Are You Worried for Your Teenager?
Does it seem like everything is a fight with your teenager? Do you wonder what happened to your sweet child? Are you worried because your son or daughter seems to avoid the family, mostly hanging out in his or her bedroom or out with friends? Do you worry about the friends your teen hangs out with or what he or she is doing with them? Are you afraid that he or she will fail the school year for not completing work or on time? Is he or she struggling with depression or anxiety? Do you wonder how family stressors are impacting your teenager’s emotional state or behavior choices? Maybe your teenager is self-harming or expressing the desire to do so. Do you wish you could connect with your teen and offer the support he or she needs to feel happy and healthy?
Family can be the most fulfilling and yet stressful part of our lives. Maybe your day starts off with waking up your teenager, and you already feeling on guard and dread an argument. You may worry…will he or she get to school, be respectful to the school staff and remember to turn in homework (if he or she did it!)? Maybe you cherish the break that school brings and dread the return home, especially after a day of meetings or household responsibilities.
Maybe your teen just seems completely unmotivated and has started failing classes. Or, maybe you and your teenager get along great, but you worry that he or she is an over-achiever…struggling to live up to the internal and external pressure to get great grades. This pressure might be so high that it leads to anxiety and depression, or even scarier, self-harming. Nighttime is likely the most worrisome time.
Perhaps you want to tell your teen all the wonderful things that you have learned throughout your life, but he or she may not want to hear much of it. You might frequently find yourself in a power struggle with your teen, especially if he or she also goes to your co-parent to undercut your rules. Or maybe your teen struggles with applying life skills and needs extra help and support.
Adolescence Is a Difficult Time for Many
Power struggles, miscommunication and conflict may be everyday occurrences between you and your teenager. Think back to when you were a teenager. Were you anything like your son or daughter? Or maybe you were nothing like your teen and that’s where the confusion sets in. At this stage in life, teenagers are supposed to establish more independence and gain more autonomy in their life decisions. Sometimes just reminding yourself that their struggle is what every teenager goes through can help you keep perspective on your situation.
It may help you loosen your grip or to let go of that rope in the game of tug-o-war. Sometimes you can do that, and sometimes you might feel it is your responsibility to hang onto the rope, right? After all, you are the parent! Your teen has to do well in school if he or she is going to succeed in life – and yet, sometimes he or she has to make a mistake and learn from it. Finding that balance can be quite complicated. Thankfully, with the help of an experienced therapist who provides teen counseling, you can learn to find that balance and help your teenager do well and feel better again.
Teen Counseling Can Help Your Teen Explore Independence Safely
I have been working with teenagers since 1999, and I know that every teenager and every family is different. I will tailor my approach to the specific needs, wants and hopes of your son or daughter. Sometimes teenagers want to just work with me alone, and that may be all that is needed. Other times, teenagers prefer starting alone and gradually including one or both of their parents. This may be particularly helpful if she or he struggles with his or her relationship with a parent. I often try to incorporate family work when applicable.
There are benefits to working with just your son or daughter, particularly if s/he struggles with mental health issues or self-harming. During this time, treatment may focus on coping strategies that will work for him/her. We talk about stressors, problem solve through them and work towards gaining insight to help your teen have a healthy view of his or her situation. Or if there are volatile relationships in your family, I will work with your son or daughter on recognizing your role in his or her life, accepting each parent’s position and/or personality traits. You teen can focus on living a life that is consistent with how he or she wants to be perceived. This will include within the context of your family, his or her peer group and activities he or she engages in.
My practice tends to be solution-focused and insight driven. I try to make my office as relaxed of an environment as possible. I use humor when appropriate and connect with teens on their level. Therapy does not have to be all serious all of the time. I truly enjoy working with teenagers and love watching them evolve into the adults they strive to become. Having an outsider to talk to can help your teen feel more open, less guarded, and more willing to talk. Your teen will likely be more open to hearing your parental perspective through me, a removed third party.
In sessions, I try to get to know each teen and understand his or her perspectives on each individual situation. This helps your teen gain trust in me and feel that I am working for them. I do not want to be a third parent. I am more of a mentor in life. Trust is such a big part of this process. From the beginning, I will talk about confidentiality with your whole family present. I have to make sure your son or daughter feels comfortable telling me whatever necessary if he or she is going to get the most out of treatment. With that said, you and your teenager need to trust that I will keep him or her safe. There are exceptions to confidentiality that everyone needs to understand. This will ensure that you, as the parent, trust what I am doing, and that your son or daughter knows the boundary.
The bottom line is that teen counseling depends on individual goals. Once your teen identifies what he or she wants from therapy, we can develop a plan that will best suite his or her goals. As your teen gains autonomy, explores independence and makes significant life decisions, I want to best support him or her for the launching stage of life. With help and support, your teen can take the time to consider who he or she is, who he or she wants to be and how can he or she can get there.
You may believe that teen counseling can help your teen find direction in his or her life, but still have questions or concerns…
What if my son or daughter won’t come to teen counseling?
Consider planting seeds in your teen’s mind during times of difficulty. Try to make it seem like it is his or her idea. The truth is, I have worked with some teens who have resisted coming to teen counseling or flat out refused to come, and when they get there, they open up to the idea just fine. I have other teens whose parent “forced” them to come, and it goes nowhere. Ultimately, the person has to want to come. Sometimes it helps if they view it as helpful to them in some way rather than believing that you think of them as a problem. Another option is to come in yourself to work on parenting. I also offer a parenting group that can help. Feel free to visit my Group Therapy Page to learn more about it.
My spouse won’t participate!
That is okay! There are other ways to approach treatment. Once teen counseling services have begun (with one parent and/or the adolescent), I can offer to contact the other parent myself. Sometimes, it’s harder for people to say no when a therapist is calling for some reason. Even if the second parent still won’t come, that is okay as well. That just means we take things from a different angle.
We have no time for therapy with all the extracurricular activities!
Life can get busy, especially with teenagers. The truth is that these activities (sports, after school clubs, etc.) are good for them. They help nurture the social aspect of their lives. Thinking of teen counseling as yet another activity to throw into the mix is the best way to look at it, as opposed to something that needs to somehow, maybe fit. Think of it as an investment in your teenager’s and family’s life.
With just a few more years left of your child being in your home, you want to best prepare him or her for the launching stage as possible! If he or she had a physical health issue, I’m sure you would take care of it without hesitation. Your teen’s mental health is just as important, in that it greatly influences his or her ability to manage life’s ups and downs.
Free Phone Consultation
If you have additional questions or concerns about teen counseling, then feel free to contact me at (703) 554-2882. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation for potential new clients. Choosing a therapist for your family is not an easy process, so it’s best to get any uncertainties resolved before beginning the process.