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Monique Pettiona - Counselling and Therapy - Adolescent

Adolescent Counselling

Adolescence: a time of change

Adolescence is one of the most important stages of human development. During the teenage years, young people face many physical, psychological, identity and relationship changes on their journey to adulthood.  While adolescence is often stereotyped as a difficult and tumultuous time, it is important to remember that many adolescents move through this developmental stage of life respectfully and peacefully.  Adolescent counselling services help teenagers and their families to identify ways to approach this time in a way that encourages their psycho-social development. Counselling helps teenagers to be safe, feel good about themselves, and engage in respectful relationships.

Adolescent counselling includes:

  • Anger management
  • Anxiety
  • Behavioural concerns
  • Body image issues
  • Bullying (online and at school)
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Family conflict
  • Grief and loss
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Relationship issues
  • School refusal and disengagement
  • Self-harm and suicidal ideation
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Sexuality
  • Sleep issues
  • Social isolation
  • Stress

Teenagers and mental health: the latest statistics

The teenage years should be a time of newfound independence and confident exploration: yet for many adolescents, the experience of growing up is a confusing phase of isolation, worry and fear. The 2015 Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing reports that 1 in 10 adolescents have experienced mental health issues in the past year, whilst 1 in 13 children aged 12 to 17 have seriously contemplated suicide. Of all the Australian kids who reported mental health concerns last year, less than 5% had received appropriate therapeutic support.

These figures are deeply concerning. Yet there is a strong evidence base that early intervention counselling during adolescence can support and enhance mental wellbeing, self-esteem and social resilience. Teaching teenagers coping strategies (such as behavioural change and mindfulness techniques) equips them with a skillset strong enough to withstand a lifetime of personal challenges. Adolescent counselling can help ensure that your teenager’s journey to adulthood is a safe, respectful and rewarding experience.

Risk-taking: an important phase of growing up

A crucial stage of individuation involves teenagers experimenting with new social roles, behaviours and situations. This exploration is integral to establishing their adult identity, distinct from their childhood self. Decades of research suggest that the dramatic hormonal changes and rapid brain development that occur throughout adolescence commonly result in lowered impulse control, coupled with heightened risk-taking behaviours. Problematic behaviour may manifest externally (anger, aggression and family conflict), or your adolescent may internalise their feelings about transitioning into adulthood (anxiety, depression and family withdrawal). Counselling for adolescents is an invaluable opportunity that helps adolescents make sense of themselves, their behaviours and interactions with others during this critical time of development.

Is your teenager sad or withdrawn?

As teenagers start to explore their adult identity, they commonly experience high levels of anxiety, doubt and self-consciousness. Adolescents are discovering who they are, trying to find ways to be comfortable with their newfound status as young adults, and figuring out how they fit in with their rapidly changing social environments.  While this can be an exciting and liberating time, it can also create high levels of anxiety and distress.  It is crucial that teenagers are encouraged and supported in their efforts to mature and take their place in the world of adults. Counselling can also be extremely beneficial if your teenager is struggling to manage their emotions at this time.

Adolescent counselling (12 to 18+ years)

The adolescent years present a unique set of challenges, for teenagers and parents alike.

Young teenagers often struggle with social integration at school – current estimates suggest that 1 in 6 Australian children are bullied at school every week. Unusual mood swings and withdrawal from the family unit may be the first signs that something is wrong. Additionally, the onset of puberty can be a confusing and distressing time. Body image, anxiety and self-esteem issues are common amongst this age group.

Older teenagers frequently engage in risk-taking behaviours, such as experimenting with smoking and illicit substances. These behaviours can result in health risks, interpersonal conflict and undesirable social behaviour, such as: mental health issues, aggression and violence, drink driving, unsafe/unwanted sex and unplanned pregnancy. Car accidents and suicide are the two leading causes of death amongst adolescent Australians. If your adolescent is exhibiting concerning behaviours, it’s very important that they receive encouragement and help to successfully rise to the challenges of adolescence.

Typical adolescent counselling sessions

Child counselling is practical and solutions-focused. Your counsellor will:

  • Speak with both you and your teenager to gain a clear, balanced understanding of the situation
  • Clarify barriers to wellbeing, and address them
  • Establish achievable outcomes that both you and your teenager are motivated to achieve (more peace at home, being able to go out with friends, practising honest communication)
  • Help you and your teenager define a shared understanding of what needs to happen for everyone in the family to have their needs met
  • Co-ordinate counselling sessions involving only your teenager, only yourself, and joint sessions to review progress
  • Make recommendations of ways you can support your teenager
  • Celebrate breakthroughs and successes
  • Review the plan, and maintain the improvements achieved

What if my adolescent refuses to attend counselling?

We often hear from parents and carers who know that there is something troubling their teenager, but their teen is resistant to seeing a counsellor. The most common reason adolescents don’t want to attend counselling is concern about privacy – particularly if they’re grappling with issues and behaviours that they don’t feel comfortable discussing with other family members. It is crucial that your teenager knows that their relationship with their counsellor is completely confidential, and anything they choose to disclose in counselling may only be shared with their consent. Of course, if there are issues your teenager is dealing with that you as a parent can help support them in addressing, your teenager’s counsellor or psychologist will notify you as such. Reassuringly, all practitioners are legally mandated to disclose any factors that may impact an adolescent’s personal safety, or put those around them at risk.

What can I do as a parent?

Talking to your teenager about this will hopefully allay any fears they have about counselling. However, if they still refuse to come, we highly recommend that you consider specialist  Your parenting counsellor or psychologist will help you identify ways to look after yourself – especially if there is distressing family conflict – whilst also providing you with effective strategies for parenting your teenager. Essential skills include modelling (and encouraging!) desirable social behaviours for your teenager, and adopting appropriate verbal and physical responses whenever your teen is exhibiting unsafe or disrespectful behaviour.

Happy family, happy teenager

Adolescent counsellors and psychologists will help your teenager to feel happy, secure and confident within themselves and your family dynamic.

Specialist adolescent counsellors and psychologists

Counsellors meet adolescents at their developmental level, implementing effective strategies to help them cope with the challenges of growing up and finding their place within their family, their social circles, and society at large. Our adolescent specialists are highly experienced in working with teenagers and their families to facilitate understanding of the unique issues they bring to counselling. Setting achievable goals – encouraging safe behaviours and respectful relationships by implementing effective strategies – is the key to a positive and successful transition through adolescence.