Who are You? TAY Identity Formation

by Stars Training Academy   0 Comments

TAY programs attempt to support their youth’s transition into meaningful adult roles and identities. At the TAY Hot Spot in Carson, California we have undertaken the Identity Project. Interested members make and decorate masks of themselves and discuss the many aspects of their interests, personalities and aspirations. They also joke and complain about the many negative identities and labels they encounter in their lives. By making the identity development process more explicit and tangible – it is hoped that youth can more consciously consider their choices and life options.

How do young adults today go about responding to the challenging question of “who are you?” How can they develop a sense of self, define who they are, and discover what they value and where they belong? Erik Erikson (identified as a developmental psychologist, psychoanalyst and author) first postulated the concept of identity formation in 1968. He described a developmental process he called psychosocial stages, and theorized that adolescents struggled with achieving a coherent identity (identity vs. role confusion). Many experts today contend that this period has been prolonged (in Western cultures) into an “extended adolescence” or “emerging adulthood” that lasts into the early 30’s.

For youth experiencing serious mental health conditions, the process of identity formation often gets impeded and diverted into negative cul-de-sacs. For instance, a traumatized youth experiencing high degrees of emotional distress may not have sufficient internal resources to address this developmental need. They can easily become ensnared in stigmatized and negative roles, such as mentally ill patient, disabled person, addict and criminal offender. The impact of poverty can leave many marginalized youth with the sense that more positive identities are unattainable. Transition age youth programs must work hard at creating and pointing out positive pathways for youth to become students, workers, caregivers and contributing citizens in their communities.

For better and for worse, the era of the Internet, social media, websites and avatars offers a whole, new virtual context for youth to explore and experiment with their emerging identities. This online universe can become the primary means that many youth use to try out new roles, practice attitudes and share selfies. They can delve into incredibly diverse worlds of ethnic cultures, sexuality, interest groups and online relationships to anonymously test out where they belong. Of course, the risks of cyber-bullying, sexual exploitation and being “catfished” (being deceived by someone who has created a false Facebook identity to pursue an on-line romance) is ever present.

What other ways can we support positive identity
formation in youth with serious mental health conditions?

Want TAY Trainings and Consultations?

  • Trauma Informed Care and Youth and Young Adults
  • Addressing Substance Abuse with Youth and Young Adults
  • Career Development for Youth and Young Adults
  • Working with Youth Experiencing Psychosis
  • Preventing Vicarious Trauma
  • Providing Effective Integrated Trauma and Substance Abuse Treatment

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wmunchel@starsinc.com | @TAYTweetment

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