Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Summary of 5-14-05 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, May 14, 2005

Thirteen parents representing ten families attended our last meeting on May 14. It was great to see some new members in the group.

As usual, we took a break after going around the group for brief introductions and updates. Then we came back to group with the following role-play.

The teenage son (played by Parent1) faces off with his mother (played by Parent2.) The son has been placed at Abraxas I and he blames the mother for everything. He says that if she had not said what she said in Court then he would not be placed at Abraxas I. If she had let him come home after Ridgeview, the Court would not have committed him to Abraxas I. The teenage son believes that it is the mother’s entire fault.

It was a good effort by Parent2 and Parent1. It was the first time we had a husband and wife face off against each other. Parent2 was firm and did not allow Parent1 to manipulate her with GUILT. Of course, that was Parent1’s primary weapon. Parent1 kept harping on this refrain, “Why can’t you just admit that you put me here?” Parent2 pointed out that Ridgeview staff and Lyn Redick also recommended Abraxas I. Parent1 responded, “If you didn’t tell Lyn Redick and Ridgeview what you told them they wouldn’t have wanted me to go to Abraxas. It’s all your fault. This place isn’t going to help me.”

Point #1: Often the dialogue becomes dead-ended:

Mother: “You put yourself here.”
Son: “No, you put me here.”
Mother: “When are you going to wake up and take responsibility for your own behavior?”
Son: “Why can’t you admit that it’s your fault I’m up here? You know if you hadn’t said all that bad stuff about me in Court I wouldn’t be here! You just don’t want me at home.”
Mother: “You put yourself at Abraxas by failing at Ridgeview.”
Son: “The people up here even say I don’t belong here- I should be home! But you just don’t want me!”

Note the difference when a parent models the “taking responsibility” approach.

Mother: “You blame me, you think it’s my fault that you are at Abraxas.”
Son: “Yeah. You put me here- you know you did.”
Mother: “Yes, I had a lot to do with it.”
Son: “A lot to do with it my as&. If it wasn’t for the stuff you said in Court, I’d be home now.”
Mother: “Yes. You are right. I did everything I could do to see that you get the help you need. And I’d do it all again for you.”
Son: “Help? This place can’t help me. I don’t belong up here. Even the people up here say that I don’t need this place. I should be home.”
Mother: “I think you should be home too.”
Son: “Then why did you put me up here?”
Mother: “I’m afraid you’ll kill yourself with drugs- that’s why.”

Point #2: Now that the mother has taken responsibility for her role, it opens the door for the son to begin to take responsibility for his actions. If the above conversation were to continue…

Mother: “You know, at some point I’m hoping that you can learn to take responsibility for your behavior.”
Son: “What are you talking about? I always take responsibility for my shi%.”
Mother : “Oh, I think you are busy blaming everyone else.”
Son: “Why, because I blame you for putting me in this Hell Hole?”
Mother: “Sure- that’s part of it. You always see yourself as a victim.”
Son: “Well, you know you put me here and I should be home.”
Mother: “There- you just did it again. You are a victim. And you can always find someone to blame for the stuff that happens to you. You choose to do drugs. You choose to break the law. In addition, you refused to accept any responsibility for your behavior when you were at Ridgeview. That is why Lynn Redick, Ridgeview, the Intake Officer and I all worked to put you here.”
Son: “That sucks. You just don’t want me.”
Mother: “I want you- but I want you when you can learn to take responsibility for your own actions and when you can quit blaming others for your problems. And as far as I’m concerned you need to learn to do that before you come home- no matter how long that takes.”

Clearly, in this last example we can see that guilt will not work to move this mother. Nor can the conversation be dead-ended because she will admit that she worked to give him more treatment. Now the mother is going to label his victim stance behavior in real time as it happens. Therefore, the son discovers that his manipulations will fail because not only does mother not work to get him out sooner (because she feels guilty) but also she wants him to stay until he can take ownership for his problems. No matter how long that takes. This becomes a clear message to this young man that he had better get to work at Abraxas and not waste anytime.

For anyone that was not able to attend the meeting this week, we missed you. We are looking forward to seeing everyone again at the meeting on May 28.

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Summary of 2-14-05 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Monday, February 14, 2005

Eleven parents representing eight families attended our last meeting on February 19. We were happy to see one first-timer and always glad to see so many regulars keep coming back.

We spent the first hour catching up with each family’s situation. After that, we launched into the following role-play.

An 18-year old is no longer on probation. The contract that the parent set up with the young man prior to his Probation ending calls for random drug testing, or at least called for drug testing by the parents if they have reason to believe that the teenager might be using. When the two actors playing the parents asked “S.” for a drug test he balked.

The parents persisted, even when “S.” wanted to change the subject into one of “trust,” rather than one of compliance and responsibility. “S.” wanted to know the reason that his parents were suspicious and he clicked off a litany of things that he had done to earn their trust since the Court released him from Abraxas I. Due to the persistence of the parents, however, “S.” finally agreed to a urine screen. The parent playing the father insisted on accompanying his son into the bathroom. When the two returned to the role-play, The parent playing the father informed his wife that that he caught “S.” attempting to put tap water in the urine cup instead of urine. At this point “S.” all but admitted that he would have been dirty.

Then, “S.” wanted to know what they were going to do about it. He refused to accompany his parents to a rehab for evaluation. As the role-play ended, the parents seemed unsure how exactly to proceed. One good thing, however, was that due to the diligence of the parents in insisting on the urine screen they had uncovered important information and got the issue out. Knowing what actions to take now that the information is out is the next step. It can be a different action depending on the situation. Here are some things to keep in mind.

1. Parents must have a zero tolerance level for dug use. Eventually, if the teen continues to use he must live somewhere else.

2. If the teenager is unwilling to be drug tested and unwilling to accompany parents to a rehab for evaluation (as was the case with this role-play) then the parents know that the youth probably will continue to use.

3. At this point, consider calling the local police and have the youth’s car and/ or room searched. If they find drugs or paraphernalia, the police should arrest. Do not bail them out of jail. Jail is often the best place for the active addict. If the police do not find anything the parents still will have sent a strong message to their teenager.

4. Whether or not the child is cooperative or remorseful, removing driving privileges is one of the first things that should be done. At any point where you have reason to believe that your teenager is using drugs, you know that a car is simply too dangerous. In fact, removing a car even for a short period is a good idea whenever irresponsible behavior rears its ugly head. Driving is optional, not necessary. Why do we want to put irresponsible teenagers behind the wheel of a car?

5. There should be no money given for anything unless absolutely necessary and then the parent should pay for what the teenager needs rather than giving actual money.

6. Take other things away. Things that you as a parent know are motivators. Examples are TV, telephone, mobile phones, game systems, and doors to bedrooms, beds and even unnecessary clothes they may like to wear. Remember, it is not the sanction levied that is going to make the change, but the message that is sent with a sanction is important. It says, “it is not acceptable that you use drugs. Period.”

7. When the teenager is able to be honest about his drug use, take him or send him to a clinic such as Gateway for an assessment. If he is honest and cooperative he will tell you what, when, how, and with whom this relapse happened. People, places and things need to be looked at all over again.

8. One of the things that I learned though this role-play is that if the parent makes sure that the teenager puts into his After Probation Contract that he will submit to random urine screens, then that helps alleviate the whole issue of “why don’t you trust me.” If it has been clearly stated in the After Probation Contract that there will be random urine screens, and then a parent asks for one, it is a very bad sign if the teenager replies “why don’t you trust me?” On the other had if the contract states that parents will do urine screens if they have reason to be suspicious, then that leaves the door open for exactly that kind of smoke screen to be thrown up later.

Thanks, to all three parents who participated in the role-play. It was really a composite role-play from all three families. Acting on the problem, now that it is out in the open, is the next step.


Lloyd Woodward
Aftercare Specialist Probation Officer
(412) 247-6365

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Summary of 2-5-05 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, February 05, 2005

Fifteen parents representing ten families attended our last meeting on February 5. We were happy to see some first-timers and always glad to see so many regulars keep coming back. This was our best-attended meeting to date. Thanks everyone for your support.

We spent the first part of the meeting catching up with each family’s situation. After more coffee, donuts, and toasted bagels we launched into the following role-play.

An 18-year old is home for his thanksgiving visit from Abraxas I. Unbeknownst to the parents and the Probation Officer, he has been writing his old girlfriend. He denies that she is his old girlfriend but he admits that they have done lots of drugs and drug selling together.

She calls him on the home pass. He wants the mother to take him to the mall to meet her. The parents know who she is and they confront the youth for being in contact with her at all.

The real father played the father. A first timer volunteered to play the mother. I played the youth. Everyone chose a “coach.” My coach was the teenager’s real mother. She called “time out” several times and provided strategies for me. Even with that excellent coaching, I am afraid that I was no match for these parents. They simply were not buying any of what I was selling.

At my coach’s suggestion, I finally gave up on that whole “take me to the mall” approach. I told them they were right and I had to rethink that one- blah blah blah. However, could they at least talk to my PO about mandating the Christmas visit because I am trying so hard? They saw the switch immediately and they were still not buying. In fact, that just gave them the chance to point out that they are not rescuing me from the consequences of my behavior any longer. I would have to earn my next visit home.

Well, I did not want to hear that! So I told them they can just stop visiting me at Abraxas until I have earned an off grounds pass because It was just too hard for me to see them up at Abraxas. I was tired of my family seeing me in “jail.” My dad said, “Ok, son if that’s the way you want it.”

Drat! Darn it! I wanted to punish them for not allowing me to get my own way. I wanted them to be hurt. I wanted them to try hard to convince me that it was good for me if they still visited me twice a month. I wanted to see them beg! I was going to be as unmovable as they were when they would not give me my way. Let them squirm; if they were not going to budge, neither was I.

They only thing is- they did not take the bait. Dad said “OK, son if that is the way you want it.” Now, I really kind of want those old visits. But I can’t let them know that. Crap. Nothing seems to work with these people anymore. Maybe I will not even come home to live with them when I leave Abraxas I. That will hurt them plenty. They will see.

My hat is off to two sharp parents. These parents were taking the opportunity to show me that when I get home things will be different. Valerie and I are very proud to have such strong parents in our group.

Lots of good discussion followed. Apparently, many of the teens use the “switch” when they cannot get their own way with their parents. Buy me new shoes seems to be a popular last resort for teens as a way to at least get something out of the deal, even if they have a ton of nice shoes already.

If you have any questions, please call 412-580-4051 for more information. If the weather is very bad, you can also call that number early on meeting morning to hear an outgoing message that training is cancelled. (Valerie will have my cell phone while I am off.)


Lloyd Woodward
Aftercare Specialist Probation Officer
(412) 247-6365

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Seven parents (representing five families) joined us for coffee, bagels and donuts on October 25th. The parents mostly either have a teen released from inpatient on probation or at teen still in rehab.

We started the meeting with introductions and a bit of detail about each parent’s situation. A clear consensus developed among the group concerning one particular role-play. The group wanted to see how parents might handle a teen that had recently completed probation. Now that the case was closed he or she was starting to balk at parental expectations.

Bill and Shirley volunteered to be the parents and I was drafted to be the teen. Both Bill and Shirley chose “coaches” for the role-play. Coaches sit close and somewhat behind the actors. Coaches do not speak openly in the role-play, but they have the power to call timeout. During the timeout the coaches may whisper to their designated actors. Also, the actors may call timeout in order to confer with their coaches. As it turned out both actors conferred several times with their coaches.

As usual, I was a bit of a pain-in-the-butt teen. I told my parents that now that I was off Probation I would decide if, and how many, 12-step meetings I would attend. I assured my parents that I would “know” if I needed to go to a meeting. I agreed that I would not use illegal drugs but otherwise I resisted any attempts from my parents to place guidelines on me.

My father, played by Bill, stressed that if I wanted to live at home I was going have to obey the rules. However, the rules remained unclear and that’s just the way I wanted them to remain. Also, I attempted to drive a wedge between both my parents by accusing my mother of being my father’s puppet who would say whatever he wanted her to say. This role-play was complicated somewhat by the fact that my father was involved with me but was separated from my mother.

When put on the spot, Shirley clearly informed me that she would not enable me anymore. She stated that she would rather see me put out of the house rather than return to my addiction. She told me in so many words that she would not watch me kill myself. It was a strong message from the usually quiet Shirley.

The group seemed to enjoy a rich discussion following the role-play. After all, every parent is naturally anxious about what is going to happen after probation. This role-play gave us all a chance to look down that road.

For me it was an eye-opener. I tend to focus mainly on what happens during probation, and perhaps I have been missing the opportunity to help families prepare for what is to happen afterwards.

I requested that we redo the role-play. I asked Bill if he would change places with me and play the teenager while I played the father. He was only too happy too oblige. I was soon to learn that payback is a b!*&h. Bill masterfully used his teenage skills of manipulation on Shirley and I. Bill would later remark, “I think I’m as big a ham as you are, Lloyd.” I quite agree.

However, Shirley and I had huddled before the second role-play and we came up with a plan. Rather than rushing right in with the new “rules,” we challenged our son to join us in a meeting to develop the rules. We explained to him that he would have veto-power over any proposed rule. Now that he was an adult we were prepared to use compromise to develop the new rules. However, both Shirley and I would also have veto-power.

We suggested that each of us write our thoughts down before the meeting. Also, we would all come to the meeting prepared to remain at the meeting however long it took to come up with rules with which we all agreed.

Bill asked the obvious question. “What if I don’t want to sit down and develop rules? What if I just make my own rules?” I informed Bill that if he refused to “come to the table,” Shirley and I had decided that he would not be able to live with either of us. Period. But I assured him that that was not what either of us wanted.

I asked Bill what he had to fear anyway as long as he had veto-power over each rule? Bill said that he would have to think it over. We told him he could sleep on it and let us know his decision tomorrow. In fact, we wanted him to think about it rather than making a quick decision.

In the discussion that followed the second role-play parents seemed encouraged. This appeared to be a constructive way to approach the post-probation period. Several parents suggested that this might even be something that should be started before the probation period has expired.

Valerie pointed out that if we could just refer to the whole process as developing a plan. We could leave the word “rules” out of it completely. Everyone agreed that this would put a more positive spin on things. The following are some points that came up in the discussion. (Please consider each use of the word “he” as meaning “he or she” or “his or hers.”)

1. Stress that compromise is something that adults do. That is why each adult who comes to the table has a veto. It is not majority rules, but a complete agreement between all parties.

2. Remember, parents naturally have the upper hand in this process. Teens cannot bear to spend several hours in the same room with their parents. Parents, however, can meet almost indefinitely. We can talk a person to death if we get the chance.

3. If the teenager decides that he will leave the table before the family comes to a consensus, then he is choosing to leave the home. He should understand that the parents would not support him once he leaves the home. The parents are not throwing him out- he is choosing to leave. This does not mean you can’t take a break and come back to the table a bit later to hash things out. This is especially a good idea if you sense that there is progress happening. After all, compromising can make people hungry and you may need to stop just to eat something!

4. Compromise is amazing. For every stubborn point that the teenager presents, e.g., “I will choose my own friends, even if they use drugs,” there is a counter-proposal. “We don’t like that, but if you agree to let us drug test you randomly twice a week, then we will agree. On the other hand, if you agree to only socialize with people who don’t use drugs, then we will agree not to drug test you unless we think you’re high.”

5. Do not be hesitant about using financial support strategies. Your teenager may need your help to have enough money for things he needs. Perhaps he needs to be able to drive the family car. This is all leverage that parents bring to the bargaining table.

6. If people work together long enough a plan will eventually be reached. Then, everyone will have a vested interest in seeing that the plan works because everyone worked on it together.

7. If your teenager understands the process before he comes to the table, he may surprise you by having a plan that is acceptable right from the start. It may not be the exact plan that you would have come up with, but it may be a sound well thought out plan. It is even possible that it is a better plan than the one that you prepared. If that happens be smart enough to give him some credit for a job well done and cut the meeting short. It’s time to be grateful and have a cup of shut-the-heck-up. Save the lectures for another time.

8. From time to time plans have to change. Either they obviously aren’t working or perhaps circumstances have changed. The veto process can be used over and over to amend the plan. Of course this requires more meetings and most teenagers will want to avoid this like the plague. That is the big ace-in-the-hole for parents.

9. There are three rules-of-thumb for parents in this bargaining process.

a. Bargain tough.

b. Bargain smart. Often this means being creative. Think outside the box. Maybe your teenager’s ideas are not so bad once you think about them.

c. Bargain respectfully. It is often not what parents say that infuriates teenagers, it is how they say it. Pretend that you are management and you are negotiating a business deal with labor. You can lock them out. They can walk out. Either way is a looser. Look for win-win situations.

10. Once all have agreed on the plan, it is important to also agree on what will happen if the plan is not followed. Basically, the parents want to be clear that there will still be accountability. Jane brought up the good point that every violation of the plan does not have to result in being thrown out of the house. There are often other steps that can and should be taken. Of course, if the teen does not violate the plan, it won’t be a problem.

11. The parents also need to clearly stick to their guns in-so-far-as drug use is concerned. Shirley expressed this so well in the role-play. Parents must refuse to allow their teenager to return to drug use while they live at home. Parents also must refuse to support a teenager who has decided to return to drug use. A zero tolerance for drug use is necessary in each and every plan.

Thanks to all the actors. You were great. And thanks to everyone at the meeting for giving Valerie and I some ideas on strengthening the final phase of Intensive D&A Aftercare Probation. As a direct result of this meeting we are considering incorporating the veto process somehow into the final phase of probation.

If you weren’t able to attend our last meeting, we have missed you. If you have never been to PSST, look for the enclosed insert, which includes information and directions.


Lloyd Woodward
Aftercare Specialist Probation Officer
(412) 247-6365

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Summary of 9-11-2004 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, September 11, 2004

Six parents (representing five families) joined us for coffee, cream cheese and bagels on September 11th. Most of the families either have a teenager in inpatient drug treatment or on Probation.

The parents came up with the topic: What do you say to the other kids in the family, when they point out that the sibling with the Drug/Alcohol problem gets all the attention? Most of our role-plays seem to end with a parent taking a “regardless” or “nevertheless,” stance. Not these. These two role-plays brought out a parental response that highlighted active listening skills.

A first-time member suggested the first role-play. It included a parent (me) getting a phone call that from the police that one of my teenagers had been arrested and, once again, placed at Shuman Center. At or about the same time that this phone call came in, one of my younger teenagers was complaining that her brother always gets all the attention. She was really tired of that.

She went on and on about how she did what she was supposed to do, got good grades, didn’t break the law, and came home at curfew. Even so, she can’t get a paper signed by a parent that she needs to take back to school. Now that her brother is arrested again, it would be the same old run-to-Shuman and visit, talk about his criminal case, etc. I attempted to “actively listen,” which was difficult to do given (1) that I had just gotten that horrible phone call about my “problem teenager”, and (2) that my other child was really fed up and screaming for attention. In the end, I think my daughter knew that I had some idea of how she was feeling. Finally, after a lot of listening, I asked her what I could do to make things right. She did not hesitate in suggesting that I not visit her older brother at Shuman tonight and that instead I take her shopping for some things that she needs.

I’m sorry if it might look like shopping is the answer but I felt that a trip to buy a “few things,” that she needed was in order. I looked at it more like a chance to spend time rather than money. And I agreed to pass up the visit at Shuman for the night. Once I tried the active listening, her case was too convincing. It is also important is that sometimes teenagers are right and there is nothing wrong with admitting that we parents have made a mistakes. After all, my teenager at Shuman was safe. Now was time to take care of the one I still had at home.

Parent1 suggested the second role-play. She played her son who does not have a D&A problem and I played her. In this role-play I felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks. He accused me of not giving him attention. He also blamed me for his brother’s D&A problem. He said that it was my failure to act that caused this to happen. He said that if I only would have listened to him earlier when he was trying to tell me that his brother had a problem, that all this trouble could have been avoided.

Then he seemed to blame me for something that had happened to his father too. So it was my fault that anyone in the family at all had any problems. Well this was challenging to say the least. I attempted to actively listen and he kept actively dumping everything on me. Well somewhere in my active listening responses I must have mentioned that I was sure that, in fact, I did not do everything right. He (Parent1) appeared ecstatic and said, “it’s good to hear you admit that it’s all your fault, finally you’ve admitted it.”

As in the first role-play, when it appeared that he had vented most of his feelings I ask him if there was something that I could do to help. I can’t remember for sure but I think he said he’d get back to me on that one. This was a very challenging role-play for me and I’m sure that if it was really one of my own teenagers who was saying these things that it would have been much more difficult.

Let’s review the basics of active listening.

1. The basic formula is simple: “you feel _____ because of ________.” However, usually it is not said in those exact words, as it sounds too mechanical.
2. Active listening doesn’t work unless the listener can match the emotional tone of the speaker. The importance of this cannot be overstated. If someone is ranting and raving, therefore making it difficult to match that particular tone, one can still say, “you know I can’t even imagine how upset you are over this whole ________.
3. Don’t say, “I understand.” No one ever believes that you understand and people don’t like to hear that being said. Instead, demonstrate that you understand by restating or reframing what they’ve said into your own words. If you “get it” they will let you know. If you don’t “get it,” they will certainly let you know that as well.
4. If at first you don’t “get it,” don’t give up. Keep trying. People love to tell you that you don’t understand. Accept that. Keep making responses until you either “get it” or admit that you’re having trouble listening. You know if anyone’s heartbeat is up to a certain rate, research shows that it is practically impossible to listen. You may need to calm down and talk about it later.
5. It is natural to want to know why teenagers feel that way. There is good news and bad news about the whole question of why.
a. The bad news: the word “why” should be shot. Throw it out of your vocabulary. It only makes people defensive. Most of the time teenagers (and often adults) don’t even know why.
b. The good news: by using active listening skills you’ll find out more information than you probably wanted to know.
6. Even in situations where “nevertheless” and “regardless” are used, it is sometimes helpful to do some active listening first. It depends on how pushy and manipulative your teenager is at the moment because you don’t want to encourage some extreme behavior with active listening.
7. We can demonstrate that we “hear” someone without agreeing with him or her. Just because we understand how they feel or how they perceive the situation, does not necessarily mean that we agree.
8. Active listening means that we don’t say, “you shouldn’t feel that way because ________.” We don’t tell them how to feel; we just tell them what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is not.


Lloyd Woodward
Aftercare Specialist Probation Officer
(412) 247-6365

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Summary 8-28-04 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, August 28, 2004

Ten parents (representing eight families) joined us for coffee, cream cheese and bagels on August 28th. Most of the families either have a teen in inpatient drug treatment or on Intensive Aftercare Probation.

We were disappointed that our invited speaker did not show; however new role-plays soon took center stage. The theme of our August 28th meeting was FAMILY SECRETS.

First, Parent1 volunteered to be a youth who is trying to get released from Abraxas. Parent2 volunteered to be her visiting father. Parent1 attempted to convince her father not to tell her counselor that on her recent home visit she contacted “Bob.” Parent1 has been told that contact with old peers and especially with this old boyfriend is forbidden. I (Lloyd) played the role of the Abraxas staff that came in halfway though the visit to find out how things were going. In spite of Parent1’s excellent manipulations and in spite of the fact that it very well could mean a drop in her level at Abraxas, Parent2 refused to keep her secret. Both Parent2 and Parent1 were very authentic.

Parent3 helped provide the next role-play. In this scenario, her son had been released from rehab several weeks ago. He appeared to be doing great especially in attending I.O.P. and attending meetings. She played herself and I played her son. My task was to convince my mom that she shouldn’t tell my PO that I had stayed out past my curfew. The 12-step meeting that I attended was over at 9:00 p.m., yet I had not returned home until midnight. Parent3 had been unable to reach me the whole time despite that she had given me her cell phone. I tried every trick I could think of to manipulate Parent3. I started with softer explanations, e.g., “I left the cell phone at home; I was with my sponsor; and we went to Eat & Park after the meeting.” Eventually when none of that worked, I got mad and said, “You’ll be sorry if you tell my PO about this.” Kathy was terrific and these are some of thing which she did extremely well.

1. She insisted on talking to my sponsor to verify my story.
2. She refused to keep the curfew violation secret from the PO.
3. She refused to escalate into yelling. I got loud but she kept her voice low.

We also did a min-version of a third role-play. Parent4 and Parent5 really hope that their daughter will talk to them about stuff like she did before she got involved in drugs. In this scenario her daughter had just been released from rehab and had bumped into an old using friend. She had lunch with her at the mall and “caught up on things.” But when telling the PO about it came up, their daughter (me) told both Shirley and Wayne that if they insisted on sharing that with my PO, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to share anything with them ever again. Since Parent5 and Parent6 want very much for their daughter to be able to talk to them about things, it presented a tough challenge. Time prevented us from playing it out.

The group came up with good discussion about keeping secrets. Most parents admitted that they have done it at some point. Some talked about how they do not report to the inpatient staff if their son or daughter has a cigarette while they are on home pass. Parents sometimes smoke and that may be part of the conflict.

If you have been keeping secrets for your teenager it is OK to admit to your teen that you have made a mistake. Admitting mistakes is also modeling good responsible behavior for your teenager.

Young people tend not to really listen to what parents say. They listen to what parents do. Therefore, in this fight to save our teenager’s lives, we cannot afford to miss opportunities to “demonstrate” our messages.

1 The secrets that you keep at first may seem trifling, but once you start keeping secrets, it makes recovery from drug addiction more difficult.

2 It is also important to sanction or otherwise hold your teen responsible for his or her actions. Telling the PO or therapist is very important, but also using a sanction or other assigned learning experience is another part of sending your teen a message. Note that If you ground you teenager, they can still attend 12-step meetings if parents provide the transportation to and from meetings. More ideas to come on this at our next PSST.

3 It’s a good idea to meet your son or daughter’s sponsor. However, as Ann pointed out, sometimes teenagers pick sponsors who are shaky in their own recovery. Don’t be afraid to ask the sponsor things like, “How much clean time do you have? How many meetings do you still go to in a week? Do you stay in touch with your sponsor? Do you ask your sponsees to write their step-work out or do you just talk to them about it? You don’t pick your kid’s sponsor, but just showing an interest in the person and asking questions is always a good idea.

With the group’s permission, we might start filming certain role-plays or group discussions to use in training others to run Parent Survival Skills Training Groups. Any films taken will be used for training purposes only.

If you have never been to a PSST meeting, we have missed you. Look for the enclosed insert which includes information and directions.


Lloyd Woodward
Aftercare Specialist Probation Officer
(412) 247-6365

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Summary 0f 8-14-04 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, August 14, 2004

Ten parents (representing eight families) joined us for coffee, cream cheese and bagels on August 14th. Most of the families still have a teenager away in treatment. One has a youth who was just apprehended on a Warrant yesterday. Three have youth who are successfully completing probation after ten days, after several weeks, and after four or five months.

Parent1, a veteran member of our group, provided one of the role-plays. Parent2, a first-time member provided another one. Both role-plays were similar. In one, the youth was dragging his feet on finding a job. In the other, he was dragging his feet on his GED. The outcome of both ended up with the parent either suggesting or insisting that they go to the library together or go look for a job together.


Lloyd Woodward
Aftercare Specialist Probation Officer
(412) 247-6365

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Summary of July-31-2004 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, July 31, 2004

Eight parents (representing seven families) joined us for coffee and donuts on July 31st. Most of the families still have a son or daughter in placement. One has a teenager whose whereabouts are unknown, one has a son just released a few days ago from Rehab, and one has a son who is going three months of successful probation and recovering from heroin addiction.

Parent1, a first-time member of our group, provided the role-play. Parent1s’ role-play involved confronting his son (played by me) one month after “my” release from rehab. Certain signs of “mental relapse” were starting to manifest. For example, I displayed a defensive attitude: I was argumentative; I claimed that my parents were driving me to use drugs by trying to work my 12-step program for me. Oh, yeah, and my dad (Parent1) had found a number on his phone bill to my former drug dealer!

Parent2 volunteered to be my “mother” in the role-play. She was very intense and I think everyone agreed that both volunteer parents did an outstandingly realistic role-play. This helped bring up much group discussion. At the end of the role-play, I was allowed to go to an underage club with a buddy from my narcotics Anonymous group, but I had to agree to come home by curfew and to attend a “family meeting” in the morning.

Later in the group we redid the end of the role-play differently. Parent1 took Parent3 (standing in for Parent2) outside in the hall to collaborate. Parent1 told me to sit tight and wait. I sat there fuming, making cell phone calls to my buddy complaining about what jerks I had for parents. Then they returned and told me that they both decided that I was not to leave the house tonight. I was pretty mad, but they made it clear that it as not up for discussion. I was grounded. And to top it off, they took my cell phone!! The role-play ended with me pacing the floor and swearing.

Cathy asked this good question after the second role-play. What if I left anyway? Well, if I leave I’m placing myself outside of parental control. I’m on probation. My Probation Officer must be notified and he must intervene. There is now an opportunity for me to learn by having consequences for my poor choice.

TIP: It is best not to threaten that you will call the Probation Officer. Your son or daughter should know that you call the Probation Officer regularly (perhaps daily) and it goes without saying that you would tell the PO.) You may be asked, “Well, I suppose your going to tell my PO?” Simply, say, “I talk to your PO all the time. Are you asking me to lie to him? I won’t lie or cover for you.” This is another good reason to make it obvious to your son or daughter that you are in regular contact with the Probation Officer.

Congratulations to our actors, Parent2, Parent1 and Parent3. Thanks to Parent1 for coming up with this great role-play that demonstrated that we know when something is wrong, but we tell ourselves that we don’t have enough to act on, that there is nothing that we can do. And our kids complicate things by coming up with stories that explain everything. It’s not a crime that at we want to believe our kids, but let’s not forget that they just came out of a drug rehab and really might not be trustworthy.

Doing nothing is almost always worse than doing something when that “parent sense” goes off. If things start to feel bad, things are probably worse than you suspect.

Remember these rules of thumb:

1. If you don’t trust that your son or daughter is going to go where they say, don’t let them go out.

2. If you see signs of a “mental relapse” e.g., irritability, defensiveness and/or manipulative behavior, and perhaps have reason to believe that they are in contact with old peers, then there is no need to wait for the actual relapse. Intervene. Sanction if appropriate. Be creative. Doing nothing is not a good thing. Doing something is often so much more important than doing exactly the “right thing.” If you are unsure what to do, talk it over with a close friend, a spouse, another parent from group, or, of course, with your Probation Officer.

3. As parents, you have much more power than you realize. Even if your child was not on probation, you can still be in control of your own home. And of course, especially if he or she is still on probation, you have considerable power. Parental power is not so much to “make him or her change.” Parental power is in your ability to send very powerful messages about what you accept and what you refuse to accept. Of course, the only way your message gets heard is by taking action, not by just talking.

If you couldn’t make it, you were missed. We hope you will come to the next meeting on August 14 and let us know how things are going with «FIRST».

Our thoughts and prayers that Bryan will be found soon go out to Mary. Many parents shared that they too have gone though having a run-away young person. Some of the ideas they offered will hopefully help.

Remember, parents are welcome to participate in role-plays but no one is pressured to do so. Be advised that adult language is often used in the role-plays.

If you have not yet attended the Parent Survival Skills Training, see the next page for information about what goes on at the meeting.


Lloyd Woodward
Aftercare Specialist Probation Officer
(412) 247-6365
cc: Probation Officer «Current__PO»

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Summary of 7-17-2004 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, July 17, 2004

Seven parents (representing four families) joined us for coffee and donuts on July 17th. Most of the families still have a son or daughter in placement. Parent2 has a teenager whose whereabouts are unknown.

Parent1, a first time member of our group, provided the role-play. Parent1’s role-play was challenging and J. did a marvelous job of demonstrating defiance. The role-play was as follows: I was the parent and J., was my daughter and she refused to turn off the TV and go to her room.

After I turned the TV off, she got up and turned it back on. Finally, I stood up and confronted her face-to-face and she stood up and went to her room. After the role-play Parent1 had a good question. What if she didn’t get up and move when I face-to-faced her and demanded that she do that? What then?

The short answer is that the parent insists that they go now, not later, and the parent “assists” them if necessary, e.g., takes them by the arm and marches them up to their room. For the most part, we underestimate the power of a determined parent. Other things also have to be taken into consideration, however, and as Jane pointed out, “that’s not me, I could never handle things like that.” Perhaps that would not be Jane’s choice to have a rule that at a certain time of the night the TV must be off and everyone must go to his or her room. There are more ways than one to skin a cat and it depends a lot on the circumstances of the cat and the personality of the skinner. Another factor that we did not discuss is the consistency with which those non-negotiable rules are enforced. You can’t just enforce a rule some of the time. When you practice consistency 100 % with non-negotiable rules our youth tend to accept the rules (as they do in the rehabs in which they presently reside.) Thanks to Parent1 for a great role-play that instigated discussion.

If you couldn’t make it, you were missed. We hope you will come to the next meeting on July 31st and let the other parents know how things are going with «FIRST».

If you have not yet attended the Parent Survival Skills Training, see the next page for information about what goes on at the meeting.

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Directions to South Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Gateway Greentree
2121 Noblestown Plaza
Pittsburgh, PA 15205
(412) 928-5940

From Pittsburgh take I 376 W/US-22 W/US-30 W

Take the exit near top of hill (4A for PA-121 N toward Crafton

Turn left at the T, Mansfield Ave/PA-121

then one block turn right onto Blue Belt/PA-121/Poplar St

1/2 mile turn right at light onto Noblestown Rd/ PA -50

go .3 mile and turn right up driveway, bear right at Y and follow signs to Gateway, which will be around the back

After turning right on Noblestown go .3 miles and turn left up a driveway- bear right at the Y and follow sings to Gateway Greentree, which will be all the way around the back of the building complex.

Type rest of the post here

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First Time Visitors - parents of teenage drug abusers and/or Juvenile Court Youth
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Monday, December 10, 2001

This blog is a place to share with you what other parents have learned as a result of the substance abuse problems of their teenagers. These teenagers can be extremely difficult to deal with and parents need all the help they can get at a time when it is difficult or embarrassing to ask for help.

The Allegheny County Juvenile Probation Office sponsors a meeting on the first 3 Saturdays of each month where you can tap into a wealth of knowledge many parents have found to be extremely valuable. If your child is not in the court system you are invited to learn the skills that may help keep them out or to learn how getting them into the system can be instrumental in saving your child’s life. If your child is in the system you are invited to learn the skills to help your child save his/her life. In any case, you are welcome to review this blog to see if there is information here that can help you and your child.

There are no quick fixes at the meeting. This is not a 12 step program. Many parents find attending a NARANON group or POTADA meeting helpful as well.

If you are a first time visitor to this site we recommend that you read some of the role plays and then come to the next meeting.

If you have been coming to the meeting we recommend that you review the site, read the role plays and consider writing a post for the site – something from your perspective that could help other parents. What you have learned. What you wish you knew.

Everyone is welcome to leave comments. Comments are moderated so they will not immediately show on the blog but usually by the next time a reader visits the blog the comments will have appeared. There is a box to the right of this post where you can insert your email address, which allows you to receive email whenever there is a change made to the blog.

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What are the role plays and how can they help me with my problem teen?
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Sunday, December 09, 2001

In our meetings we use role playing to work on real problems that parents are currently having. It turns out that a lot of the problems we have with our teens are common to all parents and they just occur at different times (take a look at the role plays posted here back to 2004 to see what I mean). Watching others play out a problem you have been having with your child can be very enlightening. Likewise, playing the part of your child and seeing how other parents handle you is very instructive.

There is an opportunity to discuss the role play and to do it over with different approaches as suggested by other parents and probation officers (who have years of valuable experience). Having the ability to share these experiences really makes a difference when the situation occurs in your home with your teen.

Note, no one is required to participate in the role plays.

These role play links are to the text of the summaries written up by the probation officer after each meeting. They give you a good flavor of how the meeting is conducted.

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Directions To The Eastern Probation Office
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Sunday, April 08, 2001

The Eastern Probation Office is located at 907 West St., Wilkinsburg, PA 15221
Penn West Offices is at the intersection of Penn and West Streets. Take Braddock Ave from the parkway (exit at Swissvale / Edgewood) towards Wilkinsburg. Make right onto Penn ave- go two lights, make right onto West St., turn right into parking lot. Call for information: 412-247-6365.

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Directions To Trinity Lutheran Church
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Sunday, April 08, 2001

Trinity Lutheran Church is at 2500 Brandt School Road, Wexford, PA 15090.
Directions: Coming from I 79 exit 73 Wexford/910 turn east (which is right if coming from the south, left if coming from the north) on Route 910 and at the first red light make a right turn onto Brandt School Road. Travel 1.4 miles and Trinity Lutheran Church will be on your right. There is a cemetary in front of the Church. The drive way is marked "Do Not Enter." Please continue past the cemetary to the next drive way, which is marked "YMCA" and turn right onto this drive way and it will take you around back of the church to the "Educational Building." This is where we meet. There is lots of parking in front of the educational building. Call for information: 412-247-6365 or 412-861-6757. If you are calling Saturday morning use the second number.

In case I79 is under construction or closed here are alternate directions:

You asked for alternate directions just in case Penndot closes down I-79 and I-279 to one lane for construction like they did last Saturday.
- Get off of I-279 North at the McKnight/Evergreen Exit (Exit 11)
- Stay to the left to to merge onto Mcknight Road
- Stay on McKnight Road for about 71/2 miles
- You will come to a Giant Eagle and a Target on your left (across McKnight from the Showcase Cinema North)
- Just past the Target (at the light) make a left onto Pine Creek Road (you will need to do a quick zig to the right to stay on Pine Creek Road instead of turning into the Target)
- Go straight across Perry Highway (Rt 19) and stay on pine creek for about 2 miles
- bare right onto Brant School Road (be careful to watch traffic coming from your left)
- stay on Brant School Road for a little over 1/2 mile - Trinity Lutheran Church will be on your left (watch fo the YMCA Child Care sign)

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