Adolescent Development: Staff Perspective

Adolescence is a difficult and exciting time of life.  Teenagers go through physical, social, and emotional changes during adolescence.  The major focus on this stage in life is teenagers’ desire to gain more independence from their family and to form their own unique identity.   However, teenagers still need structure, security and support.  It is often times families who give teenagers this sense of structure, support and security.

A list of helpful information about adolescent development:

  • Your teenager’s brain continues to develop until age 25.
  • Teenage decisions can be influenced by a strong emotional response because of the influence of the limbic system (which controls emotions) in an adolescent brain.  Eventually, the limbic system in your teen’s brain will be under greater control of the prefrontal cortex.  The prefrontal cortex is responsible for planning, controlling impulses, moral reasoning and high order thinking.  This is the last part of the brain to develop.
  • As previously mentioned, the last part of the brain to develop is the prefrontal cortex.  The prefrontal cortex is in charge of understanding cause and effect.  Sometimes teenagers may engage in negative behavior and not know why, and not truly understand the potential consequences of the behavior.
  • Teen brains are wired to seek out rewards and seek instant gratification.  This means that teenagers are likely to engage in risky behaviors (drug use, sex, unsafe driving, etc.) because they have challenges delaying gratification.

  • Hormonal changes in the brain make teenagers more aware that they are not alone in this world. This results in a teenager feeling more self-conscious than ever before. They may think everyone is thinking about them, judging them, or watching them.
  • Social media CAN influence the brain. Studies have shown that when teenagers look at pictures on social media that display risky behaviors, it decreases activity in the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling impulses.

A list of what guardians and parents can do to support their teenager through adolescence:

  • Spend quality time with your teenager, even if they resist.
  • Show them unconditional love.
  • Set boundaries and follow through with consequences.
  • Give them opportunities in SAFE spaces to practice skills such as delaying gratification, controlling impulses, and making decisions. The more they practice in safe places, the better they can use these skills out in the ‘real world’.
  • Give them structure and predictability. Teach them how to be organized.
  • Do not give long lectures. The average teen will stop listening after 4-8 minutes. Make it short, sweet and to the point.
  • Limit the amount of time your teenager spends on social media. It is important for your teenager to have time away from social media and cell phones so they can learn to regulate their emotions and develop appropriate social skills.

Michelle Geeting
Crisis Program Supervisor

Adolescent Development: Youth Perspective

This October, our focus at the Huckleberry House is Adolescent Development. To start the month, we hear from some youth in our shelter about what it’s like to be their age.














Mental Health: No Longer the Hidden Disease | By Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

Mental health used to be “the hidden disease,” something to be ashamed of and not talked about. Persons were locked away in “insane asylums” and hospitals.

In the 1950’s, a well-meaning movement to take people out of sometimes horrible conditions and put them back in the community took root. Alas, the program was a failure because we never invested in the resources to take care of them in the community. As a result, many ended up homeless or in jails and prisons. Because they had little voice, budgets that supported their care were cut.

Today, there is hope on the horizon. We now understand that mental illness is a disease like any other. We understand that diagnosis and treatment can help many recover or manage their illness and lead to meaningful lives.

There are many reasons. Several advocacy groups, like National Alliance on Mental Illness, are speaking up and advocating. Ohio has one of the strongest NAMI chapters and have partnered with many groups. Many famous people, like actors, actresses, and elected officials, are now sharing their personal stories. The Governor of Ohio has been a strong advocate and leader.

In Ohio, I have worked for over 15 years on this issue and have seen great changes. When I started, there were 6 mental health courts, 2 in Ohio, where the court tries to deal with the issues that landed someone in court, and break the cycle of recidivism and homelessness. Now there are 38 in Ohio, hundreds nationally. Each one involves the community in treatment.

A program called Crisis Intervention Teams trains police on how to respond appropriately to calls for persons with suspected mental illness. When I started working on this, there were 100 Ohio officers trained. We just passed 9000 trained officers. I am now Project Director of Ohio’s chapter of a national program called Stepping Up that works with jails in identifying and treating persons with mental illness. These are but a few of the many programs in Ohio on this issue.

We now recognize that people with mental illness need support, care and treatment, not jail or prison. We need to provide resources for families and children so that they can keep their loved ones safe, and we must all openly talk about it as a disease that deserves treatment like any other, and advocate for funding and programs to do so. If you have an illness or a family member with one, speak up and share your story so others can understand. Only then can we remove the stigma.

Evelyn Lundberg Stratton
Project Director, Stepping Up
Retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio

Mental Health: The Many Parts of One | By Toni Jo Coppa

Fresh A.I.R. Gallery presents

The Many Parts of One

by Toni Jo Coppa

August 17 – September 23, 2016


Coppa explains that her work is both cathartic and socially motivated. “The disgraceful stigma of mental illness labels a person and puts them in a stereotyped group. I’m hoping to break the negative attitudes towards common mental conditions like depression, anxiety and/or addictive behaviors,” she says. “These disorders have affected my mood, thinking, behavior, and most obviously my art. Conjuring my feelings into a tangible form helps me to identify and manage them more clearly.”

Toni Jo writes in her artist’s statement: “I have come to know the many distinct parts of me that make up the ‘Self.’ I chose the work in this exhibition to illustrate what these diverse parts (feelings and emotions) look like for me. When I express mental issues this way, I am able to objectify them (and even subjugate them, if necessary) for a new perspective. I am not an art therapist, but my work is indeed cathartic. Like Louise Bourgeois, I am inspired by a conflicted family life, the human condition, and psychoanalysis. I use materials and styles to best capture the part I am addressing.”

Toni Jo Coppa received her BFA degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, an MFA degree from the Maine College of Art, and was honored with a full scholarship to attend the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

View more of Toni Jo’s work on her website:


About Fresh A.I.R. Gallery

Fresh A.I.R. (Artists In Recovery) Gallery exhibits the works of individuals affected by mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. Through art, we educate the community and work to break down stigma of mental illness and substance abuse disorders by bringing focus to the artistic vision. Fresh A.I.R. Gallery opened its doors in September of 2004 to celebrate Southeast’s 25 year anniversary and typically sponsors between five and eight exhibits a year. Fresh A.I.R. Gallery is a project of Southeast Healthcare.

131 N. High Street Columbus,
OH 43215

Gallery hours – Monday through Friday 8:00 am – 5:30 pm

Gallery Manager – Lauren Pond, (614) 225-0980
PR Contact – Myken Pullins, (614) 225-0980

Mental Health: Recognizing and Addressing Symptoms | By Abbey Wollschleger

As a licensed therapist, parents and guardians frequently ask me why mental health is important. Life can be tough and with the rise of social media our kids are faced with more challenges than ever before.

Today’s teens face many pressures such as school performance, family problems, peer expectations, bullying, and just dealing with what life throws at them.

All of these stressors can have a serious impact on your teen and teens aren’t always the best at articulating when they are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed. It is up to us as parents and caring adults to look for the signs and symptoms that a young person is struggling.

Some Signs and Symptoms:

  • Changes in behavior – i.e. showing up late, clumsiness, forgetfulness
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Sudden loss of interest, enthusiasm, and motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Frequent illness – i.e. headaches or stomach aches

It can sometimes be hard to tell whether your teen is “just being a teenager” or if there is a more serious problem. You know your child best. Pay attention to how long the symptoms have been present, how severe they are, and how differently your teen is acting from his or her usual self. And when in doubt, ask for help! My job as a therapist is to help you sort out whether or not there is a more serious issue and work with you to come up with solutions to help your child deal with life stressors and symptoms.

Not waiting to address mental health symptoms and concerns will help your teens ability to:

  • Make good decisions
  • Develop and maintain healthy relationships
  • Better handle daily stressors and the ups and down of life
  • Discover who he or she is and reach his or her goals and full potential.

Addressing symptoms can also prevent your teen from developing a more serious mental health problem. If you believe your child might be struggling, Huckleberry House is here to help. Please contact 614-294-8097 and ask to speak to someone in our Family Support Program.

About the Author:

Abbey Wollschleger, LISW-S graduated with her Master’s Degree from The Ohio State University. She is currently the clinical supervisor of the Family Support Program and has over 8 years of experience providing therapy to underserved teens and families at Huckleberry House in Columbus, OH. Through active listening and education, she empowers clients to be more effective in their approaches to relationships, communication, life stressors, and problem-solving.

Future Thinking: What are your Goals? | By Huck House Youth

This month, we focused on future thinking. In the Crisis Shelter, we discussed plans for the future and asked youth to answer a few questions about their futures.

1. What would you like to be doing when you turn 18?
2. What are some things you are doing to get ready for that?
3. What more can you do to get you ready for that?
4. Do you have a backup plan?

If you are a young person, what are your answers to these questions? Parents and mentors, what would you say to these people and how could you help them realize their goals?
Please share your answers and thoughts in the comment section.






Future Thinking: Q and A with Amanda Glauer

Q&A with Amanda

About Amanda:  Amanda Glauer, Team Leader of the Transitional Living Program (TLP), has been working at the Huckleberry House for over 19 years. She has worked in every program at Huck House and was previously the Team Leader of the Crisis Program. Amanda obtained her degree in social work and loves working with the young people and their children at Huck House. In this Question and Answer with Amanda, she discusses how young people should think about their futures and what adults can do to be mentors.

Q:  Without support from parents, how can a young person stay motivated to reach his or her goals?

A:  Without support and encouragement, reaching your goals can be extremely difficult. If parents are not supportive, then other adults and peers can be a good place to turn. Surrounding yourself with people who have similar or higher goals will help keep you on track. Talk about your goals, why you are working towards them and what you are going to do to accomplish them.

Q:  Is it possible to think about your future too much? If so, how much is too much?

A:  It is a good thing to be focused on your future, but you know it is too much when it becomes more of an interference than a goal. If a young person is overwhelmed by their goals and constantly worrying about the future, it can be discouraging. Remind yourself why you have those goals and remember that everything that gets you one step closer is an accomplishment.

Q:  How much is not enough when it comes to thinking about your goals?

A:  If you don’t think about where you’re headed or why you make the decisions you make; you should really take some time to think about the future. Young people should live with intention and not simply let life happen to them.

Q:  Who should teens talk to about their futures?

A:  Anyone who is willing to discuss your future with you could provide helpful feedback and advice. However, balance is important when choosing who to talk to about your future. While having someone who provides nothing but encouragement can be beneficial, it is important to have someone who will challenge your goals too. Everyone will provide a different perspective, so listen to everyone, even your critics.

Q:  How can parents or mentors encourage teens to think about their futures?

A:  Just having a conversation with a young person about their future can be encouraging. Talk about their goals, break them down, and think through the pros and cons. Talk about the potential barriers and how to remove them. Recognize that reaching any goal takes hard work and there will be ups and downs along the way. Finally, help the young person build confidence by acknowledging every accomplishment that gets them closer to their goal.

Q:  Should you ever tell a teenager that his or her goals are unrealistic?

A:  No, it is very discouraging to hear that your goals shot down. Telling them that their goals are unrealistic is not teaching them anything. Instead, say “let’s research it.” Help them understand the steps, let them try it out, let them fail and let them succeed. You may know their goal is not very realistic but you need to let them walk through the steps and think for themselves. Up until about age 23, young people do not see people from start to finish and they seek instant gratification. You should help them learn from their mistakes and acknowledge their successes.

Learn more about brain development and decision making of adolescents in this podcast.

Q:  How can a parent or mentor guide a teenager towards the right future for him or her?

A:  Adults can recognize when a young person is heading down the wrong path, but it is important to realize that you might not always know which path is right. As a parent, you may recognize a strength or weakness in a young person that he or she does not see. Rather than pushing someone down the path that you see fit, expose them to experiences that play to their strengths, allow them to feel success and let them think for themselves.

One thing that parents often do is use scare tactics to get a youth motivated. “If you don’t go to college, this is where you’ll end up,” this isn’t giving them something to work towards. A better way to look at it is, “if this is your goal, you should go to college.”

In conclusion, one of the most important things you can do for a young person is talk to them about their goals and break them down. Talk about the pros and cons, the successes and the failures and the steps they will need to take to reach their goals. Find ways that help them to see and feel their goals so that they don’t lose their desire or give up.