In a fascinating study in the journal Developmental Psychology, researchers attempted to determine when teens felt the sting of peer pressure most acutely. More than 3,600 teens were studied, and in the end, the researchers said children ages 10-14 seemed to be most at risk from pressure from peers. Once these teens got a little older, they were able to put their needs above the wishes of their peers. But when they were younger, they were vulnerable. Clearly, young people are malleable. They listen to others, even when they claim that they don’t care what others think. And sometimes, that willingness to listen can be used to help them. Parents can find that out firsthand if they hire sober companions for their teens. These professionals can work with teens in close relationships, applying a sort of pressure that can help teens to make better decisions concerning drugs and alcohol.
A New RelationshipMost people who work as sober companions aren’t trained therapists. They can’t write out prescriptions, provide formal therapy, or otherwise handle the tasks that are routine in a teen addiction treatment program. But they can fill a role that is vital to teens – that of coach. A sober companion’s job is to stay with a teen, day in and day out, and provide guidance and support. Sometimes, that means sober companions move right in with the family and stay with the teen around the clock. But sometimes, sober companions step in only when the teen has no other form of supervision. These companions might help teens in the afternoons, for example, when school is over and parents haven’t yet arrived home.
When sober companions are on the clock, they’re doing hard work. In an article about the industry, a sober companion suggests that his primary job is to tell his clients the truth, whether they want to hear that truth or not. That means these sober companions might ask their clients questions, such as:They work a little like a conscience for a vulnerable teen. The questions they ask help teens to slow down, so they can think about their choices instead of simply reacting.
- “What are you thinking about?”
- “Where are you going?”
- “How are you planning to stay safe right now?”
- “How could this put your sobriety at risk?”
Sober companions might also work a little like security officers, patting down the teen and looking for hidden drugs or alcohol. They might administer drug tests periodically, just to make sure that there are no hidden relapses lurking. And they might be the first to remove friends and dealers who hope to prompt the teen to relapse. In a second article about the work, a sober companion suggests that he develops a connection with clients that’s a little like a friendship. And that might very well be true, but these companions have a primary duty to help the teen stay sober. They’re not at all concerned with hurting a teen’s feelings in order to bring that about.