Through my practice I have found that there are basically two counseling situations when it comes to helping adolescents:
Every generation has encountered issues specific to their day. Those issues change. But what hasn’t changed are the the thoughts and emotions involved. "Does anyone understand me?" "Does anyone like me?" "Why do I feel like a freak?" "Can anybody hear me out there?
Adolescents seldom ask these questions out loud. They will internalize them, often not even being able to form them into coherent questions. Instead, the questions become more of a silent scream.
The silent scream can manifest itself in many ways: Addictions to on-line gaming. Cutting. Constant texting or use of social media at the expense of grades and homework. Depression and anxiety. Illegal or prescription drug use. Promiscuous sexual activity. Whatever the behaviors are, as a parent you are concerned.
As therapist, so am I. While your adolescent's therapy sessions are confidential in order to create a trusting therapeutic relationship, I am very aware of the risky behavior adolescents sometimes engage in, and I am as concerned as you are. If I suspect your child is in danger, you, as a parent, will be immediately informed and advised on how to proceed.
Those occasions are rare, but they do exist, and I treat them appropriately.
My primary therapeutic approach with adolescents, however, is to treat them respectfully, as valuable human beings, and to help them give voice to their concerns before the concerns turn into the silent scream.
Their concerns are very real. Their emotions are very valid. Once their concerns are voiced and identified, then we can break them down into individual issues and deal with them on a more manageable scale.
In the past, family counseling with adolescents often came down to trying to bridge “the generation gap."
Currently, however, many of the issues arise over having to adapt to changes in the traditional family unit. For instance, coping with divorce, remarriages among parents, and the blending of new families.
My concern, as a therapist, is to help all those involved in the changes to understand what is happening, why it’s happening, and how these changes are affecting everyone involved. Open, honest, kind and respectful communication between family members in a safe environment is extremely helpful in healing past wounds and preventing future misunderstandings and pain.
My goal as a Family Counselor is to help all involved learn how to love, respect, and communicate effectively with each other. Few things give me more pleasure than when a family tells me they no longer need my services because their family is now intact, happy, and at peace.