Kym L. Miller
The teenage years can be a tumultuous and yet delightful time. Teenager’s brains are growing at a rate like when they were toddlers. These are the years where we are discovering who we are, what we like, and what we hope from our lives.
During these years we also face some of the most intense emotional highs and lows that we’ll ever experience. We learn about relationships and start to figure out how to be fully independent of our parents.
Being a teenager is intense. We make some of our best memories of our lives during this time. It is also a time that can feel like total upheaval. Mental illness, depression, suicide, and substance abuse are unfortunately rampant among teens. This is an age and stage where outside support is critical for countless kids.
Perhaps you’re the parent of a teen wondering if counseling for teens is right for them. Maybe you are a teen yourself and your parent wants you to get counseling but you’re not quite sure. Or maybe you’re open to counseling for teens but want to know what to expect.
The ABCs of Counseling for Teens
In this article, we’re going to look at “The ABCs of counseling for teens.” We’ll share one aspect you might expect from counseling for teenagers per letter of the alphabet. We hope this serves to give you a better understanding of what the experience will be like and what to expect.
Addiction: Teenager addiction is rampant, especially to screens and social media. While teens become addicted to substances, this virtual addiction is plaguing an unknown number of teens (and adults, to be honest).
Relationships, school performance, mental and physical health, and other areas of life can be affected by addiction. A counselor can help teens work through addiction and find the treatment plan that is right for them. They can also help teens to discover whether they’re struggling with an unknown social media or screen addiction and provide recovery support.
Behavior: Teens often report feeling out of control over their behavior. Counseling can help with impulse control skills and evaluating behavioral choices.
Communication: A lifelong journey for all of us is to learn how to communicate more effectively. This is critical to learn during the teen years and something excellent to work on with someone who is well trained.
Depression: Hormonal changes, trauma, social pressure, school stress – a lot is going on for teens! Depression is present in a shocking number of kids. A counselor can help assess teens for depression and supply options for treatment.
Education (school and college): The pressures of school are one most teens can relate to. This can be a safe place to vent about these pressures, unwind a bit from stress, and reflect on your future educational goals. You can weigh the pros and cons of what happens after high school with someone other than a parent and help decide with a neutral third party.
Friendships: Many teens say they feel defined by their friendships. Having someone to talk to about these relationships and to learn how to build healthy friendships is important at this age.
Group Counseling: There’s nothing quite like having others in the same situation to talk to. In some cases, your counselor may suggest group counseling for this reason. It is most often suggested for specific trauma, depression, anxiety, addiction (yours or a family member), and teen pregnancy.
Home-life: The parent/child relationship is perhaps never quite as tumultuous as during the teen years. Counseling can help build healthy family boundaries and help the entire family prepare for the child to “leave the nest.”
Individuality: These are the years of expressing yourself and figuring out who you are. Having a safe place to explore what this looks like with someone who can ask pointed questions is so helpful!
Jesus (faith): Working with a Christian counselor provides a unique opportunity. Here you can work through problems in life through the lens of your faith. It is also a safe place to express any doubts or questions about faith that you may not feel welcome to address in church.
Kindness and dealing with bullies: Bullies don’t stop on the elementary school playground. Their bullying tactics just change as they get older. If you’re being bullied or acting as a bully, working with a counselor can help bring kindness into your life. You’ll also have a safe place to work through the reasons behind the bullying behavior.
Lack of motivation: One of the top complaints of parents of teens is a lack of motivation. This is a safe place to work through this change in motivation and to help you figure out what excited you and gets you motivated.
Mind-body practices: Practices like meditation, mindfulness, centering prayer, and breathwork are amazing for teens. Counselors can lead guided sessions of these practices in the office to equip the teenager to use them independently in the world. These will help with stress management and balance emotions, which are great skills for all of life, not just the teen years.
Nerves: Frayed and overstimulated nerves need a place to vent and relax, this is the perfect place to do that!
Online life (social media): Growing up in the social media era is presenting a unique set of challenges. Work through your feelings on social media and your interactions with a safe person.
Parents: Sometimes parents will be brought into sessions for family treatment as well.
Questions: This is an age of lots of questions. Bring them here to a safe place and have a sounding board.
Relationships: Romantic and friend relationships get more complicated in the teen years. These are often the ages of broken hearts, betrayal by friends, changing friend groups, and other confusing and new relationship territories. Guidance from an adult other than mom and dad at this age can make all the difference in how relationships are approached and understood.
Sexuality: This is the age where sexuality starts to make a substantial difference. Kids may not feel comfortable discussing this at home and a counseling office will be a safe place to do so.
Trauma: Working through trauma at this age can help set a teen up for better success in adulthood. It is an age where we generally have a lot of support, and our brains are more plastic and able to heal from trauma.
Understanding yourself: Isn’t this what the teen years are all about?
Vision and goal setting: When first beginning a counseling relationship, this will almost always be a part of it. You will set a vision and goals not only for your personal life but for your counseling time as well. This helps you and your counselor to be on common ground and work towards the same goals. A counselor can also help you with vision and goal setting for your future and life after high school.
Work: First jobs. Deciding on future careers. Balancing work and school. Venting about job stress. These are all areas where a counselor can offer you support.
X Sex: Many teens feel uncomfortable talking to their parents about sex. A counselor can help parents and teens figure out how to talk about sex in a comfortable way. They can also be a place for you to work through your thoughts on sex and what God teaches about sex.
Your deepest thoughts: Counseling is confidential. Bring your deepest thoughts. The only time what you say would be shared is if you share about harm to yourself or someone else. There is great power in simply saying words out loud!
Zzzzz’s (sleep issues): Sleep issues often affect teens. Your counselor can help teach you relaxation techniques and help work out a schedule that will allow you to get the best sleep possible.
“Students”, Courtesy of Jeswin Thomas, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Cooking with Mom”, Courtesy of Katerina Holmes, Pexels.com, CC0 License;”Lonely”, Courtesy of Luis Galvez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License;”Breathe”, Courtesy of Fabian Moller, Unsplash.com, CC0 License