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Therapy For Teens

Being a teenager is exhausting. The teenage years are a whirlwind of emotions, discovery, excitement, and change. It’s normal for a teenager to struggle a bit through these years. The challenges, obstacles, and new experiences are part of what makes this time in life so memorable. These are the years where we learn our limits, explore our boundaries, and pave the path towards our futures.

Developmentally, teenagers are navigating their need for freedom, independence, and adventure while balancing the ongoing need for connection, support and closeness with their family. Change is occurring in every aspect of a teenager’s life, and this can be really stressful. There are changes happening in their body and brain which can be confusing, overwhelming, and seem hard to predict. There are also changes happening in their relationships both inside the home and outside the home. Social relationships become more and more importance during adolescence, and this brings along a new set of obstacles to overcome. Each year brings on new privileges, new experiences, and new responsibilities. The lessons learned come together to create some of the best memories of our lifetime.

Thinking back to adolescence, I can’t help but consider myself lucky. I’m so lucky to have faced those memories stored safely in my mind, and maybe in a few photo albums in some friend’s basements. Teenagers now face a set of obstacles that many parents are lucky to have missed out on. Being a teenager now means not only dealing with the family, social, and developmental stressors, but also having this broadcast for the world to see. The internet and social media plays a major role in making already challenging years even harder. It might feel like there is no escape from the judgment of others. There is always so much going on, and so much access to what everyone else is doing, it can feel hard to keep up.

While there is constant communication with others, many teens report feeling alone, or like they have no one to share their real thoughts, feelings, and experience with. Excess concern around criticism and judgment can hinder a teenagers willingness to talk to family and even friends about what is really going on in their world.

My teenager says that they’re “fine”, and “nothing” is wrong. They don’t want to talk about it. But then one thing goes wrong and it’s like an explosion of emotions. Is it normal for teenage emotions to be so intense?

When we don’t talk about what’s going on in our minds, we start to believe that everything we think is true. The belief that our thoughts, ideas, judgments, and perceptions are the ultimate truth is even more present during adolescence. So much so that there is even a term for it, “adolescent egocentrism.” Adolescent egocentrism contributes to some of the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with being a teenager, and it helps explain why teenagers feel things at such intensity. Through the teenage years, this gets challenged and perspective gets broadened, and we start to learn that even if we feel embarrassed, or feel rejected, the whole world isn’t viewing us this way. We also learn that the whole world certainly isn’t thinking about us as much as we think about ourselves, or criticizing us the way we criticize ourselves. The stranger in the coffee shop hasn’t noticed that I’m wearing the shirt I wore last Tuesday, my peers already forgot about the time I embarrassed myself last year, and my parent’s aren’t disappointed in me just because I’m disappointed in myself.

As we progress through the teenage years, we learn that our bad days pass and our feelings are manageable. We learn our resiliency, and we are less impacted by one mistake or one bad day. This learning happens through letting people in, through sharing our thoughts and feelings, and then having experiences to serve as evidence that challenges our thoughts and beliefs. We get to learn first hand that everything we think may not be true. And this lesson is so valuable. The learning, however, happens through talking openly about our thoughts, feelings, reactions, and ideas. It is so important for teens to talk through these thoughts and feel safe to experience their emotions, allowing the intensity to pass.

The Role of Therapy for Teenagers

Your teenager’s mental health is just as critical to care for as their physical health. Building a relationship with a therapist can help teenagers navigate this challenging time and increase comfort in reaching out for support. Building a relationship with a therapist can provide a safe space for the teenager to explore their identity, find their voice, and learn the skills needed to effectively manage their emotions.

Common issues leading teens and their parents to seek therapy include:

  • Issues at school
  • Family conflict
  • Rebellion/Defiance/Rule Breaking
  • Identity Conflict
  • Bullying or peer rejection
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Breakups/New romantic relationships
  • Tragedy in the community or world
  • Noticeable changes in mood, attitude, or behavior
  • Stress/Overwhelm
  • Avoidance or loss of interest in activities
  • Weight loss, weight gain, or change in eating habits
  • Perfectionism
  • Low Self Esteem
  • Goal setting and planning for college
  • Time management
  • Poor impulse control
  • Alcohol or Substance use
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger

How working with a therapist can be helpful for your teen

Therapy can be helpful in so many ways during this stage of development, both to conquer the current obstacles, and develop a healthy perspective on reaching out for support through tough times.

In my work with adolescents, I focus on empowerment and self discovery to build confidence and encourage teens to use their voice in a healthy and helpful way. In therapy sessions, I truly enjoy learning about my client’s. I ask questions and get to know why they think, feel, and act the way they do. By understanding their perspective and taking time to really listen to what is being shared, the therapy space becomes safe for my client’s to explore their thoughts, identify patterns, and begin challenging unhelpful beliefs or perceptions.