Four Things I Wish Parents Knew About Pot

Currently, recreational use of marijuana is legal in eight states plus the District of Columbia, with California the latest state to pass these changes. Teens will tell you that pot is easy to obtain and that “everybody” uses it. And, a National Institute on Drug Abuse study did conclude that marijuana usage is popular among adolescents and young adults. There is a general opinion that marijuana use by young people is not harmful. However, this is very far from the truth and here’s why.

1. Marijuana Slows Adolescent Brain Development

Apart from what happens to the brain before birth, there is more significant brain development during adolescence than at any other developmental stage. The brain has a natural endocannabinoid system that has a significant part to play in brain development. This system is adversely affected by marijuana use.

2. Kids Get Really High

Adolescents have a higher ratio of cannabinoid receptors (known as CB1) in their brains than adults. The chemical component in marijuana that causes most of its psychological effects is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC binds to the CB1 receptors in a teenager’s brain and stays there longer than in an adult. While THC remains in the receptor, it blocks the processes of memory and learning. Dr. Frances Jensen is a Neuroscientist and author of The Teenage Brain. She was interviewed by Terry Gross on the NPR program Fresh Air and stated that prolonged use of marijuana between the ages of thirteen and seventeen could result in permanent brain changes.

3. Pot Today is More Potent

Studies of the average THC concentration in cannabis show that levels have been steadily rising from about four percent in 1995 to approximately 12 percent in 2014. Biological Psychiatry found that strains of marijuana are currently being grown with 17-33 percent THC, on the principle that higher THC concentration means a more profitable product. What also makes today’s pot more potent is that twenty years ago marijuana had higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD) which is non-psychoactive and responsible for the medical benefits of marijuana. But, growers are breeding it out of recreational marijuana because it prevents users from getting as high as they would without the CBD. The end result is that these higher THC levels are much more harmful to the developing adolescent brain.

4. Marijuana Can Have Long-Lasting Effects

Exposing the brain to marijuana during adolescence can slow down brain maturation and eventually cause neurobiological changes that will affect brain function in adulthood. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) published the results of a 2014 study that looked at the long-term effects of the use of marijuana during adolescence. The study concluded that early marijuana use causes adverse effects on intelligence, cognitive functioning, and emotional behavior, and increases the risk of the development of psychotic disorders. What’s more, the damage may be irreversible.

Parents, Talk to Your Kids

Based on survey results from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, seventy-one percent of high school seniors do not view “regular marijuana usage” as harmful. Many kids see (and smell) adults getting stoned at concerts, and now, just walking down the street. It’s easy to see how they might assume that pot use is just harmless fun. Even though it’s reassuring to know that most teens don’t smoke cigarettes because they understand the health dangers, it’s time to make clear to them that marijuana use is also risky. Talk with your kids regularly about the risks that marijuana poses.

Are you are worried that your teen is using marijuana regularly and don’t know what to do about it? Our specialty lies in helping families with teens and young adults, so contact us to find out how we can help.

Healthy Eating Habits for Middle Schoolers

As your middle schooler grows and develops, you may notice they start to eat a lot more. Their body is growing and additional food fuels this growth spurt.

However, you may also notice that their eating habits start to shift. Perhaps they begin to shy away from fruits and veggies in favor of more sugar-filled, packaged foods. Whether your middle schooler is mirroring the food habits of classmates or simply wants to spend their allowance on junk food, you may start to feel like the food values you worked hard to instill during childhood have flown out the window. But there are steps you can take to help guide your pre-teen towards healthy eating habits.

Be their healthy eating role model.

The best way to reinforce your middle schooler’s healthy eating habits is to show them that healthy eating is important to you. There are many ways to do this. Eat breakfast each morning and choose the healthier option when out at a restaurant. Bring your middle schooler along on weekly grocery trips.

Most importantly, make time to enjoy healthy meals with each other as a family. This is one of the best and easiest ways to, not only model healthy habits but to also increase your child’s overall enjoyment of food. Bonus: You get to spend quality time together as a family, catching up on the events of the day.

Create an environment that encourages healthy eating.

It is much easier for your middle schooler to make good food choices if your family’s home encourages healthy eating.

So, how can you do this?

  • Ask your middle schooler to assist with the food shopping and weekly menu planning.
  • Motivate them to take ownership of one family meal each week — from planning to serving!
  • Limit the unhealthy options available in the house and make healthy options easily accessible. For example, keep fresh fruit out on the counter, chopped vegetables in the fridge, and plenty of healthy snacks in the cupboard.
  • Cook with them. You can teach them how to make their favorite dishes right at home or enroll them in a cooking class. There are a variety of great cooking classes available right here in the Phoenix area —

Initiate a food dialogue.

The way you talk to your pre-teen about food can have a big impact on their eating habits. Try highlighting the positive effects of healthy eating, rather than speaking to the negative impacts inherent in an unhealthy diet.

Here are some ideas to get you started –

  • As motivation for healthy eating, talk to your middle schooler about how food directly impacts concentration, success in school, athletic ability, and mental wellbeing. Pre-teens and teenagers can have trouble conceptualizing the long-term health risks of unhealthy eating. However, knowing the impact these choices can have on their present lives may prove more meaningful.
  • Encourage your middle schooler to eat when they’re hungry (remember: growth spurts) but to stop when they’re full. Over time, your middle schooler will begin to recognize the difference between eating out of hunger and eating from boredom or fatigue.
  • Steer clear of restricting foods or labeling them as “good” and “bad.” Alternatively, try to aim for a balance. Eat healthy foods the majority of the time and have a treat every now and again.

If you need help with your middle schooler’s nutrition or you’re concerned about their eating habits, the staff at Doorways is here to help. If you are interested in how our services may benefit your family in the Phoenix metro area, give us a call today.

Help Your High-Schooler Manage Stress with these 4 Easy Tactics

High school is full of challenges, academic and otherwise, that can add up to some serious stress for your teen. They’re tackling homework and navigating complex social dynamics, all while balancing time spent with friends, family, and on activities. The demands and schedule might start to feel overwhelming. As the parent, helping your teenager navigate these rough waters is crucial.

Here are some tactics to keep your high schooler from feeling overly stressed when they’re swamped with school work and obligations:

1. Tackle tough homework incrementally.
A large project can sometimes feel like an impossible hurdle, especially if your teen struggles with organization or focus. Instead of jumping straight in, encourage your teenager to break the assignment down into more manageable pieces. Start with a brainstorming session one day, research the next, and so on. This will help the project seem much more achievable. Then, your high schooler can keep a To-Do list of the various steps and check things off as they get completed. Each time he or she gets to tick a box they will feel less stressed about the impending deadline.

2. Familiarize before diving in.
The unknown or unfamiliar can leave teens feeling uneasy. If your high schooler is diving into a new opportunity – a part-time job, an internship, a new club or group — help them to familiarize themselves with what is to come. Check out websites, visit the location, or meet with someone already involved. If their new venture feels familiar it can cut back on your teenager’s nerves about the unknown.

3. Keep things organized at home.
Returning home to a disorganized environment with little structure can have a snowball effect on a teen already stressed after a jam-packed day of high school. Help your teen to create order in his or her room and the rest of the house as well. Make sure your high schooler has a neat and tidy space to work on assignments. Display a calendar with activities and obligations in the kitchen. Establish a predictable framework for after school hours and weekends, too. Disorganization and lack of a clear plan can cause many teenagers to feel apprehensive and distressed.

4. Offer stress relief opportunities.
If your teen needs to relieve some stress, give them the space to do so. Encourage them to tap into activities that make them feel better when school and responsibilities become overwhelming. They might love playing an instrument or writing poetry or riding horses. Whatever gives them a release and brings them joy is worth exploring. And while your teen may not be a varsity athlete, consistent exercise is a wonderful antidote to stress. Help them find an exercise outlet they enjoy. If team sports aren’t their thing, they could always try swimming, dance, or long walks around the neighborhood.

If your high schooler needs additional help with stress management, we encourage you to speak to the staff at Doorways to find out if our services might be the right fit for your family. We provide counseling and psychiatric services exclusively for teens, young adults, and their families in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Each of our staff is dedicated to the specialized needs of high schoolers and committed to the compassionate understanding of their struggles.

National Compliment Day: 10 Ways to Compliment Teens

Compliments are a superb way to bring cheer to someone’s day or commend a good job. Today, give an extra compliment (or two!) in honor of National Compliment Day, observed each year on January 24th.

Debby Hoffman and Kathy Chamberlin created National Compliment Day in 1998. They wanted a special day to honor the simple act of letting those in our lives know that we love and appreciate them. With this in mind, we thought we’d share a few ways to share praise, grace, and love with your teenagers.

10 Ways to Compliment Teens

  1. Compliment character. Sometimes it appears sincerity and morality are characteristics not often taught in our world. And not always commended when showcased. When your teenager displays integrity, consideration, trustworthiness, and reliability, offer them a sincere compliment.

  2. Compliment their friends. When you feel as though your teen has made a connection with someone you deem laudable or a great influence, let them know.
    Your friends are so wonderful!”
    Jennifer is so thoughtful.”
    It makes me so happy to know that you choose your friends well.”

  1. Compliment respect. It is easy to make disapproval second nature, to only notice your teen’s behavior when they go wrong. However, we would encourage you to stop waiting for disrespectful behavior and try acknowledging respectful behavior.
    I don’t tell you this enough, but you are a wonderful person, and I value the way you respect your father and me.”

  1. Compliment a step in the right direction. Holding out for the end goal before we offer up a compliment isn’t good enough, might cause your teenager to lose sight of a positive outcome, and doesn’t reward growth.
    “Stephanie, the steps you’ve made toward your goal are great. Thank you for all your hard work!”

  2. Appreciate their place in your family. Sometimes teens, with all their fluctuating emotions, need to know how much they are valued for simply existing.
    “Whenever I see you, I’m grateful that I get to be your parent.”

  3. Compliment their style. You can offer a compliment about your teenager’s style even if their taste is vastly different from your own. Your child is his or her own person and you wouldn’t want them to be a carbon copy of their mom or dad. Try not to limit your compliments to the restricted scope of your own taste.
    “You sure have a gift for styling hair!”
    “I can tell that you put a lot of creativity into your outfit.”
    “I love how imaginative your room decor looks.”

  4. Compliment household chores. Your teenager needs to understand that when they chip in with household chores they make a difference and their parents notice the extra effort.
    “Vacuuming the living room/mowing the lawn/doing the dishes really makes a difference. I am so grateful for your hard work around our house!”

  5. Compliment new achievements. A well-timed compliment can keep a teen’s trajectory moving forward. It’s important to compliment your child’s progress, as discussed above, but don’t forget to pay them some credit when they achieve something they’ve never been able to do before.
    “Great job! Although I’m not surprised after all your hard work. I knew you could do it, Derrick!”
    “You got your social studies grade up to an A! I’m beyond proud of you.”

  6. Compliment effort. What about when your teenager’s best efforts come up short? Compliment their effort and remind them there’s still work to be done–and you know they’re up to the task.
    “All the studying you’ve done for your social studies class makes me so happy! If you keep it up I know you can bring your grade up.”

  7. Compliment a job well done. When your teen exceeds expectations and goes out of their way to do a great job it is always worth noting. Compliment the quality of your child’s work so they know the extra effort didn’t go unnoticed.
    “This is the cleanest I’ve ever seen your room, Shelby!”
    “I was so proud of you at your dance recital. Awesome job! I’m so glad you are so passionate about dance, it really shows.”

Are you having trouble balancing criticism and compliments when communicating with your teenager? If so, meeting with the expert staff at Doorways may be a positive step for you and your family. If you have questions, feel free to contact us HERE or give us a call at 602-997-2880.

Is Your Teen Using Drugs? Learn the Early Warning Signs

Many parents ask us how to tell if their teen has begun drinking or doing drugs. By taking careful note of your teen’s behavior and paying attention to a few key red flags, you can spot issues with drug use sooner rather than later. While you may not find drug paraphernalia in their room or catch them drinking when they think no one is home, you should always trust your instincts. If you start to take note of some of the warning signs we’ve listed below, we encourage you to take action. Talk to your teen and get help from a professional if needed.

How to Spot Early Warning Signs of Drug or Alcohol Use in Teens

Utilize your sense of smell.

Have a conversation when your teenage child comes home after spending time out with friends. Address them face-to-face and ask if they had a nice time, what they did, or who they were with. If they’ve been using drugs or alcohol, the smell could be lingering on their clothes, hair, or breath.

Make eye contact.

Similar to the tip above, when your teen gets home, be sure to pay attention to their eyes during that face-to-face conversation. If your child has used marijuana – their eyes will be bloodshot, the lids may look droopy, and their pupils small. Drinking leaves pupils dilated and leads to trouble focusing. And, there may be other clues nearby. Is your teen’s face or cheeks flushed? This can also be a sign of drug or alcohol use.

Pay attention to sudden changes in behavior.

If your teen acts one way after school and completely different after a night out with friends, this could be a red flag. Upon their return: Does their volume or vocal register change? Do they crack up for no reason at all? Or, maybe they appear abnormally uncoordinated and you notice they’re bumping into things and knocking things over. Are they acting surly and introverted when they’re usually a chatterbox? Are they sleepy even though it’s early in the evening? Are they complaining of nausea? These could all be clues that they were drinking or using drugs before they came home.

Do they drive?

If your teen drives or has a car make sure to observe this aspect as well. Are they driving less carefully when they come home than when they left? Does their car have dents and dings with no explanation? Check the inside of the car, too. Does it smell? Are there items on the floorboard or in the glovebox that might provide hints that drug or alcohol use is taking place?

Take note of deception and secrets.

Are your teen’s plans starting to sound a little far-fetched? Are they vague about the who, what, when, where, and why? If they went out to a restaurant or to see a band, can they tell you what they ordered or what songs were their favorite? Do they insist a chaperone will be present but can’t produce a contact number? Are they showing up past curfew with a never-ending series of excuses? If you press them on these excuses, do they become erratic and angry? If these scenarios sound familiar, it could be time to act.

If you believe your teen is using drugs, contact our team at Doorways for additional support. We specialize in helping families with teens and young adults ages 13-25. We teach families how to deal with conflict, demonstrate love, improve communication and more. There is help for your family!

6 Tips to Help Your Distracted Teen

Is your teen having trouble focusing? These straightforward tips will help a teen who finds themselves preoccupied, lacking concentration, or has trouble staying on task when it comes to school work. Our world is ever more distracting and giving teenagers the tools to combat inattentiveness will serve them well for years to come.

  1. Maintain a peaceful environment at home. A peaceful home environment means not lashing out when your teen talks back or doesn’t immediately calm down and tuck into homework. As a parent, you may get angry at your teen at times–upsetting that peaceful environment. When this occurs, just say you’re sorry for the outburst, remind your teen that you love them, and explain why you are frustrated with them.
  2. Find an outlet for your teen’s energy. If your teen is especially hyperactive, they may need additional activities in which to channel this extra energy. There is a myriad of extracurricular activities available for teens, many they can easily sign up for through their school. Consider a sport, scouts, or another activity with plenty of outdoor time.
  3. Cut down on media distractions. It can be difficult for teens with attention problems to filter out extra noise when they’re attempting to concentrate. Keeping the television on in the next room can limit your teen’s capacity to complete homework, so turn it off when you aren’t watching. When possible, find ways to reduce screen time. Perhaps set a rule that they can only play video games after dinner or they must turn their cell phone to airplane mode between the hours of 4:00-6:00 pm.
  4. Make sure your teen knows the rules and enforce them. To make sure parents and teens are on the same page, talk openly about rules and standards. Whether this is the type of grades you’d like them to maintain, a designated homework time or the media rules discussed in the tip above; your teen should know what you expect of them, and what the consequences will be if they don’t follow rules or meet standards.
  5. Offer organizational strategies. Encourage your teen to approach large school assignments by breaking them down into “chunks.” This will help them view bigger tasks as a series of manageable smaller tasks. Teens who are prone to distraction will begin to feel motivated by their small successes. Moreover, keeping a checklist or to-do list is a great habit for distracted teens. The simple act of crossing something off a list will reinforce productive behavior.
  6. Build up your teen’s self-esteem. Teens who have problems focusing often feel like they’re in trouble or not as good as their peers. Let your teen know that you believe in them. Share that you know they are capable and that they can do anything they set their mind to.

If you are having difficulty helping your distracted teen to focus, and their school work is suffering, consider seeking the help of a professional who specializes in working with teens. At Doorways, we are leading experts in counseling for teens and young adults and employ experts in the treatment of ADD/ADHD.

Now Hiring: Eating Disorder Specialist (Licensed Psychologist or Licensed Professional Therapist)

Doorways, LLC. is a faith-based counseling organization in Phoenix, Arizona, that provides comprehensive outpatient treatment focused exclusively on adolescents, young adults and their families.

Providers at Doorways specialize in treatment for eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, OCD, trauma, ADD/ADHD, self-harm, suicide prevention, and family counseling.

We are seeking a full time Eating Disorder Specialist (Licensed Psychologist or Licensed Professional Therapist (LMFT, LCSW, or LPC)) to work with individuals and participate in our Eating Disorder Intensive Outpatient Program with adolescents ages 13-18.

Position requires a desire to work in a multidisciplinary practice with adolescents, young adults, and their families in an outpatient setting. We are a collaborative, motivated, integrative group of professionals who enjoy working together!

Minimum Qualifications:
• Three or more years experience treating Eating Disorders with Adolescents, Young Adults and Families
• Specialized expertise and certification in Eating Disorders
• Current license to practice in the state of Arizona (Psychologist, LMFT, LCSW, or LPC)
• Three or more years’ experience in the delivery of mental health treatment for adolescents and young adults
• Current CPR & First Aid Certifications
• Empanelled with at least one major insurance carrier in Arizona preferred
• Able to support a faith-based holistic, integrated model of treatment
• Energetic and passionate regarding working with the 13-25 year old population
• Possess excellent interpersonal skills and the desire to grow with a rapidly expanding practice
• Team Player willing to work with a multidisciplinary team of professionals in treatment planning and provision of care

To apply, please submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]

Now Hiring: Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatrist

Doorways LLC. is a faith-based counseling organization in Phoenix, Arizona, that provides comprehensive outpatient treatment focused exclusively on 13-25-year olds and their families.

Doorways provides a supportive, family-focused environment, flexible schedule, competitive salary and benefits, and a fun place to work!

Providers at Doorways specialize in treatment for eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety/OCD, substance abuse, depression, ADD/ADHD, self-harm, suicide prevention, and family counseling.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Certification with current unrestricted license from the Arizona State Board of Nursing or Doctor of Medicine or Osteopathic Medicine with current unrestricted license from the Arizona State Board of Medical Examiners,
  • Current DEA License, NPI Number,
  • Three or more years’ experience in the delivery of mental health treatment for adolescents and young adults,
  • Current CPR & First Aid Certifications
  • Empaneled with at least one major insurance carrier in Arizona preferred.
  • Able to support a faith-based, holistic, integrated model of treatment
  • Energetic and passionate regarding working with the adolescent and young adult population
  • Possess excellent interpersonal skills and the desire to grow with a rapidly expanding practice
  • Team player willing to work with a multidisciplinary team of professionals in treatment planning and provision of care 

Responsibilities will include:

  • Psychiatric evaluations and medication management of patients
  • Prescribe, direct, and administer psychotherapeutic treatments and/or medications to treat mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders.
  • Collaborate with our team of professionals for best care practices in the treatment of adolescents, young adults and their families.

If this position is of interest to you, let’s talk! Please contact Jan Hamilton, PMHNP-BC, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, at Doorways LLC. [email protected]


Now Hiring: Licensed Professional Counselor or Psychologist

Doorways LLC. is a faith-based counseling organization in Phoenix, Arizona, that provides comprehensive outpatient treatment focused exclusively on 13-25 year olds and their families. Providers at Doorways specialize in treatment for Eating Disorders, Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, OCD, ADD/ADHD, self-harm, suicide prevention, and family counseling.

We are seeking a full time or part time Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC, LMFT, or LCSW) or Psychologist. To apply for this position please submit cover letter, resume and salary requirement to [email protected]

Doorways provides a supportive, family-focused environment, flexible schedule, competitive salary and benefits, and a fun place to work!


  • Position requires a desire to work in a faith-based multidisciplinary practice with adolescents and their families in an outpatient setting.
  • Expectation of empaneling with at least one insurance company prior to start of employment.
  • Current CPR & First Aid Certifications
  • Fully licensed behavioral health counselor or psychologist in the state of Arizona.
  • Minimum of three years experience working with 13-25 year old clients and their families.
  • Enthusiastic and positive personality!

Desired Skills and Experience:

  • Experience working with eating disorder clients and families preferred
  • Experience in treating OCD /Social Anxiety and use of ERP therapy preferred
  • Experience in leading DBT groups and working knowledge of DBT skills preferred
  • Energetic and passionate regarding working with the adolescent and young adult population
  • Possess excellent interpersonal skills and the desire to grow with a rapidly expanding practice
  • Team player willing to work with a multidisciplinary team of professionals in treatment planning and provision of care



Talking to Your Teen About Responsible Social Media Use

Teens today love social media. They can use social media to connect with their social group and share their perspective with the world. However, responsible social media use might be furthest from a teen’s mind when that new iPhone hits their hand. As such, parents have a responsibility to discuss the ins and outs of social media with their teenage children.

Below, we’ve outlined a few subjects that are worthy of conversation in any home with a teen logging on to a social media account:

Privacy Settings

Social media accounts come with privacy settings for a reason. You don’t want just anyone to have access to all your information. Although your teen might think it’s harmless to share a password with their BFF, this could pave the way for anything from an innocuous joke to a serious violation of trust. Make sure your teen understands that the only way for their social media accounts to remain secure is to keep them totally private. Let those privacy settings do the job they were created for!

Cyber Predators

A cyber predator is someone who is looking to take advantage of another person online. Cyber predators utilize social media platforms to create and foster relationships with their victims. Whether they’re looking to obtain financial or personal information, like a PIN or Social Security number, or they are in search of a relationship, talk to your teen about the type of tactics predator’s use online.

Posts are Permanent…

Social media is all about instant gratification. They allow teens to share their thoughts as they experience them and connect with others with the click of a mouse. However, this shields teens from the reality that information on the internet tends to stick around…whether we want it to or not. Remind your teen that if they don’t want someone to see or read a certain post, they should think twice about clicking share.

…and Monitored by Many

Along with the permanence of their posts, teens should recognize that many use the internet to gain extra information, and this includes social media. Law enforcement frequently checks the social media accounts of people in their area to gain insight into the who, what, when, and where of illegal or illicit activities. They can cull feeds for photos and descriptions that can help create timelines of events or prove an alibi. Your teen’s school may also monitor accounts to keep track of behavior they deem inappropriate for their students. And it doesn’t stop there. College admission departments might peruse a few posts to learn a bit more about a student before sending off that acceptance letter. While a prospective employer may consider clicking through social media accounts to be a key component of the hiring process.

As a parent, you want to trust your child to responsibly use social media platforms without your guidance. So, take the time to talk to them about the significant issues and dangers of logging on. Help them to understand the ways they can responsibly use their favorite social media accounts.

Doorways LLC is a faith-based counseling organization in Phoenix, AZ focused on adolescents, young adults, and their families. We urge parents everywhere to talk to their teens about responsible social media use. If you or your teen are having trouble talking about this, or any issue, contact Doorways to find out how our services may benefit your family. Our counselors help families learn to communicate in a caring, nonjudgmental environment.