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Introversion issue critical in working with adolescents

July 1, 2009
by root
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In her article in the March/April 2009 edition, Catherine Wulfensmith offered a nice roundup of the broad issues about introverted clients and how programs can help or hinder these people in treatment. Some thoughts came to mind as I read the article.

Certainly the flip side of these issues might be considered for extroverted clients. Working with adolescents for more than a decade, I often have brought the introversion/extroversion issue up in treatment groups. It is an important personality dimension when evaluating depression, for example, since the introverted client might respond with more solitude to deal with this, and it is highly important regarding how teens respond to their peer group.

Also, in explaining these natural in-directed/outgoing preferences, being intentional about educating clients and normalizing both preferences has helped clients toward deeper self-understanding, which they have appreciated. I have told clients in groups that introverts need extroverts to pull them out of their self-focus at times, and outgoing people need those who are inward in order to learn more about self-reflection.

Introverts can practice the extroversion they have, and vice versa-no one is solely one or the other. Then there is the “shy” vs. introverted question for adolescents. Also, clinicians can't be fooled by an introverted person's reply in group treatment, “I just don't have anything to say.” Most inwardly focused teens and adults have a lot to say-they just say it to fewer people at a time. And they usually have some helpful input to the treatment group, when offered.

Chris Bowers, CSAC, ASE

Chair, NAADAC Adolescent Specialty Committee

Addiction Professional 2009 July-August;7(4):11