I love my profession. I meet fascinating people and feel privileged when they share their life stories with me. I consider it an honor to be given this level of trust. When people come to see me, they are just really tired of being tired. They are frustrated with life and relationships, and it has become overwhelming for them. This is when therapy can help the most. Now, there are many different types of therapist and different ways of going about behavior and thought changes. I am a no-nonsense type of therapist, and my therapy generally entails evidenced-based practice modalities, homework and lots of encouragement as you make these changes in your life.
There is no guarantee that counseling will produce specific results. As an unwritten rule, a therapist should never work harder than the client. If you are not ready to do the work to make changes in your life, then you might want to wait before seeking therapy.
Parents of teenagers (ages 13-17):
I have been working with adolescents for over thirteen years, and one of my specialty populations is adolescents. I think they are the most amazing people. They still have big dreams and are often willing to try different things. They are also still pliable in their thinking which means they can make changes usually a lot quicker than adults (generally speaking).
Changing behaviors are primarily accomplished through parent and teen communications. That is where you will see the most change and better success. It takes time to change behavior, so I try to set the expectation that things will not change overnight, but instead, I add the tools needed to deal with issues currently and in the future.
Since I encourage parents to be involved in their teen’s life, let me give you an example of a homework assignment for a parent when working with their teen:
“for the next week, when you start to get irritated with your teenager, leave for fifteen minutes to calm down, then return to talk about it. Or, set a time later on that evening when you have been able to calm down and form your thoughts.”
Pretty simple huh? Well often it’s not, but if a parent can change how they handle things, then teens will often change how they respond. I encourage individuals not to look for perfection but to look for continuing progress. In regards to the example above, if a parent sees positive behavior changes, they are more apt to do it again and again until a new behavior is formed.
Teenagers are in the developmental process of finding out who they are (separate from you) and where they fit in this world. As a therapist, not only do I work with parents but I work with teens on problem-solving skills and coping skills, along with social skills and drug education if needed. Ultimately, it’s up to the client to choose what they want to work on.
Parents of Children (ages 9-12)
There are several ways that children benefit from therapy. The way I utilize therapy is making sure parents are very involved in this process. I educate parents on behaviors and the best evidence-based practices that have been proven to work. Parents get the homework on this end, let me give you an example.
Let’s say a child is diagnosed with true ADHD. A homework assignment for a parent would be to come up with a detailed scheduled for your child in the home. This could look like:
6:00 am to 6:10 am: Get out of bed and pick out clothes for school, go to kitchen for breakfast.
6:10 am to 6:25 am: eat breakfast put dish in the sink.
6:25 am to 6:40 am: go put on clothes for school including shoes and socks.
6:40 am to 6:50 am: brush teeth and brush hair.
6:51 am: leave for the bus stop.
(since children still struggle with the concept of time, a timer is used to monitor between changes)
This is an example of a structure. Children, especially those who have been diagnosed with ADHD, need structure and as they get in a routine, the structure can be somewhat relaxed. For the child, they know what to expect, and therefore their anxiety goes down and so do the morning arguments.