A New counseling and support strategy for drug-dependent teens in denial.

Robbs’ experience with at-risk youth spans over thirty years.  Over the last eight years, he has worked almost exclusively with drug dependent teens who either refused to accept that their drug use had taken over their lives, or accepted their addiction as something they could not overcome. From this experience he developed and refined a specific support strategy designed for drug active teens in denial.  This early intervention support strategy allows us to help teens look at their level of substance use from a realistic and honest perspective.

Robb now teaches these concepts and other aspects of responding to teen substance abuse to School Administrators, Counselors, Youth Workers  and other school-based professionalsé.   He also teaches, these concepts in graduate counseling programs at the University of British Columbia and Trinity Western University.

This strategy can be used by parents, school counselors, youth workers or anyone trying to get a young person to consider changing their relationship with drugs.  We invite you to check out the information on this and other substance use prevention and intervention strategies on this website.

Teen Drug Trends:   Authored by Robb, this parents guide has been a valuable aid for parents to better understand the wold of teens and drugs.  We invite you to download a copy.  Copies in PDF format are free to download.  If you prefer to download an Ebook version for a fee of $4 (CAD) please follow this link to



How to break the cycle of family conflict that occurs when you try to get your teen to change.

You have a teen that is using drugs.  You have tried to get them to change. You’ve used your parental authority to motivate them with consequences and now every conversation with them turns into an argument or worse.  The conflict in your family is increasing. Nothing seems to get through to them.

Sound familiar?  It is a common place for parents.  Try reading the following. It may offer you a new strategy that will help break the cycle of conflict your are experiencing.


A strategy for parents in conflict with a High Risk Teen


Typical Teen Spheres of Influence

Your child spends most of their time in one of these 3 spheres: Home, School, and their social world of friends. Probably your childs spheres look similar to the above illustration. His/Her social life probably does not overlap much with your family. A significant number of his/her friends probably go to the same school so their social sphere and school  sphere tend to overlap alot more.

You probably have some contact with teachers etc.  at school so their school  and family spheres overlaps more.  The more you connect with their school, the larger the overlap.

Your child has people in each of these spheres that can, and DO influence them. Those people in one sphere usually do not have much influence in the other spheres.  The more they overlap, the more they can create influence in one of the other spheres.

Look at the three spheres and see if they are similar to your childs.

So why is this important?
Your child is doing drugs. You are trying to get them to change… to stop using drugs.  Their drug use is probably directly associated to their current social group.  In most cases thats where their drug use started and as it escalated they began to associate more and more with other kids who share their patterns of drug use.  The more thier use escalates the less their social sphere overlaps with your family sphere.

Your ability to help your child make changes has a direct relationship to your SPHERE OF INFLUENCE.  You have a lot of influence when your child is in the family sphere (at home or out with family), but you have very little influence when they are in their social sphere.  IF your child is seriously involved in drugs you probably have virtually no influence.

Consider…. You probably spend almost all of your energy trying to influence your child in a sphere that you have virtually no control of.  That lack of influence usually results in trying to force influence by threats and consequences (who they hang around with…constant questions on what they have or are going to do when they leave home).  The answers your child gives are most often half-truths or outright lies.,, then you spend more energy and conflict trying to prove the lies.  The end result is usually escalating conflict.

If we understand that the more we try to exert influence in an area where we have little influence the result is usually not successful, and conflict increases.

If your employer tried to exert their authority or influence on your personal life (even if your personal life was negatively impacting your performance at work) you would probably be resistance to it.  If your spouse tried to exert their influence on how you did your work, you would be more resistent than if they tried to influence you at home.

Understanding this concept offers other strategies to influence your childs’ decisions:

The Social Sphere:
Strategies that increase the overlap with their social and family spheres increases  your influence.

  • Involvment in sports (with parental involvement)
  • Allowing social gatherings at your home (sleepovers etc)
  • Including some of your childs friends in family outings
  • Meeting and connecting with “new friends”
  • Maintain relationships with your childs “long-time” friends (even if your child doesn’t hang with them anymore)
  • Introducing yourself to your childs friends parents

Connecting with one of your childs friends who may share your concerns over their drug use can create influence in an area that you can’t reach.

  • Find ways to have informal talks with these friends without your child present. (Listen, don’t talk! This is a chance to learn another perspective on how your child is doing)
  • Try to enlist their support in helping your child reconsider some of their choices

The School Sphere
Similarly sharing your concerns with a school professional (counselor, youth worker, or administrator) can create influence in another sphere. Those school professionals can use their influence within their sphere.

  • Because the School sphere and Social sphere overlap a great deal, they can also identify and enlist the help of more of your childs friends to further provide positive influence within their social sphere.  In short, school professionals have a great deal of influence in your childs social sphere because it overlaps a great deal with their social sphere.

Understanding Spheres of Influence, provides you with another strategy to establish ways to influence your childs decisions in a more effective way.  You use your influence in the most effective areas (the family sphere), identify and enlist the help of others who have more influence the other spheres.  This concept provides a broader more consistent level of support and can dramatically reduce conflict.

  • Find ways to have informal talks with these friends without your child present. (Listen, don’t talk! This is a chance to learn another perspective on how your child is doing)
  • Try to enlist their support in helping your child reconsider some of their choices

Healthy Spheres of Influence

Comments are closed.