Adolescence can be difficult for teenagers as well as their families. All of these challenges, combined with a teen’s need to define him/herself as a separate individual create a great possibility for internal conflict, as well as conflict in the family. One of the ways that teens learn who they are as individuals is through experimentation and risk-taking. My goal, using teens therapy, is to establish a supportive, trusting and collaborative relationships with the teen, and help them understand their unique gifts, challenges, and support healthy risk taking.
TEENS THERAPY TO SUPPORT HEALTHY RISK-TAKING:
As well as being in private practice in Berkeley, I have worked with adolescents and families in schools and residential treatment settings. I have also had considerable experience treating juvenile and adult legal offenders, addictions, traumatic stress, unsafe sexual behaviors and sexual compulsivity.
Risk- taking is a normal part of adolescence; however some risk- taking behaviors can be problematic for teens and those around them. The teens and their families struggle with substance abuse, disordered eating, unsafe sexual behaviors, self-injury, suicidal behaviors and criminal behaviors. Any problem of the teen usually requires treatment to include the whole family.
The teen years can be a challenging time given the adolescents’ common conflict around wanting to become an adult and simultaneously remain a child. Teens listen to what others tell them about what is right or wrong, but many feel a need to test it out in action before they will believe it. Unfortunately, teens often will not talk with adults around them about these risks for fear of negative judgments or punishment. When these behaviors go unchecked, and not discussed, teens may begin engaging in still riskier behaviors.
Therapy for teens is a good solution to support young people in addressing risk taking behaviors.
Adults witnessing risky teen behaviors may feel powerless, frustrated, and ill-equipped to help. Learning some basic techniques to deal with these tough situations will help decrease the anxiety of everyone involved, and help influence positive resolutions. Early discussions and interventions will support young people in addressing and altering these behaviors by adopting healthy risk taking behaviors.
How do I work?
My mission is to support teens and families experiencing a crisis as a direct result of a teen’s drug use, alcohol use, or other risky behaviors. My goal is to stabilize the situation by providing a rapid in-depth assessment to the family and developing a treatment plan to fit their needs and goals. I will work together with the teen and his or her family to provide a solid sense of direction. The tools I use, include, home family therapy and other types of therapeutic intervention including education to help everyone understand the problem and better find their way.
What does the treatment include?
Treatment consists of individual, family therapy, and my availability by phone on a regular basis. Family therapy gives the family the opportunity to explore its strengths, define its challenges and treat the entire family system. Individual Therapy offers the teen a safer place to vent difficult feelings, explore unpopular beliefs. This leads to more self-awareness and self-confidence. I have had considerable success working with teenagers. They sense my empathic interest in their problems and quickly recognize my understanding and desire that they solve their problems.
10 TIPS FOR PARENTS: Understanding Your Adolescent’s Behavior
- All teenagers take risks as a normal part of growing up. Risk-taking is the tool an adolescent uses to define and develop his or her identity, and healthy risk-taking is a valuable experience.
- Healthy adolescent risk-taking behaviors which tend to have a positive impact on an adolescent’s development can include participation is sports, the development of artistic and creative abilities, volunteer activities, travel, running for school office, making new friends, constructive contributions to the family or community, and others. Inherent in all of these activities is the possibility of failure. Parents must recognize and support their children with this.
- Negative risk-taking behaviors which can be dangerous for adolescents include drinking, smoking, drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sexual activity, disordered eating, self-mutilation, running away, stealing, gang activity, and others.
- Unhealthy adolescent risk-taking may appear to be “rebellion” — an angry gesture specifically directed at parents. However, risk-taking, whether healthy or unhealthy, is simply part of a teen’s struggle to test out an identity by providing self-definition and separation from others, including parents.
- Some adolescent behaviors are deceptive — a teen may genuinely try to take a healthy risk that evolves into more dangerous behavior. For example, many adolescent girls fail to recognize the trap of dieting and fall into a pattern of disordered eating, sometimes even developing a full eating disorder. Parents need to be well informed in order to help their adolescents with such struggles.
- Red flags which help identify dangerous adolescent risk-taking can include psychological problems such as persistent depression or anxiety which goes beyond more typical adolescent “moodiness”; problems at school; engaging in illegal activities; and clusters of unhealthy risk- taking behaviors (e.g., smoking, drinking and driving recklessly might be happening at the same time, as might disordered eating and self-mutilation, or running away and stealing).
- Since adolescents need to take risks, parents need to help them find healthy opportunities to do so. Healthy risk-taking, not only important in itself, can help prevent unhealthy risk-taking.Adolescents often offer subtle clues about their negative risk-taking behaviors through what they say about the behaviors of friends and family, including parents. Parents often stay silent about their own histories of risk-taking and experimenting, but it can be important to find ways to share this information with adolescents in order to serve as role models, to let teens know that mistakes are not fatal, and to encourage making healthier choices than those the parent may have made during his or her own adolescence.
- Adolescents often offer subtle clues about their negative risk-taking behaviors through what they say about the behaviors of friends and family, including parents. Parents often stay silent about their own histories of risk-taking and experimenting, but it can be important to find ways to share this information with adolescents in order to serve as role models, to let teens know that mistakes are not fatal, and to encourage making healthier choices than those the parent may have made during his or her own adolescence.
- Adolescents look to their parents for advice and modeling about how to assess positive and negative risks. Parents need to help their teens learn how to evaluate risks and anticipate the consequences of their choices, and develop strategies for diverting their energy into healthier activities when necessary.
- Parents need to pay attention to their own current patterns of risk-taking as well. Teenagers are watching and imitating, whether they acknowledge this or not.
Adapted from “The Romance of Risk, Why Teenagers Do the Things They Do”, by Lynn Ponton, M.D.