How to Deal With an Angry Teen?

Posted by Geena Jacobsson, MST Expert

Aug 4, 2016 11:59:58 AM

Multisystemic Therapy turns anger into motivation

Allen did not like school and therefore, refused to go. No one could make him do anything he didn’t want to do. If they tried, he’d yell, throw things and generally scare them into backing down.

Everyone backed down when Allen showed them who was boss. Mom did. Schoolteachers did. Social workers did. His anger was a very powerful weapon, and he used it as often as he felt necessary to keep people from telling him what to do. 

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His MST therapist though, she was a tough one. She didn’t back down like everyone else. She kept coming back. And she was everywhere, talking to people at Allen’s school, talking to people at other potential schools, taking Mom with her to talk to people at schools, introducing Mom to the people at the recreation center where Allen hung out. The therapist was absolutely determined to get Allen back into school.

She helped the family at home, too. She helped Allen’s mom find ways to calm him down when conflicts heated up. Allen’s mom stopped yelling back at him when he got angry and guided him to take a breather instead of pushing an argument all the way to a big fight. The MST therapist helped Mom and Stepdad decide who was going to take charge so they wouldn’t “gang up” on Allen when he broke a rule. Allen and Mom (and even Stepdad) could talk about things together calmly without anyone ending up yelling or making threats.

The right kind of communication

The MST therapist talked to Mom. She talked to Stepdad. Sometimes just one-on-one and sometimes Mom and Stepdad together. Sometimes Mom, Stepdad and Allen—all together. And she really talked with Allen, not at him like everyone else. She helped Mom and Stepdad to talk with him, not at him. 

Allen admitted he would like to graduate from school and go on to learn a skill, but not at those schools where he already was judged to be a bad kid.

Problem was there were no schools that didn’t know about Allen and his intimidating ways. Eventually Allen’s mom and the MST therapist worked out a deal with one of the schools for him to go there just a couple of hours a day.

No cellphone, no baseball cap? No way

But that first day, the schoolteacher expected him to put his mobile phone in a box while he was in class. Expected him to remove his baseball cap. No way anybody was going to tell Allen what to do with his phone or cap. Forget it, he said, ”I’ll go to school, but not if you idiots think you can tell me what to do.”

That stubborn MST therapist didn’t back down. She helped Allen and his mom and the school through this latest hurdle. The next time Allen was to attend school, Mom talked to him the evening before and let him know that all the students turned in the phones and hats before class. Mom helped Allen see that no one was picking on him. Was a phone and a hat worth throwing away his wish to graduate? Allen was so impressed with how his Mom had learned to talk to him in this new calm way. He also knew that Mom had spoken with the school principal and asked them to be patient. Allen didn’t want to disappoint her after all that effort. He went to school one day. Two. Most of a whole week. After a few weeks, he was back on a full-time schedule. He took his exams. He can see that there is a future where he can succeed.

Allen still has a quick temper, but he’s learning the art of compromise. He’s learning to problem-solve. His future is brighter thanks to an MST therapist who took the time to get Allen’s family and the people at school to see the real Allen behind that scary facade. 

To learn more about what makes MST such an effective intervention, download this white paper.

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