I am currently working in community on a crisis response and outreach team where it is very common to come across youth who smoke marijuana. For us, it is important to meet the youth where they are at and work with them to meet their goals. We are here to support clients come to their own conclusions and not make decisions for them. In my opinion, building therapeutic relationships is by far the most important piece to supporting individuals to make and meet their own goals; thus, increasing the chances of success. Providing a non-judgmental, safe space for youth to connect with a trusted adult is huge for a lot of youth we come across.
The team I work with, often comes across youth who do not want to stop using marijuana as they feel they are using it as a way to support their mental health. For example, we hear a lot of youth stating that marijuana helps reduce their anxiety throughout the day, or helps them sleep at night. We use Motivational Interviewing as a way to help youth work through some of their thoughts to get to their goals. By using the 5 pillars of Motivational interviewing (autonomy, acceptance, adaptation, empathy and evocation), we look for the “change talk” and are able to support youth create goals for themselves. We are also using harm reduction strategies, such as education (but in a fun way), to support youth to make their own choices.
As some others have mentioned, the difficult part at times, is providing psychoeducation to parents about harm reduction, why we use harm reduction, and why we may be providing harm reduction supplies to their youth. Most of the time, parents are wanting their teens to participate in complete abstinence, which can be an unrealistic expectation of their teen right off the bat. However, by working with both the youth and the parents to meet their goals and allowing the youth to come to their own decisions around their substance use, it often creates a safer environment at home and the parents are more likely to be a part of and included in their youth’s overall care plan.