The Wall of Silence


The Wall of Silence

Reinventing Therapy to Reach the New Teens

By Ron Taffel

May/June 2001


Lauren's mother, Margaret, loathed her 14-year-old daughter's weird new look--hair dyed bright orange, pierced eyebrow, Dracula makeup. But though Lauren looked bizarre and tended to stay out too late, she hadn't ever gotten into any real trouble. She was doing fine in school and seemed pleasant enough at home. Remembering the awful screaming fights with her own parents as a teen during the '60s, Margaret tried hard not to antagonize Lauren and to be understanding.

Her determined empathy seemed to be working. When she asked Lauren in a carefully neutral tone why she wanted to look that way, her daughter laughed goodnaturedly and earnestly tried to explain. Lauren gossiped to Margaret about her friends, described boys she thought were "hot" and even brought kids home to eat and watch TV. In turn, Margaret told Lauren about her own adolescence, and how she had yearned for freedom from rigidly moralistic parents who were suspicious of her every move. Margaret was still a little worried about Lauren's dramatic appearance and her late hours, but she was also proud of being the kind of with-it mother a girl could really talk to about what it was like to be young and exploring life. She thought that as long as the two of them could have such warm, open dialogues together, nothing very bad could happen to Lauren.

Margaret's dreamy vision of mutual trust and openness exploded the day she came home unexpectedly to find her daughter in the bathtub having sex with two…

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