Updated: Jul 21, 2020
It is often during adolescent years that we struggle the most.
We may feel grown up, and even be treated as though we should have full responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and actions.
In reality this is a time of great confusion and overwhelming pressure to create an identity and know our direction.
When we are struggling, we internalise these difficulties and believe there is something wrong with us. We may feel anxious, sad, chaotic, lonely, self-critical, and be bombarded by negative thoughts.
We create ways of coping which can be alarming for those around us, as they often include harmful behaviours such as retreating to our own solitary space or online space; hurting our bodies through cutting, overdosing, drinking; destructive, violent or dangerous behaviour; eating imbalances and body focus; school refusal.
Our family and school may notice our new behaviour and want to change it, but their fear and upset often makes their reaction one of punishment and control rather than support.
When this doesn't work, they can feel despondent and distant. Parents are usually desperate to help their child but are at a loss what to do. An important part of my work with adolescents is to give the parents strategies to help support their young person.
I often invite parents to the first session, and sometimes subsequent sessions, to help me get a full picture of what is happening for their child now and in their past.
Sometimes it can be useful for me to have a session with someone from the young person's school alongside the adolescent, in order that we can renegotiate the relationship and gain greater understanding.
The difficulties that arise in our youth may stay with us forever if they are not attended to during adolescence, as this is the time when we make meaning of ourselves and the world around us.
Adolescence may range from ages 11-25, as during this whole time we develop through stages of finding ourselves alongside but distinct from our family, choosing our identity and meaning for our lives.
My approach with young people emerges from my training in Gestalt Adolescent Psychotherapy, which is a relational, humanistic therapy in which a person's whole environment is considered, rather than the person in isolation.
Although a person's behaviour might be what brings them to therapy, disturbing behaviour is merely an expression of something wrong. This is the area that needs understanding and support. When a person feels connected and held in the world, their behaviour calms and softens, towards themselves and others.
My work in adolescent psychotherapy is not a treatment, and therefore does not involve CBT, worksheets, check lists, diet plans, handouts, or medication. If this is what you feel your young person needs, they can find this help via their GP or the internet.
Note: When working with people in a life-threatening situation, such as severe anorexia, it is advisable that the young person be simultaneously supported by a medical team/CAMHs. My work is very different from theirs and will not over-lap.