Cover image for Treating the tough adolescent : a family-based, step-by-step guide
Treating the tough adolescent : a family-based, step-by-step guide
Sells, Scott P.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Guilford Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xvi, 320 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RJ506.P63 S45 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This book illuminates the causes of severe adolescent behavioral problems and presents a research-based, 15-step model for helping families bring about meaningful change. Incorporating structural and strategic principles, the author's cohesive approach focuses on setting clear rules and consequences; changing the mood and direction of confrontations; neutralizing such problem behaviors as disrespect, truancy, running away, violence, and threats of suicide; and restoring positive, nurturing family relationships. Special treatment issues covered include adolescent substance abuse and managing problems that arise in single-parent and divorced families, as well as ways to collaborate effectively with outside systems. Featuring a wealth of illustrative case examples, this is an indispensable clinical guidebook and text.

Author Notes

Scott P. Sells, PhD, is currently Professor of Social Work at Savannah State University and Clinical Director of the Savannah Family Institute. He has treated more than 800 difficult children and adolescents, has spoken nationally on this topic, and has published a number of related journal articles. His 6-week educational program for parents of difficult children and teenagers, Parenting With Love and Limits(TM), has been adopted as a standard model in Virginia; Ohio; and Savannah, Georgia. His website is at:

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Sells (social work, Savannah State Univ., and clinical director of the Savannah Family Institute) intends this volume to provide parents and counselors with a practical guide to family-based treatment. Each chapter provides numerous case examples and "what if" scenarios. After a description of the 15-step model (part 1), part 2 presents essential principles and guidelines for change: setting clear rules and consequences; troubleshooting; changing the timing and process of confrontations; neutralizing what Sells calls the adolescent's "five aces" (running away, truancy/poor school performance, suicidal threats or behaviors, threats or acts of violence, and disrespect); and restoring nurturance and tenderness. In part 3, the author focuses on strategies for specific treatment issues (working with outside systems, single-parent families, divorce and stepfamily problems, and substance use). The final section describes the results of process-outcome research. Sells describes his model as a work in progress, which is refreshing, and encourages readers to contact him with feedback. Although described as a "step-by-step intervention road map," the book provides flow charts and treatment techniques that will be difficult for undergraduates to understand. Graduate students, researchers, faculty, and professionals. C. S. Widom SUNY at Albany

Table of Contents

I A Family-Based Model for Difficult Adolescents
1 Introduction
2 Point of Entry: Why Difficult Teenagers Have Problems
3 A Model for Change
II Specific Principles and Guidelines
4 Setting Clear Rules and Consequences: The Basic Work of Therapy
5 Changing the Timing and Process of Confrontations
6 Neutralizing the Adolescent's "Five Aces"
7 Restoring Nurturance and Tenderness
III Special Treatment Issues and Circumstances
8 Working with Outsiders
9 Single-Parent Families: Sharing Parental Responsibility
10 Divorce and Stepfamily Problems
11 Alcohol and Drug Use: "I Don't Have a Problem"
IV Research Findings and Future Implications
12 Process-Outcome Research and the Family-Based Model: Refining and Operationalizing Key Theoretical Concepts