The complexities of adolescence: 

As we all know, adolescence is a natural, and sometimes difficult, stage in life; it is a time of rapid emotional, cognitive and physical development. Peer relationships grow in importance, and with them a desire for acceptance, and a vulnerability to peer pressures.  It’s a liminal time period where teens are still dependent on their parents, but are also trying to develop their own identities; many do this through challenging authority, testing boundaries, and breaking rules. These efforts to assert independence often lead to conflict at home, or at school.  Physically, hormones hold sway, and the part of the brain that regulates fine reasoning is not fully developed.  Teens face so many stressors today; they operate in a subculture full of risks, and mixed messages, and some mistakes are quickly shared on the Internet.  All of this can lead to situations of misunderstanding or felt powerlessness.

My work with teens:

In my work with teenagers, I try to help them explore their own identities and values, and learn to differentiate them from those of their peers and parents.  We discuss goals, and strategize how best to meet them.  I try to empower teens to develop positive coping and decision-making skills.  We work on emotional identification, regulation and communication.

The confidentiality I hold with teens helps them feel free to be open and honest.  As a neutral adult, I give them an opportunity to talk about thoughts and events without fear of consequences.  I frequently end up being the only person to know certain important details of their lives, often these are things they shouldn’t have to carry alone.  In return, I am completely honest with them, flexible, willing to grow and change to meet them where they are, and accepting of them as they are.

Do you think your teen might benefit from additional support? 

If you’re concerned but unsure whether or not to seek the services of a counselor for your teen, some symptoms to look for might be recent or dramatic changes in behavior, habits, friendships, increased aggression, or social withdrawal. 

Some topics that warrant therapy might be:

  • Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event (sexual assaults, acts of violence etc.)
  • Difficult life changes (divorces, moves, losses, school transitions)
  • Identity issues (sexual, ethnic, self-esteem)
  • Family relationships (blended families, poor communication, conflict)
  • Anxiety & stress (test anxiety, public speaking, social anxiety, perfectionism)
  • Social pressures
  • Depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, cutting
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Loss of engagement or interest in activities they previously enjoyed
  • Body dysmorphia & eating disorders
  • Aggression, increased conflict, anger
  • Truancy
  • Positive decision-making