Adolescents

Psychotherapy  for adolescents requires a varied and creative  approach. This approach  is different than talk therapy for adults.  Psychotherapy for teenagers  requires meeting the teen where they are,  understanding the social  environment that they are involved in,  understanding their individual  academic interests and plans, and helping  to manage and cope with  parental needs and demands. In addition,  therapy for teens needs to  respond to the individual while framing their  specific issues and  dilemmas in context of puberty and hormonal  changes, social relations,  family dynamics and brain development.

The  specific psychological and social stage of adolescence is  described in  what Eric Erikson termed, identity vs. role confusion.  Teens are  naturally moving their lives toward a developing sense of self  or  identity. The process of developing a sense of self is vulnerable to   disruption by peers, parents, teachers and the social environment. Many   teens feel the pressure to be someone whom they are not. Acting from a   sense of responsibility to others instead of responding to their own   needs. This can lead to role confusion and away from their positive,   developing sense of identity. Adolescence is also a time of  reevaluating  values and core beliefs from childhood and making efforts  to integrate  numerous layers of psychological dynamics into an identity  they can feel  positive about. This aids in solidifying their identity.

Recent  research has shown that adolescence brings on a growth  spurt in brain  development. This affects decision making, risk taking  and overall  judgment. Together with the drive toward independence and  the  reinforcement from peers to try new activities, teens are often left   vulnerable as their brains are dealing with increased activity while   the demands on them are greater. Later adolescence brings a refining of   the recent brain growth into new pathways of thinking, feeling and   behaving. Psychotherapy can greatly aid the refining period.

Finally,  as teenagers grapple with the numerous issues, challenges  and dilemmas  of adolescence, psychotherapy can provide a place for  talking about  these issues. Teens naturally tend to distance themselves  from parental  guidance. Therapy thus provides a safe place to share  their challenges  with an adult (therapist) who is distanced emotionally  from them and  who is able to zero in on their unique qualities and  needs. In effect,  helping the family system as a whole to manage this  critical  developmental stage.

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