Adolescents ages 10-19
Adolescence is a time of significant brain growth and development. Families may experience increased stress, and teens may behave impulsively and irrationally. Therapeutic modalities such as DBT, EMDR, and variations of play therapy can help strengthen neural connections in the "rational" part of the brain. In therapy, teens will learn how to work with their brain chemistry to gain control over their emotions and behaviors. Adding EMDR to process difficult memories and future worries can benefit adolescents experiencing adjustment difficulties, depression, anxiety and relationship struggles.
Why does my teen act this way?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is key to reward seeking. During adolescence, the brain's baseline dopamine levels are naturally lower, explaining why teens often complain about being "bored". Ironically enough however, the teen brain's reactivity to dopamine-releasing activities is much higher. This is why teens can go from being "bored" to having the time of their lives all in the same 10 minute time-span!
2. High Impulsivity
The teen brain's natural focus on reward-seeking can lead to impulsivity: engaging in behaviors without considering consequences. This can create unpleasant situations that could be traumatic and distressing to both teens and their parents.
3. Low Cognitive Control
Therapy can help teach adolescents how to manage impulsivity and increase their ability to regulate emotions and behaviors through thoughtful reflection. Self-awareness, mindfulness, and emotional regulation are skills that can be cultivated in therapy to encourage positive behavioral change during adolescence.
4. Feeling Stuck
Whether "big T" or "little t", trauma can impact an adolescents ability to focus, maintain relationships, and engage fully in life. Traumatic memories could be a result of anything from a bad break-up to moving to a new house or school. Trauma can also show up as perfectionism, anxiety, or isolation. Therapy can help get to the root of the problem while addressing current symptoms.
EMDR for Teens
EMDR is extremely effective for targeting distressing memories and thoughts before the brain develops complex memory networks. EMDR often works faster and more effectively with teens than adults.
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Ready for a change?
Being a teen can be rough, and deciding to go to therapy is a big deal. If you are parent and want your teen to "buy-in" to the idea of therapy, consider these tips:
1. Normalize counseling: Therapy is trending, but actually going might be a bit scary. Bring up the idea during regular conversations and make it "normal" to talk about.
2. Allow your teenager to choose their therapist. Let them look at psychology today profiles or websites, and let them choose who they want to work with.
3. Consider the first session an interview. Like adults, teens want to have control and don't want to be forced to do anything. Help your teen have control over the process by letting them know that the first session is just an interview, not a commitment.
4. Don't be too nosey. Let your teen know that going to therapy is for them, and you will keep it confidential. Try not to pry - let your teen come to you to talk about their work in therapy.
5. Be a part of the process. Encourage your child for doing the work and being consistent - notice the changes they are making. Your therapist will give you updates on treatment progress and goals, so don't be afraid to recognize your teen for their hard work.