My team of directors and I had the opportunity to travel to the annual NATSAP conference recently for programs and educational consultants who serve teens and young adults needing therapeutic treatment. Aside from having a great time connecting with colleagues and friends while skipping out on the arctic blast happening at home, our team was also able to take in some great content and participate in meaningful conversations. I wanted to take a moment to recap some of my takeaways here. 

The keynote speaker, Dr. Janet Taylor, emphasized some important concepts, including a couple of ideas that I’ve recently been reflecting on leading up to the conference. One of the phrases that she said is something we’d just started saying in our home and family. “Instead of saying this happened to me,” she said, “we start saying this happened for me.” Something changes for us mentally when we believe that everything happening “to” us can actually be for our growth, can promote change, and can contribute to healing. She also highlighted that 75% of our conscious thoughts are typically negative. When we start becoming mindfully aware of the thoughts we’re having, we can begin to shape our reality in a positive way.

I also went to a session by Shawn Breeden about ADHD. As I don’t personally struggle with ADHD myself, his session gave me a better perspective toward those that do. He shared that often people can get frustrated with ADHD sufferers and offer admonitions like,

  • Imagine if you’d worked hard all the way instead of waiting until the last minute. 
  • You have so much potential…(if you only you’d use it…)
  • You just don’t care
  • You’re lazy

He offered keys to support those with ADHD that can be summarized as “Be okay. Be brief. Be clear. Be there.” If we’re asking questions about their process, be brief. If we’re reminding them about deadlines (which they most likely are aware of anyway), be brief. When working with a teen, offer clear deadlines and time-based consequences, but without the aforementioned shame-inducing admonitions. 

At the conference, I heard a lot of mentions of Canadian physician and author Dr. Gabor Maté. One of the highlights included a video where he described “The tragedy of having to choose between secure attachment and authenticity.” Especially in early development, we all need attachment to survive. We also need to be in touch with our sense of who we are, what we feel, and what we need. When those two needs are in conflict, all forms of unhealthy coping ensue. This is the tip of the iceberg on Maté’s work which warrants much further exploration. 

There is so much more to unpack as I continue reflecting on all that I took in during the conference. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to join with others in a process that is so much about healing and growing ourselves while working to impact and bring healing to others.


-By VP & Executive Director Dr. Mike Haarer