Andrew J. Fuligni, Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at UCLA, writes for The Conversation, explaining how his studies helped him discover that adolescents and teenagers have “…a fundamental need to contribute to others – to provide support, resources or help toward a shared goal,” as he writes in his article. “Contributing helps them achieve autonomy, identity, and intimacy,” he states, continuing to elaborate on how these are “important milestones on the way to adulthood.”
The Teenage Brain Isn’t A Selfish One
Especially in our digitally dominant modern age, teenagers are branded to be selfish. Saturated with social media, selfies, friends, social activities, and more, we cast teenagers to be selfish and self-centered, as well as moody, irritable, and generally discontent. Too often in the media, we see portrayals of teens being asked to volunteer or give back to others only to witness responses of visceral disgust, apathy, and disinterest. According to Fuligni, the teenage brain isn’t actually wired to be selfish. In fact, “As teenagers grow up, their brains are developing in ways that appear to support the increasingly complex ways of thinking and behaving that underlie giving to others.” Not only are teenagers entirely capable of contributing and giving to others, but the act of contribution, especially meaningful ones, makes for a healthier, happier teenager, as well as the adult the teenager will become.
Wilderness Therapy As A Community Of Contribution
Through an extensive amount of neuroscience and brain structure, Fuligni explains the various mechanics of the propensity toward giving as well as the benefits of giving for teenagers. Essentially, it is a win-win situation as the professor puts it, “Youth gain skills and maintain well-being while communities benefit from their efforts.”
A contribution is required in the community built within a wilderness therapy group. Living in the rugged wilderness without the luxuries comforts of home means setting up camp, cooking food, and taking the needs of others into consideration. Through wilderness therapy, teenagers learn how to contribute to themselves, to their peers, and to their group as a whole- what they do selfishly affects everyone from getting to a campsite on time, the quality of the camp, the experience of an adventure, and more.
Many of our teenagers at RedCliff express their gratitude for two things they develop when they go through our programs: a real sense of freedom and an empowering sense of self-ability. By learning how to give and contribute to life, teenagers grow in mind and in spirit.
RedCliff Ascent is a therapeutic wilderness program, nestled between two mountain ranges in the high desert of Enterprise, UT. We focus on adolescents ages 13-17 who are struggling with various challenges from anxiety and depression, to school abandonment and the need to reconnect with their family. With over 25 years of experience, RedCliff uses a relational model and narrative therapy to drive an outcome and an evidence-based approach. RedCliff Recovery offers an experience like no other through a proven, 12-step, adventure-based wilderness program. For more information, call us today: 801-921-8488