The Thriving Adolescent: Guest Post by Louise Hayes

Louise Hayes, PhD

Editor’s note: The following guest blog is contributed by Louise Hayes, PhD, co-author of the best selling book, Get Out of Your Mind and Into your Life for Teenagers: A Guide to Living an Extraordinary Life, and the newly released book, The Thriving Adolescent: Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Positive Psychology to Help Teens Manage Emotions, Achieve Goals, and Build ConnectionLouise will be presenting a two-day Thriving Adolescent training in San Rafael, CA, September 9 – 10, 2016. Don’t miss your chance to learn first-hand from this world-renowned expert in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy/Training (ACT) for young people.

Register now!

Joseph Ciarrochi and I have been working hard behind the scenes, building a more developmentally appropriate model of psychological flexibility for kids.

When Joseph and I set out to write our book, The Thriving Adolescent, our primary purpose was to find a way to speak to the developmental tasks that confront all humans, but especially young people. We wanted to talk of how people grow, how they acquire language, how they learn about their bodies, how they learn to explore and test the world. It felt to us that too many therapies and school-wide interventions use a top down approach (mostly modified CBT). That is, they take adult models and massage them to fit kids and adolescents. As much as we love ACT, we felt there was this weakness in the ACT model, too. Many models of well-being for kids come from adult therapy; the language is made simpler, but these models are still adult theory.

The model you see in The Thriving Adolescent is purpose build for young people. It is a developmentally appropriate, wholly CBS model, called DNA-V.

Briefly (and doing the model some injustice, but just to give you a snapshot):

N stands for Noticer

This is the skill all humans have when they arrive into the world; we are all able to see, hear, touch, taste, feel and importantly use our bodies to sense safety or danger – an embodied awareness of the world. Our Noticer skill adapts very quickly with learning.

A stands for Advisor

This is the skill of learning to use language, to create rules, beliefs, judgments, evaluations, and most importantly use these experiences to anticipate and predict. It’s a super fast and efficient way of navigating the world. The Advisor includes adaptive and fused ways of using deriving and rules.

D stands for Discoverer

This is the skill of testing, exploring, expanding ourselves, as we do through play. It is the basis of trial and error learning. I love the discoverer piece in the model. It is similar to the skill a child needs to learn to walk – stand up, fall down, stand up, fall down, repeat. Discoverer embraces the joy in growing.  When I think about this discoverer piece and what kids need to do to thrive, I also realize we would do well to help adults continue to be Discoverers, too….

V stands for Value

At the center of the model is value. Unlike adult models, we make no assumptions that young people ‘have’ values that we can uncover. Rather we assume that all humans begin with a need for connection, and our values can grow from the work we do. Our task is to help young people select DNA behaviors that build value, that satisfy this need we all have.

You see, just like biological DNA, we say, all kids have DNA skills. Our job is to help them learn how to use those skills for growing values in life!

We knew that we could not approach child ACT as we do with adults. There are just so many important pieces to development that we needed to add, like attachment, play, safety, etc. We are pleased to say that DNA-V is a wholly developmental model of ACT for kids!

(Well, it isn’t just an ACT model. It is really a contextual behavioral science model, but more on the geek side is coming soon.)

Anyway, once you start using DNA-v, you’ll wonder how you ever did ACT for kids without it!

Get started quickly with our FREE DNA-v basics tip sheets for parents, kids and professionals!

The tip sheets are written in parent speak, so you have a super easy resource that will guide your clinical work. You can use them with kids. You can also print them off and send home to parents so they know how to help their child. They’re perfect for the fridge. It’s all aimed at helping your families learn to build flexibility, one skill at a time.

In a few weeks, we will release our new Self and Social DNA-V tip sheets!

We think the social context in the model is equally important. Ask people what is most important to them? Their answer will almost always involve other people. Other people are joy, and suffering, stress and comfort.  DNA-V does not make the mistake of assuming that young people’s struggles are merely internal. The part 2 tip sheets will help you work on the social world of a child, and learn how their self grows within this.

If you want to understand more about DNA-V, read the first chapter of our book, The Thriving Adolescent, which includes a description of the model. It is available free from And be sure to check out the basic tip sheets

If you really want to dig in deep and get to know DNA-V from the inside out, I am happy to announce that The Thriving Adolescent is now going to become a live workshop in the USA! On September 9-10th, I will be coming to the states and I hope you will join me for Thriving Adolescent: ACT with Teens. Over two days, I will introduce this dynamic model that is suitable for young people in clinics, schools, and in communities. I will focus on easily applied techniques that have a deeply developmental foundation. You will take away many resources that can be easily used.  

We will focus on skills to help build psychological flexibility in a way that promotes learning and growth. You will learn how to help young people with difficult emotions and behavior, and how to help them build relationships and social networks. You will also learn how to work with their families and social contexts. Once you start doing DNA-V with young people, you will be amazed at how easy ACT for kids can be. I really hope to see you there.

Good luck,

Louise Hayes