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Defusion with Teens

Explaining defusion to teenaged clients uses slightly different metaphors and language. As with adults, we want to communicate to teenaged clients that as human beings we all have thoughts, that we can recognise and assess those thoughts, but that we don’t want to be ‘caught up’ in them. There are some really good ways we can explore this with teens. 

First, though, it’s important to remember that teens, like adults, can fuse with their thoughts, get caught up in the content of those thoughts, and take them on as factual. In some cases, caught up in the emotion of a sad, depressing or frustrating incident or issue, they may be even more likely to be affected by their thoughts. As a result, they’ll try to push the thoughts away, control them, and avoid them. We want to teach teens how to defuse and help them learn that ‘thoughts are thoughts’ and not the content within them. 

There are a few methods to teach defusion with teens. 

Most teens are on Facebook. They all know that Facebook has status updates and is a forum for an open conversation with their peers. We want our teenage clients to consider and label their thoughts as status updates – as a symbol or a version of fact but not fact itself. Just as they don’t accept everything they read on Facebook as truth, they shouldn’t consider their own thoughts as truth. Helping them label their thoughts as status updates helps them take that step back from their thoughts as fact - saying ‘I’m having another Facebook update’ has a different effect to fusing with the thought ‘they don’t like me’.

Similarly, you might want to use Twitter language. Twitter uses short messages. A way to use this in defusion is to say ‘sounds like another Tweet’ or ‘I’m having a mind Tweet’. Give them funny labels, and have your client identify a suitably named Twitter feed for the comments, judgements, assumptions and doubts within a category. 

The Talking Tom app has a cartoon cat that you talk to and it repeats back what you say in a funny voice. It defuses immediately – again, indicating that what you ‘hear’ or ‘read’ is an idea, comment, assumption, thought etc. It is a light-hearted approach, like Twitter and Facebook. We are trying to be light-hearted in defusion and are trying not to take these thoughts seriously. 

Regardless of what method you use, once you have built rapport with your teenaged client and they understand that you are taking their issues seriously, you can bring a light-hearted approach to the treatment. Have a laugh. Ask your teen clients what social media applications they use and apply those.


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