Childhood and adolescence represents a dynamic period of growth, brain development, change, and steadily increasing independence. It is also a time in life where mental illness and behavioral issues can have a huge effect on quality of life of both the child and the family. On average, about half of my practice is devoted to adolescent boys and girls, addressing such issues as: depression, anxiety, trauma, relationships, impulse control, anger management, sexuality, career planning, self esteem, and weight management.
My approach to adolescent therapy focuses on the development and maintenance of a safe and trusting therapeutic relationship. The foundation for that relationship is my unconditional respect and positive regard for the client. Many adolescents do not voluntarily seek therapy, which creates a challenging situation where patience is required in order to build that important relationship. Many view adolescent therapy as challenging work. It can also be very rewarding. By focusing on the therapeutic relationship, other issues, like self esteem, anger management and impulse control naturally arise. Forming a strong therapeutic relationship also creates an environment where a child or adolescent feels safe to discuss other sensitive matters, without the stigma of "being in therapy".
As an adolescent therapist, I do not assume the role of a parent, or friend. I try to help the client determine their goals and behave in a manner that helps them achieve their goals. I believe that it is important developmentally for teenagers to begin the process of individuation, self-determination, and self-motivation. When behavior is inconsistent with goals, I try to point out this discrepancy and try to motivate the client to identify alternative behavior that is more consistent with their goals. Adolescent therapy tends to be longer term than adult therapy because it often takes longer to build a therapeutic relationship. That relationship can be more fragile and naturally has its ups and downs. Adolescent therapy is not a straight line. It is marked by a cycle of improvements and digressions. Parents, adolescents, and therapists must be patient during this process. Adolescents can be more guarded in their communication, have less insight into their behaviors, and share less with a therapist than an adult.
In most cases, I encourage sessions with parents, individually and/or with their child. I find that most parents lack the knowledge of the biological limitations that adolescents possess, especially in terms of emotional regulation, judgement, and impulse control. Many parents expect their teens to behave like adults. The regions of teens’ brains responsible for impulse control, judgement and emotional regulation are not fully developed. Expecting teens to behave like adults is unreasonable.
In many cases when an adolescent has difficulty regulating his or her emotions, responsibility falls onto the parent to help the child regulate their emotions and to model good emotional regulation themselves. This promotes the child’s brain development by teaching these skills. Often parents escalate a child’s emotions. In these cases, parents need to accept responsibility for their part in the family stress and learn skills to deescalate emotional situations and regulate themselves. This is a goal of sessions with parents.
I am committed to equality and provide compassionate assistance to LGBT individuals.
Recently, I have completed the following continuing professional education:
- Cognitive Therapy with Depressed Adolescents - 10 hours
- Treating Abused and Neglected Children - 8 hours
- Treating Personality Disorders in Children and Adolescents: A Relational Approach - 8 hours
- Evidence-based Treatment Options for Children and Adolescents - 8 hours
- Attachment Theory in Action - 4 hours
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