Teen Therapy

Helping your teen through uncertain times.

A world of emotions and confusion…

Ah, the teenage years. It’s so easy to imagine a teen storming out of their home, slamming the door, and shouting, “I’m never coming back!”

Does my child need teen therapy? They are known for their whirlwind emotions and their “know-it-all” attitude. They can seem moody “for no reason,” sad when rejected by a peer group, angry at authority figures, stressed with mounds of schoolwork, or depressed when they have their first break-up.
But they’re also the most confused…

Teens are on the precipice of adulthood, where they have more insight into their thoughts and emotions. However, they still struggle with problem-solving, reigning in their behavior, understanding the consequences of their actions, and asking for guidance instead of acting on their own.

As a parent, it’s easy to overestimate their ability to do these things and take for granted that they are more independent and capable now. However, they still need much support and direction.

In the age of social media and “instant gratification,” adolescents frequently get mixed signals and act rashly based on what they read or hear instead of coming to adults, such as their parents, to figure out how to handle dilemmas.

Teen getting help from teen therapist, New City, NY

Older, but not there yet.

Everyday situations that might bring your teen in to see me often result from an intense situation that brings on feelings of insurmountable anxiety or depression.

Maybe your teen is going through their first break-up and is being flooded with the feeling of misery that seems everlasting. Or your teen refuses to go back to school after being out for an extended period, worried about what their peers may think of them or how they may acclimate. Possibly they may move to a new home and struggle to assimilate.

The breaking point is usually the same. Your teen is trying to work through strong feelings. Although they can reflect, they cannot see a positive outcome in their future –and they cannot manage their daily lives as well. When they avoid pleasurable activities or stop talking to family or friends, it’s time to open the doors for them.

I know it can feel like the end of your relationship.

You try so hard to talk to them when they are struggling, and maybe you don’t even know why they are struggling. Teens’ minds are like vaults. They close themselves off to the possibility that other people understand what they are going through.

I often hear teens comment, “Nobody has to go through what I’ve been through.”
The pain of feeling alone and lost can make them defensive and guarded. Your teenager is at a point in their development when, not only do they need to endure puberty, but they are trying to become independent and successful.

There’s a lot of pressure to fit in and figure things out on their own. They often seek out peers to help solve their problems, but don’t always get the best advice.

Their problems can escalate and trigger a cascade of new issues. You’re just not looped in on what’s going on internally with your teenager.

It’s not as if you are saying the wrong thing; it’s just that your teen is at a different place in their emotional tolerance. Don’t despair; keep talking and let them know things are not so dismal. Give them suggestions and show them they have options.

Parents often walk on eggshells as they try to appease their teen.

Or they get into huge arguments when they disapprove of their behavior.

In therapy, there is a compromise between the resolution parents are seeking and what the teenager is ready to handle.

Firstly, there is no judgment when teens are presenting their difficulties. It’s okay if they hide behind a hoodie or refuse to share initially.

Over time, as trust is built, we will get to the point where they can open up and be vulnerable. Teens’ perspective and attitude can be an asset to working through the problems at hand.

Communication with parents will slowly improve as they become less overwhelmed and more willing to accept help from others.

It’s great to get to the point where they recognize they have options for how to solve challenges, and they are willing to experiment.

Even more so, when they can relate success stories and welcome others’ feedback, they show they are more versatile in their approach to intense situations.

Teen in need of teen therapy, New City, NY

Your opinions as a parent matter more than you might think.

Whether they realize it or not, adolescents crave their parents’ support and need their attention just as much as when they were younger. They are not children anymore, but sometimes they can let situations overpower their rational thinking.

They need you to help them reflect upon and explore the consequences of their actions and affirm if they are headed on the right path. Ultimately, as much as they push you away, they secretly want your reassurance because they fear the unknown and are uncertain about their ability to handle situations alone.

When I think back on it, being a teenager was kind of great, but it took years before I realized it. Imagine if you could speak to your younger self.

What would you tell them? You might consider all the things you did wrong and counsel them to avoid those things. You could easily tell your younger self what not to do because your mind slants toward negative experiences, but you would be remiss in telling them what to do because they are teeming with possibilities.

Wasn’t it so easy when a hug made everything better? Now, you try to talk to them, and they shrug you off without the hug. Don’t give up on them. Now is when they need you most..

It takes patience and compassion to help teens. I can help.

Teens need someone who makes therapy feel as though they’re talking with a friend – a friend who gets what they’re going through – a friend who won’t judge them as they feel everyone else does. After all, you share secrets with a trusted confidante, not your parent. As teens feel more comfortable, they let their guard is down. It’s when adolescents are most vulnerable that they are open to other viewpoints and ideas.

As a compassionate and open-minded listener, I let teens take the lead and approach sessions as more conversational than directive. I understand that your teen may not feel like there is a “problem” and rushing to pronounce one doesn’t do anything to build a good relationship.

The best results from therapy occur as situations come up gradually, and we explore them as questions more than conclusions. If a roadblock is discovered and we decide together to call it by name, then your teenager is determining what they want to change on their own. Then we can take a more definitive approach and explore possible solutions.

Peter*, a 16-year-old teen, reluctantly followed his mom into my office. He sat down and repeatedly shrugged when I introduced myself and asked him what brought him in to see me. When his mother explained the situation during his silence, he looked at her with disdain. It was evident that he was not a willing participant.

After getting more information about his school suspension, I asked his mom to give us some time to talk alone. I told him that a lot of teens feel annoyed coming to see me, and it was nothing personal. I asked him if he knew why he was there, not expecting him to have an answer. I talked about myself and shared some humorous anecdotes, trying to make him feel at ease.

I then said that he did not have to talk about himself, but if he didn’t mind sharing a bit, it would be preferable to silence. That got him to smile slightly. I took this as a cue that I could ask him a question.

Starting with school, I asked general questions about friends and his favorite classes. We also talked a bit about his home life, including his relationship with his parents. Slowly, as he let down his guard, I was able to approach the issue of being suspended. Peter mentioned he had a fight with another student. I asked him a little more about the situation, and I discovered he fought because he was offended by the other student’s comment and did not like being humiliated.

While I let him do a lot of the talking, I tried to ask general questions about his feelings toward other students. I discovered, through listening to him speak, that he felt very insecure about how others saw him. This was something that I filed away to explore in the future.

Throughout our next sessions together, we worked on analyzing situations about which he felt comfortable and confident, and then ones that made him feel vulnerable and small. We kept a list of some themes that came out of our conversations. As he became more aware and less defensive, he agreed that some of these were things he wanted to change.

By allowing him to take the lead and formulating an understanding of patterns, we moved closer to the next steps of how to handle conflicts.
Eventually, we figured out some ways he could better manage anger and even identified some practice situations.

We also shared this with his mother when he was ready. It seemed as if his confidence grew when he did not feel villainized; but, instead, he was able to say what he wanted to do differently.

Celebrating wins with teenagers can be challenging because they are not always obvious. Sometimes your teen may even doubt that they will have similar success in the future. But it’s important to congratulate them and have their parents share in their success, so they know they are not on a solitary journey.
*Name changed to preserve client confidentiality..

You got through this… and your adolescent will, too.

If you reach the point where you might think your teen needs therapy, rest assured you’re not overreacting.

Do not fear you will isolate them or turn them off to talking to you because they are already at their lowest point. You can get back your relationship with your teen. After they’ve achieved success through teen therapy, you will surely see that they are not lost.

Teens are on a tumultuous journey toward finding themselves, and it’s only natural that they might need some support along the way.

Teen in need of teen therapy, New City, NY

What if my teen is resistant to counseling?

It is natural for your teen to push back or shut down initially during counseling. You can think of this as a protective mechanism for them. We approach teen therapy from the lens of being less reactive and judgmental when a teen gets upset. Instead, we lead with curiosity and use reflective statements and questions.

This allows your teen to feel less defensive and to be more in control. Our goal is to build an authentic relationship which will lead to be a better outcome.

Teen in need of teen therapy, New City, NY

I want to respect my teen's privacy, but I still want to know what's going on in the appointment.

It makes sense that you would want to be involved in your teen’s therapy sessions. In many instances, collaboration with your teen’s therapist is beneficial. But you will want to do it carefully to protect your teen’s confidentiality and the therapeutic relationship.

While you may have a desire to communicate your concerns and “check-in,” it’s also important for your teen to be able to trust their counselor and feel that their privacy is valued. Including your teenager in the conversation is a good way to communicate what you notice without “going behind their back.”

It also lets your teen know about your concerns so there are no surprises. Be prepared for your teen to have a different point of view which you can discuss altogether in counseling.

Developing an alliance with your teen is important so they feel protected and supported. We value your support in helping your teen heal.

Teen in therapy, New City, NY

Is it too late for my teen to make a change?

Absolutely not. Your teen is still growing and developing, mentally, physically, and emotionally. While they may be experiencing ups and downs as a result, this is an opportunity for self-exploration and transformation. Sometimes teens can feel stuck or self-conscious.

Through teen counseling, they can look at situations with new perspectives so they can act and think differently. Getting support for your troubled teen when they first start having difficulties is usually far more successful than waiting until problems get worse.

Taking the steps to help your teen will have a positive ripple effect so they can cope with new situations and feel better about the future.

Teens interacting in therapy, New City, NY

Want to know where to start?

In our work together, we will uncover what is missing from your child’s life, what’s holding them back in worry and despair, and what are the ways we can help them move toward a place of happiness and fulfillment.

We provide convenient online sessions.

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