Counseling with pre-teens and teenagers refers to a variety of techniques used to help adolescents who are experiencing difficulties with emotions, behaviors and adjustments to new situations. This may include individual counseling, parenting consultation and family counseling. The use of artwork, problem solving skills and talking are important ways for teens to share feelings and resolve problems. Goals for counseling may be specific, such as a change in behavior, improved family relations, processing a trauma or general, such as less anxiety, being a better friend, setting personal goals, or improving self esteem. As a former School Counselor, I have seen the difficulty of adolescence first hand. I have also seen the amazing abilities of these teenagers to learn new skills, find solutions and address self image and self esteem issues well... with a little support and encouragement. Despite the sometime hostile attitude and reluctance to ask for help, adolescents are very receptive if they feel heard (really heard), validated and respected.
Living with pre-teens and teenagers is very different from living with younger children. Developmentally, it is perfectly normal for pre-teens and teenagers to have unexplainable mood shifts, sudden bursts of anger, and other changes in behavior that are uncharacteristic of their childhood selves. Often, the pre-teens and teens cannot recognize these changes much less explain them or help you to understand what is happening. And, as you know, your parenting behaviors have to change to accommodate this sometimes fragile state. Perfectly happy, functional families may suddenly be thrust into the hormonal storm without warning and conflict, unhappiness and tension may result. Marital relationships can really struggle under these changes and new expectations. With the changes of puberty often comes changes within the whole family structure. The way that parents decide to handle these changes can make or break relationships and set the course for the future of the family. (I am the parent of three daughters. Trust me. I know about this.)
Counseling provides a safe, trusting environment in which the teenager can express his/her thoughts and feelings and learn new skills to communicate better, manage emotions and create new strategies to help them adjust to new situations. Keeping a teenager engaged and talking is a primary goal of development. If your teenager has not been sharing personal information with you, it may be a sign that they need to talk with someone other than their parents. Often, counseling provides an unbiased arena for the teen to vent frustrations, check out their perspectives and theories and get the consultation from an adult who won't discipline or disapprove of them.
Parents are usually the first to recognize that their child has a problem with emotions or behaviors. The observations of outside resources such as teachers, daycare workers or family, may help parents in their decision to seek treatment for the child.
Some signs that your adolescent child may need counseling or evaluation include:
- a fall in school performance
- poor grades
- excessive worry or anxiety
- the use of drugs or alcohol
- a sudden change of friends
- a sudden change in mood
- inability to cope with daily activities or stress
- complaints of physical or emotional ailments
- depression or suicidal talk or gestures
- difficulty making or keeping friends
- oppositional and defiant behaviors
- frequent temper tantrums or rages
- persistent nightmares
- low self esteem
- self injury, such as cutting
- aggressive behaviors
- exposure to a traumatic event or major life change
- unhealthy dating relationships
Involving parents in the process is critically important in resolving differences and in reaching goals. However, with teenagers, establishing a trusting relationship with the counselor may need to come first. I tend to want to meet with the teenagers ALONE for the first meeting. However, depending on the circumstances, it may be best for me to meet with the parents first.
If you aren't sure how to handle this, send me a note HERE.
If you feel like you know how to proceed, you may book an appointment for a "Parent Consultation" or "Initial Assessment for Child" HERE.