Many challenges and rewards come from counseling adolescents. Teenagers struggle with different issues than younger children and adults such as identity struggles, extreme peer pressure and fitting in. They often feel stuck between wanting independence and still needing guidance. Teens are more likely than adults to make decisions without considering the consequences and feel invincible. Therapists have to understand the developmental challenges of teens to provide effective counseling to them.
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Replacing Negative Self-Talk
Many times, teens who struggle with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety experience a lot of negative self-talk, which means that the thoughts they have about themselves are usually negative, reports MayoClinic.com. Instead of looking at a tough situation as a challenge, they already believe they’ll fail. They might see things as hopeless and have a pessimistic outlook on life. One technique you can use when counseling adolescents is helping them change these negative thoughts to positive ones. Have the teen write down what he’s thinking every hour the day before his counseling session. Go over the list with him, assisting him in changing all the negative thoughts into positive ones.
Another technique many therapists who work with adolescents use is encouraging their clients to try out group counseling, reports the University of Maryland Counseling Center. Techniques that you can use as a group counselor include making the teens realize that they aren’t alone in their problems and getting the teens to help each other out. A teenager might not respond to an adult, even if she is a therapist, when she tries to tell him that drinking until he passes out is dangerous, but he might listen to one of his peers. Using other teens who’ve struggled with the same problems can be extremely effective when working with an adolescent population.
Repeating Information Through Questions
When working with adolescents, counselors have to be careful not to push their clients away by combating them over every issue. Instead, you can repeat information that sounds irrational and unreasonable back to a teen in the form of a question. For example, a teen might say, “I don’t care that I get teased every day.” Instead of saying, “Of course you care,” and pushing the client away, a therapist could respond by asking, “So it doesn’t bother you that your peers make fun of you on a daily basis? How does it make you feel?” When put into a question, many teens think about the statement they just made and it sounds different, and possibly irrational, coming from someone else. In this case, you’re not objecting to what the adolescent said. Instead, you’re asking following up questions.