New Beginnings, a relational and educational approach to group work with female adolescents with substance use issues

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Estabrooks, Jana E.
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Through her work with FAS/E the author became aware of a gap in services for pregnant adolescents with substance use issues. This practicum was developed to address some of those issues. It involved the development and implementation of a time-limited group for pregnant adolescents between the ages of 15 and 18 who had substance use issues. The purpose of this group intervention was to provide some concrete skills to deal with the combination of pregnancy, substance use and adolescence, as well as providing skills to deal with physical and psychological addictions and helping these young women grow in the areas of self-esteem, coping skills, parenting and social support. These goals were accomplished through a combination of educational and relational methods. Results were measured both qualitatively and quantitatively. The girls all scored higher at post-test than pre-test on levels of self-esteem and ability to cope although many scores dropped to pre-test levels at follow-up. Responses from the girls andobservations by the facilitator suggest that the group was beneficial in terms of building relationships and helping the girls to 'normalize' their experience and therefore feel more in control and less isolated. An interactive group appeared to work well with this population but it is important to design the group specifically for the population and take into account the unique needs of female adolescents. Developing relationships is important to building self-esteem and group support helped the girls feel more able to cope. This led to less reliance on alcohol and other drugs as a way to cope or feel better.