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Transcripts of Selected Group Discussions on CYC-Net

Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

ListenListen to this

sabotaging a treatment plan?

Hello all,

I am a Youth Protection Social Worker working in Residential Treatment Services for Adolescents. I have a 15 year old female client who has been sexually abused as a child and as a teen. After having lived 10 years with her paternal aunt, a couple of years in Foster care where she was abused and a few nights at her father's home, the latter brought her 500 miles from her place of residence and promptly dropped her at her mother's door steps last year

The youth is amazingly consistent in sabotaging any attempts made by either the Group Home staff or myself to help her in getting the help she identifies as needed. For example, owing to the fact that she did not function in a regular stream school she was registered in a type of Art School. After only two days of attendance, or so we thought, I found out that she was skipping school and hanging out with a friend smoking pot in her old neighbourhood.

In addition, she has been in therapy with numerous psychologists in the past. I say numerous because she has always stop seeing one to start seeing another therapist. This week she and I were planning for her to spend some time with her father at his home. The days of her scheduled departure pot was found in her cigarette pack. Consequently we decided that she could not go as we wanted to protect her from herself.

For the last three days she has stated that she needs to go for drug treatment (inpatient), then wanted to go and live in a foster home here or close to her father's home and she has also stated that she wants to move out on her own through our Independent Living Program. I am out of breath just writing this.

I have an idea why she insists on sabotaging her treatment plan (i.e. when I or the educators get close to her emotional centre she acts out or does something which will push everyone away from her) however I am somewhat at a loss of ideas in strategizing in order to get her to stop running from her emotions.

Need help here. All suggestions are welcome.



Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am extremely loath to give input on a situation at a distance. That said this one is too familiar to leave alone. My suggestion is both incredibly simple and perhaps the most difficult thing a youth worker can do. Stop being so helpful. If planning doesn't work and you must keep planning then quit being invested in your plans--they are likely to fail--at least for now.

Work this relationship on the long term. That is to say be there as a non-judgmental, constant, positive, and curious person in her life who can't be driven away but also won't chase her. Be interested in her as a person not her plans. Be curious about who she might become but not invested in any particular version. Believe in her despite all evidence that this is foolish. Don't be seduced by her failures but be impressed by any short term success. Know that you might lose her but don't back away from her because of it. Work through your own pain and frustration with your inability to influence or change her--these are your issues not hers. See if you can actually arrive in this relationship person to person not staff/adult to client/kid. If anything will happen here it is likely to take a good deal of time and a lot of patience. That said if you can get over your need to be helpful and actually meet this young person as themselves and not who you want them to be, you may gain the gift of attentiveness. You might be able to take three deep breaths and step back enough to really pay attention. If this happens and you can really pay attention without needing to do much, then you might notice something you have missed that could open a whole world of possibility blocked by the struggle to be helpful. Working this way is the hardest thing I have ever had to do--after a lifetime working with young people it is the best I can offer. Mind you, I am not you and I am not there and you may well have a far better idea about what to do. Best of luck!

Hans Skott-Myhre

Hello Yvan,

I am a Youth Worker at a residential treatment program in Alberta. This actually sounds like a familiar pattern one of our young ladies had shown during her stay at our program. She had been with us for a number of months and had a huge history of being moved around, so she chose to run on a regular basis but continued to return to the program and continued to do well. The conclusion we came to as a program was that because of the situations she was in, in the past anytime she felt she was doing well she would sabotage herself so she could start over (stay longer) because at the program she was in a safe place where people cared for her.
There is a Therapist at our program that not only does individual sessions on 1 to 2 times a week basis but if there are positive family supports willing to be involved he will set up family sessions as well. These seem to do a lot of good. Another program the girls in treatment here are involved in is NA & AA, these meetings are amazing as they give the youth people to relate to as well as look up to as they have been in similar situations throughout their lives.

Hope this was somewhat helpful!

Abby Fitzpatrick
BGCC-Grimmon House

I'm not a youth care worker but having said that I have walked a few miles in the young girls shoes. Everyone handles that abuse differently; some people never deal with it and some people are willing to look at it later in life. I would assume she trusts no one with her feelings and the drugs are masking her real pain. Myself the fear was if I told one person then everyone would have to know and they would want the horrifying details.
I eventually dealt with it in my mid 30's. I wish there was a way these kids could talk with someone who has been there and who truly knows the pain, shame and fear they carry around with them. Dealing with it gives one such freedom. I realized I could tell only who I trusted and not the whole world would know what I felt was my dirty secret. Abusers do a very good job on their victims mentally. My only suggestion is give her time and room to trust someone. Trust me the mental images of flash backs are terrifying – 15 a tough age.



Well; It is very obvious to me that she has some major attachment issues. She is doing the typical "push pull" that most attachment youth do. She is asking for something, and then as soon as she gets what she is asking for, she sabotages it with whatever means possible. Most attachment kids have never had anyone that has genuinely cared for them. Is there any history of abuse from her father?

I am aware of attachment programs where there is consistent "we will never give up, and we will never stop caring" messages given to the youth. I think that in time, these programs do work, but it takes time, and it needs to be consistent. Showing her that you're frustrated will just let her know that you're at a loss for what to do and give her again the feeling that no one really cares. Just keep trying. Don't give up, and let her know that whatever it takes, you will not give up on her.

Erin Henriksen


Wow. Lots of stuff here!!

Has the trauma she has experienced been addressed?

Pot is great! Probably gives her 15 minutes of peace a couple of times a day and there are no negative consequences. How is pot hurting her? It's not her drug use that is stopping her from being successful. If you were to give her 3 reasons why she should not smoke pot, would they make any sense to her? (I'm not pro pot.. just looking through her eyes) She knows our CYW game better than we do. If she can get a visit with her family cancelled by stuffing a cig pack with pot she's way ahead of us.

Pot – cancelled visit – because – protecting herself from herself... now I'm confused.

If the visit with her offender/father (if I understand correctly) is deemed a good thing to do.. after her trauma work is complete and her offender has received the necessary treatment so that he is prepared to take full responsibility for ruining her life, then set up the visit so that it can't be revoked. "You have a visit with your father set up for next Tuesday. This is important and not a reward for your good behaviour so this visit will go ahead regardless of school attendance, drug use or other behaviour. We will deal with those behaviours separately from your family contact."

I wouldn't say she's sabotaging her plan but it does not sound like she's in agreement with it. If you feel powerless, no, hopeless, think how she feels. Adler's 4 goals of misbehaviour would say she has given up on herself. If you asked her if she thinks anyone understands her I'd guess she'd say no. Ask her if she'd let you be that person. If she says yes, listen without prejudice, (she thinks pot is good, school is bad) get to know how she sees the world by hearing her story and maybe you can keep her grounded while the other work gets done. Sounds like attachment and trauma work first and school and family work later.

Hope this doesn't sound too hard, there's lots of positives here, your concern, not running, showing up for "help", not pregnant...

Good luck. Keep us posted

Peter Hoag, B.A., Dip., C.S., CYC
Professor, Sheridan Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning


Well... I dealt with a girl before who also was sexually abused. I was very young at the time and would not imagine taking this risk today. Basically I allowed her to speak with me on a one on one basis. She often came down when everyone else was sleeping. I just told her that if she wanted to talk to me, we had to talk at the dining room table. I explained the purpose of this i.e. her safety and mine. We eventually moved into the office but the door had to stay open I told her (no exceptions). Anyway, after a few months she was convinced that her past was not her fault and that she was responsible for her future, thus she started going to school. She still kept in touch with me after she became an adult till about 25 years of age. Even though I agree that sexual abuse is very damaging, I feel that the system makes so much of an issue out of it sometimes that victims are made to feel like pawns.

Mister Home Chef


It would help if you could state where you live and/or where you are looking for service. I now practice as a play therapist and utilize both art therapy techniques as well as structured sensory intervention according to my TLC certification.

If you are in the states or Canada look up the National Institute for Trauma and Loss for ideas and training.
Wish you lived in Ontario. She sounds like many of our clients. However, given us some ideas of location without breaching confidentiality and perhaps more concrete services can be recommended by our colleagues.

Theresa Fraser
Cambridge Ontario


Good Morning,

I would be propelled to meet with both parents and get an understanding of what has happened. Perhaps they care and are able/capable/and could be part of helping their daughter. In my experience some parents can be helpful to the healing of their cjildren's lives even after it has fallen apart for a time. Despite the possibility that the history of the family is bad, she still has a connection to them, they are her "parents".



Does the young lady have a drug abuse problem? If so, I suggest the Portage program. I work at the one in NB and we deal with youth from 14-21 years old. A large part of the program involves going back in time and working out why the person began using drugs. From there the youth begins to rebuild their life based on respect, caring for others and especially themselves. It is voluntary and sometimes when a youth realizes they have to talk about their feelings and why they behave as they do, they will want to leave. Most stay though, and discover the reasons why they act like they do and change. Being reunited with family is also a big part of the program. It is a therapeutic community, and I believe they get that through every activity, chore, group, meeting we do. The program is absolutely amazing, and to see a young person see that they are a worthy, intelligent, important person who can have a good life makes the job the best job in this field.

Go to the web site for info.

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