There is something special to the work one can do with an adolescent in counseling . Between identity, rebellion, and exploring what they want out of the world, a teenager has some soul-searching work to do. My work first began with adolescents and substance use. In the recent past, in I have worked in a Wilderness Therapy program where I lived out in the woods with adolescents for 8 days at a time engaging in teen therapy. My work in the wilderness informs much of my practice now with teenagers and young adults.
I believe that the work I do in this private practice setting can be powerful because of my focus on expression, which is something an adolescent is doing all over the place, often in the form of action. Being assertive in communication is something we learn, and it can take time to understand what isn’t assertive communication. An important part of my practice with adolescents is accessing expressive modalities. This means bringing into therapy the book or movie characters your teen relates to, as well as sports, journaling, gardening, drawing, and, most often, the music that moves them. Although a good bit of the work we do will be the two of us on couches face to face, there is room to explore expression in all of its forms to see what they can teach us. Often our hobbies become our first line of defense when we face anxiety, stress, and other difficult emotions and they are a tool I access to relate with teenagers.
When parents call me to set up an initial session they often feel their child will respond to my “non-traditional approach to therapy” and often it may take some time for an adolescent to let down their walls. A father recently wrote to me: “I’m much more confident in my son’s well-being and future these days… and our relationship has really been positive, respectful, and just fun again.” A current client of mine recently told me, “My last two therapist were good, but I just didn’t feel like putting in the effort, but as soon as I saw you I could tell you were real and it made me want to open up.”
Parts of life we might take a focus on during our work together: Family and Relationships, Identity, Anxiety and Stress, School, Future, Substance use, Grief and Loss, Gender and Sexuality, and Trauma.
A note to the teen: My guess is one of your parents brought you to this site and the topic of “therapy” has been brought up. I will not sit here and preach to you about how I can help, because that is not my job. What I do is provide a space and guidance to help you discover what it is you want and need in life. What I can say is that I know reality is not easy, and the process of getting what you want out of life can be an amazing and challenging journey. Part of your commitment in coming to sessions is to express yourself, and besides sitting across from each other, we will explore how you already express yourself: music, clothing, movies, art, journaling, video games, etc. These will be some powerful allies in the work we can do together. One of my favorite ways to start off a session is by playing a song that has been affecting you recently and take it from there. If there is one thing I have learned most from working with adolescents it is that they know how to spot when someone is bullshitting them. I have to be real with you. And I ask you to do the same.
If you are open to it, come sit with me and let me have some moments to tell you who I am and about the work we could get into. You might get into it more than you think.