Following a successful conference in October, 2017, the Montana Academy Foundation is pleased to announce that its second annual conference will take place on Thursday, September 20th and Friday, September 21st, 2018. This year’s meeting, like last year’s, will be held at the Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish, Montana. The 2018 conference will focus on the steep and unsettling rise of anxiety among American teenagers. Speakers will explore the complex causes, manifestations, and treatments related to anxiety in young people. This focus on severe anxiety is particularly meaningful today. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety is the most common mental-health problem in the U.S., affecting up to one-third of adults and adolescents. A recent issue of “Health Affairs” cites data indicating that mental health conditions are more prevalent than physical health conditions among young people. Indeed, the costs of mental health disorders among the young are greater than for diabetes, cancer, and respiratory illnesses combined. The 2018 conference will be relevant for mental health professionals, for educational consultants, for school personnel, and for anyone living and/or working with adolescents. Pending approval by the Montana State Board of Behavioral Health, up to 11.5 Continuing Education credits will be available for licensed professionals.
It has long been an aspiration of the Montana Academy Foundation (MAF) to explore ways that the Montana Academy model of promoting character development and maturity in troubled teenagers could be integrated into the experience of students in non-residential school communities. The MAF board of directors has approved a grant of $139,004 over two years to support a pilot project at Glacier High School in Kalispell, MT. The Ascent Program will focus on a group of twenty sophomores identified as being at very high risk of dropping out of school. Among the anticipated outcomes are decreased incidence of mental health issues, increased ability to set and achieve personal, social, and academic goals, and improved relationships with family, with peers, and with others in the larger community. Such outcomes could position the Ascent Program as a model for similar efforts at public high schools in Montana and beyond.
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.