Troubled Teens

Adolescence is a challenging stage of life, both for the teen and the parents. It is a time when teens ask the question, “Who am I?”

According to psychologist Erik Erikson, adolescence is a time of facing an “Identity Crisis.” Parents face the difficult task of helping their child manage this “crisis.” Parents are challenged with “letting out the kite string” to foster increasing independence and hoping the lessons they have taught will allow their child to soar successfully.

Adolescence is often a tumultuous time of life. Teenagers go through many changes physically and emotionally, and are faced with many decisions and challenges to their judgement. ​Teens try on many different hats in the search for self. They are faced with many choices, decisions, and judgments, but also often want to be left alone to make them. In addition, many other life challenges can be happening either inside the teen or within the social world, or within the family. Adolescence is often fraught with stress, choices and consequences, some that can be quite scary and problem-producing. Parents may often find themselves in a stalemate with their teen, losing sleep, and losing confidence that their child will be okay and able to move into independent adulthood. Since part of the developmental task is to move away from parents, teens often do not want to talk about problems with parents.

For parents, recognizing when you need the help of a teenage counselor is essential, but can be difficult. There are many challenging teenage behaviors which are considered part of normal teen development. As adolescents transition to independence you will often find yourself butting heads with them. They are trying to establish themselves as separate from you. Concerns arise when teens act out their problems and feelings rather than process them in a healthy way.


Examples of acting-out behaviors that often lead parents to become concerned are: self-harming behaviors; inappropriate rage or defiance; drug and alcohol use; shutting down and isolating; significant decline in school performance; and, school refusal. These are examples of when parents seek a teenage counselor, a therapist who has experience working with adolescents.

Another concern that arises with teenagers is how they manage stress and anxiety. Many adolescents today report feeling overwhelmed and worried. I have specialized training in working with stress and anxiety using a CBT approach as well as mindfulness.

During the teenage years, trusted adults outside of the family often are in a position to make a significant impact on healthy development, and help teens process thoughts, feelings, situations and decisions. A teenage counselor can be in a great position to do this.

Experience working with adolescents is important. Typically, the personality of a therapist and the therapeutic rapport that develops between teen and therapist is ultimately one of the most critical factors in a teenage counselor successfully providing help and support to a teen and their family.

Of special note: there are times when a teen asks his or her parents to see a therapist. Parents can sometimes see this as their child being dramatic or they feel it’s not really needed. I always tell these parents if your child is asking to talk with a therapist then please follow through and support their request. You are reinforcing and supporting bravery, strength, and healthy problem solving. Pat yourself on the shoulder for raising a child who requests this approach to sorting something out. Asking to process issues with an adult who is trained to help teenagers is the opposite of acting out; it is a healthy approach to working something out.

A significant part of my practice is working with adolescents and helping parents navigate a turbulent time, offering support and guidance. I have many years of training and experience working with adolescents and their families. I also have specific training and experience working with adolescents struggling with drug and alcohol issues. Typically I meet with parents first to get a history and understand their concerns, then schedule the follow-up appointment to meet their child.

Please feel free to call me to discuss your adolescent daughter or son.