Parenting teens in recovery requires a heart at peace

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Barry Lessin, M.Ed., CAAD

Return to the Table of Contents: 2013 Winter Edition of Family Business Quarterly

Barry Lessin, M.Ed., CAADC, in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, offers insights based upon years of working with adolescent issues including drug addiction. He has formulated a proactive perspective for helping parents make a peaceful heart with the issues their children face – especially drug abuse and addiction.

Barry Lessin counsels youth and families about confronting the challenges and chronic conditions of the modern family including addiction, ADD/ADHD, chronic medical conditions and transitions, such as divorce, death, and new parenthood. Most importantly, he assists parents to position themselves as trusted resources and provide a stable connection for adolescents who have fallen into addiction to recover and heal.

“I work with parents to better accept that it’s difficult to stop your kid from destroying their lives by controlling them,” Lessin said. “It is a spiritual thing; it is about letting go, staying connected, and not letting it drive you crazy.”

According to Lessin, traditional treatment for drug addiction tends to ignore the parents and family, and if the family is not engaged in the recovery process, and the parents do not understand their role, it will be less likely that the child will stay on the healthy path. He also observes that the traditional paradigm for addressing drug addiction, and stigma of addiction, makes it very difficult for drug addicts to transition into recovery. “The tough love approach doesn’t work for everyone,” Lessin said. “Each person has their own path to sobriety, and you have to start somewhere. So start with where a person is at and empower them to take steps.”

While Lessin’s practice focuses on one adolescent, one family at a time, he has also taken on a leadership role to advocate public policy change, as the Clinical Director for Broken No More, a non-profit offering support to the families of loved ones who died from drug addiction-related conditions, and is dedicated changing the paradigm of drug policy and treatment for addiction. “Our current drug policies are driven by a belief that drugs are bad, and so are the people who use them,” Lessin said. “The stigma and shame keep us from understanding the humanity of this problem and addressing it more effectively.”

He also works with an organization called  GRASP which helps families who lost loved ones due to substance abuse or addiction.

Lessin offers the following considerations for parents of teens addicted to drugs or alcohol:

  • Do your best to avoid shaming statements.  Reducing blame helps the child understand that there is hope and become more in charge of her life which is very empowering
  • What is your world view? A non-judgmental and compassionate attitude is more likely to allow the child to feel safe and empowered.
  • It is your child who is in the driver’s seat of his life. It is often helpful to reflect on yourself and what life was like when you were a teenager; there are no right or wrong answers. You are the experts about you, and your relationship with your child.

Return to the Table of Contents: 2013 Winter Edition of Family Business Quarterly


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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.