‘Lost boys:’ There are many paths to success

Boys are often faced with challenges they are not as ably equipped to meet as girls, according to family therapist Neal Brodsky. In particular is the question of what it means to be a boy or man in our society, which is shifting.

“Boys don’t usually have the same emotional fluency and ability to relate on a deeper and more supportive level, and often don’t have the same skills as girls,” he said in an interview this week.

Mr. Brodsky has worked with young people and families and has felt the need to “speak and write on the kinds of things young people are teaching me,” he said. To that end, he will offer a free workshop on Tuesday, March 19, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the Wilton Family Y on Danbury Road. His topic will be “Finding the Lost Boys: A Therapist Talks About Children and Teens.”

The program will be interactive in nature, with considerable give-and-take between Mr. Brodsky and the audience as they cover a number of topics, including handling breakdowns in communication, evaluating learning problems or issues at school, and coping with parents’ separation or divorce.

To register for the program, email Y Senior Director Kim Murphy at kmurphy@wiltonymca.org.

Mr. Brodsky is inviting parents to email him questions ahead of time at nealbro36@gmail.com. “I will pick out one or two to answer,” he said.

Mr. Brodsky said the program grew out of his work with young people and families.

“You see kids coming in for a variety of parenting issues, which can range from parents who are divorcing and stress on a young person, issues with school, panic and anxiety, anger, and the flip side of that is perfectionism. You realize some of the issues kids are coming in with are reflective not only of the child but the larger environment of which they are a part.”

Mr. Brodsky said he’s worked with children as young as 3 to young adults, up through their late 20s. He gives such a broad range, he said, because these days, especially with the poor economy, “there’s a delay in launching.”

He said parents often feel pressure to do right by their children, and sometimes that means bringing them in to a supportive or therapeutic situation, but the children don’t often see it that way.

“The kids may not want to come,” he said. “They feel they’re broken, and that’s not my view. My view is that working with someone like me is an opportunity for growth.”

Not surprisingly, parents and children may have different concerns.

“Parents and kids are living in separate worlds,” he said. While children and adults “are all dealing with cell phones and texts, the kids are much more fluent and generally less fluent with the kinds of ability needed to deal with emotions than their parents.”

Because of that, Mr. Brodsky goes beyond talk therapy. Referring to one of his mentors, Dennis McCarthy, he said he works with dynamic play therapy, “which is really working with some of the bigger emotions kids keep bottled up inside and need expression in some way so they can later discern from the intense experience and choose what they can express in the outside world.

“What happens generally with young people is that some of the bigger emotions they may have in an environment oriented toward achievement in school or what’s acceptable in the family they often don’t get a chance to express or they over-express in an oppositional way.”

Because some children just can’t sit still and talk, Mr. Brodsky may let them bounce on a ball or play with a sand table. When the weather is nice he goes out walking and talking with children.

Mr. Brodsky described himself as a holistic psychotherapist. “I’m a body-centered psychotherapist,” he said, focusing on therapy for the body, mind and spirit. “I look at the young people and the adults I work with in a broader way so that I’m not oriented as much to pathology. … I’m very interested in seeing and working with the whole person and supporting the whole person and not limiting their lives to a diagnostic category.”

Mr. Brodsky said in “situations such as divorce, illness, step/blended family challenges, or other change where there are multiple children affected within the same family, I often work collaboratively with my wife, Judy Gotlieb, with each of us seeing one or more siblings and getting family members together as needed in the process.”

When asked about “finding” lost boys, he said, “What I consider the process of finding is really finding each child’s unique gifts. I don’t just equate achievement with the best grades in school.” What he tries to do is create “the possibility that a boy in his life can see what his individual gifts are.

“Often, for some reason, boys have been sent to me who are brilliant. Some are doing very well in school, and on the other end are young people who are not doing well and are seen by their schools as having issues,” he continued. “I’m open to the idea that either and both of those kids can be a success in the world, and success in my view is the ability to live a life which will have you happy about that life.”

As for the shifting sands of society, Mr. Brodsky said when boys are more in touch with their emotions there is a natural sense of “grace and flow,” which leads to being able to “live a life in balance, not involved with addiction to anything, from video games to drugs and alcohol and food. Having that kind of balance is associated with being in touch with the natural grace and flow of life and what’s right for you.”

As young people grow up as world citizens, he said, “the ability to flow well emotionally in themselves as well as multiculturally is going to be important.”

Information: lovelifecounseling.com.