Chapter 1: Hope and Opportunity
People don’t come pre-assembled, but are glued together by life. Joseph LeDoux
A Model of Hope and Opportunity
In this book we will take a NeuroRelational approach to the natural, biological development and interpersonal repair of the broken lives of disconnected young people. In this approach, we strive to demonstrate that brains and bodies, when given positive relationships and experiences, have the ability to change negative life events into positive outcomes. We will endeavor to instill encouragement. There is tremendous hope for all young people, no matter where they have come from, the experiences that they have endured, or the approaches they have taken towards life. People can overcome adversity. Disconnected youth can become better connected to life when caring, NeuroRelationally trained people are involved in their day-to-day events. This model will counter historical approaches that have addressed and labeled the tough to reach with negative words and phrases such as disordered, dysfunctional, “just like his father,” oppositional, “bad,” hopeless, sociopathic, and a host of other identifiers that might doom a child to a reputation to either “live up to” or to “turn around.” For years many scientists and mental health practitioners have bought into the misconception that both “personality” and the human brain were fully formed and unchangeable by the time a person reached adolescence. However, we have seen the evidence, both in research and in the field that indicates that there is tremendous hope for even the most challenging of youth. Evidence in neuroscience (the study of the brain) and various disciplines within the field of psychology (the study of the mind) now clearly shows that people possess far more potential than ever expected; we are no longer on a predetermined “timeline” for the development of our true human potential. To those of us on the front lines, who work with those young people who approach life differently, this is both exceptional news and a tremendous responsibility. We, as therapeutic helpers, can no longer “write off’ a child because of their past experiences. We must now write a child “into” a transformed life, one filled with better people, experiences, ecologies, health, meaningful academics, and closer connections to his or her individual culture.
The NeuroRelational Model
The NeuroRelational Model is a powerful, positive, strength-based model. The primary purpose of this model is to provide a way for those of us working with children and youth to address and fulfill their needs by tapping into the power of relationships. Relationships involve transactions that continually impact experience and development across the lifespan of everyone involved, and they can become a powerful opportunity for transformation. Everyone, even our most troubled children and youth, should be hopeful that they would thrive, not only as individuals, but also as a part of a larger community. We see transformation as an integrative process. Focusing on the various biological, regulatory, relational, ecological, cultural, and academic needs that may be lacking or missing, therapeutic helpers and youth work together to understand how people and ecologies in their life can better meet those needs.