I try to give a voice to teens, who might be afraid to speak up about difficult issues, and a platform for parents and teachers to have frank, meaningful discussions with those young people.– Sharon Draper
If your teen needs counseling here are some concepts to keep in mind. Many teens can benefit from sorting out his or her thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions. A desire or need for counseling does not mean someone is “crazy,” but that someone objective to speak with may be helpful to clarify concerns. Keep in mind that about 1 in 5 teens have mental health symptoms. These symptoms are often treated like any medical problem. For example, if you break your arm, you go to an orthopedic doctor. If you have a sore throat, you see an EENT specialist. If you are feeling depressed, anxious, or just need to sort out your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you go to a counselor.
Mental health involves how you think, act, and feel in a variety of life situations. Teens have mental health difficulties when their thoughts, actions, and feelings repeatedly create barriers or unhealthy responses in their lives. While every teen has things he or she does and does not like in life, repeated unwanted thoughts, feelings, or actions may create ongoing patterns that become increasingly self-defeating. Identifying this early may indicate an underlying treatable issue that can be resolved if caught at the beginning.
Some reasons for teen mental health issues may include medical conditions, which can be treated by an MD. A medical condition is usually the first item to consider and rule out before moving on to assess mental health issues. The following are just some events that may trigger mental health issues:
- When a teen witnesses some threatening event.
- There are two kinds of stress. Eustress can be beneficial stress such as motivating a teen to study harder for a test. Distress happens when a teen does not manage stress well leading to other complications such as excessive paralyzing worry or anxiety.
- If a teen loses an important person in his or her life (e.g., death, moving, breakup), sadness and loneliness is normal and should improve over time. However, sometimes the teen gets locked into long periods of grief and sadness that does not improve. This sadness may become more ingrained and become part of the thought and behavior patterns of the teen that negatively affect his or her relationship with self, friends, parents, siblings, etc.
- Individual counseling involves just the teen and his or her counselor and provides a safe, confidential forum to identify thoughts, actions and feelings and express them for further clarification and problem solving. Homework may also be very helpful for the teen such as journaling. Individual counseling typically lasts about 45 minutes.
- Group counseling gives the counselor a venue in which to evaluate how a teen handles his or her thoughts, feelings and behaviors as well as provide role modeling to the teen about handling, for example, anxious thoughts, or depressed feelings, or relationship conflicts. Additionally, group counseling introduces and demonstrates possible new strategies to the teen to practice in this safe environment. While beginning a new group can initially be daunting for some teens, after two or three meetings, he or she usually begins to feel more comfortable in sharing thoughts and feelings about the topic. The group leaders will address topics and ask questions designed to draw out teen thoughts and encourage new healthy ways of thinking, talking and behaving. Group counseling usually lasts about 90 minutes.
- Family counseling includes the teen with one or more family members. Because multiple parties are present, there is a chance to work on problems that affect the family. The counselor will discourage interrupting, encourage respectful communication, and make sure everyone gets to voice their concerns. These appointments usually range from 45 – 90 minutes.
Some of the key types of therapy for teens are individual, group, and family counseling. Sometimes, it is helpful to do two or three of these therapies to facilitate a faster resolution of the problem.
While most counseling does not have a set length, solution focused counseling is designed to address the core problems quickly and devise a workable course of action to employ right away and may only take 4 – 8 sessions, generally once per week. Other issues, however, may be more ingrained and need longer time periods to resolve.
It is important for the counselor and teen to develop a trusting relationship to facilitate more teen disclosure with an eye toward developing better management of, for example, depression, anxiety, or relationship problems. On occasion, the counselor and teen relationship will not work well, which would be known by the second or third session, and another counselor can be chosen.
While counselors are educated, trained, experienced, and credentialed to address many issues like depression, anxiety, and relationship conflicts, it is important to realize that the counselor will not solve the problems for the client. The counselor collaborates with the teen to identify the issue, clarify it, and create some workable steps to manage or resolve the matter. Collaboration helps the teen realize that he or she has a part in the problem and a part in the solution. They psychology of it is that if the teen comes up with the solution with collaboration, then he or she will be more invested in it and work harder at implementing the possible solutions.
As a counselor I have worked with many broken-hearted parents as they suffer over their teen’s unexplainable and sometimes destructive behavior. I have heard the parental comments that their daughter was such an easy child, kind, and giving. Parents then wrestle with thoughts about what they think they could/should have done something differently such as be more loving, in touch, stricter, etc. Other parents look for who or what to blame and make statements such as anxiety runs in the family, she is just like her mother, or all the men on my side of the family struggle with addiction.
If you are desiring Christian Counseling for your teen, I have many years of experience working with Christian families who want nothing more than a healthy, Godly teen and family situation. I would be glad to help you with your family.