Laura ChoateAs a counselor and mother of an 8-year old daughter, I talk to many parents who are wondering, “What is happening to our girls?”, “Why is my young daughter already begging for a padded bikini top?”, and “My star soccer-playing daughter makes great grades, so why is she is always anxious and depressed?” In considering the answers to these questions, I realized that today’s parents and girls are in need of guidance and support because this is indeed such a confusing time for girls. While they are learning that they should excel academically, athletically, and professionally as never before, today’s girls are also taught to be as “hot and sexy” as possible, to act older than they are, to be immersed in materialism, and to maintain a carefully crafted on-line presence. In other words, they learn to maintain perfection in all areas. What is especially alarming is that these messages have filtered from the adolescent years into early girlhood, so girls receive these pressures at far earlier ages than they did in the past.

The book, Adolescent Girls in Distress: A Guide for Mental Health Treatment and Prevention, will shed light on these important issues and provide specific treatment interventions for mental health professionals working with potentially life-threatening issues that affect today’s girls. First the book addresses the following socialization trends:

  • Be Hot, Sexy, and Look Older Than You Are: Even from Adolescent Girls in Distressan early age, today’s girls learn that their worth is based on looking as “hot and sexy” as possible.
  • Be a Diva: When a girl grows up with the label “Diva,” she learns to demand what she wants, believing she deserves to be pampered and to own the “right” merchandise.
  • Find Yourself On-line: Today’s girls are under pressure to maintain a carefully crafted on-line image — one that emphasizes the appearance of popularity rather than actual relationships.
  • Be All Things to All People: Girls receive the message that they can be and do anything but a consequence of this expectation is that they are also experiencing pressure to be perfect in everything: make top grades, be involved in multiple extra-curricular activities, and excel at sports, while also being popular, thin, and beautiful.

After a careful discussion of these trends, the book also addresses evidence-based treatments for problems common in adolescent girls. As a counselor, counselor educator, and author, I am all too aware that best practice treatments are generally difficult for practitioners to access, and most professionals do not have time to collect information from a variety of sources. Therefore, it was important to me to describe treatment and prevention strategies in such a way that professionals can readily integrate them into their daily practice. My point was to make chapters as clear and user-friendly as possible, including detailed case examples, recommended readings, and on-line resources for accessing additional information about each topic.

Readers who want to know more about treatment and prevention of these common problems will find detailed information about:

  • Depression and suicide: Risk factors, evidence based treatments such as CBT and IPT, and effective prevention programs
  • Eating and weight-based concerns: Risk factors for sub-threshold and full syndrome eating disorders (including binge eating disorder), evidence based treatments CBT, IPT, DBT, and FBT, along with effective prevention programs
  • Substance Abuse: Risk factors for substance use, abuse, and dependency, multi-systemic family treatments, and motivational enhancement interventions, along with effective prevention programs
  • Self-injury: Risk factors for self-injury, DBT and CBT treatment components, and effective prevention programs
  • Sexual trauma and relationship based-violence: Risk factors for sexual abuse and rape, treatments including trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, and prevention programs that promote safe and respectful dating relationships

In addition to these specific treatments, this book provides mental health professionals with ways to partner with parents, schools, and youth organizations to enhance life skills for resilience so that girls can better resist today’s toxic cultural pressures. I emphasize the importance of prevention and early intervention throughout the book, so that counselors are encouraged to engage in skill-building with girls before potential problems ever start.

Today’s girls are both excelling and struggling at the same time. They are facing a complex world, and they need our support to navigate this minefield of contradictory and often impossible cultural expectations. This is a difficult task, but we as mental health professionals are up to the challenge, and I believe that our girls are worth it. It is my hope that this book will provide mental health professionals with a valued resource as they work alongside girls on their difficult journey through adolescence.