One of the most critical factors to assess in finding the perfect help for your teen is the client-therapist fit. It is imperative for a positive outcome that the teen "connect" with his/her counselor. Establishing an open, trusting relationship with the therapist invites the teen to use the counseling hour to think deeper, clearer, and learn new skills for dealing with their challenge. Without a good fit though, it is difficult for the therapist to meet the adolescent where they are, understand the problem, and trust the feedback from the teen.
Establishing a relationship with a teen takes time. Work in adolescent therapy is heavy with relationship building. It will require a handful of sessions (number to be determined in conjunction with the therapist) to gage the effectiveness of the relationship. If the fit is not there, the reason is assessed and a more appropriate path is identified. Once a mutual relationship of trust and respect is established, the issues embedded in the therapy process unfold much quicker.
Having a therapist with experience and training in dealing with the developmental particulars of adolescents is also vital. They are in a unique place developmentally requiring a specific set of therapeutic tools.
Since adolescents are technically minors until they reach the age of 18, the question of confidentiality is always addressed. As stated above, one of the critical components to successful adolescent therapy is the relationship. In order to keep the parent plainly and clearly informed in the context of confidentiality, a discussion is had between all three parties. Circumstances certainly differ from case to case, but a usual consensus of parent involvement in therapy is for the adolescent to agree to be involved in giving regular updates to parents, and for the adolescent to receive the assurance that any time information would be disclosed, that they would be informed.
Though obvious, it needs to be stated that in cases of high risk, dangerous or hazardous behavior, and in cases of abuse, that there is absolute disclosure between all three parties. This is explained in the informed consent during the initial session, and is agreed upon by all, including the adolescent.
Parent involvement in the life of an adolescent can never be taken seriously enough. Though peer influence becomes primary, the effect of parent relationships with teens is critical. A therapist's ability to work with parents, to receive feedback, give suggestions, and listen to their assessments or concerns is very important to healing. An informed adolescent therapist will be able to equip and empower parents to create an environment in which the teen will become the best they can be. Issues dealt with in adolescent therapy include but not are limited to:
- Emotional Regulation/Mood Management
- Relationship with parents
- Decision making
- Satisfaction with life circumstances
- Academic difficulties
- Sexual issues/boundaries