2018 Conference Is Being Postponed: Please check back soon for new dates.

Teenage Anxiety: Symptoms, Treatments and Root Causes

Conference Highlights

  • Two days of intense focus on the root causes, symptoms, and treatments of severe anxiety in adolescents..
  • 11.5 hours of CEUs pending approval by the Montana Licensing Board for Social Workers, Licensed Marriage and Family counselors, and Licensed Addiction counselors.
  • An interactive workshop format with presentations by seven leaders in the field.
  • The Grouse Mountain Lodge is a 30 minute drive from the western entrance to Glacier National Park, one of our nation’s most majestic landscapes.

Meet the Speakers


Todd Cardin

Todd W. Cardin, MSW, LAC, completed his undergraduate degrees at the University of Montana where he was a double major in psychology and sociology.  He received his MSW from the University of North Dakota where he graduated Summa Cum Laude as a member of the Phi Alpha Honor Society.  He is a licensed clinical social worker and a licensed addictions counselor in the state of Montana.  During his twenty-five year career, he has worked in a psychiatric hospital, the juvenile justice system, wilderness therapy, and directed a transitional living facility for young men with substance use disorders.  He has spent the last thirteen years with Montana Academy where he developed an attachment-informed treatment model for adolescents struggling to overcome substance use disorders or similar behavioral compulsions.  He has authored a treatment manual and given numerous talks both regionally and nationally based on this model.


Tim Corson photoTim S. Corson, PsyD, is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in Montana.  Dr. Corson completed his Doctor of Psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology-Los Angeles and his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Dr. Corson currently works as a Clinical Director for Montana Academy.  Dr. Corson has completed intensive internship and fellowship programs at Children’s Hospital-Los Angeles, Reiss-Davis Child Study Center-Los Angeles, and Judge Baker Children’s Center-Boston.  He has presented at national and regional conferences and facilitated many staff trainings and parent workshops on the subject of adolescent development.



Timothy DiGiacomo, PsyD, is the Clinical Director for Mountain Valley Treatment Center, a short-term residential treatment center for adolescent boys and girls struggling with anxiety disorders and OCD.  Dr. DiGiacomo is a licensed psychologist with comprehensive experience treating children, adolescents and adults with individual, group, and family therapy. He is trained in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Child Parent Psychotherapy, and other evidence-based treatments, and he has a particular interest in family therapy. Prior to joining Mountain Valley, Dr. DiGiacomo served as a Clinical/Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry for the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and as a psychologist and consultant for the Plainfield, NH and Lebanon, NH school districts. Dr. DiGiacomo graduated from the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology and completed his pre-doctoral internship and post-doctoral fellowship at Dartmouth Medical School.  He earned his M.A. in Community and Clinical Psychology at Norfolk State University and his B.A. in Psychology at Fairfield University.


Courtney Merrill

Courtney Merrill, LMFT, is the Admissions and Outreach Director at True North Wilderness Program in Vermont. She has previously worked as an Educational Consultant in Washington, D.C., as a therapist in a wilderness program in Arizona, and as a therapist, clinical director, and executive director of a residential treatment program in Utah. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Purdue University and a Masters in Family and Marriage Therapy from Brigham Young University. Courtney is passionate about helping families get the help they need and about improvement and development of programs and initiatives that can support young people and their families at whatever stage of treatment they are in. She has presented at national and regional conferences across the country on a range of topics and is always grateful for opportunities to collaborate with other professionals.


John Santa

John L. Santa, PhD,  is Co-owner/CEO of Montana Academy. He is the past president of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs and served as a founding member of their Board of Directors. Dr. Santa received a BA in psychology from Whitman College, followed by Masters and PhD in cognitive psychology from Purdue University. He has undertaken postdoctoral studies in cognitive, clinical, and neuropsychology at Stanford University, the University of Montana, and the University of California San Diego Medical Center. Dr. Santa was a tenured faculty member in the department of psychology at Rutgers University and has published numerous articles in the areas of psychology and education, as well as spoken at regional and national conferences on many aspects of psychology. He is also a licensed clinical psychologist.


SPHW head shot

Stephen P. H. Whiteside, PhD, ABPP, is a Board Certified Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Professor of Psychology, and Director of the Pediatric Anxiety Disorders Program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Dr. Whiteside’s research focuses on improving access to evidence based care for pediatric anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder through the development of effective and efficient treatments facilitated by technology. Dr. Whiteside received a BA in Psychology from Northwestern University and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Kentucky. He completed a pre-doctoral internship in Pediatric Psychology at the Geisinger Medical Center and a post-doctoral fellowship in Child and Family Medical Psychology at the Mayo Clinic. He has received research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the International OCD Foundation, and the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation. He has published over 60 scientific articles, co-authored the book Exposure Therapy for Anxiety: Principles and Practice, and is the co-developer of Mayo Clinic Anxiety Coach, an iOS application.


Stacy York

Stacy York, LCSW, is based in Kittredge, CO, and focuses her clinical practice on trauma-informed care for children and families. She holds a Phase II certification from the ChildTrauma Academy in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) and is also trained in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) for alleviating stress symptoms in children and adults. Ms. York has broad experience in customizing workshops for various audiences, including educators, mental health professionals, and parents. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology Education from Rocky Mountain College and her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Walla Walla University. She has been licensed as a Clinical Social Worker in both Montana and Colorado. Ms. York holds the rank of Captain and Behavioral Health Officer in the Wyoming Army National Guard.

Summaries of Presentations

“The Symptomatic Diagnosis of Adolescent Anxiety: the Product of Immature Personality Development” (John Santa). We live in an age of heightened adolescent anxiety. This presentation will provide an overview of the symptomatic diagnoses of anxiety together with an understanding of the relationship between the anxiety and the underlying root causes that are embedded in character or personality development. This talk will consider the importance of addressing specific symptoms as well as the underlying developmental obstacles that have led to a fragile and immature character structure that generates the symptoms of anxiety. We will also examine issues of attention and patterns of addictive avoidance. Case examples will provide a template for forming a more developmentally holistic case conceptualization that can shape both a more complete understanding and a practical treatment plan for anxiety in adolescents.

“The First Uncomfortable Step: Beginning the Process of Treating Anxiety in Students and Parents” (Courtney Merrill)

Anxiety manifests in adolescents and their parents in a variety of ways, which may include school refusal, obsessive and/or overuse of electronics, social isolation, family conflict, substance use, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and general lack of engagement in life. This presentation will focus on what happens as a parent starts to see these increasingly concerning behaviors attached to their child’s anxiety. We will discuss the beginning of treatment and how providers may assess for and begin to treat anxiety for individuals and families. We will explore the variety of resources that are available and will discuss specific strategies that can help adolescents and families to engage in the treatment process, particularly when lack of engagement and refusal are part of the presentation.

“Consulting Strategies for Co-Regulating the Anxious Teen” (Stacy York)

This session will provide audience members with a deeper understanding of what “regulation” and “co-regulation” mean, why they are important, and how understanding them can help our teens. We will then discuss several real-life strategies that are applicable in the home or clinical setting. These strategies are neurobiologically based and developmentally informed. These strategies also assist caregivers with creating a shared space that will lead to stronger relationships.

“Anxiety, Identity, Addiction” (Todd Cardin)

This talk is intended to increase awareness regarding the psychological interactions between chronic anxiety, disordered substance use, and identity formation. Failure to recognize the interdependent nature of these phenomena not only compromises our ability to effectively treat substance abuse or anxiety, it allows for these “disorders” to become identity anchors permanently binding the individual’s self-concept to drugs and to the primal fears that drive anxiety. This is how Johnny, who has a drinking problem, becomes “Alcoholic Johnny,” or how Janie, who experiences anxiety, becomes “Paranoid Janie.” The assertions made in this talk are based on classical research in the fields of child development and behaviorism and on contemporary studies of identity.

“Parental Anxiety, Isolation, Protection, and Control as Foundations of Adolescent Anxiety” (Tim Corson)

This presentation examines sociocultural factors and historical context to help explain the parenting trends, family dynamics, and adolescent trends toward anxiety, insecurity, and avoidant withdrawal over the past two decades. Adolescents are retreating in increasing numbers from the central task of adolescence, i.e., gaining competence and developing a secure sense of identity. Parents are entwined in the dynamics of poor differentiation, blurred boundaries, over-control, fear, and permissiveness. This discussion will explore such powerful cultural trends as: two-parent working households; single parenting; a constant 50% divorce rate; social isolation; fear-based media; a perception that children need to be prepared for an increasingly complex world. The result of all of these factors can be an inadvertent parental message to their children that they are fragile, incapable, and need to maintain a dependency that hinders maturation and autonomy. Specific case examples will be offered to illustrate these challenges to parents and adolescents.

“Facing Our Fears: Acceptance and Commitment, Family Accommodations, and Use of Groups” (Tim DiGiacomo)

Adolescent anxiety presents in various forms, ranging from the expected and functional to the severe and debilitating. Comprehensive treatment of clinical anxiety primarily involves the utilization of exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy. Additionally, ACT, addressing family accommodation of anxiety, and the use of group therapy, including DBT and Expressive Arts, can be effective components of anxiety treatment. Attendees will gain an understanding of: a) the differences between expected and clinical adolescent anxiety; b) utilization of ACT in the treatment of anxiety; c) family therapy focusing on accommodation, and d) how to use experiential group activities and the power of a therapeutic milieu to address anxiety.

“The Science and Practice of Exposure: Helping Kids to Face Their Fears” (Stephen Whiteside)

Although anxiety disorders are one of the most common disorders in childhood, few youth receive treatment consistent with best practices. The available empirical evidence suggests that exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy is the therapy of choice for childhood anxiety disorders. This presentation will put forward a comprehensive approach to the assessment and treatment of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents, such as separation anxiety, panic, generalized worry, obsessions and compulsions, and social phobia. Attendees will gain an understanding of: a) current empirical support for exposure therapy; b) how to conceptualize common childhood anxiety concerns from a behavioral perspective, and c) how to administer exposure therapy for childhood anxiety disorders.