Oftentimes, it can be difficult for parents to discern normal teen behavior between mental and emotional baggage that could be eating away at your child. You want to make the best decision, but it can be hard, especially when your child may be against counseling. Undoubtedly, the decision to wait or to step in can be a difficult one. Together, we will work out the best approach for ensuring the health of your child.
What is Teen Counseling?
Teen counseling is a personalized approach to help teens identify and overcome personal issues. Just like adults, teenagers can experience depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and drug use. These problems can elicit unique reactions that cause teenagers to “act out” or shut down, something that adults with better emotional intelligence may not do. Counselors specialize in meeting them where they are and breaking down those barriers.
Being a teenager is known to be a transitionary phase from youth to adulthood. It is a time where teens are desperately trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do, which can be a scary process. Sometimes they need a hand with college, social and romantic relationships, or general stress. So in theory, counseling is complimentary to this normal process of growing up.
Common Reasons for Why Teens May Need Counseling
If you are observing any behavior in your child that is unlike them (I.e., quitting a sport or hobby they love, changes in appetite, sleep, or self-care habits), then it may be time for counseling.
Of course, maybe they don’t love that activity as much as you thought they did and truly do not wish to pursue it further. That can be normal. For instance, maybe they didn’t want to let you down or want to replace it with a different passion.
However, you must remember that being a teenager is a time to explore self-identity, passions, and future plans. Also, these are behaviors that you’d need to pair with recent emotional behavior to be truly sure. If they are snippy or more agitated than usual, there is cause for concern for more serious conditions. And if you’re still unsure or fearful of making a misstep, read on.
Please understand that it is not advised to panic and assume your child has a specific condition because it seems to fit. The best approach would be to talk to your teen about what you’ve observed and suggest looking into teen therapy together. Common reasons to consider are:
- Anxiety disorders
- Suicidal thoughts
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder ( OCD )
- Peer pressure
- Eating disorders
Types of Teen Counseling
The AACAP – the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry – has noted several types of psychotherapy treatments available for a variety of issues and conditions. The differences are in the methods they apply to work towards a specific goal, so if your child has been diagnosed with a condition, you may find the right specialist below.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) – a common short-term therapy (5-8 sessions) that corrects faulty thinking from everyday thoughts by changing negative beliefs about oneself. It is best for teens with generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, OCD, or substance abuse issues.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – DBT mixes emotional regulation with CBT. Teens who struggle with borderline personality disorder (BPD), substance abuse, eating disorders, and schizophrenia fit this expertise.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) – A mechanism to learn how to cope with emotions by combating defensive measures like suppression and denial. Teens with self-identity issues like sexuality and gender are perfect for this area.
Supportive Therapy – this technique leans on listening and being there for stressed or children and teens with low self-esteem and sort out helpful and unhelpful behaviors.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) – This method homes in on depressive symptoms by searching for its origin, unraveling the story, and creating a better understanding to get to a point of healing.
Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT) – More geared towards those suffering from depression and self-harm, MBT deals with a wide range of problems. Ideally, it teaches how to handle emotionally challenging trials by raising self-esteem.
Group Therapy – this is therapy led by a single counselor. Your child will be surrounded by a small group of other teens who may be dealing with similar issues. This is recommended for teens experiencing grief, substance abuse, or phobia. This is not recommended for children who are sensitive, shy, or private. Seek one-on-one counseling as your best approach.
What to Consider When Selecting a Teen Therapist
It is important to take a proactive approach to avoid exacerbating your child’s problem with an unfit counselor. Your child, especially if they’re in their early teens, might be very impressionable. They trust adults to know what to do, so be sure to consider the following when making the next step:
Search up teen therapy websites in your area to check the contact information for licensing, payment, referrals, eligible insurance and coverage, and other additional information you’ll need to get in the door.
Are they experienced with teens? Experienced therapists have a degree in their career field, but you want to look for how many years they have working in the field with the issue or condition your teen is facing.
Referrals are key to decision-making as they give insight into what to expect from specific doctors. These are word-of-mouth or ratings that you can usually find on the practice’s website.
Free consultations, like Courageous Kids Counseling offers in New City, NY, provide a chance for your teen to have a single one-on-one session with the counselor for them to assess your child’s situation. This is great for your teen to find a therapist they’re comfortable confiding in, which is important for your final decision.
Certain qualities stand out more than what you can glean from the consultation or referrals that go beyond a counselor’s great performance. Get specific: are you a member of a professional organization? How do you set goals and monitor progress? Please, explain your approach to me.
Understandably, you don’t want to invade your teenager’s space, many parents feel that way. Being the stereotypical “helicopter parent” can only make things worse and force them to shut down. You want to show that you’re there for them but not be left wondering in the dark, it’s natural to have a desire to act because you love them.
You may find it difficult to agree on anything with them, even if it benefits them.
Know that they have personal reasons they may not be comfortable sharing with you, which is why they may need teen counseling. The first step to talking to your teen about counseling, for you, might be to just listen.