Psychotherapy, Counseling and Other Services
Dairlyn Chelette, LCSW
Adolescence is a time of radical physical, social, and emotional transition. The limited sphere of childhood no longer fits, and yet the formation of a solid identity is not yet in place. It is the primary developmental task of every human being in adolescence to begin forming an enduring sense of self. Ultimately, this task might be characterized by the statement, “I’ve given it a lot of thought and decided that this is the kind of person I am, and the kind of life I want to live.”
It is little wonder, then, that teens try on different behaviors, friends, looks, and interests, just as one might metaphorically try on different sizes or styles of clothing, in order to see what really feels right. The adolescent social world expands to include a peer group, cultural figures, and mentors. Sexual impulses emerge in a way not known before, as well as social demands. The peer group becomes an important anchor point for a temporary sense of identity until the adolescent is able to develop a true identity of his or her own.
In their confusion, adolescents can become extremely vulnerable to influence and exploitation. Additionally, an adolescent’s limited life experience can make common disappointments seem catastrophic. At ages 12-18, adolescents simply have not lived long enough to be able to look back and know from experience that crises do pass and life goes on. Lacking the perspective that years of living bring, the teen whose best friend or first love rejects them, can become emotionally devastated. Whatever is painful or upsetting at the time often feels as though it will define their prospects forever, and this can make teens especially vulnerable to depression, anxiety, suicide, drug and alcohol use, or other risky behaviors.
At the same time, parents also struggle with a confusing mix of feelings themselves. In talking to parents of teenagers, what we are often likely to hear is a mixture of concern, frustration, anger, anguish, sadness, and fear. Previously cooperative kids suddenly become rebellious and rude. Once affectionate and companionate kids now seem remote. Parents lament, “I feel shut out of his/her life.” Raising adolescents often arouses old feelings, memories, and expectations in parents that need to be sorted out as well.
Added to all of this is that today’s parents are raising teens who live in a rapidly changing technologically advanced world, much of which many parents barely understand, and which exposes teenagers to wider levels of influence and risk.
As we prectice counseling and psychotherapy we at the Berkeley Institute, do believe that adolescents need room too grow, and to have new experiences, but that they thrive best when there are involved and loving adults in their lives who listen carefully, and can confidently establish respectful boundaries. Teens need loving support but also need limits so that they feel safe, secure, and well grounded as they begin to emerge into the adults they are soon to become.
Here at the Berkeley Institute we have seen how counseling with your teen, family therapy to work toward good communication, and/or psychotherapy to help parents during this challenging transition can be very useful.
We welcome you and your teen to make use of the kind of help we are here to provide.