With teenagers, it is not always clear if professional help is needed.  Adolescents typically test limits and break the rules in their struggle for autonomy and separation from their parents.  It’s not uncommon that teens withdraw from parents, become more sullen, arrogant, temperamental and more challenging to live with.  Keeping this adolescent phase of life in mind, how do you decide whether professional help is needed?

I recommend getting psychotherapeutic help when you notice troubling behaviors or emotional distresses that persist over long periods of time.

Examples include:

◆ Alcohol and drug abuse (use exceeds occasional experimentation and is interfering with the teenager’s life);

◆ Chronic and unremitting decline in academics or truancy at school;

◆ Repeated defiance and disregard for parental limits;

◆ A marked decrease in self-esteem with an increase in severe negative self-statements;

◆ Increase in high-risk behaviors such as speeding, fighting at school, promiscuity;

◆ Prolonged isolation from peers;

◆ Verbal references to harm oneself, others, or any gesture to harm oneself or others;

◆ Inability to communicate and express one’s feelings

I recommend parents consult with me initially before involving the teenager. When it is decided to include the adolescent, I work to create a climate of trust, spontaneity, and openness with the teen.  Teenagers respond best when they feel listened to and learning to talk candidly is the crucial ingredient for the teen to find her or his way toward autonomy and self-respect. Psychotherapy provides a confidential and reliable place where teens can experiment with self-expression and begin to understand their feeling so that they can begin to discover what they want in this life.

A Boulder Psychotherapy and Counseling Resource

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