Adolescence is a turbulent time of life. We define adolescence as the period from the early teens, when puberty onsets, to the mid-twenties, when the brain at last is fully developed. Adolescence is difficult because powerful drives toward sexuality and autonomy emerge while impulse control, planning, and judgment are still weak, due to incomplete development of the brain. Adolescents often act out if they feel these drives are being thwarted, or become depressed and anxious if they feel themselves failing to meet the new challenges that they present.
Treating adolescents is complicated both by their developmental level and by the fact that they are often brought to treatment involuntarily. They often enter treatment fearing or even assuming that the therapist is just another authority figure who is going to tell them what to do. We address this by respecting their desires for autonomy and sexual development while clarifying to them that limits in these areas are not intended to thwart their development but to guide it so that their needs will eventually be met successfully.
Parents often have difficulty understanding their adolescent children, and this difficulty reflects the fact that their adolescents usually do not understand themselves. They are generally unaware of their emotional dependency on their parents, since they are rebelling against it and often vocally denying it, and so their parents are often unaware of it as well. Also, surprisingly, they often have low self-esteem and do not know it, feeling intensely that something is wrong but externalizing the causes and blaming others.
In our work with adolescents, whether on-site or via a
teletherapy video conference chat, we deal directly
and clearly with issues of autonomy, sexuality,
dependency, and self esteem, along with many others. We let them do a lot of talking but we also do a lot of talking ourselves. We educate them on all these issues in addition to promoting insight into their feelings and emotional needs. When oppositional behavior is a problem we join with the adolescent in acknowledging that the underlying desire for autonomy is valid while making clear that a defiant rejection of all limits always just leads to more and more of them. Where self-esteem issues are a problem we talk about them and make them explicit, and then correct any negatively distorted views or create problem-solving strategies for actual deficiencies. We have found that most adolescents respond very well to this approach.
In our work with parents we promote a parenting style that is neither authoritarian nor democratic but authoritative. What this means in practice is that parents retain ultimate authority to override adolescent decisions because they have better judgment, but that they also must use this judgment in deciding whether overriding a bad decision is necessary.
Thomas B. Hollenbach, Ph.D.
The Integrative Therapy Institute of New Jersey offers psychotherapy on-site in one of our six office locations, as well as Online Therapy video conference chat though-out New Jersey, also known as Teletherapy. The Institute has seven offices, our headquarters and satellite office in Metuchen in Middlesex County, our offices in Montclair and Upper Montclair in Essex County, our Red Bank office in Monmouth County, our Skillman/Princeton office serving Somerset and Mercer Counties, and our Sparta office in Sussex County.
Integrative Therapy Institute of New Jersey, LLC • Copyright © 2013-2019 • Administrative Office in Metuchen, New Jersey
(Psychotherapy by Video Chat)
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