Transforming the teenage mind is a great challenge of our times. How to understand the modern teenager? How to communicate with them effectively? How to help teenagers utilize their opportunities and potentials? How to reduce the conflict between teenagers and institutions like family, community, organization and the society at large? How to enhance their spirit of creativity and independence even while they learn to set reasonable limits to their freedom? How to help them discover/re-construct their personal values? How to help them be committed to human dignity, justice, equality and ecological sensitivity and develop qualities like empathy and tolerance? These are some of the challenges of our modern, globalized society.
In a way, these are also the problems faced by most and teachers and governmental and community organizations. Old problems of the youth continue to exist while new problems are added every day. Old solutions continue to fail and new solutions fail to emerge.
It is in this context that a transformational/personal growth programme like Dr George Kaliaden’s Teenager Dynamic stand out as highly relevant and unique. Founded in 1994, Teenager Dynamic is now preparing for its 150th training camp for teenagers to be held in Dubai and Cochin. It is a moment of great fulfilment for Dr Kaliaden who has been practising as a consultant psychologist for more than two decades.
In an exclusive interview with THE TEENAGER TODAY, Dr Kaliaden outlined his vision and narrated the challenges he faced in developing the programme. Brief therapy approach was the key concept around which the programme was designed. The question is whether we can bring about a transformational change in a matter of 3 or 4 days. Can we improve the teenage student’s motivation, skill levels, attitudes and behaviour by a structured intervention programme over a weekend? Can such a short but intense training format yield significant changes in terms of enhanced level of functioning and improved academic performance? The idea might sound rather unreal to most practitioners.” This is where Teenager Dynamic came up with a proven solution.
Dr Kaliaden shared his personal experience that led to the creation of the programme: “It was in 1994 that I began my practice in Dubai. In the first few months I happened to treat many cases of disturbed and maladapted teenagers. I remember a case of an Indian family from Mumbai who sought my help in dealing with their rebellious teenage daughter. The girl had walked out of home in anger and disappeared for several days. The parents were desperately trying to find the girl. Finally with the help of the police the girl was found on the roof terrace of a nearby building under the care of her friends. She was then brought to me for counselling/therapy. The change that we could bring about in her amazed the parents.
Less dramatic, but equally serious cases of teenagers came to me almost every day. Cases like students suspended from school for self-injurious behaviour; senior students who refused to go to school; high school students who attempted suicide or got arrested for criminal behaviour; students who manifested tension headache, somatic complaints or hysteric seizures under stressful situations like exams; teenagers who turned out to be a threat to their own parents and began to break household stuff and beat up people around; youngsters who wandered with unruly gangs of friends and engaged in anti-social activities. The list was long and truly disturbing.
One of the most dramatic cases, a divorced, single mother of a teenage student called me for help as her only son was in a Dubai jail for some suspicious activity. The mother was fed up with the boy’s unruly, aggressive and reckless behaviour and was not sure whether to bail him out or let him stay in prison. In another case, a teenage girl said she hated herself as she was so depressed confused, angry and frustrated. She wrote to her father: “I feel useless, guilty and an absolute failure. I feel there is no point in living at all… I feel like a loser; I feel like I am born to fail in every aspect of my life… I am having difficulty in concentrating. I sleep too much — at least 14 hours a day. Some days I don’t eat and some other days I keep eating too much… My mind is pre-occupied with death…. At times I start hitting myself for not doing anything good in life….I can feel myself changing into a different person — at which I am scared. I want to scream and shout and ask this different person to go away. But it does not leave me. … Very rare thoughts of self-abuse and suicide come into my head…Tears are rolling out when I am writing this.” This very vivid description of the goings-on in a depressed teenager’s mind will give us an idea on the extent and severity of teenage problems.
While treating these cases of depressed maladapted, rebellious and socially withdrawn teenagers, I believed that prevention is better than cure. Waiting for problems to get worse was not a good idea. Preventing psychological and behavioural problems made better sense. The solution was to make psychological techniques available to teenagers at this critical stage of development. This made me think differently. I sat and designed a programme that addressed all major issues of teenage life.