October 2011

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When Dr. Hans Bogt, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Utrecht, the Netherlands, read a chapter by BrainWise founder and director Dr. Patricia Gorman Barry published in the book, Adolescent Psychology and the Developing Brain: Integrating Brain and Prevention Science, he knew he had found a critical connection for his Teenage Brain Conference. That is because BrainWise offers something no program in the Netherlands does; an application link between brain research advances and intervention programs and curricula.

Dr. Bogt invited Dr. Barry to speak at the “Teenage Brain/Teenage Turmoil” Conference, a one-day assembly of approximately 300 professionals from all over the Netherlands and Belgium, held September 23, 2011 in Utrecht. “Dr. Bogt told me that it was important that an applied program be presented,” Dr. Barry explained. “The audience was primarily practitioners such as psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers and counselors, and he thought BrainWise would be useful in their work.”

In her remarks, Dr. Barry related the challenges adolescents face in managing emotions and making good decisions, especially when presented with social and emotional pressures that surround them. She demonstrated how the BrainWise program teaches about the brain and the importance of building neural pathways to manage emotions and impulsive behavior using a set of thinking skills, called the “10 Wise Ways.” She showed how brain drawings, easy-to-remember terms, and examples specific to students teaches them to make good choices, and reinforced that practice using the skills helps them control their emotions and develop executive functions.

Dr. Barry shared with the participants that BrainWise is used not only by individual therapists, schools serving special needs students, and public health nurses working with at-risk families and children, but is taught in regular classrooms and reinforced at home by parents. Dr. Barry quoted psychiatrist Dr. Gary Swanson of the Wesley Spectrum Highland Services School in Pittsburgh. He said “a number of children here have taken to the curriculum. Professionals have readily recognized the way BrainWise concepts fit our current understanding of the brain, and allow for the integration of different treatment methods.”

Two American professors and a British essayist joined Dr. Barry as foreign guest speakers at the Netherlands conference. Dr. Michael Rich, associate professor at Harvard Medical School, and director of the Center on Media and Child Health at the Children’s Hospital of Boston discussed the effect of media on development, health and behavior of juveniles. Dr. Robert Epstein, professor at the University of California at San Diego, former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, and a contributing editor of Scientific American Mind raised the issue of the negative outcomes resulting from treating young adults as dependents and continuing to call them “kids.” He discussed the importance of respecting adolescents and reminding the professionals to do so in their work. Dr. Anthony M. Daniels, a British essayist who writes both under his own name and under the pseudonym Theodore Dalrymple, also presented at the conference. Dr. Daniels worked for many years as a psychiatrist in a prison and a hospital. His experiences gave him material for his numerous books and articles, and he gave an insightful presentation on the responsibility of individuals.

Dr. Barry reports that interest in the Netherlands is strong for translating the BrainWise Program into Dutch. “BrainWise is now being taught in places throughout the world, and the concepts are easy to learn in any language or culture,” Dr. Barry said. “BrainWise is the application that can link innovation and intervention.”