- Gonzalo Laje
Introducing CLEaR Therapy
Exciting things are happening this summer at WBMA! Our practice is extending a new arm of group therapy to adolescents interested in sharpening their executive functioning skills titled “Collaborative Learning, Executive Functioning, and Regulating,” or CLEaR.
Executive functions are brain-based abilities that control and manage much of what we do in our lives. They enable us to execute a range of basic and higher-order tasks, including: attending, concentrating, and focusing; tuning out distractions; planning and organizing; initiating and completing tasks; recalling and completing multi-step directions; strategically setting, completing, and evaluating goals and performance; solving problems; processing information; working efficiently; utilizing working memory; shifting attention and displaying flexibility; inhibiting impulses; and monitoring and self-regulating emotions and behaviors. Current research suggests that executive functioning is controlled by the frontal lobe of the brain. Differences in executive functioning can impact an individual’s professional, social, and emotional life, and these differences are common among neurodivergent populations, including Autistic and ADHD individuals.
Executive functions start to develop in early childhood and continue into young adulthood. Those who experience vulnerability in executive functioning, potentially because of neurodivergence, mental health factors, or simply because they are pre-teens or teens without fully developed frontal lobes, may sometimes find it hard to manage responsibilities, develop effective strategies, and manage expectations. Such differences often lead to frustration and discouragement that can have a lasting impact on one’s life. With support, personalized strategies, and ongoing practice, however, these and other self-management skills can be developed.
To this end, CLEaR group members will learn about strategies shown to increase work productivity and improve organization. Through exposure and practice with ongoing feedback, parents will learn how to support their teen and work with them collaboratively as they cultivate the independence needed to navigate the perils of high school and beyond. Group members will embark on this journey as a team, encouraging and learning from one another as they form habits that promote success.
Like many executive functioning programs already available to the public, this program will detail how to incorporate a number of universal skills into one’s everyday life. From keeping a calendar, to conquering homework, and acquiring solid study skills, these sessions will foster independence and boost confidence in tandem. Unlike many other groups, however, participants will experience a therapeutic approach to teaching these useful habits. As participants begin to learn about neurodiversity, they will take the initial steps towards embracing their own unique neurotypes. In doing this, self-acceptance and understanding -- key ingredients for a healthy self-esteem -- will be promoted. After establishing this foundation, group members will engage in ongoing exercises and discussions from which self-realization and self-compassion will emerge.
Another unique component to this therapeutic executive functioning group is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is so much more than a coping strategy; it is a way of life. It lies at the core of our human existence and enables us to experience life fully. By expanding our awareness of the present, we can escape our inner turmoil and appreciate reality in a wholehearted way. Teens will be introduced to basic exercises designed to instill a genuine appreciation for the human experience, strategies they can start using right away. Through ongoing practice, they will gradually learn how to exert control over their attention and emotions. Sensory grounding, for example, is a mindful exercise that quickly orients us to the present moment in just 5 steps! To start, sit in a comfortable position and take a slow, deep breath. Next, engage your senses, one at a time, by following this sequence; notice:
5 things you can touch
4 things you see
3 things you hear
2 things you smell
1 thing you can taste
CLEaR is intended to help any teen build executive functioning skills and may be particularly helpful for Autistic and ADHD teens wanting executive functioning support. If school is an ongoing source of stress for your teen, if they are beginning to break away from parental guidance and forge a path of independence, if they want stronger skills for managing homework and tests, then consider signing them up for this group!
Licensed Psychologist, Clinical Neuropsychology