Mike Riera Speaking

From Writing Books to Hosting TV to Leading a School, Mike Riera Is Helping Teens and Their Parents

As he began his studies at Antioch, Mike Riera ’85 (New England, MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling) was unsure what population he was going to work with. He explains, “Professors and other students had their niche in counseling children or adults, but I was unsure who I should help.” Because he was already pondering this question, he listened closely when one of his instructors reflected on his own experiences in the field, which including counseling people at all ages, including those in the prison system. Of all these groups, the instructor said, he had found teenagers to be the most challenging to work with. 

For Riera, this was a moment of realization—because he knew that for him this wasn’t true at all. He found counseling teenagers not to be daunting at all, and he actually enjoyed this population more than working with adults. “With teenagers, they can make changes much faster than adults who are set in their ways,” he explains today. “You are able to see the lightbulb go off in their head, and they can make changes from there on.”

Working with teenagers became Riera’s niche. And the passion that Riera has found working with this group has led him to a successful and rewarding career. Over the last thirty years, Riera has been a teacher and a school counselor. He has published five books about parenting and supporting teenagers, including the bestseller, Staying Connected To Your Teenager. For seven years he served as the parenting correspondent for the CBS Saturday Early Show, and he went on to host the award-winning cable show Life in Progress. He also hosted a daily two-hour satellite radio show called Family Talk With Dr. Mike. The San Francisco Chronicle called him “the Dr. Spock for teenagers and their parents.” Eventually, though, Riera started transitioning away from show business, and for the last twelve years he has served as the Head of School at the Brentwood School, a prominent Los Angeles private school that serves a K-12 student body.

Throughout this illustrious career, Riera has consistently built upon his previous experiences and knowledge. His unofficial motto is “Grow Or Go.” By this he means that we have to stay curious, keep learning, and remain open to growth. “Otherwise,” he says, “you will become stagnant. And when that happens, it’s time to chase after a new curiosity, a new challenge.”

Staying Connected to your Teenage book cover

At the same time, Riera has never forgotten the past experiences that have shaped him. One way he makes this tangible is by giving regular donations to Antioch University. These gifts enable future generations of Antioch students to find their own path to how they can best serve the world. 

As for the deepest reasons why he has pursued the career he has, Riera gained some insight during another experience at Antioch. He had been assigned to write a reflective paper, and he decided to write about his mother, who passed away when he was young. He wrote about how despite her untimely demise she had made a profound impact on him. 

The next day, after turning in the paper, Riera’s professor said to him, “You don’t know, do you? Your mom is the reason you are here.” That comment helped affirm his choice to pursue this work. To this day he carries forward the legacy of his mother’s caring nature, which has inspired him to help teenagers and their parents in so many different ways.