Sam Himelstein, Ph.D.

works as a Licensed Psychologist (PSY25229) in the Chemical Dependency program at Kaiser Permanente with teens and their families, in private practice in Oakland, CA, researches the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions with incarcerated and underserved adolescent populations, is an author of multiple scholarly journal articles and two books, travels the country speaking at conferences and conducting professional trainings, and is the founder and president of the Center for Adolescent Studies. Dr. Himelstein is passionate about training professionals from multiple disciplines in creating authentic, healing relationships with adolescents that contribute to positive outcomes. A formerly incarcerated youth himself, Dr. Himelstein was privileged to change his life from a path of drugs, violence, crime, and self-destruction to that of healing and transformation. His mission is to help young people become aware of the power of self-awareness and transformation, and train professionals with similar interests. Learn more about his philosophy and approach in his books: A Mindfulness-Based Approach to Working with High-Risk Adolescents (Routledge, 2013), and Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment for Adolescents: A 12-Session Curriculum (Routledge, 2015).

3 Ways to Help Youth with the Emotional Impact of the Pandemic

We’ve all seen the photos of spring breakers gathering at crowded parties, in defiance of social distancing recommendations. Those types of images might make it seem that all youth are blithely unaware of the impacts of COVID, but that’s far from the truth. In fact, the pandemic has had a much bigger impact on youth …

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2 Tips for Working with Resistance and Traumatic Adaptations

Many youth who’ve been impacted by trauma are resistant to therapy. Their self-protective behaviors and reactions are often misperceived as deliberately rebellious or disruptive. Because of this misunderstanding, the therapist may become angry, frustrated, anxious, or uncomfortable. These types of reactions tend to make the youth feel even less safe and therefore more aggressive or …

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4 Different Approaches to Leading Groups of Youth

Very early in my career, I began co-facilitating Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse groups, with no training in how to lead groups of youth. My partner and I went from one extreme to the other, lecturing the first cohort and then having free-flowing discussions with the next cohort. We gradually realized that the groups were much more …

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4 Self-Care Tips for Essential Workers During COVID-19

Those of us who work with trauma-impacted youth also have to deal with our own trauma and stress. On top of the stressful nature of the work itself, we’ve all been impacted by our own life events. Over the years, I’ve worked with countless professionals who’ve gone through divorces, have lost family members, or who …

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3 Steps to Build Resilience and Practice Self-Care for Helping Professionals in Uncertain Times

This past week life on our planet has been significantly disrupted. Earlier this week the area where I personally live was put on a shelter in place order and toward the end of the week the state Governor had issued a statewide stay at home order to stop the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Weddings …

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4 Qualities That Lead to Interpersonal Connection and Safety With Youth

There are several ways to build rapport with youth, including the INCRA, deep listening, and skillful self-disclosure. It’s also imperative to work on those personal qualities that will contribute to our clients feeling interpersonally safe. These are less of what we “do” (interventions) and more of what we “are” (our presence, authenticity, compassion, etc.) 1) …

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10 Essential Guidelines to Teaching Meditation to Trauma-Impacted Youth

A while back I posted 9 Guidelines for Teaching Trauma-Informed Mindfulness to Teens. As I mentioned in that post, formal meditation practice isn’t always appropriate, as it can sometimes trigger youth into trauma responses. That said, many young people can benefit from mindfulness meditation. These guidelines will help you safely and effectively teach meditation to …

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A Brief History of Trauma for Youth Providers

The field of trauma studies, as well as the application to trauma treatment with young people, is still very much in its infancy. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often discussed synonymously with trauma. However, PTSD as a diagnosis rarely does justice to the experience of young people, who often exhibit a complex set of behaviors and trauma …

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