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Think Your Teen Needs Counselling?
teens can be tricky business. The call is invariably from an exasperated
parent who no longer can tolerate the behaviour of their son or daughter.
The teen is presented as out of control. There may be concerns of
drugs or alcohol; school performance; and/or the influence of the peer
group. The teen may be described as depressed, anxious, angry or even
parent wants the counsellor to meet with their son or daughter. The
subtext is a parent wanting the counsellor to talk some sense into
their child. The hope is that the counsellor can wag an even bigger
finger in front of the teen for an effect more profound than that of the
parent or miraculously get the teen to open up.
fingers doesn’t work. If the teen isn’t talking to their parents, then
dragging them off to the counsellor as an agent of the parent likely
won’t work either. If the teen does meet first with the counsellor and
does talk, what is often heard is a litany of complaints about the
parents. The counsellor is next in the middle between parents and teen
playing “he said, she said”. So what is a parent to do?
are advised to meet with the counsellor together, ahead of their son or
daughter. This achieves several objectives:
Parents can provide a detailed description of their concern and the
history of the problems. The counsellor then has a broader perspective to
understand the issues than what the teen would likely provide.
Some teens (like adults) view counselling as stigmatizing. The
counsellor may be able to avoid this by arriving at a working hypothesis of the problem. This means that on the basis of the parents’
description, the counsellor may come to an understanding of the problem
and can direct the parents accordingly. If the counsellor can offer
meaningful direction without even seeing the teen, then the teen may be
spared feeling stigmatized. If need be though, the counsellor can still
meet with the teen directly.
The parents will have had the opportunity to check out the
counsellor and determine if they are comfortable trusting their son or
daughter’s care to this person. Not all counsellors are alike and the
parents may prefer the approach or values of one counsellor to another.
parents must understand that the counsellor doesn’t live with the teen.
The parents do. Even though the focus of what brought the teen into
counselling may begin with their behaviour and problems, at some point the
counselling must take focus on a positive direction and look for solutions
with parents as partners. The solutions should include not only
what not to do, but include clear direction for what to do. Dwelling on
the problems will leave participants immersed in the negative, living in
the past. Refocusing and developing positive strategies for improving
relationships and behaviour can redirect both parents and teen to positive
if you are looking for counselling for your teen:
Meet with the counsellor first.
Determine if your teen needs to be seen in discussion with the
counsellor at this meeting.
Remember, the counsellor doesn’t live with your teen. Counselling
may be directed to help parents better guide, manage or influence their
If your teen does attend counselling, your participation remains
After determining and addressing the problems, the focus must shift
to positive working solutions that are future oriented and facilitate
If ever you are uncertain, ask questions!
goal: Relief from distress and well-adjusted teens.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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