I have a great deal of empathy for teens as they experience so much change all at once. Hormones trigger physical growth; academic and
social pressures increase; expectations change at home and at school; dating and sexuality emerge; and a more cognitively, emotionally
mature sense of self begins to develop.
Adolescents are discovering their personal power for the first time, and often struggle with how
to effectively use assertiveness to communicate their needs, resolve conflict amicably, and make beneficial choices. At the same time,
parents have new demands placed on long-established roles, and often struggle to adjust their parenting approach. The entire family shifts
as the adolescent develops and strives for autonomy, making for one of the most challenging stages in the life of any family.
Any one (or more) of these growth-areas can exceed coping capacities, becoming stressors that are more than enough to create functional
and relational difficulties for teens, parents, or for the family as a whole. The therapeutic issues that arise with adolescence can
significantly improve with intervention, however, as with younger children, engaging the adolescent in a therapeutic alliance is a vital
I have found that teens often respond to and benefit from variations of the same rapport-building and therapeutic approaches
as those used in child therapy. In addition, the developing adolescent is also more readily able to benefit from direct communication and
insight-oriented therapy, as well cognitive-behavioral approaches.
Common issues focused on in individual therapy with Adolescents are:
Managing anxiety, depression, and mood swings
Enhancing educational performance and motivation
Improving anger management and frustration tolerance
Dealing with social pressures and joining healthy peer groups
Improving judgment and making positive choices
Developing positive coping skills
Effective ways of handling peer pressure
Improving positive and clear communication
Improving compliance at home, school and in the community
Developing a healthy and positive sense of self
Adults benefit from their ability to "talk though" their issues and feelings. They have learned through time to verbalize
complex and contradictory feelings and reactions. However, adolescents generally find it more difficult to eloquently
verbalize such feelings: they are often overwhelmed and even confused by the seeming onslaught of complex feelings that
come as they move toward adulthood. The lives of adults also create a more varied environment within which they experience
their feelings. However, for teens, most conflicts involve differences between family members or issues over expectations of parents.
For adolescents, the approach of the therapist needs to reflect their current life experience. Therefore, "talk therapy"
tends not to be as effective as therapy that involves activity or experience (such as experiential therapy, play therapy,
and art therapy). These forms of therapy allow symbolic expression of internal conflicts.
Family therapy is essential when treating adolescents with behavioral or emotional problems. Improving communication between
family members and helping both the parents and the teen understand how conflicts can be resolved through improved communication
often result in significant improvements in the family relationship. If there is one element in a child's life that improves their
chances for success in school and life, it is strong family bonds with positive, constructive communication. It is important that
parents not feel defensive if the therapist focuses on changes in how they communicate with their teenagers. The need for such a
change is not an indictment of the parents' abilities, it is simply a part of the therapeutic process that will help them better
work with their adolescent and find solutions to behavioral issues.
The goal of therapy with adolescents is to help both the child and the parents understand why they act out with rebellious, willful
behavior and how they can learn to express their needs and wants in a more productive way. When parents allow the process of
re-forging the lines of communication, they dramatically improve their relationship with their teenager and create an environment
where positive behavioral change is possible
To learn more about adolescent and teen therapy and how I work, visit my website at
DrRandiFredricks.com or call
The control center of your life is your attitude.
People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.
Wisdom doesn't necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself.
~ Tom Wilson
Dr. Randi Fredricks, Ph.D., LMFT ♦
San Jose Teen Counseling ♦
1174 Lincoln Ave Suite 6 ♦
San Jose, California, 95125