Is your teenager or young adult child acting out … angry … sad … anxious … withdrawn … exhibiting self-destructive behavior? If any of these sound familiar, welcome to adolescence.

What is Adolescent Psychotherapy?

Starting as early as 10 years old and lasting into their early 20s, the adolescent years are marked by change as children cross the bridge into adulthood. Alongside all the physical changes, adolescents also experience intense and rapidly fluctuating emotions.

Developmentally, adolescents must separate themselves from childhood attachments. This process is made possible by a decreased idealization of parents and other authority figures, as well as a higher level of self-absorption Despite the pain and rejection this causes many parents to experience, this adolescent preoccupation helps them separate and individuate.

The process can be bumpy. While adolescents typically form close attachments with their peers, this transition often produces a sense of vulnerability and emotional isolation. The

disruption to their sense of self often leads adolescents to action. Actions remind them that they still exist, and provide emotional stimulation to counteract feelings of emptiness, relief from the fear of remaining a child and distraction from the intolerable internal tension and conflict.

Adolescent psychotherapy addresses the unique issues that can arise during this often-tumultuous transition.

Could My Adolescent Benefit from Therapy?

While cynicism, verbal self-defense, unpredictability, boredom and lower self-confidence can all be part of the typical adolescent journey, sometimes the emotional chaos becomes overwhelming.

In an effort to cope, the adolescent might exhibit disturbances in impulse control, judgment, self-esteem, anxiety, sleep patterns and the use/abuse of drugs or alcohol. Here are some other signs that your adolescent could benefit from psychotherapy:

When they feel:

  • Sad/hopeless for no reason and the feelings don’t go away

  • Worthless or guilty often

  • Anxious or worried often

  • Unexplained fears

  • Constantly concerned about physical appearance or problems

  • Angry most of the time and crying a lot or overreacting to things

When they experience big changes:

  • Feeling life is too hard to handle*

  • Falling grades in school

  • Losing interest in things

  • Unexplained changes in sleeping and eating

  • Avoiding friends or family and wanting to be alone

  • Daydreaming too much and not completing tasks

  • Talk, thoughts or jokes about suicide

  • Extreme or rapid weight gain or loss

  • Rapid or extreme changes in personality

  • Sudden change in friends

When their behavior includes:

  • Skipping school

  • Using alcohol or other drugs

  • Eating large amounts of food then using some method to compensate to avoid weight gain

  • Dieting and/or exercising obsessively

  • Trouble with the law

  • Doing things that could be life threatening

  • Troubling behavior that lasts more than 6 weeks*

When they experience:

  • Poor concentration

  • Inability to make decisions

  • Worry about being harmed, or harming others

  • Racing thoughts too fast to follow

  • Persistent nightmares

  • Need to perform certain routines in order to avoid perceived danger

Our Approach to Adolescent Psychotherapy

While respect is foundational to our approach to therapy for all clients, it plays a particularly vital role in working with adolescents. When teenagers and young adults feel genuinely understood and respected, they become increasingly capable of accepting limits and integrating new coping skills and insights.

Respect stems from the belief that adolescents are truly trying to do the best they can during a difficult period of growth and development. By empathizing and listening without judgment, we develop a rapport that makes them more receptive to learning ways to better regulate their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. As a result, they develop the tools to thrive—not just during this transition, but into their adult lives as well.

Want to learn more? This detailed guide for parents can help you learn more about the about the signs, symptoms and strategies for dealing with teen depression.

It’s OK to ask for help.

If you’re interested in learning more about psychotherapy for your adolescent — or parenting support for yourself — please contact us through this online form or call us at 847-729-3034. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.