Teenagers and young people experience many emotional, psychological and developmental challenges as they grow up in an increasingly pressurised educational and social environment. Growing up – finding out who they are, learning about relationships, coping with educational requirements – can be very tough at the best of times. If high level pressures continue for too long, additional challenges or sudden unexpected changes; losses or shocks, can be tipping points.
Family disruptions, illness, trauma and bereavement can all add to difficulties such as low self-confidence, social anxiety, communication difficulties and school phobia. For many teenagers and young people, day-to-day life can reach a point where it feels too hard to manage. Young people who have additional struggles because they have been separated from birth families and may be fostered and adopted, are additionally challenged during puberty and adolescence.
Increasingly high numbers of teenagers and young people today are deeply affected, and severely challenged by high states of anxiety and depression. Many teenagers experience severe mood swings and feel unable to cope with friendships and educational demands. Some teenagers become withdrawn, exhausted and some may develop psychosomatic disorders. Some young people communicate their emotional distress through self-harming behaviours. Some express suicidal thoughts which are very worrying to parents.
Today, many developmental challenges, relationship difficulties and other anxieties, are hugely increased by experiences with social media. The compulsions and pressures which young people encounter online, through social media and other online activities are seriously worrying. Issues such as cyber bullying and risks to safe-keeping can cause short and long-term difficulties with emotional well-being. Learning to use social media in a healthy way is a challenge for us all and something we need to work together with.
Psychotherapy enables teenagers and young people to find a safe and confidential space for their difficulties to be shared and understood together. It can take time to find words to express fears and worries that may be deep down. A trusting relationship may take time to develop and the pace of the therapy must be guided by the young person.
When a teenager or young person is experiencing emotional difficulties, it helps if they come to a first appointment to meet me and try to talk about their feelings and the issues that are worrying them. They may come alone or with a parent or guardian. If we think that counselling or therapy could be helpful, we would decide whether just a few appointments with a particular focus are needed, or whether a longer and more in-depth approach may be required.
Every young person is unique, and what they need from a therapist will fluctuate. How young people are able to make their thoughts and feelings understood varies widely. Some young people need and want to talk but others find that their worries are difficult to verbalise. Some find it easier, at first, to communicate through creative expression and non-verbal media. I aim to support every young person in expressing themselves in ways that work best for them.
Longer term psychotherapy offers a regular and reliable space for young people to work through more complex difficulties. Appointments take place at the same day and time each week, in the familiar setting. This is of particular benefit for those struggling with Autism, developmental difficulties and high levels of anxiety.
As the therapeutic relationship develops, anxieties should decrease and self-esteem and confidence should grow. A deeper understanding or working through of trauma and distress can lead to increased strength and resilience to cope with the challenges of life.
Parents and Families
Sometimes it helps teenagers and young people to attend therapy together with a parent, or with other people in their family.
Often it can be helpful for parents to have confidential space of their own. This way they can talk openly and freely about their worries about their child, without their child present.