Marcia's Reviews > Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher
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's review
Dec 05, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: counseling-psychology
Read in December, 2009

I could identify with this book from a few different perspectives. As an adolescent in high school in the 1970's some of the expectations for girls were the same as those experienced by the author in the 1950's and 1960's, but the role of the teen girl was already changing. As the mother of a teen in the 2000's, the stories about Pipher's clients already seemed dated. As a clinical counselor, I admired Pipher's non-medical, empowering, family systems approach. She also utilizes narrative and skill building to assist her young clients in forming healthy identity and healing from abuse. Her background in cultural anthropology is helpful in understanding the immense societal changes for young women over the last 30 years. Unfortunately reading this in 2009, it seems like too little, too late. So many young women continue to suffer sexual abuse, violence, eating disorders, truancy, and addiction while trying to grow into adulthood. The media messages, reality TV shows, and the Internet present an increasingly graphic and violent sexual environment for young teens. Although counseling is more acceptable it is still accessible vastly only to middle and upper class families. Mainstream mental health care is individualistic and based on a medical model that pathologizes teens who are trying their best to survive. Families that seek help for their teens are labeled dysfunctional or codependent. Parents who love their teens stumble along trying to adapt to changing morals and values. Parents unable to control teen behaviors find their families re-victimized by the courts and mental health systems. In our society it seems someone must take the blame, either the teen, the parent or the whole family. Pipher's book, although dated, still begs the question what is wrong with the American culture? If these are the challenges of middle class white teens in the 1990's, what challenges do diverse teens from other SE groups face? What are the boundaries of safe and healthy relationships? Who is diagnosing our society and who is able to heal it?

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