Morality, Not Psychotherapy, is the Cure for Teen Sexting

 

Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A Team, has offered some advice to parents about how to deal with teens who have posted suggestive, sometimes obscene, photos of themselves on Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. Ablow, in a piece entitled “Pull the Plug on Naked Twitter Teens”, tells parents who learn that their kids have posted such things to take away their cell phones, and close their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Good advice.

Ablow also suggests that parents impose strong discipline when their sons or daughters are caught posting such things.

Good advice.

But Ablow goes on to say that parents should get their kids into psychotherapy so that these allegedly psychological issues can be treated before they worsen into pathologies.

Bologna.

Blaming teen behavior on psychological disorders is nothing more than an excuse: “My kid isn’t immoral, he is sick.” That is not going to help — and it might just reinforce the attitude that everything is excusable because everything is pathological. Even if these kids are “addicted” to the internet, that addiction is not going to be solved by psychotherapy. It will be resolved by a quick and stern kick in the pants.

What, exactly, will a psychotherapist do for a kid? I guess they’ll talk it out, the therapist listening quite earnestly to a child who has been taken up in the false world of the internet. Maybe the Internet is addictive. But why do these kids sink into perversion? Is it perhaps that no one has ever told them that this is just immoral? That they are selling themselves into damnation? That they are tempting others with sexed up images? These are moral issues, and all the psychotherapy in the world will do exactly nothing until kids are held to account.

This will be a hard and treacherous path. The sexual revolution has exacted a heavy price from the young. Children are no longer taught sexual morality. School sex education classes are largely limited to biology, with the only true sin being having sex without a condom. Psychotherapy often focuses on ridding sex of guilt, while talk of morality is greeted with a roll of the eyes. Sex, freed from morality, no longer means anything. Sexual distortion does not need pychotherapeutic  solution. It needs a moral answer. Here are a few suggestions.

Restore the Link Between Sex and Creation

To sever the connection between sex and creation is not only to obliterate the very reason of sex, but to destroy the duties and gifts which men and women assume in the sexual union. It is to rip apart the mystery of creation, and to set men and women adrift in a search of the meaning lost when their place in creation is dissolved. The search is futile. In its place is nothing but the sex act, with its fleeting pleasures. But fleeting pleasures are no substitute for the gift of creation. In the end, a life of fleeting pleasures makes human beings into what Sartre called “a useless passion.” Absent a moral center, teens have no reason to stop sexting. After all, it is just another form of sexual expression.

Demand Modesty

Modesty is intimately connected to the creative act of sex. A woman who is modest recognizes herself as someone entitled to respect as the gateway to creation. A woman requires a shield to protect her from being despoiled. Modesty is an irreplaceable wall of protection against her defilement.

Male sexual impulses are powerfully disordered. Men tend to a predatory and promiscuous view of sex. Therefore, men must be taught their role as protector of women and the children who will come through sexual union. If men are to be protectors, and thereby earn a place in the creative act, they must, through modesty, erect a wall between their desire to conquer and their higher role as protector. When a man no longer shields his nakedness, he becomes a marauder who seeks to steal a woman’s role in creation. Modesty is the first barrier against the destruction of sex as act of creation.

Modest dress, modest talk, and modest attitudes are the pillars of that barrier.

The Need for Chastity

There is simply nothing more important than chastity in preventing the destruction of sex as creative engagement. Once chastity is thrown off, the body is no longer the source of creation, but merely a thing to be used. Sexual morality, which demands recollection of the meaning of sex as gateway to creation, must demand chastity. Without chastity, the sexual impulse will run amuck and usher in perversity. The loss of the moral restraint provided by chastity is at the root of sexting, personal pornography, and all the other manifestations of the loss of the connection between sex and creation.

Psychiatry will, on its own, never effectively root out the core of teen sexual disorder because psychiatry cannot cure moral disease. It can only flail about seeking a return to normal. Sexual morality must define what is normal. So to Dr. Ablow, I repeat: Bologna. Psychiatry is a useless flailing at the wind until morality sets the standards for normal and abnormal, good and bad.

That’s the couch where the cure is to be found.

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  1. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Oops. No comment intended

    • #1
  2. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Slight correction, Mike:  I believe it’s Dr. Manny _Alvarez_ and Dr. _Keith_ Ablow…Hope this helps!  Well-done!

    • #2
  3. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    All your suggestions are good ones to prevent a transgression; the doctor’s suggestions were for after a transgression.

    Since I can’t post this anonymously – and I wish I could – let me just say that as a parent I’ve got experience with this situation. The girl who sent the pics was the last one you would have expected such behavior from. I know her parents and know they share your opinion and raised her as such.

    I view the teen years as something to be survived. Kids have the opportunity to get in a lot more trouble and they don’t always have the brain capacity to make the right decisions in the face of temptation and opportunity. A good moral foundation is imperative, but trust me it not always enough.

    No one was happier than me with my youngest turned 18.

    • #3
  4. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Male sexual impulses are powerfully disordered.

    Is it not better to say that they’re unruly and difficult to order properly?

    Anyhow, if  all  males have powerfully disordered sexual impulses, what, exactly, distinguishes a homosexual from other males, according to Catholics?

    Modesty is an irreplaceable wall of protection against her defilement.

    Will point out that modesty works best when it’s backed up by a fierce willingness to slap men in the face or kick them in the nuts if necessary. Or a gun. Seriously. Modesty (or at least modesty that shrinks from violence) is  not  enough to protect a girl from everything.

    But why do these kids sink into perversion? Is it perhaps that no one has ever told them that this is just immoral? That they are selling themselves into damnation?

    Best to remind kids that sexual sins are just one kind of sin among many, though. Treating sexual sins as if they were unique just makes them seem more fascinating…

    • #4
  5. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Nanda Panjandrum:
    Slight correction, Mike: I believe it’s Dr. Manny _Alvarez_ and Dr. _Keith_ Ablow…Hope this helps! Well-done!

     Your right. I’ll fix that.

    • #5
  6. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    MFR:

    I haven’t the energy at the moment to discuss Catholic teaching on homosexuality. Long day.

    As for slapping men who say imappropriate things to women, I agree. When I was doing sexual harassment litigation I often thought that the mess could be solved if women were encouraged to slap the creeps. And if a woman is subject to unwanted touches, I would like to return to a more enlightened time where her brothers would find the guy in a dark alley.

    • #6
  7. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Annefy:
    All your suggestions are good ones to prevent a transgression; the doctor’s suggestions were for after a transgression.
    Since I can’t post this anonymously – and I wish I could – let me just say that as a parent I’ve got experience with this situation. The girl who sent the pics was the last one you would have expected such behavior from. I know her parents and know they share your opinion and raised her as such.
    I view the teen years as something to be survived. Kids have the opportunity to get in a lot more trouble and they don’t always have the brain capacity to make the right decisions in the face of temptation and opportunity. A good moral foundation is imperative, but trust me it not always enough.
    No one was happier than me with my youngest turned 18.

     My wife and I were blessed in that none of our girls got caught up in the trap laid by the sexual revolution while in high school. But we insisted on modest dress and clean language. We also insisted on Church. You’re right that moral education isn’t the answer. Society must contribute.

    • #7
  8. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    Sex outside of morality certainly does mean something. They used to show films to GIs warning about it.

    Psychotherapy is pretty much dead from what I can tell. Oh sure, they can still make a buck from Woody Allen by separating pedophilia from morality, but insurance companies looked at outcomes and I guess a bottle of Jim Beam proved both cheaper and more healthy. Woody was fine with God being dead, kind of depending on it, in fact, but psychotherapy?!?!? Oy vey.

    • #8
  9. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    I didn’t face the problems of sexting when my children were adolescents because it had not been invented yet. Although morality was an open and frequent topic of discussion in our household I don’t recall giving any morality lectures. Have you been able to instill an appreciation for morality in your children without lectures? Sexting is far more stupid than the vices and bad behaviors that I did discuss with my sons so I don’t think I would approach it from a purely moral basis.

    • #9
  10. Henry Higgins Member
    Henry Higgins
    @

    Strong post, Mike.  Thanks for writing it.  Yours is the sort of  opinion that should be so generally held as hardly to require expression.

    • #10
  11. user_352043 Moderator
    user_352043
    @AmySchley

    Mike Rapkoch:
    Blaming teen behavior on psychological disorders is nothing more than an excuse …
    What, exactly, will a psychotherapist do for a kid? I guess they’ll talk it out, the therapist listening quite earnestly to a child who has been taken up in the false world of the internet. 

    Let me guess — you’re one of those tough guys who wouldn’t be caught dead in a pyschotherapy session.  Well, the biggest bologna here is your idea of what psychotherapy session does.

    It’s not Sigmund Freud asking about your mother.  It’s a friend and helper, trying to figure the reason one is thinking and doing destructive things and then working on ways to alter that thinking and behavior into something positive.

    [cont]

    • #11
  12. user_352043 Moderator
    user_352043
    @AmySchley

    And yes, a kid who is sexting is a kid who needs help — maybe they’re always on the internet because don’t have the social skills to interact with the real world. Maybe their parents modeled bad behavior by always being on their own Blackberries. Maybe they are in a situation at school that they wish to escape. Maybe they have a lack of real achievement and use inappropriate pictures to seek attention and validation.  Maybe there is a real mental illness that is being self-managed just enough to merely look like bad behavior.

    Sure, teaching good behaviors and thinking patterns should be done by parents.  But clearly, by the time a teenager is engaging in these behaviors, one should be able to say that the parents haven’t been able to do their job well enough.  So no, I don’t see what is so gosh-darn awful about a teenager talking to someone who asks them, “What do you think you could do this week that would make you feel good about yourself? That would help you make a friend? That gets you talking with someone offline?” I can’t see what’s so bad about kids having a non-confrontational relationship with an adult whom they trust and from whom they wish to earn respect.

    • #12
  13. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    I am with Amy on this one. A lot of these kids are just in over their heads. And as the mother of a daughter (who for once is NOT the topic of my conversation) there may very well come a time when a parent is the LAST person who has any credibility with the child. My husband and I certainly didn’t with daughter, which is why she was out the door at 18.

    The ONLY mistake I think my son made was not coming to me and his dad. But my own dad had just died, I was upset, and I’m sorry – it’s absolutely impossible to be 100% on your game 100% of the time. I was the most technologically savvy parent anyone knew and I got totally blindsided.

    The mother of the girl said she was going to get her into therapy; this after Catholic grade school, attending Catholic high school and having two practicing, believing, devout parents. I think it was a good decision and I hope it helped.

    I still wish my son had come to me earlier; but God love him, he received 200 + emails and had only opened the attached pictures on the first three. I consider myself very fortunate that the parents of the girl read the emails and saw that the girl was the aggressor.

    And he never forwarded any of the pictures – had he done that, I’d be in jail for murdering him.

    • #13
  14. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    What concerns me Amy & Annefy, is that the “non-confrontational person they trust …[whose respect they wish to earn]”  can warp perceptions as well as restore them.  The power wielded by ‘helping professionals” can create damage, too, possibly by misreading confusion as chosen behavior/labeling without sufficient clinical evidence. (Not to mention the secondary gain for the therapist.)  
    I know I’m probably biased, but we seem to be ‘defining deviancy up’ as well as  defining normality down – and shutting parents out quite often.  NB: I’m not condoning the behaviors described…Venting as opportunity presented.  Thanks for the opportunity.   

    • #14
  15. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Nanda Panjandrum:
    What concerns me Amy & Annefy, is that the “non-confrontational person they trust …[whose respect they wish to earn]” can warp perceptions as well as restore them. The power wielded by ‘helping professionals” can create damage, too, possibly by misreading confusion as chosen behavior/labeling without sufficient clinical evidence. (Not to mention the secondary gain for the therapist.) I know I’m probably biased, but we seem to be ‘defining deviancy up’ as well as defining normality down – and shutting parents out quite often. NB: I’m not condoning the behaviors described…Venting as opportunity presented. Thanks for the opportunity.

     I agree Nanda. There’s no easy solution and certainly no one-size-fits-all. I’ve heard of therapy that has helped and therapy that has made a bad situation worse. Offspring that won’t listen to the therapist because the therapist is supporting the parents, and parents who change therapists (rightly or wrongly) because the therapist is not going along with them. And don’t get me started on drugs; seems the first thing they do is reach for the prescription pad.

    And newsflash, I’ve known more than one parent that should have been in therapy themselves.

    Like I said, the teen years for me were all about survival. We used every arrow in our quiver, Catholic school K-12, boy scouts for the boys, strong extended family on both sides. And it was still a huge challenge.

    • #15
  16. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Amy:

    Actually, no, I’m not a tough guy. Some forms of psychotherapy have a place in all this. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has much science to back it up. But psychotherapy unhinged from a moral center has no definable goal. What is normal to a psychotherapist? If it is abnormal to send naked pictures out into the internet, why? What I have suggested is that only a moral center can answer that question. It is interesting that the words “moral,” “ethical,” “good” don’t show up in Dr. Ablow’s piece. My complaint is that psychotherapy starts in the middle, moves toward some amorphous end, but cannot identify the location of that end in the human psyche. I am arguing that the center is a sexual morality, and that if no such thing is encouraged psychotherapy can take a kid nowhere.

    You argue that maybe the reason a kid does this stuff because of bad parental role models, lack of achievement, etc. Agreed. But without a moral center there is no threshold barrier to engaging in bad behavior, there is no way to challenge a kid to change his actions. A kid needs to know right and wrong first.

    • #16
  17. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Mike Rapkoch:

    What is normal to a psychotherapist? If it is abnormal to send naked pictures out into the internet, why? What I have suggested is that only a moral center can answer that question.

    You can be fairly amoral about sex and still know that any naked pictures you broadcast of yourself might damage your future prospects or be turned against you to humiliate you.

    Some activities are simply imprudent. Sexting is one of them.

    • #17
  18. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Annefy:
    And as the mother of a daughter (who for once is NOT the topic of my conversation) there may very well come a time when a parent is the LAST person who has any credibility with the child.

     This is, unfortunately, true.

    • #18
  19. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    I’m not going to wade into a debate about psychotherapy (I’m way out of my league for that).  But whether psychotherapy is worthwhile or not, that’s a separate conversation from whether morality applies here – and I say it does. And even though I’m flexible about what approach to use with any individual kid, I don’t want that to perceicved as being “flexible” about the morality of the behavior.

    Philosophical morality and psychological health are not the same thing. We’d like to think they work together harmoniously, but not always. It’s important to keep the ideas distinct, and not to address immorality as if it was nothing more than a psychological problem. And we also have to make sure that we don’t use psychology as a vehicle for inflicting moral convictions on people to conform to our own morality … which, sadly, I think is more common.

    Both morality and psychology have their own unique spheres, and we shouldn’t mix the two.

    • #19
  20. user_309277 Inactive
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    Almost all kids will experiment in some way as they grow into adult sexuality.  I see no real way to prevent this, but then again I’m 25 and don’t have a family of my own.  

    The problem with sexting is that it’s public in a way we’re not accustomed to.  Long gone are the days when whole multigenerational families lived and loved in single-room apartments.  Even further gone are the days when Boswell could write

    At the bottom of the Hay-market I picked up a strong jolly young damsel, and taking her under the Arm I conducted her to Westminster-Bridge, and then in armour compleat did I engage her upon this noble Edifice. The whim of doing it there with the Thames rolling below us amused me much. Yet after the brutish appetite was sated I could not but despise myself for being so closely united with such a low Wretch.

    For all that control over sexuality – like control over any other human desire – is a virtue and a thing to be desired, a cursory study of human history reveals that chastity and modesty are quite the exceptions, and not the rules. 

    • #20
  21. Henry Higgins Member
    Henry Higgins
    @

    Amy and Annefy –

    I think you are unfamiliar with the nature of the therapy profession nowadays, which is, by and large, extremely hostile to any traditional morality and instead tries to help each client by identifying his desires, regardless of what they may be (so long as they’re not traditional or – horrors! – religious) and urging him to fulfill them. 

    Self-gratification under the veneer of science.

    • #21
  22. user_352043 Moderator
    user_352043
    @AmySchley

    Cassius:
    Amy and Annefy –
    I think you are unfamiliar with the nature of the therapy profession nowadays, which is, by and large, extremely hostile to any traditional morality and instead tries to help each client by identifying his desires, regardless of what they may be (so long as they’re not traditional or – horrors! – religious) and urging him to fulfill them.
    Self-gratification under the veneer of science.

     Funny, that’s never happened in the hundreds of hours of therapy sessions I’ve had.  I’ve confessed to suicidal thoughts, adultery, homosexual urges, and violent urges, and not one of those “hostile to traditional morality” pyschotherapists has recommended indulging any of those desires.
    Are there bad pyschotherapists? Sure. But saying that because there are bad pyschotherapists one need not and should not seek out psychotherapy is like saying because there are heretical pastors one need not and should not go to church.

    • #22
  23. Susan in Seattle Member
    Susan in Seattle
    @SusaninSeattle

    Cassius:
    Amy and Annefy –
    I think you are unfamiliar with the nature of the therapy profession nowadays, which is, by and large, extremely hostile to any traditional morality and instead tries to help each client by identifying his desires, regardless of what they may be (so long as they’re not traditional or – horrors! – religious) and urging him to fulfill them.
    Self-gratification under the veneer of science.

     I am simply curious to know how you’ve arrived at this, Cassius. In the interest of full disclosure, I work as a psychotherapist and have done so for nearly 20 years.  I am not interested in coming to a defense of my profession nor will I do so.  I will state, however, that the therapists whom I know and associate with aren’t hostile to traditional morality.

    • #23
  24. user_352043 Moderator
    user_352043
    @AmySchley

    Susan in Seattle:

    Cassius: Amy and Annefy – I think you are unfamiliar with the nature of the therapy profession nowadays, which is, by and large, extremely hostile to any traditional morality and instead tries to help each client by identifying his desires, regardless of what they may be (so long as they’re not traditional or – horrors! – religious) and urging him to fulfill them. Self-gratification under the veneer of science.

    I am simply curious to know how you’ve arrived at this, Cassius. In the interest of full disclosure, I work as a psychotherapist and have done so for nearly 20 years. I am not interested in coming to a defense of my profession nor will I do so. I will state, however, that the therapists whom I know and associate with aren’t hostile to traditional morality.

    And in my own experience, the therapists who did not share my traditional moral beliefs still remained respectful of them.  

    • #24
  25. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    I admit to being unfamiliar with psychotherapy – but there’s more than one person in my life that would probably chip in for a gift certificate.

    What I AM familiar with is the current challenges of raising teenagers. Having been a powerless parent on more than one occasion, I condemn no parent for trying psychotherapy. I swear there were times I would have tried voodoo. 

    • #25
  26. CandE Inactive
    CandE
    @CandE

    Mike Rapkoch: Psychiatry will, on its own, never effectively root out the core of teen sexual disorder because psychiatry cannot cure moral disease. It can only flail about seeking a return to normal. Sexual morality must define what is normal. So to Dr. Ablow, I repeat: Bologna. Psychiatry is a useless flailing at the wind until morality sets the standards for normal and abnormal, good and bad.

     Why does it have to be either/or?  In many cases, a teenager can be brought back onto the straight and narrow through discipline and moral teaching.  There are also those cases where they can be genuinely sick and need proper psychiatric care.  Addictions are real.  So is PTSD.  People pretending to have those disorders doesn’t negate their existence.

    -E

    • #26
  27. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    CandE:

    Mike Rapkoch: Psychiatry will, on its own, never effectively root out the core of teen sexual disorder because psychiatry cannot cure moral disease. It can only flail about seeking a return to normal. Sexual morality must define what is normal. So to Dr. Ablow, I repeat: Bologna. Psychiatry is a useless flailing at the wind until morality sets the standards for normal and abnormal, good and bad.

    Why does it have to be either/or? In many cases, a teenager can be brought back onto the straight and narrow through discipline and moral teaching. There are also those cases where they can be genuinely sick and need proper psychiatric care. Addictions are real. So is PTSD. People pretending to have those disorders doesn’t negate their existence.
    -E

     CandE:

    Look again at what I said: “Psycotherapy on its own.” The argument I have made is that moral education–including pressing teens who have fallen into the trap–is the first principle without which therapy has no ground of reference. My objection to the Ablow article is that: 1)he offers psychotherapy as the first line of defense; 2)he makes no reference to sexual morality. That is my complaint.

    • #27
  28. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Annefy:

    I did not object to psychotherapy, I simply argue that unless the norm is established through a moral order, psychotherapy has no way to define what is normal, and no goal toward which to aim. If you were to thumb through the pages of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the diagnostic reference for psychotherapists, you would quickly see that virtually every form of human behavior is somehow pathological or at least a symptom of pathology. It seems to me that this is evidence that psychotherapy, unless moored to a moral order, cannot reach a desired goal because it has no end point. This is not to condemn therapy, but to point out an inherent waekness in it. Just sending a kid to psychotherapy is not likely to achieve lasting success unless it is grounded in a fundamental moral order. The three things I suggested, role of sex in creation, modesty, chastity are the means by which order can be restored, and which will allow for effective education of children in a proper sexual morality. If parents need help–and they do–it is in a moral order shared by the community. That includes restoring shame to its necessary place.

    • #28
  29. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Susan:

    I realize that many, maybe most ( although I have my doubts), psychotherapists remain respectful. But I am suggesting that, as regards teens, lack of a moral education unhinges them from the community, releases them from responsibility, and interrupts shame and guilt–which are both essential to proper human conduct. I might even say that the things we seek, personal achievement, lasting commitments, happiness, depend on a proper moral understanding. This is basically an Aristotelian view of happiness which depends on the cultivation of virtue through habit. This must be inculcated in young people if we hope to solve the present crisis.

    I think one problem we have today is a limited understanding of education. I’m not talking only about formal education, but the education parents must give their children, not merely by lecture (although that is, I think, very effective), but through example, discipline, and insistence on things like modesty. 

    I’m not trying to solve every psychological problem , but only the disaster headed our way if teens sink deeper and deeper into the morass.

    • #29
  30. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Male sexual impulses are powerfully disordered.

    That sounds like ancient 70s’ feminist blather.

    Let’s stop whining about the biological nature of males and take a few good swipes at their upbringing (or lack thereof).

    • #30
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