“They [adolescents] now seem to love luxury, they have bad manners and contempt for authority, they show disrespect for adults and spend their time hanging around places gossiping with one another. They are ready to contradict their parents, monopolize the conversation and company, eat gluttonously and tyrannize their teachers . . . .”While this quote seemingly sums up the entitled teenager of today, it is in fact from Socrates, in about 400 B.C. The “troubled teens” are as normal as the “terrible twos”; with the years from the age of thirteen through to nineteen being highly charged with emotional, physical, and social changes that can be extremely difficult for both the teen and their parents to navigate.
While almost everyone experiences some difficulties during this time, noticing a radical change in a teen’s behavior should cause a parent to dig deeper – today’s teenagers are indeed growing up in disturbing times and telltale signs can point towards bigger problems.
It is a parent’s responsibility to confront negative behavior with their teen, discuss uncomfortable situations, and perform their God-given role of establishing boundaries, with appropriate consequences for infringements. In a situation where the negative behavior persists or is difficult to get to the bottom of, the support of a counselor trained in working with teens can be of enormous benefit to families.
How Do I Know if My Teenager Needs Counseling?
Parents may seek the guidance of a counselor for their teen for a variety of reasons, and therapy need not be reserved for traumatic events or serious mental health issues. Getting early intervention from a trained professional can go a long way towards preventing small problems from spiraling out of control.
Sometimes just a few sessions to talk out some feelings can boost a teenager’s sense of well-being. However, if you notice things like your teen withdrawing emotionally, physical changes and other behavior that seems “off,” it would be worth considering a third party.
7 Common Issues Addressed by Teen Counseling
Counselors often engage with young people in teen counseling who are suffering from the following issues:
Depression Depression is a difficult illness to diagnose, but if your teen feels sad and has a low mood the majority of the time, make an appointment with your medical practitioner to rule out any physical conditions before considering therapy. Mood disorders often start in the teen years, and an early and accurate diagnosis can prevent a lifetime of anguish if properly treated, both medically and with counseling.
Today’s teens face enormous pressure, both academically and socially; and, with social media and screen time being such a feature of their lives, anxiety is rife.
While some degree of anxiety and worry is normal under these circumstances, intense anxiety that disrupts large aspects of a teenager’s life needs to be addressed. Counseling can assist with getting to the heart of what causes the anxiety, as well as teaching coping skills such as deep breathing to manage symptoms.
Stress is something that can either be harnessed to help us reach high performance, or it can crush us and produce the opposite effect. If your teen buckles under exam pressure or shows signs of not being able to cope in other stressful situations, a counselor can help impart valuable skills that will serve them throughout their lives.
Substance abuse issues
Unfortunately, the teenage years are often a period when addictions can take root, as independent youngsters experiment with drugs and alcohol. Many find the escape offered by substance abuse too tempting.
This can result in a variety of behavioral issues, academic decline, and anti-social or aggressive behavior. It is difficult for parents to navigate substance abuse with their teens, and the early involvement by a trained counselor is highly advised.
Low self-esteemWhile most teens are plagued with fragile self-confidence, serious self-esteem issues need to be addressed as they can lead to substance abuse and other behavioral problems. If your teen struggles with friendships and views themselves in a negative light, consider some counseling sessions to help them assess their identity and how they can build on a solid sense of self.
If a teenager has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, a counselor can help them process what happened, discuss it in a non-threatening, safe environment, and develop coping skills in the event of post-traumatic stress-related issues.
Don’t assume that because a teen seems to be “doing okay” that all is well; their emotional intelligence is still far from developed (many adults struggle with this without developing the necessary skills) and it may be that they have no idea how to make sense of the trauma inside them.
Likewise, a teen may not exhibit obvious signs of grief after the loss of a loved one, but this does not mean that the feelings are not there. A counselor can teach critical life lessons around the importance of letting one’s emotions out and finding positive outlets during tough times, rather than bottling difficult feelings up and suppressing the healthy flow of emotion.
A Biblical Lens Regarding Teen Counseling
For teens growing up in Christian homes, parents face the significant task of helping children transfer their dependence from family, to God. If this shift doesn’t happen concretely, adolescents can misplace their God-given need for dependence on Him and place it on things like friends, fashion, sports, sex, good grades, gangs, alcohol, and drugs – they get tripped up looking for all the right things in the wrong places.
Even if they have been attending church their whole lives, and have a Christian life modelled for them in the home, they may still be looking for someone to help them sort through things that life has thrown at them and may need help doing this with someone who is faith based. While one-to-one discipleship in the church fills this role, a teen may be grappling with issues that a counselor possesses the necessary skills to help them with.
When looking for the right counselor for your teen, there are several things to consider. Firstly, the counselor needs to have the correct training and accreditation and, while there are directories of counselors available in different areas, a word-of-mouth referral can be invaluable.
I have often worked with teens who share they received counseling through their church and this is a great resource however it is crucial the counselor holds the correct credentials and schooling.
Bear in mind, however, that the “chemistry” between the teen and counselor needs to be right. So, while a friend’s recommendation is helpful, you may need to shop around a bit for a good personality fit. Many counselors offer a free initial consultation so that all parties can gauge whether they think the outcome will be successful.
You also need to consider the types of counseling that they offer. As with adult counseling, a typical school of therapy practiced is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This method helps adolescents to change negative thought patterns and behaviors by reframing the way they think about issues and events, changing negative thoughts into positive ones. More specifically, it encourages teens to challenge their beliefs about themselves and the situation and learn to view it more accurately.
Many Christian parents are concerned when taking their teen to a secular counselor believing that counselor will not support the morals they wish for their child to live out or that they will unwittingly, impart their own world view to their teen.
Seeking a Christian counselor for teen counseling is beneficial as they possess the needed school and training to provide professional counseling services while also having the same world view and moral foundation. A Christian counselor knows that God is the only One who holds the answers to life’s problems and can merge this with their professional training.
For it is only by making sense of life through the lens of the gospel, that one can truly find psychological freedom, and if this is cemented in these foundational years, the young person will be able to live out their calling more productively, unhindered by emotional issues that can otherwise hold them back.
“Color in the Desert”, Courtesy of Patrick Buck, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Friends in a Field”, Courtesy of Melissa Askew, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Studying”, Courtesy of Jeswin Thomas, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “On Their Phones by the Water”, Courtesy of Alexandre Desane, Unsplash.com, CC0 License