Teen therapy is one branch of psychotherapy that I offer for children aged 12-21 years . Problems typical of adolescence include school difficulties (poor grades, low motivation, AD(H)D, parent-child conflict (negotiating the teenager’s desire for more freedom and privileges, issues involving defiance, respect and compromise), drug use and abuse, video game addiction, depression and withdrawal, oppositionality and hostility, and sexual experimentation.
The Toronto Therapy Approach: Teen Therapy
There may be other difficulties that a teenager has struggled with for many years, such as sleeping or eating problems, issues related to self-esteem, Autistic Spectrum Disorders, attention disorders, and so on, that continue to plague a child as he enters adolescence, or actually worsen at this time. It is not uncommon for the relationship between a teenager and his or her parents to undergo considerable change during this phase which is difficult for the whole family to deal with. Teens often become more private and seek more physical and emotional distance from their parents. Some teenagers seem to desire more of everything, but especially freedom, control and power. These changes can be alarming and personally challenging for parents as they observe their child transforming in front of them, and teenagers do not usually evolve easily, but likewise feel challenged and disturbed by their transformation. I have found that psychotherapy can be useful for teens and parents alike to negotiate these changes while still remaining in touch with each other, as they attempt to carry over some of the positive aspects of the earlier relationship they shared when the child was younger into the new relationship that must be negotiated between a teenager and his or her parents.
What to Expect in Teen Therapy
Bringing children and their parents closer together is often an important goal of teen therapy, as the majority of a child’s difficulties seems to affect and include the parents, even when this is not obviously so (i.e. when the issues are school-related). And most parents want to be involved in their child’s psychotherapy in some way, whether is it through consultations with the therapist as their child’s psychotherapy progresses, or through parent-child therapy or family therapy. But, I have found that some teenagers are so angry with their parents that they do not want to include the parents in the psychotherapy. Other teens can accept or even desire to have their parents involved in teen therapy, and family therapy may occur where the teen and the parents discuss the issues under the guidance of the therapist. Some teenagers agree to try out psychotherapy, relieved that their need for assistance has been recognized, while other teenagers hate the idea, feel the parent is crazy for suggesting it, and refuse. Psychotherapy can last for one session or several years, and some teens find once a week to be adequate, while other teens may need more frequent sessions in order to overcome their difficulties.
Teen therapy (and psychotherapy generally) is as individual and challenging as the teens are themselves, but over time I have developed a way of being with teenagers and young adults of both sexes that often produces positive changes.
Early adolescents (12-14) may find it too difficult and beyond their capacities to “just talk” to the therapist, and may require some play, usually games, in psychotherapy in order to feel comfortable enough to talk about what is worrying them. If teen therapy is successful, playing and talking can happen alongside each other, and some days play is not necessary. This process of developing comfort, ease and trust in the psychotherapy of younger teenagers can take longer to develop than with older children, but many children in this range are the teens who struggle the most with the adolescent changes that are occurring to them. Unfortunately, children in this age range are the ones most likely to reject the idea of psychotherapy, and consulting with me about how to approach your teenager about psychotherapy may be useful if you are struggling with this challenge.
Psychotherapy with middle adolescents (15-17) and late adolescents (18-21) usually involves less play and more talk, as the child has become more comfortable with language and the expression of their thoughts and feelings, and may be more capable of establishing a positive alliance with the therapist. Psychotherapy in these phases is not unlike psychotherapy with adults, especially with late adolescents. The teen talks about his or her worries and the therapist listens as an attentive, empathic presence who responds to the child in a way that facilitates the child’s sense of being understood and known, and helps them further explore their own experience and how this experience intersects with the experience of important others, including the therapist.
Adolescence is usually considered the most challenging phase for parents and therapists alike to adapt to, cope with and treat effectively. While adolescent turmoil is not uncommon, handling this challenge well is just as important as the good decisions we made during the first days of our child’s infancy. Teen therapy with parents and teenagers can address the problems and facilitate optimal psychological growth for the child as he or she continues to develop through this last phase of childhood.
If you interested in making an appointment or finding out more about teen therapy, the first step is a telephone consultation where we briefly speak about your concerns before finding a time to meet to discuss the issues in more depth. This is also a good time to answer any questions, doubts or concerns you may have about psychotherapy before deciding if it is the right treatment for you.