How Does Family Therapy Work?
Soooo, what the heck is wrong with my kid?! Or are we doing this parenting thing all wrong?!
If your on my site, your looking for help and that speaks volumes. Parenting a teen isn’t easy, heck as a parent I know that parenting in general is both awesome and hard! Parents get a reputation for being disconnected from their kid’s struggles, but I’ve found that doesn’t usually match up with the reality. Teenagers can be legitimately confusing (and sometimes that’s because they want to be confusing) but plenty of parents are involved in their teens lives and still struggle to connect with what’s going on or, more relevantly, to help.
What’s important to know about how I see teenagers’ emotionality is that I don’t just blow problems off as “teenage angst” or “just a phase.” Sure, teens can have mood swings and emotional outbursts that are hard to explain, but much of the time (much more than gets credited) what’s behind that “moodiness” is some very real pain that needs some very real attention. Or maybe you are struggling with your responsibility as a parent (thats okay!),
With the guidance of a caring and non-judgmental therapist (that’s me!), family counseling can help you understand the root causes of your child’s behavior, provide you with a safe space to process your own feelings (that aren’t always pro-parenthood) and help you learn new ways to help your child and improve the parent-child relationship.
Examples of themes explored in family counseling?
- Healthy communication
- Emotional support around depression, anxiety and eating disorders
- Adjusting to new home environment or family dynamic
The first appointment for your teen:
You need a therapist you feel comfortable with, who you trust will take things seriously and will really help your kid, but you’ve also got to get your teenager to sign on. If it makes sense, share my website with them and even invite them to email or call themselves to talk about what the work would look like. And in a pinch, there’s nothing wrong with begging or bribery to help make that first session happen; seriously! Once you get your kid to show up for the first appointment, my job is to take it from there. Part of the skill of being a therapist who works with young people is my ability to connect in the first session and help them see the value in coming back next week, and I have a pretty good success rate with that.
As far as making that first appointment happen, honestly, you’ve got to do whatever it takes. Be serious with your kid about what your concerns are, let them know you’re asking them to come in once and they don’t need to be ready to commit to more than that. Honor the fact that, however involved in the therapy you end up being, ultimately, this is an important relationship that will be deeply personal to THEM.
Do I come to the session? Will I know what’s being talked about?
Teenagers fall in a funny sort of in-between that can make these questions tricky. On the one hand, having a parent (or parents) involved in therapy can be crucial in helping get issues out in the open so they can be dealt with. Sometimes I give parents guidance in how best to support their child through hard stuff. Part of this work is supporting a parent and child to communicate better about what’s going on in their life together.
On the other hand, teenagers also generally need space from parents to have room to talk about things they don’t know how to talk about with their parents (or in ways they don’t want to talk with their parents). Everyone deserves some privacy in their emotional lives.
To be clear:There are some things that just aren’t going to be kept secret. I am honest and upfront with everyone (including teens) about that. If a teenager is talking about hurting themselves, or someone else, or is involved in a serious, dangerous situation, we’re going to bring their parents into the loop. Other things need to be kept private, even if you really, really want to know. And then there’s the grey area. Of course this can be challenging for parents. Often they’re worried, or want to be sure that certain issues are being talked about (and that the therapist even knows they’re happening). There’s likely some delicate navigating that needs to happen, and my job is to lead that process. I work with teens to talk through the consequences of sharing versus not, the pros and cons of secrets, and understanding what parents may feel when they are not included in some vital happenings in their kids’ lives. I do that with respect for everyone and transparency. It’s delicate at times and it should be.
You are an important part of your child’s therapy
You can be crucial in supporting your child around what they are working on and towards. While you might not always be physically present, your support matters and I will be in communication as much as you, your child, and I decides is appropriate. Sometimes coming in for sessions will be needed, either alone or with the whole family. At the same time, Iwant this place to be a safe zone for your child so we work hard to be sure that happens. Family sessions do not have to be horrible. I want to create something positive and meaningful in our time together so you can feel good about it when you walk out of here.