Psychotherapy for Teens
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As teens grow, they are continually in the process of developing the social skills and emotional intelligence necessary to lead healthy, happy lives. If they experience emotions or engage in behaviours that interfere with their happiness and ability to thrive, they may benefit from meeting with a psychologist.
Adolescence is an important period in development, as it is the time in which we develop our identities – who we are. In this phase adolescents become more independent, push boundaries and begin to form identities based on experimentation with new behaviours and roles. Puberty usually occurs during this stage, bringing with it a host of physical and emotional changes. Changes during these often volatile adolescent years may strain parent-adolescent relationships, especially when new behaviours go beyond experimentation and cause problems at school or home, or if emotional highs and lows persist and lead to experiences such as anxiety or depression.
Does my teen need therapy?
You may be asking, “ What is the difference between normal teen behaviours and behaviours that require professional assistance?”
Teens face day to day struggles with stress, grief, bullying, sadness, guilt, shame, feeling overwhelmed about their future, dating drama, gender identity issues, etc. It can be difficult to know when your teen is working though some of these issues in a healthy way or when they might need the help of an expert.
Here are some signs that you may need to consult a psychologist:
1. Dramatic changes in their behaviours at school and/or at home that is affecting their performance and functioning
2. Avoiding activities they previously enjoyed, avoiding friends or social engagements
3. Excessive anger or irritability that is out of character
4. Anxiety that is affecting performance, sleeping, eating or mood
5. Self destructive behaviours – such as cutting, drinking, drugs, risk taking or getting into fights
6. Talking about death or thinking about it often
At the end of the day it is better to play it safe. If you are concerned about your teen consult a psychologist. The psychologist can make a preliminary assessment to ease your concerns over your teens behaviours. There is nothing to lose over seeing a therapist. If your teen is coping the psychologist will be able to clarify this and lessen your worries. Many teens actually enjoy seeing a therapist as it provides a safe space to talk and grow. By asking if they’d like see a therapist, you’re showing your teen that there’s no stigma or shame in trying counseling and asking for help.
Preparing your teen for therapy
Teens may feel uncomfortable, afraid, or ashamed about communicating their emotions to adults they do not know. If you are a parent or caregiver, these tips can help when talking to children about therapy and mental health treatment:
Find a good time to talk and assure them that they are not in trouble.
Take your child’s concerns, experiences, and emotions seriously.
Try to be open, honest and relaxed.
Talk about how common the issues they are experiencing may be.
Explain that the role of a therapist is to provide help and support.
Explain that a confidentiality agreement can be negotiated so that they feel they have a safe space to share details privately, while acknowledging that you will be alerted if there are any threats to their safety.
Problems we deal with:
ADHD / ADD
Growth or exploration
Unexplained physical illness