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Of all the counselling services I provide, one of my favorites is working with adolescents and their families. I have been working with adolescents who are living with mental health concerns and emotional regulation issues for about 25 years.
Our Adolescence is Much LONGER Than We Think
The developmental period of adolescence starts at about age 9 (pre-adolescence) and runs right up to the time that we are about 25 years old (late adolescence). Some places in the world define adolescence from ages 12 to 24. No matter how we want to allocate the periods, this is a long time! That is why patience and persistence are essential when living with and counselling young people.
Studies tell us the adolescent brain is busy. Neurologically speaking, adolescence is the busiest developmental time for a human brain and body. Adolescence is a tender time as sex hormones are racing at a high point, menstrual cycles are getting stabilized, and growth spurts are apparent. Sometimes our kids look like they are growing right before our eyes! It is during our adolescence that we are building our future identities and how we will feel about ourselves for the long term. There are many biological, emotional, social, and cognitive changes happening. As a result, this particular developmental time requires families to learn special parenting strategies. Helping families navigate this stressful time requires a compassionate and connective counselling approach for all family members.
Here Are Some Givens About Adolescents and How They Process Their World:
- Adolescence is a stressful period in anyone's life, but when we add anxiety, ADHD, and stressful life experiences, things are even more demanding.
- All adolescents feel their feelings BIG. They process their world through their emotional centres in their brains. Adults tend to process emotions in a more logical brain location.
- Connections with friends and peer groups are essential and necessary for their developing brains.
- Brain research shows us that this is a time when sleeping patterns change.
- Throughout our human history, social demands and peers have always been stressors for adolescents. Our modern-day technology and social media sites have made this even harder for our modern adolescents.
- Adolescents can learn how to regulate their emotions, but they need help from the adults around them. Emotional regulation is a skill set that they are still learning up to age 25!
All of this means 1 important thing — all adolescents need present, connected, and calm adults in their lives.
How Can I Help Your Family?
I Help Create A New Family Centred Approach to Care
Traditional counselling for adolescents can look like this. Parents drop their children off to the therapist's office for their weekly or bi-weekly talking therapy with the hopes that this will fix a concern. What the research is telling us is that by adding parent coaching sessions, we make a significant difference. And here are some reasons why:
First and Most Importantly, You Know Your Child Better Than Any Mental Health Professional Who is Going to Come into Their Lives
I firmly believe that parents have the amazing power to help turn things around. That is why I always meet with parents/caregivers. The biggest and most powerful tool your child has is you! I can't imagine leaving your powerful presence out of the counselling support process.
We Need to Look at Overall Health
Often basic general physical health concepts are left out of conventional mental health counselling. Sleep, nutrition, exercise, building in downtime, screen time, and connected activities for the whole family are all part of a holistic mental health management approach. These are concepts that parents can start to do right now, to help improve brain health and emotional well being for all family members.
My Practice is Parent Focused
I like to have 4 to 5 meetings with just the adults. The 1st session is a time for us to go over your assessment materials and for me to gather some additional background information. These meetings are adolescent mental health management strategy sessions. These meetings are educational, where I teach parents the concepts:
- What anxiety actually is
- What to expect from anxiety/emotional regulation therapy
- The goal of anxiety/emotional regulation therapy
- What is going on in the adolescent brain
- New connective communication strategies that can take the heat out of emotional situations and lay down the foundation for long term emotional regulation for the whole family
- Teach critical brain development that impacts the way adolescents think and behave in our worlds
- How parental self-care plays an essential role. The better you feel, the more you can help your child when they need it most.
When parents get this information along with a few strategies to start practicing things, usually begin to improve. You leave each session with a resource and hands-on tools that you can start using right away in your homes.
How Can I Help Your Adolescent?
While we are having parental meetings, I will be having bi-weekly counselling sessions with your adolescent. During our meetings, we will be working on and talking about ways they can explore their emotions and learn how to grow into their improved self-regulation skills. We will be doing that by using Self-Reg™, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). All of these counselling formats have been shown to assist in overall well-being and mood regulation.
As part of the start up process, I like to gather some family information before we meet. Here is a link for your administration and assessment information. Just open it up on your computer and type in the info. Super easy. The information you provide here will jump-start our work. Otherwise, we will spend the first meeting just gathering info. That is not my preferred way to work! Once this information is completed, we can look at a time to get you into the upcoming schedule.
Once I receive this information, we will be up and running and able to get you into the schedule for your first meeting time.