Teen Counseling: When parenting isn’t enough.
by Karina Baltazar-Duran, LMFT
You remember being a teenager right? Everything was overwhelming, emotions were intense, rejection felt like an assassination each time? Yet as resilient as we were built, we continued to put ourselves out there in hopes of some form of belonging or connection with others. Connection during a very confusing time when we swore up and down “no one gets it, no one understands me”.
For the most part, we were right. We may all have been teens at one point, but under no circumstances do we know how others feel; everyone has their own experience and these experiences can make adolescence a very challenging time.
In adolescence, you’re faced with managing how to find your own identity as a teenager, someone’s kid, a place in your family, and the community: school, sports, clubs, etc. But how? “How do I build relationships with others when I’m not sure of myself?” “How can I do my best at this sport when everyone else’s best is better than mine?” “How can I make my parents happy when they yell at me more than they used to when I was younger?” “How can I keep my grades up when I find myself crying for no reason?” “How can I tell my parents how I feel when they don’t listen?”
What is Teen Counseling?
Teen counseling is treatment specifically designed for therapists to assist your adolescent with their emotional difficulties, while taking into account their developmental level. Many times, consequences, interventions, or plans to assist teens at home or school may not stick because they are not meeting a teen’s developmental level. Considering the human brain isn’t fully developed until the mid to late 20’s, actions to help teens should be formulated into something they not only understand, but buy into. A therapist at Thriveworks who specializes in adolescent therapy can help with this!
Just like adults seek counseling to assist them in managing their daily life stressors, teens can go to counseling for the same reasons. Did you know that 1 in 5 teenagers has a mental disorder? In one high school classroom that’s about 6 students. At least 50% of teenagers will experience symptoms related to mental illness such as depression, anxiety, opposition, and even symptoms related to eating disorders. When these symptoms go untreated, teens are left to figure out how to manage these things on their own, many unsuccessfully. According to the National Institute of Mental Health: “All the big changes the brain is experiencing may explain why adolescence is a time when many mental disorders—such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders—can emerge.” https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-teen-brain-7-things-to-know/index.shtml
Some mental disorders may begin to appear in adolescence including learning disorders such as ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, and processing disorders meaning teens experience deficits in learning, reading, and/or writing. Due to their access and training, teachers can recognize learning disorders in students faster than parents and will often reach out to parents with concerns about their students. It’s important to be open to what these teachers have to say as they’ll also be able to offer educational support and/or resources for you and your teen. A Thriveworks therapist can work with teachers in taking into account a teen’s learning disability into their therapy.
What kind of problems can we help with?
Teens deal with a variety of issues growing up and if they’re experiencing untreated symptoms of mental illness on top of that, issues they face on the daily can be daunting. Teen counseling can assist adolescents who are experiencing the following:
- Peer pressure/social media influence
- Defiant/oppositional/delinquent behavior
- Shoplifting/stealing from family and friends
- Drug use
- Low self esteem/self worth
- Poor performance in school
- Trauma such as emotional/physical/sexual abuse, death
- Self harm (cutting, burning, scratching, hair pulling)
- Poor sleep
- Life changes such as moving, remarriages of parents
- Difficulty with communication/shutting down emotionally
Does teen counseling mean I’m not doing a good job as a parent?
Absolutely not. Connecting your teens with counseling when they’re experiencing difficulties actually makes you a great parent! Teens often need their own space to work through things and a lot of times parenting (even the best kind) can get in the way of this. When parents are raising teenagers their love, guidance, and care of the teen can be seen as overbearing, controlling, and punishment by the teen. When this happens, your teen may retract, isolate, and engage in poor coping skills. Some parents can definitely be Jacks (or Janes) of all trades but you are not required to be your child’s therapist. Attempting to be your child’s counselor can actually interfere with your relationship and even damage it as it’s hard for teens to take your consequences (though probably well deserved) AND open up about their deepest feelings to you. Teen counseling can actually increase the teen-parent relationship as it gives parents permission to not have to know everything, and it gives the teen their own person to process life with, without feeling judged.
Ok I’m in, what’s the process?
Teen counseling can last anywhere from 3-6 months or more, can begin as weekly sessions and over time sessions can decrease to twice a month or less depending on progress. Parenting or family sessions can even be done during your teen’s treatment depending on what brings your teen to therapy. A Thriveworks therapist will meet with parents alone first to gather all the information needed such as frequency, intensity, duration of behaviors, prior treatment, medical history, social needs, familial relationships, and treatment goals. Parents and a Thriveworks therapist can actually work together as a team to ensure an effective treatment plan for your teenager.
Great I’m in, please help my teen before I go insane. How do I get started?
Call 281-667-9790 to connect with one of our awesome schedulers who can connect you and your teen to some solace and support! You’ll be relieved you did!