Counseling for youth and adolescents is strongly built on teaching them helpful thinking patterns and healthy behavioral habits. But also teaching the parents tools that will help them engage with their child.
There are many different approaches to getting adolescents and teens to open up, which could be dependent upon their age or for the reason they are being seen. Often times when they need to connect with an adult, listening on the adult’s part is critical. This will determine if they are feeling heard. It is when they don’t feel heard that they are left feeling misunderstood and written off, so they close up. By engaging them in skillful questions or providing affirmations will allow them to know you are hearing them. Try asking open ended questions, where they will have to give a more thorough response, instead of close-ended questions where they can answer with yes or no.
When it comes to youth counseling, we use some of the same tools for adolescents, but also more interactive techniques such as play therapy. Children aren’t fully skilled in using words to express themselves yet, instead they express themselves through imagination- this could be using dolls, coloring, clay, or even board games. These techniques help take the pressure off of talking about their problems. Parent input is a little more beneficial in this type of counseling as well, so that the counselor can get a better idea of how the child behaves at home or in school.
In both age groups, there can be many triggers that a child would benefit from counseling. This could include “sibling rivalry”, a divorce, bullying in school, ADHD, and much more. Counseling will reveal the issues, and help the child work through the feelings with a healthier, more effective outcome.
Counselors might want to meet with the child and parent together or meet with the child alone. It depends on the child’s age. A therapist might also meet with a parent to give tips and ideas for how to help their child at home.