Therapy for teens or adolescents

Arguably one of the most challenging periods of our lives occurs during one’s ‘teenage’ or adolescent years. Not only is this a time of physical growth and development linked to significant hormonal fluctuations, but from a psychological perspective it is a period in which teens attempt to discover who they are and what they stand for. It is therefore not surprising that these years can be extremely difficult to manage for both parents and their children.

What is teen or adolescent therapy?

In a nutshell Therapy for adolescents offers a space in which motivated teens can engage and confront their challenges in a safe environment. Often teens struggle to communicate their feelings with the adults around them such as their parents or teachers. While this can be difficult for parents to accept it is very common for teenagers to feel this way.

Furthermore, there is often stigma around mental health that may hinder their willingness to even talk with a school counsellor about the challenges or difficulties present in their lives. This is why creating a space in which teens feel safe, judgement-free and comfortable enough to open up is so important. I am a parent myself but have also worked with teens for most of my adult life and take special care to create a space where my patients feel listened too and respected.

How long does therapy last for?

Not all patients require long-term therapy and for many anything from 4 to 8 sessions may be more than enough to address the pressing matters in their lives. However, there are some cases in which ongoing support can be extremely beneficial. I am mindful that not all parents can manage long-term therapy whether from a logistic or financial perspective and therefore am happy to discuss what is possible. 

What issues can teen therapy help with?

Teens, like any age group, can see positive changes in their lives when they actively engage in therapy. The following list provides some examples of the areas I often work with.

  • Emotional regulation (assistance with fluctuating moods, aggression or low frustration tolerance).
  • Damaging or addictive-like behaviour (pornography use, substance abuse, social-media).
  • Relationship difficulties such as those involved with parents, step-parents, teachers or peers)
  • Family difficulties such as fitting into a blended family, parental divorce, sibling conflict or the loss of a family member.
  • Difficulties at school such as deliberate boundary violations, challenging authority, self esteem linked to school performance ect. 

What happens if my teen won’t engage?

This is a common question as many teens may not feel there is an issue to begin with or they may not be comfortable with the idea of ‘going for therapy’. The reality is that we cannot force a teen to engage however it is still worth booking an initial session. Often by the end of the first session there is more ‘buy in’ from your child which leaves them open to the idea of continuing. This is however not always the case. Should there still be no desire to continue then the next step might be family therapy where an experienced therapist is able to work with the family system as a whole in order to improve relationships and facilitate effective, respectful communication. Family counselling is one of the best ways to get a reluctant teen to come along as most like the idea of having their say in a group without intense focus.

What are the benefits?

It’s not just teens who benefit from therapy. On the other end of an adolescent’s challenges are the parents, siblings, teachers and peers who are often at a loss as to how they can help. Therapy has the potential to heal and strengthen relationships, it often allows parents to move away from the constant policing so they can enjoy their children, it provides a space where your child feels emotionally held but also able to freely express themselves.