Adolescence is a time of profound change. It’s like being pulled away from childhood and pushed into a new chapter of life – like being a stranger to those around you and to yourself. This process isn’t easy, and raising a teenager really tests a parent’s emotional resiliency. As teens struggle to find a way to become their own person, they can put a family through significant upheaval.
Ironically, as teens fight for more freedom, they need their families more than ever. How does one journey through such profound change without losing a sense of belonging?
- In most cases, a family brings their adolescent to a psychologist for help. He or she might be struggling with:
- Anxiety disorders (e.g. panic attacks, social anxiety, PTSD)
- Depressive symptoms and/or mood instability
- Conflict, anger, and aggression
- Family discord and/or communication problems
- Autonomy and dependency
- Defiance and neglecting responsibilities
- Declining academic performance and/or poor grades
Family Systems theory assumes that some of the teen’s symptoms are an expression of family difficulties. Involving as many family members as possible is of critical importance. Family therapy focuses on treating problems in the context of relationships, rather than focusing on a disorder in the particular individual.
Each session might feel different. Working one-on-one with the adolescent as well as meeting with parents, guardians, siblings and even extended family members offers a more comprehensive and holistic approach. Depending on the unique needs and goals of the family, different combinations of family members may participate in each session (e.g. just parents, just siblings, all family, etc.). Collaborating and consulting closely with school (e.g. teachers, school counselors, etc.), psychiatrists, pediatricians and other relevant parties also help make treatment a success.
It can be tough to be a teenager but it’s also an important step to discovering what kind of person you are going to be. Such a meaningful time in life!