Featured Writer of the Month

John Meeks, MD - Child Psychiatrist and Author

“Adolescents respond to nagging the way your skin responds to sulfuric acid.”

     When an angry adolescent is acting out, how can you reach him or her? When kids are out-of-control, how can adults let them know we're really on their side? How do we forge an alliance with young people to show them we want to help them succeed?

     Dr. John Meeks has done it by creating A Fragile Alliance. Many social work, psychology or education majors will remember studying A Fragile Alliance, his classic text on working with troubled children. He is also the author of High Times, Low Times: The Many Faces of Adolescent Depression and his latest book is The Learning Alliance, co-authored with Phillippe Dupont, Ed.D. According to The Learning Alliance, effective learning occurs because a partnership is created and maintained. This alliance must include the student, his or her parents or guardians, teachers, paraprofessionals, other specialists, and the psychotherapist.

     As a child psychiatrist, Meeks has worked with hundreds of teenagers and children with problems. He is also the president and medical director of The Foundation Schools, located in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs surrounding Washington, DC. The Foundation Schools were chartered in 1975 as an independent, non-profit school for special education. The school's purpose is to meet the educational, social and psychological needs of students with emotional disturbances who have been unsuccessful in other educational settings.

     Meeks’ experience also includes first hand knowledge. As a teenager he suffered from depression and thereby knows from the inside out what may be effective - and what is not - when working with young people. "Adolescents respond to nagging the way your skin responds to sulfuric acid," said Meeks. His approach calls for giving compliments more frequently than criticism. "Praise perseverance more than results," he advised. According to Meeks, many teens mistakenly believe goals are achieved all at once or not at all and need to learn that incremental progress is necessary, worthwhile and important. As a result, it is important to reward students for progress in the right direction.