Many parents and guardians say that sometimes they don’t know what to expect from their adolescents. One minute they can seem like adults: intelligent, articulate, and thoughtful.
The next minute they’re acting more like children: exploding over something that seems small, being overwhelmed by their feelings, or getting into arguments for what seems like nothing but the sake of arguing.
These confusing shifts can be a normal part of adolescence and so it’s no surprise that they show up in therapy as well.
Some teens can sit and talk, exploring their rich, inner worlds in a way that even adults strive for. Some teens need to use a distraction, like a cell phone or magazine, in order to get some distance from difficult feelings and thoughts. Some teens say they need to be left alone, but then constantly check over their shoulder to make sure you're still there and still available for them. Some teens do all these things in the same session.
This is all to say that I roll with the changes in order to meet the shifting needs of adolescent clients no matter how they show up on any given day.
I find that a similarly flexible approach is helpful in my collateral work with parents of adolescents. There may be times when things feel intense and we’ll meet weekly. At other times we may meet less than once a month.
For the Teens
So far what I’ve written here addresses parents and caregivers. The reason is simple: most of the time they initiate therapy. But when I write just for parents it leaves something important out: you.
Therapy for a teen is similar to therapy for an adult: it doesn’t work unless you want it to. The more open you can be and the more work you put in, the more you get out of it.
When we meet, I might be curious about:
- What’s your life like?
- Are your romantic, friendship, and family relationships fulfilling?
- What drives you, what do you value, and how do you see yourself and the world?
- Who do you think really understands you? Or does nobody?
- Are certain feelings or thoughts too scary to admit you have, even to yourself?
- Do you want to learn more about who you really are?
These are the some of the realms we might touch on in therapy.
You should know that I’ll be meeting with your caregivers or parent once a month or so. I’ll support them in their desire to have a great relationship with you.
However, you should also know that I very much value your confidentiality. Therapy doesn’t work without privacy.
This means that when I meet with parents I do not tell them what we discuss in your sessions.
I believe that families are happiest when they communicate well with each other, so if I’m asked a specific question about something you’ve told me in confidence, I’ll simply ask them to speak with you directly.
I respect your parent’s confidentiality as well.
If you ask what your parent said, I’ll encourage you to talk with them. But I won’t leave you alone in that. We can discuss what would get in the way of you bringing it up, or about different ways to actually have difficult and anxiety-provoking conversations.
So if you’ll be coming to therapy soon or are just considering trying therapy, start thinking now about what you’d like to get out of it. You might also want to check out the other sections of my website to learn more about how I work or find answers to commonly asked questions.
For parents or teens, if you’re interested in beginning therapy please call (707) 564-7579 for your free 15-minute phone consultation, or look at my How Do I Get Started? section.