The adolescent years are a time of tremendous change and growth for teens and parents alike. Teenagers make their push toward independence whether ready or not, and parents try to make the best decisions they can in an increasingly complex social environment which has recently become even more complicated with the advent of social media. Family counseling can be a great option to help navigate through the confusion, conflict and anxieties that often occur during this challenging stage.
In therapy, we start with a simple goal for our teenagers: safe and connected independence. Teens learn that independence does not have to come at the expense of their safety and their relationships with family members. Parents learn to support the natural drive toward independence and to manage their own anxieties as their child takes on new risks and challenges. Together, we practice communication and empathy to establish an open dialogue and build trusting relationships that feel safe and secure.
Some teenagers may benefit more from an individual therapy experience. They are learning to establish their own sense of self outside of their family and to operate in the world with more independence. Individual therapy can be a great way for teens to reflect on their lives, decisions and relationships in a safe and nurturing environment. The teens are supported in establishing appropriate boundaries with their parents while at the same time are encouraged to build bridges back to Mom, Dad, and other family members whenever possible by sharing their stories, feelings and ideas. Even when the adolescent is engaged in individual therapy, parents continue to play an important role in the therapeutic process. Parents offer input in terms of their concerns and hopes for counseling and are supported in working toward the youth’s desired goals. Together, we all establish a treatment plan that everyone can support. Parents may be asked to participate in sessions to support the teen even when family therapy is not the primary task. This can be a fluid process with varying needs as the adolescent learns to balance both independence and family connection. As the therapist, I help guide the process and provide direction needed to support our overarching goal of safe and connected independence.