If your teen needs counseling, here are some ideas to consider. Many teens can benefit from sorting out his or her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with an objective third party. A desire or requirement for counseling does not mean someone is inept, but that the objectivity of another person may be helpful to simplify matters. Keep in mind that about 20% of teens have some mental health symptoms which may be treated like any medical problem requiring a specialist.
Positive mental health involves thinking, acting, and feeling in ways that promote a better state of well-being in a variety of life situations. Teens have mental health difficulties when their thoughts, actions, and feelings repetitively create impediments or unhealthy responses in their lives. While every teen has items he or she does and does not prefer, repeated unwanted thoughts, feelings, or actions may create ongoing patterns that become increasingly ingrained and self-defeating. Early identification and treatment of problems are crucial.
Some reasons for teen mental health issues may include medical conditions which should be treated by a physician. This should be a primary consideration to rule out physical maladies before moving on to assess mental health issues.
The Effect of Losses or Traumas
When a teen is involved in, or witnesses, some threatening events, there are two kinds of stress that can occur. 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 paralyzing anxiety or sadness.
If a teen loses an important person in his or her life (e.g., divorce, death, moving, breakup), sadness and loneliness are normal for a while and usually improve over time. However, sometimes the teen becomes bogged down in extended periods of grief and sadness. 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.
Some of the key types of therapy for teens are individual, group, and family counseling. Sometimes, it is helpful to try two or three of these therapies to facilitate a faster resolution of the problem.
- Individual counseling involves just the teen and his or her counselor and provides a safe, confidential forum to identify thoughts, actions, reactions, and feelings and express them for further clarification and problem-solving. Homework may also be very helpful for the teen, such as journaling. An individual counseling session typically lasts about 45 minutes.
- Group counseling offers several benefits. It provides the therapist an opportunity to observe how an adolescent interacts and behaves with others; provides role modeling on expressing thoughts and feelings; introduces new strategies to rehearse; and offers a peer-safe environment to disclose information. A group counseling session usually lasts about 90 minutes.
- Family counseling includes the teen with one or more family members. This provides an arena to observe issues that involve the family. The counselor will discourage interrupting, encourage respectful communication, and facilitate a chance for each to share their story. These appointments usually range from 45 – 90 minutes.
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 issues such as anxiety or relationship problems. On occasion, the counselor and teen relationship will not work well, which should 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 anxiety and relationship conflicts, it is important to realize that the counselor will not resolve the problems for the client. The counselor collaborates with the teen to identify the issue, clarify it, and create some effective steps to manage or resolve the matter. Collaboration helps the teen realize that he or she has a role in the problem and in the solution. If the teen comes up with a collaborative solution, he or she may 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 baffling and sometimes damaging 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 differently, such as been 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 anger or 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.