The Montana Academy Foundation, in collaboration with Montana Academy, sponsored a well-attended and well-received conference on October 12th and 13th in Whitefish, Montana. Under the general theme of “Immaturity, Character Development, and the Treatment of Adolescents” this initial conference focused on issues related to emotional and psychological attachment as a foundational developmental phase in childhood and adolescence. Nearly 80 people attended this first meeting in what is planned to be a series of annual conferences.
Over the two days of this conference, six speakers offered seven presentations on various dimensions of delayed or interrupted maturation in troubled teenagers. The titles of the talks (listed below in order of presentation) reveal the range and depth of the topics explored by the speakers.
- “Immaturity: A Cause of Symptoms and Misbehavior.” John McKinnon, MD, co-Founder and co-CEO, Montana Academy.
- “Making Sense of Adolescents: A Developmental Approach.” John Santa, PhD, co-Founder and co-CEO, Montana Academy.
- “Attachment as the Foundation of Character Development.” Elizabeth Kohlstaedt, PhD, Clinical Director, Intermountain (a children’s behavioral health care agency in Helena, MT).
- “The Neuroscience of Attachment.” Ellen Behrens, PhD, Assoc. Professor of Psychology, Westminster College, and Research Scientist at the Center for Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare at the Univ. of New Hampshire.
- “Attachment Therapy with Adolescents.” Ellen Behrens, PhD.
- “Adolescent Immaturity Through the Lens of Developmental Delay.” Tim Corson, PsyD, Clinical Director, Montana Academy.
- “Addiction as an Ineffective Resolution of Insecure Attachment.” Todd Cardin, MSW, LAC, Director of Addiction Prevention, Montana Academy.
From these varied perspectives, the conference offered a developmental model of immaturity and character development as a way of understanding and treating various symptomatic problems that can emerge in adolescence. This approach seeks to understand at a deep level the obstacles encountered by a child both in the family and, later, in the world beyond the family. Difficulties in negotiating this process of character development can result in immature, failed responses to the mounting pressures of adolescence, producing a variety of emotional and behavioral symptoms. Successful long term resolution of these symptoms requires both accurate recognition of the obstacles each child has encountered in the process of growing up and structured limit-setting in the context of a deep therapeutic relationship. Such an approach allows repair and development of a more mature sense of self and a more successful approach to finding one’s place the world.