’t think I will pass my first term in grade 9.”

“Ouch! That is a scary thought.”

Once again there was a comfortable silence.


“Well, Jusuf, I know from your files that you are an intelligent guy, so it is not the work, it is doing the work. I have some tools here that can help you. That are very effective and I have used them to help lots of teens over the last few years. However, I am thinking, “What’s the use?” – because you don’t really want to stay here. You want to go back to Turkey to be home. I would just be wasting your time. I would coach you to a happier state, and you might want to stay in Canada. That wouldn’t be good, especially with your wanting to return home so badly.”


“Mr. Jenkins, what you are saying is kind of true. I don’t want to stay, but I have no choice. Anyway, I don’t like feeling this way. I need help. I can hardly work or pay attention in class.”

“Well, said Bob-the-counsellor, I am thinking you might not be happy with me. I would use my tools to get you feeling better and then I would be blamed for your wanting to stay in Canada. I don’t know if I want to risk it.”

“Mr. Jenkins, I wouldn’t blame you. I will sign a paper if you want. I just can’t stand feeling this way!”

“Okay, Jusuf, you win. But if at any time you change your mind, you have to tell me immediately. Promise?”

“I promise.”

“But tell me, what would you tell a best friend who had been sent to Canada like you and they had to stay for a year and couldn’t go home?”

“What would I say?”

“Yeah, what advice would you give if they came to you with the same problem that you have?”

Mr. Jenkins waited while Jusuf thought about it.

“Well, I would tell them to make the best of it. If they fight it, they will be miserable. It can be a good thing.”

"Jusuf, it looks as if you haven't been taking your own advice."

"I know, but I do now."

“Well, Jusuf, it sounds as if you are motivated to change. Are prepared to make the best of it.”

He nodded yes.

Mr. Jenkins proceeded to have Jusuf write down that one specific upsetting situation which was: he wasn’t going to pass his first term in grade 9. He checked off all his negative feelings and how strong they were. Then Mr. Jenkins got him to write down his thoughts.”

“So, Jusuf, when you are feeling those feelings, ‘sad, blue, depressed, down and unhappy” at 100% strong, when you are thinking about your first term in grade nine, what are you thinking? What are you saying to yourself?”

“I might fail my year.”

“I might fail my year?”

“Yes, Mr. Jenkins.”

“Listen, Jusuf, let us use that thought in another way. It is called the What-if technique. I will show you how it works. Read this:

This technique will help identify the fantasy at the root of your fears. Write a what-if negative thought at the top of the page. Then put an arrow under it pointing downwards. Then ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen if that were true?” A new negative thought or fantasy will come to mind, write that down. Then once again put down an arrow. When you have gone as far as you can go with your thoughts or fantasies, finally ask yourself: “How likely is it that this would happen? And could I live with it if it did?


Jusuf wrote down:

I MIGHT FAIL MY SCHOOL TERM

“And how true is that for you?”

I MIGHT FAIL MY SCHOOL TERM 100% True

“Okay. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if that were true?”. Then write the new thought or fantasy.


I WOULD FEEL DEPRESSED. 100% TRUE


“A little warning here, Jusuf, because you are imagining all the worst things that could possibly happen. You will feel your anxiety increase. That is supposed to happen. It is a ‘flooding technique’ to get you to experience all your wild imaginings. The thoughts will be disturbing. This is what we call ‘cognitive exposure’. It will cause the anxiety to eventually burn itself out. Let’s continue.”


THEN I WOULD FIND IT HARD TO STUDY. 100% TRUE


“Okay. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if that were true?”. Then write the new thought or fantasy.

Jusuf continued as far as he could go. Eventually, he had a list of negative thoughts.


I MIGHT FAIL MY SCHOOL TERM 100% True

I WOULD FEEL DEPRESSED. 100% TRUE

I WOULD FIND IT HARD TO STUDY. 100% TRUE

I WOULDN’T GET VERY GOOD MARKS. 100% TRUE

I WOULDN’T GET GOOD ENOUGH MARKS IN GRADE 12 TO GO ON TO UNIVERSITY OR COLLEGE. 100 % TRUE

I WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO GET A GOOD JOB. 100% TRUE

I WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO EARN A GOOD SALARY



Mr. Jenkins knew that he must respect Jusuf, his client, and if a Jusuf is choosing to think in a certain manner, Mr. Jenkins will follow him down that path. At some point, both Jusuf and Mr. Jenkins can determine how true those thoughts are in the light of any cognitive distortions that might be found, mistakes in thinking, twisted thoughts. Consequently, Mr. Jenkins continued to go as far as Jusuf would go before examining the path taken.

Go to the next blog, "Counselling a teen: Culture Shock For Jusuf (Part 2 )"


END


Most people like stories, and therapy is all about stories. Telling stories about powerful techniques used in TEAM CBT therapy demystify this therapy one story at a time.

Yet, confidentiality is a cornerstone of all counselling. Without confidentiality, clients wouldn’t feel safe going to therapy to divulge the most painful areas of their lives. To safeguard clients while illustrating TEAM CBT techniques, confidentiality is kept by either having the client’s consent or by distorting the facts, making the client unrecognizable .


Robert Davies

Counselling Therapist



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