by Peyton Vickers, a Doxa counselor
Parents often wonder if their teenager may need counseling. Let me begin by saying that I don’t think any parent would regret trying counseling for their teenager. More common is the parent who looks back and says, “I sure wish I had gotten (teen) into counseling sooner.” Even if your teenager decides they hate counseling and never want to go back, you will likely rest easier knowing you tried one option for support.
When do I know it is time to suggest counseling to my teenager? I often use the metaphor of a boat taking on water and slowly sinking. You’re much better off addressing the hole in the boat when you first notice some water seeping in than waiting until the boat is sunk and you’re hitching a ride with sea tow. If at any point you notice metaphorical holes in your teen’s boat, it may be a good time to suggest counseling.
What are the signs that my teen might need counseling? Things to look for are generally changes in behavior. Because your teenager likely lives in your home, you are one of the best observers of their daily habits and mood. Look for indicators such as:
- Negative changes in academic performance
- Risky behaviors (ex: drinking alcohol or using drugs, increased promiscuity, impulsive decisions, etc.)
- Increased isolating (ex: avoiding time with family, locking self in room, turning down invitations from friends)
- Increased shyness or social anxiety, avoiding social events
- Signs of insecurity or low self esteem (ex: negative comments about self, excessive comparison to others, body-checking in mirrors, hiding body with baggy clothing)
- Increase or decrease in appetite/ food intake
One or any of the above behaviors do not necessarily mean that your teenager is in crisis or must go to counseling. They are simply indicators that could clue you in that there may be more going on under the surface.
How does counseling address these issues? For your teenager, counseling will function as a safe space for them to unpack their experiences, relationships, thoughts, and emotions. Guided by the therapist, they will:
- Identify and examine the root(s) of their problem(s)
- Develop and practice healthy coping skills
- Explore thoughts about self, challenging negative core beliefs
- Explore relationships: patterns, communication styles, and self-defeating behaviors
- Bolster support systems!
Having a consistent, supportive space away from school, family, and friends where they can candidly share their experiences is so valuable–particularly if they are struggling. If you think your teen may need counseling, or if you have questions about behaviors you’ve noticed, I would love to be a place where they (or you!) can come talk about what’s going on.
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