Our top priority and goal in counseling teens with a Christ-centered approach is to help them to obtain tools and strategies for living a healthy and abundant life. This generation of teenagers have thousands of things vying for their attention daily, it’s become increasingly challenging for them to learn what to say “yes” and “no” to. Therapy helps teenagers to navigate the challenges that are specific to their age-group (i.e. depression/anxiety related to physical changes, comparison, social norms and communication issues, substance use, academic strategies, challenges with parents, and fear of the future).
What Does the Process Look Like?
Counseling teens requires trust, which many teens can be hesitant to offer. We tend to see the most progress made in teens after they are able to establish a meaningful connection with their counselor. This is one of the most important and primary steps, as teenagers are very relational and desire to be known and accepted without condemnation and judgement. Some parents are concerned about or resistant to the notion that their teen will have a certain level of confidentiality, but allowing them the space that therapy provides allows for more open and honest dialogue and gives teens a sense of agency and privacy. *
The counselor will work to build rapport with the teen while also exploring family dynamics, stressors academically, socially, etc., gathering a history of past traumas or negative experiences, and other information to help them to create strategies for healing and health that are specific to the teen. Subsequent sessions are spent teaching and practicing strategies for overcoming the issues that are negatively impacting their lives so that they can function and thrive in their various environments.
* It is important to note that any and all threats of harm to self and/or others would require immediate reporting and action that would break confidentiality to attempt to keep involved parties safe.
How Do I Know if Counseling is Right for my Teen?
This quote does a great job encapsulating the reasons teens seek counseling:
“Teens have a hard enough time as it is with just meeting and surpassing developmental and maturational milestones; the addition of external stresses add to emotional fluctuations generally attributed to hormones. When teens get to a point they cannot effectively handle school, social, or family stress, their parents may decide to seek therapy. Typically, this decision comes about because of concerns over the teen’s academics or behaviors. It is important to note that dropping grades and acting out behaviors are symptoms of a larger precipitating event or situation,” (Betterhelp.com)”
What Kind of Skills do Teen Counselors Have?
-The ability to attune to or connect with them through active listening, staying “present” in the conversation and interaction, and communicating in a non-judgemental, intentional, self-aware manner.
-The ability to assist in settling SMART short/long term goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound). Some teenagers have significant fears regarding their futures, and goal setting allows them to gain momentum and build confidence as they accomplish and work towards aspects of their goals.
-The ability to ask questions skillfully, making the most use out of “open-ended” questions that allow for more discussion and conversation, rather than a one word answer or grunt.
-Practicing good self-regulation of body and emotions to help teens to do the same
How Can I Communicate with my Teenager About Counseling?
- Find a good time to talk
- Share in a calm and non-judgmental way what you have observed/noticed
- Ask what they might need to help overcome whatever struggle they’re facing
- Attempt to research/learn more about what they are faced with if you are unfamiliar with the subject/issue
- Try to normalize, without condoning, what they might be going through
- Share with them your commitment to advocate for and support them in this process
- Don’t minimize their experience/perspective (even if it feels ridiculous to you)
- Don’t compare them to yourself, friends, or their siblings