Teen & Young Adult Counseling & Mental Health Services
Wondering if your teen needs help?
Every parent wants a hopeful, happy future for their children.
Yet as kids grow into teenagers and young adults, they often hit rough waters. Some quickly reach calmer waters -- while others sometimes struggle to stay afloat.
Parents often wonder where things got off track -- to understand why their children have changed so much:
"She used to tell us everything."
"He used to be so good with his brothers."
"She was such an easy baby."
"He was such a happy little guy."
And the best way to help them can seem unfindable.
If you're blaming yourself, don't.
Moms and dads often assume their child's struggles are visible signs of parenting failures or faulty genetics.
Have you ever heard someone say:
"She's just like her mother."
"My brother was always worried about everything when we were kids too."
"Depression runs in our family."
It's true that some conditions are affected by family genetics. And most of us who are parents can point to situations with our kids that we'd handle differently if we had a do-over.
But most of the time, no one -- parent OR child -- is to blame for causing emotional problems.
They're really just the result of still-developing brains encountering difficult situations before they're fully capable of handling them. Many problem-solving skills, for example, develop over time. We aren't born with them, and we don't instantly learn them just because we've reached a certain birthday.
This is why our approach centers on helping kids identify their personal strengths and learn cognitive-behavioral coping skills so that they don't feel stuck and powerless to help themselves -- supported with medication only when appropriate.
Research has shown that one of the most successful treatments for many mental health conditions is to learn these proven methods for handling your own feelings, emotions and actions no matter what the situation.
While short-term prescriptions like anti-anxiety medications are sometimes helpful for some clients, we believe strongly that powerful medications while the brain is still developing should be used with caution, not as a first-line monotherapy.
We also emphasize focused counseling that helps clients make positive, lasting changes as quickly as possible. Psychological therapy that never ends is often therapy that isn't actually helping. In many cases, just a few sessions are all that's needed.
When to worry
It's natural for kids to begin establishing independent lives and identities from their families as they grow. It's a process that naturally creates tension between teens and parents. It's also a process of learning and trial and error. Your kids are bound to make missteps along the way.
The challenge, of course, is knowing when to chalk things up to normal teen development, and when to worry.
Watch for signs like these:
- Unusually volatile, rapidly cycling or explosive moods
- Non-stop irritation about everything, even things they once loved
- Withdrawal from school and neighborhood friends
- Gradual or sudden decline in grades or academic performance
- New and/or more serious disciplinary issues at school
- Panic attacks
- Persistently feeling indecisive or overwhelmed by future choices
- Unusual sleep patterns, like sleeping through multiple mealtimes
- Physically lashing out -- for example, punching a hole in a wall
- Damaging or destroying some of their personal items
- Persistent sadness or depression
- Social anxiety about how they're perceived or might be treated
- Intense anxiety related to bullying or peer pressure
- Volatile dating relationships
- Self-harm, like cutting or hitting themselves
- Suicidal thoughts, whether occasional or recurring
You don't have to have all the answers.
The most important thing as a parent that you can do is to
- recognize that your child is struggling.
- recognize that attempts by family members and others aren't helping
That's the point where it makes sense to reach out for professional help.
If you're not sure whether you should be worried, just give us a call. We are happy to be of service and to talk through the situation that concerns you.
Sometimes our assessment is going to be "Actually, this sounds pretty normal and she'll probably be much more like the loving happy daughter you remember once she starts college."
Sometimes, our advice is simply to come in on your own for a few coaching sessions -- to give you some new ways to approach frustrating conversations with your teen or adult child, for example.
And sometimes, our recommendation is that your child really would benefit from counseling. If so, we'll also help you figure out how to talk to them about it.