Adolescent Therapy

An adolescent is aged between 13-17 years. Psychological therapy with adolescents is different in structure to psychological therapy with children and adults. While play-based therapy is more appropriate for children and adults are generally able to talk without nonverbal prompts, adolescents may require a number of resources and activities in order for them to engage well in therapy. Adolescents are generally able to talk during therapy; however, emotion-based cards or topic cards are often used by our Psychologists in order to help them express themselves. They may also want to engage in drawing, write in diaries or bring some music or other personal resources to assist further.
  Adolescents may require therapy for a number of reasons. While they may also be affected by stressful life events such as peer pressure, bullying, the death of a family member or friend or separation/divorce. They may be going through hormonal changes or be trying to individuate by relying less on family members, which may also impact on their development. Adolescents are more likely to rely on peers to maintain a healthy self-esteem and may need support in considering both their strengths and weaknesses.  

Signs that an adolescent may benefit from
seeing a Specialist Psychologist include:

  • Increased physical complaints (such as headaches and stomach aches) despite being medically cleared by your doctor
  • Learning or attention problems (such as dyslexia or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - ADHD)
  • Bereavement issues
  • Self harm
  • Eating Disorders
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • High levels of anxiety
  • School refusal
  • Phobias such as fear of heights
  • Behavioural difficulties (such as excessive anger, mood swings, defiance, biting, kicking, hitting)
  • Problems in transitions (following separation, divorce, or relocation)
  • Insomnia or increased sleepiness
  • Trauma
  • Serious, acute, or chronic illness that result in changes in psychological functioning
  • A significant drop in grades, particularly if the adolescent normally maintains high grades
  • Episodes of ongoing or frequent sadness, tearfulness, or reduced interest in usual activities
  • Experience of physical, sexual or emotional abuse or other traumatic events
  • Being the victim of bullying or bullying other young people
  Is psychological therapy with adolescents different in structure to therapy with adults and children?   With increasing age therapy becomes more similar to adult-based therapy which involves talking. Most adolescents require one to one sessions and enjoy individual time with a therapist in order to express their thoughts and feelings, although they ma need topic cards to help them use the session. While confidentiality is essential in therapy with adolescents, our therapists will sometimes, with agreement from the adolescent, discuss therapy goals and tasks in order to ensure that tasks are followed up.

Parents are generally invited to the initial assessment with both a child or an adolescent and may be asked to attend a separate parent session in order to ensure that parent opinion as well as any relevant developmental and family history is obtained in order to ensure the best care for the child. Not all psychological therapists utilise this approach and may commence by immediately seeing the adolescent individually. Taking a more holistic approach to assessing adolescent clients is considered the gold standard and is used within international communities. The Psychology Clinic tends to comply with this approach given our extensive overseas training and work experience as well as the growing evidence that this leads to longer lasting changes after therapy.

  Are parents at times involved in all scheduled sessions?   Yes. In the case of a parent-child relationship difficulty (child behavioural difficulties only seen within the home environment) parent-child or family sessions are generally more helpful in resolving the difficulty. There are times when parents might be asked to attend without the adolescent on an ongoing basis, perhaps as they may need parenting support. Most adolescents who need a Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach would generally be able to engage in the therapy individually and complete the tasks assigned without adult supervision - this is not always possible when children attend for therapy as they may need more parental support and monitoring.

  How will you assess my adolescent?   Parents are generally invited to the initial assessment with a child or adolescent and may be asked to attend a separate parent session in order to ensure that parent opinion as well as any relevant developmental and family history is obtained in order to ensure the best care for the adolescent. In some cases we may need to administer questionnaires to parents and also seek feedback from relevant professionals, such as teachers. For example, in the case of a query of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) we would always seek to complete standardised questionnaires from parents and school before considering a diagnosis. We will always ensure to adhere with national and international guidelines when assessing and treating your adolescent.

  What if my adolescent does not want to attend therapy or does not see a problem while I remain concerned?   Parents are often concerned about their adolescent who may not always agree that there is a problem. For example, it is often the case with oppositionality at home that an adolescent will report that there is no issue and that the parents are the problem. In this case parent-child work, as opposed to individual therapy with the adolescent, is generally more helpful during sessions. There are other times when adolescents may deny that there is an issue in which case we would consider what techniques to utilise in order to engage your adolescent and achieve insight and change. There are ways of increasing motivation to change; however, we will always communicate with you regularly if we believe that change is unlikely for any reason. While we tend to be successful in treating clients with a number of difficulties it is important to consider that client motivation and insight is one of the main factors that will result in lasting change.

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