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Therapy with teenagers & adolescents

The teenage years are filled with many changes and challenges and most young people can benefit from counselling during this time to make sense of this confusing time.


Adolescence has traditionally been defined as the teenage years between the ages of 13 and 19 but current research suggests that this phase of development continues until around 25 years of age. It is an exciting and challenging developmental stage for both young people and their parents and is characterised by the physical and psychological changes which occur during the transition from childhood to adulthood. During this phase of development, the brain begins to reorganise itself in order to view and respond to daily challenges in a more adult way. This leaves the young person in the confusing phase of not being a child anymore but not being an adult yet. Teenagers desire the status and freedom of adulthood but still require the parental care, support and boundaries that they did as children.

It is a time which is fueled by powerful hormones and is full of new social pressures. Sometimes teenagers and adolescents may be experimenting with drugs and alcohol or sexuality. During this time, peer groups and external appearance tend to increase in importance. During this stage, young people seek to redefine themselves in relation to their families and friends as well as within their broader social context. This period of ‘coming of age’ can be confusing as the quest for increased independence leads each adolescent on their own unique journey of exploration and experimentation with the aim of figuring out who they are, what they like, how they feel about things, what they believe, how they are different from their families, who they will be friends with and many more similar decisions.

The later stage of adolescence is usually associated with young people leaving home to pursue education or work opportunities. Some older adolescents may want to remain with their families until they are older because they need more support during these formative years and that it is important for parents to realise that not all young people develop at the same pace.

Teenagers and young adults often start therapy when they are experiencing conflict with peers, parents or siblings, loneliness and difficulty making friends, anger and frustration, family problems including divorce and blended families, behavioural problems, bereavement and loss, bullying, identity questions, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety including social anxiety, self-harm, suicidal thoughts or actions, adjusting to a new school or city, substance use and many others.


Therapeutic support for students in varsity or college can help with time and stress management, adjusting to university life, social skills development, relationship problems, identity issues related to race, gender and sexual orientation, as well as improving motivation and vision.



The transitional period of the teenage or adolescent years can be a time when young people find themselves stuck in stories filled with conflict, confusion, heartache, frustration and disappointment. These deep feelings often show up indirectly as destructive behaviours in the home or school contexts and may affect relationships and academic performance. During this life stage young people often need someone who will simply listen to them without judging. Therapy can provide this space. Parents and their children may need help understanding each other at a time when the imbalance between give and take can be very confusing.

All of this change can be very stressful and confusing for young people and therapy can assist them to deal with feelings of insecurity, anxiety, anger and sadness. Teenagers can benefit from therapeutic support when facing problems with their peers and family as well as during other major life changes. At this age, young people often have to make major life decisions but because of their increased desire for independence they may be reluctant to speak to their parents or other adults.

Therapy with teenagers and young adults is aimed at providing them with a trusted adult guide with whom they feel comfortable talking openly about their experiences. Therapy can help them to explore and express their emotions more effectively and help to make more sense of sensitive personal and family experiences. Through the therapy relationship, young people may improve their interpersonal skills as they explore and clarify their personal values and goals. Young people are equipped to communicate more openly and directly with family and friends in order to achieve improved relationships and increased self-esteem.

Parents of teenagers may also find this time very challenging as they come to terms with the way in which their child begins to express their growing independence. This often leads to conflict as rules and boundaries are challenged and may need to be renegotiated in order to create the space for the child to grow while at the same time ensuring safety and mutual respect within the family. Therapeutic support can assist parents in better understanding their adolescent child and helping them to provide the right mix of boundaries and trust.

"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"

Dr. Seuss

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