First, I would like to say I love working with teenagers Teens are incredible. Yes—that’s right — the teen who sleeps until 2:00 p.m., forgets to clean up after himself, ignores adults while listening to her iPod, or failed his last geometry test. Underneath the defiant, careless, impulsive, oversleeping teen is an AMAZING, INTELLIGENT, OPEN-MINDED, CREATIVE, CURIOUS, BEAUTIFUL person approaching adulthood! I have been working with adolescents since 2008, and I can’t begin to describe how much I enjoy sitting with teens in a therapeutic setting. I hope I inspire them as much as they inspire me. My therapy style helps teens feel comfortable talking to me while helping them through the many difficult situations they may face during this development phase. After trust is established, I am often able to get to their “heart matters” when other adults can’t.
Here are some common FAQs that will help you get your teenager started with the counseling process.
Q: How do I get started with counseling for my teen?
A: First, choose a therapist who is well-qualified to work with adolescents. Call a few therapists and ask them about their experiences working with this age group. Don’t assume someone who says they work with teens is good at it. If your teen is on board with starting therapy, let them get involved in the process. Choose a few therapists whom you feel would be a good fit and view their websites and blogs with your teen. After you both narrow it down to a couple of therapists, set up an initial session to see if it is a good match. Don’t pressure your teen to make a decision right away or tell you everything they talked about in their session. This will only make them feel overwhelmed and anxious about the process. Finding a good match is really important and may take some time. Sometimes your teen will know immediately if the therapist is a good fit. Other times, it may take a few sessions to determine if it is going to work. Allow your teen to drive this part of the process — unless you feel they are trying to avoid therapy.
Q: My teen really needs to see a therapist, but he/she doesn’t want to attend. What should I do?
A: Encourage them to get them involved in the process of finding a therapist they feel would be a good match. If they really need to be seen by a therapist (due to serious behavioral issues, depression, mental health concerns or substance abuse problems) then you will have to be the responsible parent and insist that they attend. You can say something like, “I know you really don’t want to go, but I would like you to help me find a therapist whom you will be comfortable talking to. If you aren’t going to help me, I will need to set up an appointment with a therapist whom I think will be a good fit. Even if you choose to not talk during the session, you will still have to go. I don’t want to have to remove your privileges (examples: cell phone/car/social outings) for not attending, but I love you too much to not get you help and take your situation seriously.” End with, “I won’t be violating your privacy with your therapist. This is truly a safe way for you to get support.”
Then give your teen some control! Let them tell you if the therapist wasn’t a good fit. Have them meet with at least two therapists and determine which one they prefer to continue working with. Schedule a consult with me if you continue to run into conflict with your teen regarding the attendance of their counseling appointments. I can provide more tools on how to proceed.
Q: Will I know what my teen is telling the therapist in session?
A: By law your child has rights to confidentiality. Typically, therapists shouldn’t tell you what they are disclosing in session. However, if your child is at risk of suicide, harm to self or others, portrays any issue that the therapist determines is a risk to their immediate safety, or if they have disclosed incidents of abuse/neglect, they have the right to breech their confidentiality and to proceed to communicate to you/parent or appropriate authorities.
My therapy approach is very straightforward. I always tell teens that I want their parents to be involved when it’s appropriate. I empower the teen to let me know when they are ready for their involvement. I want parents to be aware of how therapy is going and how they can support their teen outside of sessions. This is a very delicate balance that takes skill. I always do my best to facilitate this balance so that trust and rapport is not broken with the teen, while at the same time ensuring their safety.
Visit my counseling services page to see more about specialties, treatment options, and counseling approaches.