Working with adolescents…

Being a teenager can be very complicated and many adolescents experience a variety of emotional and/or behavioral issues. As a parent, it can be difficult to decide what is the best solution to help your struggling adolescent.

Counseling an adolescent is different than with adults…

Most adults have learned through time to verbalize complex feelings and reactions. However, adolescents generally find it more difficult to effectively communicate these feelings. They are often overwhelmed and even confused by the increasing emotional complexities of family and peer relationships as well as the responsibilities that occur as they transition to adulthood. That’s why it is important for an adolescent to learn healthy conflict resolution and having it modeled at home enhances his/her being able to develop this essential life skill.

Treatment specifics…

Although my style is eclectic, I have found it helpful to focus on an adolescent’s thoughts and how they can affect his/her emotions and behaviors using Cognitive Behavioral interventions. For example, an adolescent who’s anxious may have thoughts such as “am I good enough?” or “no one will ever like me.” Looking at these thoughts, we would not only try to figure out how to combat the negative thinking, but look to see where these underlying “negative core beliefs” originated. A treatment goal being to help the adolescent in understanding how his/her thinking makes him/her feel sad or irritable and that these emotions can cause reactionary behaviors.

Involving Family…

Historically, I have found it very difficult to treat an adolescent if his/her parent(s)are not actively involved in the therapy process. While I may see an adolescent, one to two times a week, it is imperative that the parent(s)continue therapeutic interventions at home. Additionally, sometimes an adolescent’s emotional and/or behavioral struggles are a symptom of more complex family dynamic concerns (i.e. parental divorce, job loss, prolonged absence of a parent, etc.) When an adolescent understands how conflicts can be resolved through better communication, it often results in significant improvement within the family dynamics.

If your adolescent has experienced some of the symptoms below–you may want to consider treatment options:

❐ Sudden deterioration in functioning in multiple settings
❐ Depression, sometimes with associated suicidal gestures, and/or self harming behaviors
❐ Apathy, social isolation and lack of motivation towards educational goals/chronic truancy
❐ Difficulty in forming positive relationships with peers and/or adults
❐ Oppositional and/or aggressive behaviors towards parents and/or authority figures
❐ Escalating impulsivity/risk-taking behaviors (including sexual activities)
❐ Substance abuse (even if it has not yet had serious consequences)