Adolescent & Teen Therapy

The teen years are difficult. You’re old enough to have your own thoughts, values, opinions and emotions but still need your parents for a lot of things and generally have to lie by their rules. Emotions change from minute to minute, your relationships (with friends, significant others, parents, etc) are constantly evolving, and you’re expected to make major life decisions. Add in a little depression, the loss of a loved one, bullying at school or just about any other unexpected complication and it’s no wonder teens start to feel overwhelmed sometimes. You don’t have to face all of these challenges and emotions alone. Counseling can help.

Our Approach to Counseling with Teenagers

We see a lot of middle school and high school students, but our approach might be a little different than some other therapists you’ve seen.  We place a very strong emphasis on treating you as the expert on yourself.   We believe that you deserve respect and to be treated as an equal in the therapy process. This isn’t to say that we don’t  talk to your parents, because we do.  However, we consider you the expert on your own needs/goals and we listen closely to your take on things.

At the first session, or sometimes even in a phone call beforehand, we explain to your parents or caretaker the importance of respecting your confidentiality. It’s hard to open up to someone new. Your therapist will give you the chance to ask as many questions as you’d like to make sure they are a good fit before you start talking to them about your problems. We will give your parents general updates about what we are doing in therapy, but balance that with respecting that your privacy.

But Will Counseling Really Help Me?

It’s natural to be skeptical in your first few sessions.  We want you to help you feel comfortable and make sure that counseling is the right route for you. We will take time to get to know you personally and figure out how we can help you reach goals that you set for yourself. I encourage all teens to come to the first session with questions for your therapist about their style and how they can help you. Do you have a lot anxiety? Ask your therapist what experience and training they have related to social anxiety or how counseling can help with test anxiety. Do you feel depressed? It’s ok to ask if your therapist if depression gets better. Are you worried that your therapist might judge you? Express this concern to your therapist and we’ll tell you a little about our personality and our philosophy.

Reasons Teens may come to Counseling

Anytime you are facing a situation you find overwhelming, counseling may be able to help. Some of the most common reasons teens come to our office include:

  • Depression or often feeling “down” and perhaps even hopeless
  • Self Harm or thoughts of suicide
  • Low self esteem
  • You’ve been through something very upsetting or traumatic
  • Your parents divorce, you move or other major life changes
  • You’re worried about your future and feel overwhelmed
  • Nightmares or difficulty sleeping
  • Grief – someone you care about has died
  • Difficulty making and keeping friends
  • Anxiety – You sometimes feel so nervous that it gets in the way of doing things
    • Test Anxiety and Social Anxiety (being around others) are very common among teens

What will I do in Teen Therapy?

This depends on what goals you and your therapist set for your treatment, the training and type of therapy your therapist does and your individual strengths and weaknesses. After you’ve met a couple times your therapist will talk to you about what they think will help. Your counselor may recommend that you process (talk) about things that are bothering you, practice coping skills, learn Mindfulness, keep track of certain feelings and behaviors during the week, express your feelings through art, work through emotions using Sand Tray or participate in exposure activities meant to help you “face your fears.”

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Youth who are at least 13 years old and struggle with strong emotions, self harm or have suicidal ideation often benefit from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) which also includes a weekly skills training group where both the youth and a parent participate. Youth participating in DBT will be asked to monitor their moods and behaviors on a daily diary card, closely examine difficult situations they’ve faced and practice using new coping and social skills. You can learn more about DBT treatment here.


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A Message to Parents and Caretakers

You want the best for your child. You want to protect them from the “real” world as long as you can. You try to be everything they need and offer to talk anytime they would like. Yet, your teen may be struggling and sometimes you’re not even sure how to be helpful. If any of this sounds familiar, you’ve come to the right place.

Your teenager will be more likely to open up in counseling and develop a strong therapeutic relationship if they’re involved in the process of choosing the therapist. If you are looking for a counselor for your teenager, I encourage you to show them websites and profiles of potential therapists and/or make a list of things they think would make a good therapist.

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– Gandhi
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