Do you worry that your child may be drinking, smoking pot, or using other drugs? “Drugs and alcohol don’t discriminate,” says Vanessa Walker, a therapist who has years of experience working with young people. “It’s a way to socialize, and it can ease the way for kids who have difficulty making friends. This includes kids with autism spectrum disorders.”
Parents should be alert for unexplained changes in their teenage child’s behaviors or habits. “Do they seem to have a new group of friends? Are their grades dropping? Do you notice the odor of alcohol or marijuana, or other physical signs?” It may be time to have a difficult conversation, “Hopefully one without judgment,” where you as a parent ask the tough questions.
Rather than becoming angry or threatening, Ms. Walker reminds us, it may be more helpful to ask, “Are you willing to talk to someone about it?” Therapy works best if the teenager agrees to it, but the situation may be serious enough that you decide to make it non-negotiable.
When she sees teenagers in therapy and learns they have been using alcohol or other drugs, Ms. Walker is able to help kids by showing that she understands. She uses a technique called “motivational interviewing” as a way to help them figure out how the substance abuse “gets in the way of their own goals.”
Vanessa Walker, LSW has worked for a number of years for the Delaware County Office of Mental Health, where she has conducted drug & alcohol education programs, counseled families, trained staff, and managed other community mental health programs. In September 2015, she’ll be starting a new career as Chichester Middle School’s school social worker. She also has weekend and evening hours at Psych Choices of the Delaware Valley. To make an appointment with Ms. Walker, please use our Make An Appointment page or call 610-626-8085, Ext. 213 for Intake.