Sometimes teenagers are quick to anger and quick to change. Being able to have a safe place to blow off steam is not a bad thing. It’s much better than holding it all inside. That’s why I have a punching bag in the back of my office.
Here are some other ways to help teens in trouble:
- Teens might be mad that their parents sent them to therapy in the first place. Why me? Why am I the crazy one? Well it’s 2018 — so you’re the lucky one. It’s a luxury these days to have a trusted someone to talk to. However, it’s amazing how many people cling to the idea in movies that therapy is reserved for only the most severely mentally ill. As if the last movie known to us is “One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest.” Nevertheless, if a teen describes his or her family to me I usually say, “Wow, it seems like they really need therapy, not you!” Boy does that get a good response. Because it’s true! If you check out family systemstherapy, it’s a no brainer!
- Families are all crazy in their own way. Like the beginning of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” So when the child is ready, it would be empowering to have the family in for some sessions. Tell the client you will help her talk to her parents. I once had a family of six in one session! It was important that my client be protected but encouraged to speak out. It was a great success. No one had ever really had a chance to say what they needed to say. There was no blame, just gentle feedback without the normal reactivity.
- Sometimes with teens and young adults you have to play detective. If you do a careful history, you can find many clues. When did this all start, I ask. Lo and behold, the panic started at the parents’ divorce. Any shock to the system produces traumatic symptoms. Usually these symptoms are temporary, but not always. Understanding the origins of the problem can help alleviate anxiety. Now we can begin to let things go.
- Stop drinking so much coffee! If I had a dime for every young adult who came in with a giant Starbucks and said it was their 5th cup of Joe of the day, and then complained about anxiety, I would be a rich, rich lady! Save yourself some trouble – cut the coffee. Not altogether, but a bit. And then just observe, like a clever scientist. Chances are you’ll feel a little less jumpy.
- Stop drinking so much alcohol. Drinking til you black out is a serious problem of the college crowd. If you have depression and anxiety and you’re dealing with your “teen brain” what do you think is going to happen when you drink to excess? Correct. Your already poor judgment will become worse. It’s like giving yourself a handicap. Why would you do that? Keep a journal of your problems instead of drinking them away. There’s a reason you came to therapy. Some part of you wants to get better. Like the climbers on Mt. Everest, who by definition can’t think straight at high altitudes, why would you intentionally make your life more complicated than it already is.
Get outside and take a walk. Breathe. Meditate. Relax. You know you want to.