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Teen and Youth Therapy - Love Counseling

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Do you see kids? It is one of the questions I am asked the most. The short answer is, yes I do. While I have worked therapeutically with children as young as six-years-old, I will caution you that not every child is ready for therapy. There are types of therapy, such as play therapy, that are wonderful to help young children utilize play as a means of communicating what is going on in their not-so-little world. Unfortunately, I am not trained in play therapy.

distraught teen

By the time I was fifteen, I was studying child development, teaching preschool, and working at a childcare facility. While working in childcare, I was able to work with every age group from 0-12 years old. It was through this process that I learned that every child goes through different developmental phases and each one is important. There are changes and milestones in each developmental phase that are a good baseline for understanding what is going on in each child’s life.

When I began studying family counseling, at first I didn’t know what mode of child therapy to lean on. While I fully believe in the benefits of play therapy, it just wasn’t my style. As I tried to develop an approach to working with kids, I recalled thow in my previous training, I was required to get on the same level as each kiddo, no matter their age. In most cases I found kids have their own language, their own ways of communicating that are quite brilliant. Many of them want to talk, to have their feelings heard, but they need someone who speaks their language. No matter the age of the child I am working with, I assume the role of a person who knows no more about their life than they do. I think about what it would be like to have the limited freedom and ability of that age. I adopt the way they speak and move while still showing them respect as an adult who is carefully listening for cues and clues about what their life is like.

I encourage parents to be a part of their child’s therapy. Many parents bring their children, especially their teens, into therapy and say, Will you please help him/her/them straighten out?! They are at their wits end. However, it is often that is often labeled as "bad". What is challenging about this is that “bad” behavior in kids and teens is often a symptom of an emotional problem. I do not do behavioral therapy. While I would love to return children to their parents, shiny and perfect, I have no more affect over a child’s behavior than a parent does.

What I can do is listen and support kids in taking ownership of their future in a way that intrinsically motivates them to make better choices. If they have big hopes and dreams, they are more motivated to behave in the ways that will get them there. As opposed to just doing what they are told to do.

In the short time I have been doing therapy, I have found that I am most successful with my child clients when I treat them with the same respect that I give to my adult clients. Nothing they can say is bad. In fact, the more honest they are, the more helpful I can be. Usually people who pay for something, expect results. I can't promise you the results you want as a parent. I can promise to be a good supportive therapist to your child, the same way I would be for an adult.

Unfortunately, sometimes the symptoms that arise in children are the result of their relationship with their parents. This is really hard for parents! Why am I paying for therapy when all it does is make me look like the bad guy!? First, I want you to know that any parent who loves their child enough to pay for therapy, is probably doing more right than wrong. Second, there is no such thing as being a perfect parent, so don’t judge yourself so harshly for making mistakes - because I won't. Thirdly, you should talk to your kids about their therapy. While therapists are bound by confidentially, your child is not. You should want to know things like if your child feels safe with their therapist, if your child feels like therapy is helping with the things they want help with, or if there is anything they want you to talk to their therapist about.

When I am able to work with the child and the parents in harmony, children and teens often give me permission to share some of their most challenging feelings with their parents. The parent and child become more bonded and understanding of each other. I believe that children need firm, confident parents.

A statement that commonly brings both adult and child clients to tears in sessions is when I say the words “I am proud of you.” Whenever this statement causes tears, I ask, “Why does that statement make you emotional?” Each person, child or adult, always replies “No one has ever said that to me before.” Your child might benefit from therapy, but they need you more. That is why I work closely with parents when I work with children. I will not make nearly the difference in their lives that their own parents make. Please tell your children you are proud of them. Let me say that again. Please tell your children you are proud of them. Do it often. Even when they are being terrible, leave them kind notes in their lunches. Even when you have nothing in common, try to know them. They need you far more than they need me.

If you need support for you or your teen, schedule an appointment today.

DD Love, MFTC - (970) 852-0687 -

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