Q&A for Pros: Recommendations for a 12-year-old Who Lies and Steals?

Q&A QAQ: From a colleague who runs a residential treatment program for youth: Hey, Jonathan. Just a quick question about one of my clients. He is a 12 year old who was adopted and was sent away for a serious lying/stealing problem. These behaviors have not surfaced completely since he came. I wondered if you had any recommendations for literature for him to read that might speak to his lying/stealing? A: I don't have any literature specifically for 12-year-olds on this topic, though I'm sure if you did an Amazon search you would find some therapeutic titles for latency age kids. However, unless he's insight-oriented (most 12 year olds aren't), I wouldn't expect a bibliotherapy approach. I would be looking at finding out what his goals are using motivational-interviewing/solution-focused approaches to help him identify his goals on becoming more honest. That in addition to whatever work your program already does to address his unresolved past issues, current family dynamics and parenting strategies. Certainly any recreational/experiential delivery methods will help integrate these issues more than direct talking-based therapies or reading on his own.

Also, as you said, "these behaviors have not surfaced completely since he came" is no surprise, since from a systemic perspective he's no longer in his native home system where his lying/stealing may have served a purpose (the function of the problem) for him in that system. This is one of the problems inherent in treating the child and not treating the system (the family) around the child. Make sure the family is part of the treatment process.