You may believe counselling can help your teenager, but getting them to an appointment is a different matter. Thankfully, counselling for teenagers has become increasingly usual.
With the introduction of counsellors and therapists in education over recent years, it’s usual for young people to have access to a support service at school or college.
Teenagers come to counselling for all sorts of reasons from self esteem, exam stress, moods swings, anger, coping with change such as their parents separation, losing close family members.
If you’re fearful after discovering your teen’s been self harming, taking drugs, or noticed a developing eating disorder, then counselling can help.
Encouraging your child to speak with a counsellor offers them a safe, neutral, confidential space to talk freely about what’s going on for them. However, the suggestion from a well meaning, loving parent is not always a welcome one!
Here’s some of the reasons why…
1. They don’t want to come to counselling
Teenagers will feel resentful from the start if it’s not their choice. When adolescents arrive at the therapy office it’s most often as a result of a parent, teacher or GP having suggested they “talk to someone” about a problem or issue.
You will need to allow time for your teenager to build rapport with their counsellor before opening up about what’s troubling them. An expectation from either the parent or counsellor to share too much too soon can be detrimental. Sometimes ending the therapy before it’s even began.
2. They don’t want to talk about themselves
That’s a paradox huh! Teenagers can seem self absorbed most to the time. Others barely speak. You know, those heavy sighs and a roll of the eyes that speaks volumes without words!
Teenagers notoriously hate being talked down to. Well, I guess most of us do! ‘Adults lead, kids follow’ seems to be the general rule in adolescence. They live in a world of rules and authority with little opportunity to talk freely, make their own choices, and be truly listened to.
Counselling for teenagers means stepping outside their comfort zone. It means talking about issues they’ve kept hidden from everyone, sometimes including themselves.
You will need to respect their space and trust them to talk when they’re ready to.
3. They hate talking about feelings
Displaying feelings around anger, upset and worry and expressing our true emotions in a healthy way are very different.
During adolescence the teenage brain is at a key developmental stage.
From around 12yrs – 19yrs the brain makes big leaps towards linking thoughts and feelings. The years in between can be a very confusing time for teenagers who are trying to make sense of what’s going on inside their minds and body.
I can support young people when feelings are overwhelming and difficult to understand.
4. They don’t want to stop
The behaviour that brings them to counselling is an unconscious, well-tuned, protective coping mechanism to avoid unwanted difficult feelings and experiences.
To STOP…being angry, anxious, sad, defiant, reckless, self harming, obsessing about weight…means having to face the underlying problem face-on without the right life skills, coping strategies, space and support to help them do so.
As parents, think about your own motivations for wanting your teenagers to ‘stop’ or change. How might your fear, anger, and frustration be adding to the pressure and expectation to change?
5. They’re terrified
They have no idea what’s going on inside their heads, feel overwhelmed and terrified there is something seriously wrong with them.
At a stage in life where sameness is hugely important, who wants to stand out from the crowd? No teenager wants to admit they’re scared, most see it as a sign of weakness.
At a critical time when peer groups are central to development and identity, weakness means difference.
Counselling is about encouraging young people to be less afraid of hope. Hope that change is possible and that they can learn new life skills to support and express themselves in healthy ways.
Counselling for teenagers can offer a great support to bridge the gap between adolescence and early adulthood.
As an adult, having navigated our way through our own teenage experiences, there’s a danger we become the expert. Been there, done that and survived to tell the tale…
Children won’t appreciate our well meaning advice, this is their adolescence and they need to be given the space and support to learn things their way.
Get in touch to talk about how I can help your teenager learn the life skills needed to support them in enjoying their youth.