Therapy for Teens

As a period of transition between childhood and adulthood, adolescence brings physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and relational changes that can be challenging for both teens and their families. When these changes become too stressful to manage, or interfere with the young person’s ordinary functioning, therapy can often help teens resume healthy development. My approach to therapy with teens involves using respectful, empathic listening to create a safe place where the young person can bring difficult and painful feelings and life situations.

The kinds of concerns I often see among teens in my practice include depression, anxiety, self-harm, developmental transitions, identity issues, problems related to body image and eating, grief and loss, trauma, and personal growth. I welcome adolescents of all sexual orientations and gender identities, and am experienced in helping teens move through coming out processes and cope with prejudice related to sexuality and gender identity. I likewise welcome teens of all ethnic backgrounds, with a particular interest in the experiences of teens whose parents grew up outside the United States.

In working with teens, my primary theoretical orientation is psychodyamic and relational. Psychodynamic therapy involves exploring emotions and imagination; understanding how past experience affects present difficulties; identifying patterns of experience; and attention to relationships, including the therapeutic alliance. Research shows that psychodynamic therapy is highly effective for teens. From the point of view of relational theory, we become who we are in the context of relationships, and so healing happens in relationship. As a relational therapist, I see meaningful connection as an important part of psychological health, and I value young people’s subjective experience. Art therapy and sand tray work are available to teens in my practice, and many young people find it helpful to include one or both of these modalities in their work with me.

The role of parents in therapy with teens deserves careful consideration. It is both important that parents have a voice, and important that the therapy be a place where the young person is empowered to find their own voice. With younger teens, I normally meet first with parents, and then begin individual meetings with the young person. After this, and for older teens, the frequency of meetings with parents is adjusted to best meet the individual youth’s needs. I’m available to parents for brief phone consultations throughout the work.