When No One Understands: Letters to a Teenager on Life, Loss, and the Hard Road to Adulthood

When No One Understands: Letters to a Teenager on Life, Loss, and the Hard Road to Adulthood

by Brad Sachs
     
 

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When Amanda first came to Dr. Sachs for treatment, she had attempted suicide more than once. Withdrawn and cynical, she refused to speak during her therapy sessions. Determined to connect, Dr. Sachs tried something unconventional: he wrote letters to Amanda between sessions and invited her to write back, thinking she might feel more comfortable opening up in

Overview

When Amanda first came to Dr. Sachs for treatment, she had attempted suicide more than once. Withdrawn and cynical, she refused to speak during her therapy sessions. Determined to connect, Dr. Sachs tried something unconventional: he wrote letters to Amanda between sessions and invited her to write back, thinking she might feel more comfortable opening up in this way—and indeed she did. This correspondence gradually built trust between them, helping her to survive and ultimately to heal.

When No One Understands consists of twenty letters that Dr. Sachs wrote to Amanda over the course of her therapy. In these letters, Sachs reaches out to Amanda with the core message that there is nothing wrong with her—that adolescence is painful, complex, and challenging for everyone and that her emotional pain deserves to be honored, openly explored, and viewed with compassion. Dr. Sachs also addresses many of the common questions and concerns shared by all teens on such topics as relationships, breakups, drugs and alcohol, parents, family dynamics, and more.

Along the way, Dr. Sachs offers adults an inspiring image of a truly open, human-to-human relationship between an adult and a teenager. Parents, mental health professionals, guidance counselors, educators, and others who work with teens will see how they might also bring honesty, compassion, and humility to bear in their interactions with young people in order to create truly healing and supportive relationships.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A collection of sensitive, cogent, and touching observations and counsel on many of the universal themes facing adolescents as they try to navigate the tricky voyage from childhood to adulthood."—Spirituality & Practice 

"Sachs's letters are gems. . . . This excellent book will be savored again and again."—Library Journal (starred review) 

"Sachs's letters serve as an excellent model for encouraging communication with a teen. . . . If all adults could incorporate this kind of intrinsic respect into their conversations with adolescents, the world would be a wonderful place."—VOYA

"A book of unique kindness and clarity that will be comforting and illuminating to parents and teens alike."—Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence

VOYA - Diane Emge Colson
A teen girl called Amanda survives a serious attempt at suicide. She is unable to voice her anguish in counseling sessions with her therapist, Brad Sachs, but is able to express herself more freely through writing letters to him. This book is a compilation of Sachs's responses. Each of his letters is headed with a title that encapsulates Amanda's concerns, such as, "Why am I so lonely?" and "Why do I get high?" Sachs's letters serve as an excellent model for encouraging communication with a teen. He is always encouraging, even when treading difficult ground, such as when he writes, "[I]t was good to know that you felt that a more in-depth discussion of drug and alcohol use would be worthwhile-I think it shows a lot of maturity on your part." If all adults could incorporate this kind of intrinsic respect into their conversations with adolescents, the world would be a wonderful place. Sachs is especially adept at working through family dynamics, an expertise that is on display in earlier books such as The Good Enough Teen: Raising Adolescents with Love and Acceptance (Despite How Impossible They Can Be) (Perennial Currents, 2005). Less helpful is his take on Amanda's cutting, which he compares to transfiguration rituals in other cultures. But the real question is whether this book will be appealing reading material for teens or if it is best appreciated by adults who interact with teens in some capacity. This reviewer's vote would be for the latter.
Library Journal
When Amanda rejected the idea of talking at the therapy sessions set up by her parents, child psychologist Sachs (The Good Enough Teen) initiated a series of letters (snail mail) between the two. This book contains about half of the doctor's letters, and they are gems. We learn about many issues in Amanda's life—her artistic talents, explosive relationship with her parents, smoking pot and drinking alcohol, her boyfriends, and defiance over undergoing treatment. Then, Sachs begins to explore how the early deaths of Amanda's aunt and grandmother changed family dynamics, how cutting represented her need to shed childhood, and how tragedies can transform lives. Throughout this short book, Amanda grows and changes, as do her parents and the author himself. An epilog updates readers on Amanda's college and career paths, and three sections of notes are directed to other teens, parents, and therapists. This excellent book will be savored again and again. Highly recommended for all psychology collections.
—Linda Beck
School Library Journal

Adult/High School
Sachs is a therapist and the father of three teenage daughters. Drawing on both his personal and professional experiences, he gently guides teens toward a broader sense of their world. As a framework, he uses his letters to a patient to address the turmoil of adolescence. Overall, the nonconfrontational format will appeal to teens, but this one-sided conversation makes the work a slightly less effective aid than if readers could have the benefit of the teen's responses. Still, Sachs's paraphrasing of his patient's troubles is adequate enough to attract readers searching for advice on drugs, sex, depression, jealousy, and the changing relationship with their parents.
—Joy MurphyCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590304075
Publisher:
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Publication date:
01/30/2007
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.38(d)

Meet the Author

Brad Sachs, PhD, is a family psychologist and the author of The Good Enough Child: How to Have an Imperfect Family and Be Perfectly Satisfied (HarperCollins, 2001) and The Good Enough Teen: Raising Adolescents with Love and Acceptance (Despite How Impossible They Can Be) (HarperCollins, 2005). He is also the founder and director of the Father Center and an active speaker, giving workshops and talks around the country to parents and mental health professionals. He lives in Maryland with his wife and three children.

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