This workshop provides an overview of some of the 75 major differences between the adolescent and adult brains and the impact of unmitigated distress on the adolescent brain. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford says, “Because youth are all about building their brains, you can multiply what you know about how stress affects the adult brain by 10-fold when talking about youth ages 10 to 20.”  

Start with the fact that the teen brain is about half-developed when massive neural pruning robs it of its basic thinking abilities, and then new neural territory is opened-up for new development, which alters the flow of blood and energy.  Then add the body-morphing and hormonal changes of puberty, the increased dose and duration of cortisol, which makes it more difficult to calm down, plus the boredom that comes from having a brain that is racing 50-80 times faster than the adult brain, and then add three new drives.  And finally, add individual temperament and personality traits.

“Do the math” and you can get an idea of the distress of being “just a teen”. Then – – for at least 50% of teens – – add the trauma that results from family adversity, coupled with a lack of coping and stress-management skills and habits – and a lack of adult support – – and you have the basic ingredients of massive vulnerability.  If you know anything about the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, you know that without proper intervention, the immediate and long-term outcomes are dire. 


Participants will be able to name/explain/use:

  • Major differences between the teen and adult brain
  • The unique effects of distress on the adolescent brain
  • The three new drives of adolescence


  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) – longitudinal research study.
  • National Center of Biotechnical Information (NCBI) – brain scans.
  • How the Brain Learns, Fifth Edition, David A. Sousa, 2017.
  • Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child.
  • Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., 2014.
  • The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, Frances E. Jensen and Amy Nutt, 2015.
  • The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity and Resilience in Your Child, Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
  • The National Research Council (NRC) – Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders among Youth, 2009.
  • The Developing Mind, Second Edition: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. Daniel Siegel, M.D. 2012.

Format:  PowerPoint, Videos with Q&A


  • 1 to 1.5 hrs. (For Conferences Only)
  • 3 hr. Workshop (1.0 hr. ATOD Specific)