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Identity Formation/Individuation

Teen Identity Development refers to the process of teens forming who they are in the world, which includes a number of different factors, both which teens can and can’t control.  For everyone, this process is complicated, interesting, challenging, and ever evolving, but research shows that the development during adolescence is more lasting than any other time.  While the process of figuring out who we are in the world is difficult for everyone, it can be especially challenging and overwhelming for teens struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse disorders, especially because of symptoms such as anxiety, depression, inability to focus, and false thoughts and belief systems.  Therefore, in order to support teens in the process of Identity Development throughout their time here at Paradigm New York, we’ve designed a number of therapeutic tools and resources, to address teens’ unique needs.

One of the reasons Identity Development is complicated is because it involves factors that teen can and cannot control.  For instance, some aspects of identity come from the way teens view and definite themselves, in relationship to their environments and relationships with others.  These aspects of identity contribute to building teens’ confidence and self-esteem.  At the same time, there are other aspects of identity that are more social and are create by other people’s perceptions and views, as well as other factors such as environmental factors, and life experiences.  All of these different aspects can be both positive and negative, which together form the dynamics and challenges of forming a healthy identity and sense of self, throughout the teenage years.

This process of identity development and its difficulties and triumphs, was first discussed by psychologist Erik Erikson, when he named it as one of the adolescent stages of psycho-social development.  Generally speaking, Erikson described the process as having a number of different conscious and unconscious aspects and that the resolution or failure of this process leads to either a secure identity or a weakened, confused sense of self, respectively.  In this regard, within the different sessions and different groups of teens’ overall treatment, we want to help nurture and further this development, so that this time of healing and recovery is also time of immense and lasting growth.  In this sense, we believe that this unique, dynamic, challenging, scary, beautiful time of teen treatment can prove to also be a time when teens really learn invaluable insights into themselves, how to be healthy, how to make changes, and how to live their best, happiest lives, moving forward.