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Treating Adolescents with Drug and Mental Issues Research Paper


Substance use is an epidemic that continues to plague youth. Adolescent years constitute a contributing factor both for substance use and the progress of substance use disorders that manifest into mental health. Substance use in adolescents usually overlaps with emotional issues. Teenagers with a substance use disorder are more apt to develop an anxiety, mood, or behavioral disorder (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014). Abusing drugs in this life period can hinder meeting significant developmental and social goals. Moreover, substance abuse can compromise young people’s cognitive development. Therefore, the chosen population for the current project is adolescents with substance abuse and mental health issues. Their target problems are mood and anxiety issues and behavioral disorders.

Intervention Process

How the Theories Guide the Intervention

The major concepts of the chosen theories guide the intervention since they presuppose that patients will face their fears and apprehensions and share their experiences with the therapist.

Cognitive behavior theory

The use of this theory will enable the population to develop coping strategies that will help them to manage their problems (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014). Also, cognitive behavior theory is reported to have a positive impact on adolescents suffering from anxiety disorders, which is the second major target problem (James, Cowdrey, Soler, & Choke, 2013).

The narrative approach

The use of this approach is helpful because the participants will be guided to share their experiences (McLean, Wood, & Breen, 2013). As a result of such sharing, adolescents will be able to connect with their therapist and feel free to discuss their problems. The approach will guide the intervention since it will develop coping skills.

Specific Interventions to Operationalize the Theories

Two interventions operationalizing the selected approaches may be used for the project. The first one is concerned with parental involvement (Bertrand et al., 2013). The second intervention is school-based (Shoshani & Steinmetz, 2014).

Cognitive behavior theory

Parental involvement intervention may be employed to operationalize the cognitive behavior theory. Such an intervention will be useful to help adolescents cope with their substance abuse issues. According to Bertrand et al. (2013), the cooperation between parents and social workers is a productive method of decreasing substance use among adolescents.

The narrative approach

To operationalize this approach, a school-based intervention is offered. Adolescents are likely to share their experiences concerning mental issues when they are in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. School environment is rather suitable for reaching such a purpose.

Addressing the Concepts of Transference and Countertransference

Transferences involves adolescents’ unconscious conflicts and their attitudes towards the social worker (Oelsner, 2013). Countertransference incorporates the therapists’ unconscious attitudes towards the clients. Both of these concepts are addressed by the chosen approaches.

Cognitive behavior theory

In cognitive behavior theory, countertransference occurs when the clinician develops some automatic schemas and thoughts based on the relationship with patients (Vyskocilova, Prasko, Slepecky, & Kotianova, 2015). Transference takes place when a patient has some attitudes towards the specialist. To address these issues with the selected theory, it will be necessary to maintain the most unbiased and professional communication with the population group.

The narrative approach

In this approach, the concepts of transference and countertransference will be addressed through understanding and clarifying the client’s needs at the beginning of the treatment process and during its development. According to Leiper (2014), such an attitude will help the therapist to maintain professional communication and reach the most beneficial outcomes.


The selected interventions are reported to have a high level of effectiveness. The role of parental involvement intervention in coping with substance abuse has been researched by Bertrand et al. (2013), Branstetter and Furman (2013), and Sartor et al. (2013). The major findings of these studies indicate that parents have a considerable impact both on adolescents’ attitude towards substance use and abuse and their decision to quit these dangerous habits.

School-based interventions focused on coping with mental health issues among adolescents have been analyzed by Fazel, Hoagwood, Stephan, and Ford (2014), Shoshani and Steinmetz (2014), and Zenner, Herrnleben-Kurz, and Walach (2014). The major findings of the studies report a beneficial impact of school-based interventions of adolescents’ mental state. Scholars note that support from peers and teachers has a significant potential to decrease mental problems in adolescents.

Social Policy and Context Considerations

Constraints in social and agency policy that would impede with the application of my theory include gender and racial issues, as well as the level of income of the families to which my clients belong. To challenge these problems, I will promote equality among different ethnicities and genders. I will also create an equality program for underserved populations and low-income families.

Specific factors that may have an oppressive impact on clients are the level of income, religion, and level of education. To buffer these challenges, I might dedicate more time to clients from underserved population groups and invite charity organizations to support work with such individuals.

Future Professional and Personal Development

In terms of my professional self, there are several areas that I would like to develop further. Particular abilities that I would like to expand involve communication, time-management, and planning skills. So far, I find it difficult to concentrate on my clients’ needs and identify their major problems. I would like to learn how to elucidate the most crucial information from interviews. Also, I need to stop feeling unconfident and shy during conversations with clients. What concerns time-management, I sometimes spend too much time working on some client, which may lead to staying after work and thinking about the case in my free time. Such practice is dangerous since it may lead to burnout. Thus, it is necessary for me to manage my time properly. Finally, I need to develop my planning skills. These include creating a productive schedule of work, predicting the course of conversations with clients, and arranging my work day in a way that would allow helping clients as well as having appropriate rest. Professional goals that I have set for myself include:

  • to become a highly-proficient specialist that would be able to help others cope with their problems;
  • to participate in a variety of meetings and conferences dedicated to my area of interest;
  • to engage in continuous self-development to perfect my professional skills;
  • to cope with my own problems in a professional manner and not allow them to interfere with my work.

In terms of my personal self, there are several areas that I would like to develop further to enhance my effectiveness as a social worker and avoid burnout. First of all, I need to separate my personal life from professional practice. I should not allow these two spheres interfere with one another. My friends must not know anything about my clients, and patients must not take away my personal time with phone calls or messages. Secondly, I have to learn how to distract my thoughts from practice. Being a good social worker means being sympathetic and supportive, but when one forgets to think about oneself, burnout may develop soon. Thus, I should determine a strategy that will enable me to avoid excessive workload but remain a responsible professional. Finally, I need to develop empathy skills that will enable me to become a better listener and a more understanding person.


Bertrand, K., Richer, I., Brunelle, N., Beaudoin, I., Lemieux, A., & Ménard, J.-M. (2013). Substance abuse treatment for adolescents: How are family factors related to substance use change? Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 45(1), 28-38.

Branstetter, S. A., & Furman, W. (2013). Buffering effect of parental monitoring knowledge and parent-adolescent relationships on consequences of adolescent substance use. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22(2), 192-198.

Fazel, M., Hoagwood, K., Stephan, S., & Ford, T. (2014). Mental health interventions in schools in high-income countries. Lancet Psychiatry, 1(5), 377-387.

James, A. C., Cowdrey, F. A., Soler, A., & Choke, A. (2013). Cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 6, 1-104.

Leiper, R. (2014). Psychodynamic formulation: Looking beneath the surface. In L. Johnstone & R. Dallos (Eds.), Formulation in psychology and psychotherapy: Making sense of people’s problems (pp. 45-66). New York, NY: Routledge.

McLean, K. C., Wood, B., & Breen, A. V. (2013). Reflecting on a difficult life: Narrative construction in vulnerable adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 28(4), 431-452.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Web.

Oelsner, R. (2013). Transference and countertransference today. New York, NY: Routledge.

Sartor, C. E., Waldron, M., Duncan, A. E., Grant, J. D., McCutcheon, V. V., Nelson, E. C., … Heath, A. C. (2013). Childhood sexual abuse and early substance use in adolescent girls: The role of familial influences. Addiction, 108(5), 993-1000.

Shoshani, A., & Steinmetz, S. (2014). Positive psychology at school: A school-based intervention to promote adolescents’ mental health and well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(6), 1289-1311.

Vyskocilova, J., Prasko, J., Slepecky, M., & Kotianova, A. (2015). Transference and countertransference in CBT and schematherapy of personality disorders. European Psychiatry, 30(Suppl. 1), 144.

Zenner, C., Herrnleben-Kurz, S., & Walach, H. (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions in schools – A systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1-20.

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