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Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and The Dancer

Girl holding cellphone, posting on social media

Jesse and Della had a 7pm appointment to meet with me about their teenage daughter, Mariah, who had been the light of their life until she turned 14. Something in middle school happened that “turned the light off.” In elementary school and into 6th grade, Mariah had been an excellent student, loved going to parties and was a dancer. She was close with her older brother who was 3 years ahead of her in school and she admired his high school life and she looked forward to her own experience. Her family and extended family spent holidays together and Mariah seemed to be a typical teen until 7th grade. In the middle of 7th grade, someone had posted on social media (as a joke) a very nasty, mean-spirited sexual post about Mariah and a boy she liked and it spread through cyberspace. Mariah was devastated and the stories and texts seemed to go viral throughout the school. Mariah stopped going to school until her parents were able to find out what had happened. Despite their intervention and the school counselor’s, Mariah felt shattered. She retaliated with her own Snapchat message and the cyber-war escalated. Mariah became more depressed and angry with each passing week. She refused to go to therapy or return to school.

After the account of their story, I discussed with them the concept of a therapeutic outdoor wilderness program and how being in a distraction free environment away from social media and all the buzz of daily life would help Mariah reset physically and emotionally from the trauma she experienced. Mariah would be able to work with a licensed therapist, journal on assigned topics and get the validation and peer support she so desperately needed. Mariah would also have the opportunity to do family work through her journaling, which would be a way for her to release any of the shame she may be still harboring from the trauma experienced. Her therapist, parents and I would speak on a weekly basis to assess the work that Mariah was doing and also assess the appropriate next steps. Would Mariah be able to return to her home school? That would take sensitivity and cyberbullying education on the part of the school leadership that Mariah’s parents and I were willing to assist in providing. Would Mariah’s needs be best served in a therapeutic boarding school or would she be better served in a small supportive boarding school? These are all discussions that will take place on a weekly basis with her therapist, her parents and myself during the 8-10 weeks she is in the program. I might also suggest a complete psychoeducational evaluation to assess her learning and emotional needs.

I was able to meet with Mariah, and she actually decided to attend a wonderful small therapeutic wilderness program and did some amazing work on herself and with her parents. Her testing showed that she was a bright capable student with just some mild executive functioning deficits and would benefit from a nurturing, emotionally supportive boarding community. Her therapist and I suggested to her parents a couple of small supportive boarding schools with wonderful dance programs and Mariah is dancing at one right now. (No internet in the dorms after 9pm!)