I am passionate about working with young adults and have specialized in adolescent issues for a quarter-century. I have spent about 20,000 hours counseling teens and typically meet with 15-25 of them each week. I am proud of the fact that in all this time, I’ve never had an adolescent refuse to speak to me. (I do, however, often hear from other therapists that teens refuse to speak to them.)
Because I spend so much of my time seeing teens, I feel it is important to say the following:
Many therapists work with teens, but not all therapists know how to work with teens. I often meet with adolescents after they were working with another therapist and I’m sometimes shocked by the stories I hear: too often, a teen is labeled “oppositional” or “defiant” simply because they do not have an active conversation with the therapist. In my work, I understand it may take time to set the stage for meaningful conversation with a young adult, and teens often need to be INVITED to share. In my experience, they usually do and even the ones who have been labeled as “resistant to therapy” often share important things in the first session.
Starting With An Adolescent In Therapy:
I am often asked how I begin working with a teen. While these are general guidelines only, here are some details:
1-I Take A Detailed History Of The Child From The Parent(s) And/Or Caregivers. This may include meeting with them prior to meeting with the teen and/or it may be done on the phone.
2-I Meet With The Teen Alone (unless he/she would rather meet with the parents, but they almost always want to meet alone). I speak to the teenager about the following:
(2) I am not here to judge them or to tell them how to live their lives: I am here to speak about what is going on in their life and to help them find their own path forward.
In my experience, more than 90% of teens open up immediately and the rest tend to share shortly after. This does not mean all teens will completely open up to me, but in my years of working with adolescents, I've never had one refuse to speak to me.
3-I Meet With The Teen And The Parent(s) at the end of the first session. I do this to tell the parents how the session went and to answer questions; I want them to know that real work is being done in the session. If the teen wants to speak with their parent at that time, we do that as well.
4-I Meet with Teens in the After-School Hours. Unless there is an emergency, I personally do not believe a child should be taken out of school for counseling.
Please understand that these are general guidelines only. If you are considering therapy for your child and would like to speak to me, please leave me a voicemail message at (925) 935-4000. Please note that because of confidentiality concerns, I do not use email for this work.
In the 20-plus years I've done this work, these are some important factors I have found while working with an adolescent or an adult:
1-Inviting The Person To Speak. I do this by being curious about their experience, rather than demanding the young person to speak to me and potentially creating a power struggle.
2-Understanding That Teenagers/People May Be At Different Places Developmentally, And That Is Fine! Some teens are quite conversational and some are not. Other people may become conversational but may need to be asked direct questions or to be motivated in some other way. In my work, I stay very engaged while bringing up the important issues at hand.
3-Understanding The Wants/Needs Of The Teen. Staying aware of the wants/needs of the teenager, as well as the wants and needs of the parents, is an important way to create a positive experience for everyone involved in the process.
I typically see adolescents from many of the Lamorinda and East Bay schools, including Campolindo, Acalanes, Bently, Miramonte, Holden, Orinda Academy, Head Royce, Bishop O'Dowd and many more. Because of my specialization, I know a large number of school counselors in these and other academic institutions. If/when appropriate, and with you and your child's consent, I can speak to your child’s school counselor if this makes sense for your child’s treatment.
Finally, regardless of who you choose as a therapist, I would strongly advise the following:
1-Having your adolescent meet with a therapist who specializes with teens and understands that world well. If you’d like referrals to some teen therapists, feel free to contact me.
2-Resist the temptation to wait too long: oftentimes, people often wait until a crisis is happening before getting a young-adult into therapy: treatment may be quicker, easier and/or with fewer complications (for example, failing a class) if/when they receive help prior to a crisis. Additionally, many therapists who specialize in meeting with young adults in Lamorinda, have a full practice at times; when seeking a therapist prior to a crisis, it may be easier to find someone who’s a good fit for your child.