Tools for Teens


UPDATE MAY 2017: Project WeHope is a homeless shelter in East Palo Alto that is generously letting us these their space for free for the Orientations and Courses.  We are asking that anyone who is selected for a Course and agrees to attend make a donation to Project WeHope on a sliding scale from $1000 to $10 depending on financial resources to support their wonderful organization.  Thank you.

Description: One of my main passions for 2017 is to create two week-long courses (Tools for Teens) for Teenagers with Depression and/or Anxiety.  They will both be completely free and at least half of the learners selected will be from families with low financial resources.  The goal is to offer 20-24 hours of high quality instruction in each week.  For the Tools for Teens Anxiety Course (June 2017), students (ages 14-18) will learn how to have a different relationship with anxiety, why physical exercise is important for reducing anxiety and how to integrate exercise into regular life consistently.  They will also learn why meditation and mindfulness are important for having a different relationship with anxiety, how to meditate, and how to integrate this into a busy daily life.  Students will also learn a variety of strategies for how to handle anxiety through different behavioral strategies as well as the basics of how to change thoughts that contribute to anxiety.  For the Tools for Teens Depression and/or Anxiety Course (August 2017), ten different students (ages 14-18) will learn very similar strategies but targeted more toward overcoming depression and staying healthy.


MANDATORY DATES: For the Depression and/or Anxiety Course, there will be a Mandatory Orientation from 9AM-5PM on Saturday June 17, 2017.  The teenager must come for the entire day as well as at least one parent.  The Course itself (Teens only) will be 9AM-4:30PM Monday August 7 to Friday, August 11, 2017.


Attendance Policy: At least one parent must be present for the duration of the Orientation day.  Students (Teens) must be present for the Orientation day, the first day of the Course, and may only miss a maximum of one day of the Course.

Depression and/or Anxiety Orientation Eventbrite Registraton: 

Location: Project WeHope.  1854 Bay Rd, East Palo Alto, CA 94303




Q: I have more detailed questions, how can I get them answered?

A: First, try reading this document thoroughly at least twice and see if the answer is available here.  If the answer is not here, please try to hold your questions until the Orientation Day as there may be many other parents with similar questions and it will be much more efficient to answer all the questions at the same time.  If the question is time-sensitive and cannot be answered prior to Orientation Day, Trudy Palmer has generously agreed to answer questions and can be reached at 650-208-9116.  


Q:Can anything of substance actually be accomplished in five days of 20-24 hours of instruction?

A: I hope so!!  A lot of what I offer in my individual psychotherapy practice is “Intensives” in which people often fly in from other states and countries and we do lots of hours per day, several days in a row to teach Cognitive Behavioral strategies, meditation, mindfulness, emotion regulation strategies.  Many of my former clients have reported feeling profoundly better for months to years afterward and having the skills to deal with anxiety and sadness when they came up later.  My hope is to bring these skills to ten people at once and achieve similar goals, but completely for free.


Q:Do I have to do anything other than show up?

A: Yep!!  My goal is for these courses to be truly life changing.  And the only way that has a chance at happening is if the learners take this seriously and practice habits and strategies that will change the way they think and feel.  With practice, these can be mastered.  Without practice, the Course will be a complete waste of time and energy.  If you want to have a shot at being accepted into the Course, your “payment” will be committing to read certain books (about 10-20 pages for day, I’ll give you my book for free if you’re accepted), to exercise vigorously for 30-90 minutes 4-6 times per week, to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night (I’ll walk you through how to make this realistic), to meditate every morning (I’ll give you the basics in my book and we’ll cover it in more detail during the Course).  I will also give homework assignments (short) every night during the Course and will REQUIRE follow up therapy homework for after the Course is over. Much of the benefit of the Course will come from learners practicing these skills afterward to master them and integrate them into daily life to have as little anxiety and depression as possible for the rest of their life.


Q: That sounds really hard!  I don’t like doing work.  Do you have an alternative Course with no work involved?

A: Nope.


Q: But I’m really anxious/depressed, I “CAN’T” do any Course homework right now or in the future.  Can you let me in the Course anyway and I’ll “try” to do what I can?

A: No way.  I’m really strict about this.  I want this class to be life-changing and “trying” is not permitted.  Your “payment” is to work your butt off and learn these skills and lifestyle changes so that you’ll get better and I’ll feel gratified that I put the work into creating and running this.


Q: What will happen at Orientation?

A: I will give an Overview of the requirements of the Course, what will happen during the Course, meet with students individually that day, select which ten students will be admitted into the Course, and try to answer everyone’s questions.  I will also provide resources for what to do if learners need more support before or after the Course, go over the class homework that will be assigned to be done before the Course starts, and provide some Crisis Skills for what to do if students get overwhelmed at any time.  There will also be some forms for people to fill out and sign, these will be done that day as well.


Q: I have swimming/volleyball/soccer/a trip to Hawaii/my haircut on the day of Orientation or the first day of the Course.  Can Dr. Towery meet with me individually on a different day that is more convenient?

A: No.  Realistically, I would definitely burn out if I tried to meet with people on many different dates for free and would rather select those learners and families who know what these dates are months in advance and make this a top priority.


Q: Does this mean that Dr. Towery will be my child’s new psychiatrist/therapist?

A: Nope.  These classes are one-shot events.  They are not formal therapy and we won’t be entering into a doctor-patient relationship.  I am not ruling out the possibility that I might see your child sometime in the future for one-on-one treatment (which would be paid) but the great majority of learners will only experience me as their teacher.  I will gladly provide referrals should people need a therapist/psychiatrist separate from the course.

Q: I heard through the grapevine that Dr. Towery is really into teaching.  Will this project be a teaching opportunity that might allow other therapists to learn how to run a course like this and potentially offer more free opportunities in the future?

A: Yes.  Tu Hoang has generously agreed to assist me during the Courses.  It is possible that I will have one or two other therapists sit in with us who would be interested in co-teaching with me and/or offering a program like this in the future for others who would benefit.  They would/will be held to strict confidentiality requirements and would never disclose anything they heard during the Course.


Q: I see that you’re affiliated with Stanford, does that mean these are Stanford sponsored Courses?

A: Nope.  Although I teach at Stanford, these Courses are totally independent of my Stanford affiliations.


Q: Why are you doing all this? This sounds like a lot of work on your part too.

A: It is!  But I’m kind of excited about it.  I’m mostly doing this for myself because I like feeling like I’m making the world a better place, it helps me sleep well at night and I like thinking of myself as a generous person.  As a side benefit, this might be good for you too.  ;)

Q: Did Dr. Towery do all of this by himself?

A: Absolutely not.  It takes a village.  This project would not be happening without the incredibly hard work and support of Trudy Palmer, Tu Hoang, Alicia Garcia and Project WeHope, Hilary Borison, Donna Soo, Kristine Kim, Vaishali Khandekar,Dena Zlotziver and others.  Thank you!!!