The author explores working with adolescents in three different settings: non-voluntary therapy for drug addicts; a centre for homeless men and women; and a youth information centre. With regard to each of these groups, we tend to encounter similar discourses. And within each setting different elements of these same discourses resonate.. These elements reveal a lot about the positioning of these adolescents: the young drug abuser as ‘dangerous’; the adolescent victim of violence as object of compassion; and the ‘normal’ adolescent who should enjoy him/herself but in moderation. The author uses clinical fragments to illustrate. What effects do those labels and signifiers have on work with adolescents themselves? And how can psychoanalysis prevent us from falling into the trap of disdain, compassion or indifference?