When a pan full of grease catches fire on your stove, your first impulse is to put it out immediately with water, a fire extinguisher or whatever you have at hand. Fires are dangerous, and you must attack the situation immediately.

But when the emergency is over, it is not a good idea to forget the whole event and go watch TV. You haven’t solved the “why” of the problem: Why was the grease so close to the burner? Why was I not looking in the right place at the right time? Why did I let the grease become so hot? Why do I cook with so much grease anyway? If you don’t address the “why,” you are in jeopardy of having the same thing happen again, perhaps with a worse outcome.

The same is true when an adolescent struggles. Teens can deal with a number of issues: drugs, school problems, lying, defiance, alcohol and cutting, to name a few. These are disruptive and frightening behaviors. But they are not the real problem. These issues are the symptoms that point to the actual issue. Just like the fire is a sign of some sort of organizational or focus problem in the kitchen, psychological and behavioral struggles are the sign of something else. Just as a temperature of 101 is the sign of an infection or a virus, the temperature is a symptom and not the real cause.

If this simple principle is ignored, and people helping a struggling teen are focused only on getting rid of troublesome behaviors and attitudes, they run the risk of the symptom reoccurring or just coming up in some other way. For example, suppose you have an adolescent who is isolated and can’t connect to other people, and she is drinking. You can tell her she needs to stop drinking because it can get her in trouble and is bad for her health. That much is true. But if you don’t deal with her underlying isolation and loneliness, your teen can easily stop drinking and switch to self-harming behaviors, or even simply not stop drinking. Isolation drives a huge number of psychological and behavioral issues for teens.

A kid in trouble needs a program that helps her at both levels: support to deal with the symptom and healing for the root cause — putting out the fire, in other words, and rearranging the kitchen protocol. And that is what is unique about Compass Rose Academy. It is based on a model of healing and growth that Henry Cloud and I developed many years ago, which has been proven and validated by research. The growth model guides those working with the adolescent to be comprehensive, holistic and transformational. That is, she experiences the deep healing she needs, plus the life skills to live at a healthier level as well.

Here are a few of the root causes that Compass Rose helps the teen with:

• Emotional disconnection: problems in forming deep and healthy attachments and in learning to trust the right people.

• Separateness: struggles in having her own voice and identity so that she ends up not saying “no” to toxic influences, habits and people.

• Integration: problems in handling negative realities within herself or others, leading to harsh self-judgment, perfectionism and constantly feeling let down and disappointed by others.

• Adulthood: being stuck in constant rebellion and defiance of authority.

These are some of the basic building blocks of a teen’s character that help her to then meet the demands of reality at home, at school and in her relationships. The better skilled she is in these abilities, the better her life and future will be.

Remember also that a symptom such as depression, acting out, school problems or self-harm can point to any of these challenges above. The identical symptom can point to any deeper cause. So be careful with treatments that are “one size fits all,” as you can miss what is going on in the teen’s heart and mind.

Compass Rose has a fully developed program that creates healing and strength in all these areas, from the caretakers to the clinicians. The work is based on research-proven approaches and is built on this solid character-building foundation. Give them a call if you have a concern. And best to you and your teen.