Thank you for coming to the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State University. I'm Dr. Keith Aronson, co-director. I'm a clinical psychologist and my research focuses on stress and health. Thank you for clicking on this vodcast and we hope you'll find it useful. Okay let's get started.
I'm pleased to talk with you today about promising programs for adolescents.
It's been well documented, of course, that adolescence is a time of incredible change. Hormones, bodies, and even brains are undergoing seismic shifts. Socially, peers become much more central to the life of adolescents and their influence often exceeds that of parents.
Now most Military adolescents are actually quite resilient. Even though about two thirds have reported that deployments have caused them some degree of distress, only about twenty percent of those indicate that they've had some resulting difficulty. Indeed, many Military adolescents really step it up during deployments, helping out and pitching in as much as they can. But it is important to note that some are at risk. During the deployment cycle, some adolescents report increased psychological symptoms, acting out, engagement in risky behaviors, and increased relationship conflict. A recent study has shown that the use of mental health care services actually increases for adolescents during deployments. Other adolescents report that their academic performance slips, the connection and engagement with school declines, and some report diminished ability to enjoy things. Not surprisingly then, targets of adolescent interventions included things like stress reduction, healthy coping, reduction of risky behaviors including alcohol and drug use, and enhanced peer relationships.
There are promising programs on the Clearinghouse targeted to adolescents. Coping Cat is a program that focuses on reducing anxiety and worry, and it does this by using cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques to help students recognize the triggers of their anxious feelings, understanding how their thoughts can escalate these anxious feelings, and most importantly, create a plan for helping them cope when these thoughts and feelings emerge. Coping Cat uses sixteen sessions of about fifty to sixty minutes each.
The first eight sessions focus on education about anxiety processes: What triggers them, sustains them, as well as what can be done to reduce them. Second eight sessions largely focus on helping the adolescent develop an enhanced repertoire of skills for dealing with emerging thoughts and feelings that are worrisome: Role-playing, modeling real-life situations, and practicing coping strategies such as relaxation broaden the skills and ability of adolescents to cope when difficult feelings of anxiety and worry emerge. Lessons are reinforced with engaging workbooks.
Coping Cat has been placed on our continuum of evidence, and participants have reported lower levels of anxiety compared to those who don't receive the program. And these reductions have lasted for as long as a year, suggesting that there could be some sustainability of effect. Now to move the Coping Cat placement from promising to effective, a randomized controlled trial with independent replication is needed.
There are a number of other promising programs directed to adolescents on the Clearinghouse website. Most of them focus on reducing stress, and enhancing coping, as well as decreasing risks for the development of later psychological symptoms such as depression. You can access information about each of these programs as well as others on the Clearinghouse website.
Thanks for paying attention and we hope you found this helpful.