Adolescent Psychotherapy

How often have you asked your teen, “What’s the matter,” or “Would you like to talk about it,” only to be met with a “nothing” or “I don’t know.”  While this is often “normal” for teens and how they communicate with parents, at times it may indicate an underlining emotional problem or potential mental health issue.

Psychotherapy helps adolescents in a variety of ways. They receive emotional support, resolve conflicts with people, understand feelings and problems, and try out new solutions to old problems. Goals for therapy may be specific (change in behavior, improved relations with friends or family), or more general (less anxiety, better self-esteem). The length of psychotherapy depends on the complexity and severity of problems.

As part of the initial assessment, I first determine the need for psychotherapy (and the best modality). This decision is based on such things as the child's current problems, history, level of development, ability to cooperate with treatment, and what interventions are most likely to help with the presenting concerns.  Following a thorough assessment and diagnostic evaluation, I work directly with a teen and their parent(s) to formulate an appropriate and workable treatment plan designed to make the most of the individual’s innate skills, attributes, and life goals. If a psychiatric problem has been identified, the issue is addressed with a well-designed, client-specific treatment plan utilizing the most current and evidence-based interventions.  I work with a child’s doctor(s) and other treatment professionals to provide a comprehensive “team” approach designed to help the child function and feel at his/her best.  Psychotherapy may be part of a treatment plan that is used in combination with other treatments (medication, behavior management, or work with the school).

Psychotherapy for teens provides the teen a “forum” of communication, to help the teen find self-expression, and for the therapist to model/offer ways of processing experience and emotions.  Seen in this way, therapy becomes a vehicle of developmental guidance and modeling of a more mature ego.  Therapy can be a place for the teens to learn about themselves and get feedback from a neutral person who can assure them that many teenagers struggle with similar feelings and dilemmas (and ways of dealing with life problems).  Whether if I work with a young adult individually or with the family as a whole, my goals remain to help my clients to broaden communication skills, deepen self/other understanding, improve academic performance, foster satisfactory peer relations, and make healthy life choices.  Together my client and I identify tools to better cope with pressures and life challenges faced by today’s youth in an overwhelming and complex world.

Parents and other adults are an important part of the successful outcome of psychotherapy for teens. Therefore, recommended treatment typically includes some parental involvement, either in parent consultation sessions or family therapy sessions (as indicated or requested by the family or teenager).