What is going on with my child!?

This is probably the question that you have asked yourself a few hundred times before finally scheduling an appointment. Your teenager has recently been struggling in school , has been exhibiting defiant behavior at home or has been withdrawn lately. The first appointment involves gathering historical information about the teenager’s behavior and sometimes wanting to immediately schedule a number of regular sessions for your teen, anxious to receive as much help as possible as often as your schedule can permit.

Interactions among family members affect the mental health of each individual in the family. The complementary construction of family members requires long periods of negotiation, compromising, rearranging, and competing. The transactions are usually invisible, not only because context and subject constantly change but also because they are generally the essence of minutiae. Who passes the sugar? Who checks the maps for directions, chooses the movie, changes the channel? Who responds to whom when and in what matter? This is the cement by which families solidify their relationships.(Munichin, Lee, and Simon ,1996)

Goldenberg & Goldenberg (2000), highlight the fact that families have recurring patterns of interactive sequences. They are acted out on cue ,seemingly well rehearsed. These patterns are highly predictable when the family is examined closely. They are subtle ,coded behaviors that govern acceptance and tolerance in the family and ultimately determine many of the interactions.

While contextual , environmental and individual factors contribute to the presenting problem , it is important to recognize that treating the adolescent without addressing systemic family issues can present several barriers in effective treatment overall. Successful treatment involves the therapist working in conjunction with other family members to provide a supportive environment for the adolescent while incorporating skills and techniques to help the family change behaviors.

Family therapy aims to help family members solve problems together in the therapeutic setting while learning strategies that can be applied with the adolescent in the home. Learning to decrease family conflicts and improve communication are chief among the goals set for the family. These goals will set the tone for how to effectively navigate the unique family interactions.

We are ready to get the ball rolling with your teen. We are also ready to get the ball rolling with YOU. The family is as much an agent of change in this process as the new coping skills and adaptive behaviors that your teen will learn in treatment.

Algem Hopkinson, M.Ed., NCC, LPC is a Psychotherapist at Thriveworks Counseling & Coaching in Peachtree City, GA