Adolescent therapy is psychotherapy conducted with teenagers between 12 and 18 years. The adolescent years is often a time of great cognitive, behavioural and emotional development and often seen as stormy years with great interpersonal challenges. The aim of adolescent therapy is to assist adolescents with the various challenges that my face them during these trying years.
Adolescents are in a stage of constant discovering and finding their identity as a person within the environment of their home and broader social settings. This discovering and identification go hand in hand with first-time experiences and testing social norms, issues of independence and peer group-dependence; school and sport performances, sexuality and romantic interests, drugs and alcohol use and social life challenges. These issues, if not dealt with effectively and resolved, can have traumatic impacts and lasting psychological consequences.
Adolescents or teenagers often indicate the need to consult a specialist for adolescent therapy to assist them with their emotional functioning. However, because teenagers are in a developmental stage of discovering and experiencing, they are at times confronted with emotional experiences that could feel overwhelming, difficult to make sense of or even to articulate to parents, peers or other social support structures. Therefore, parents, other family members and teachers could assist to identify when emotional difficulties are of such a nature that professional psychological assistance is necessary.
Adolescents report to psychological services often regarding: depression and social isolation, difficulties in peer relationships, gender roles and sexual identity issues, pornography, pregnancy, anxiety and irrational fears or excessive fear to preform, school failures, addictions, bullying, authority difficulties, self-mutilation, parental divorces or parent- child relationship difficulties, trauma and loss of a significant relationship and medical illnesses (to name a few).
The parent/ legal guardian or the adolescent can make contact with the psychologist to arrange an appointment. When first contact with the psychologist was made by the parent/s or legal guardian of the adolescent, a first session with the contact person is set up individually. This aim of this first contact session is for the parent/s or legal guardian to meet the psychologist and share their concerns and experience with the psychologist freely and openly. Possible concerns and difficulties related to the therapeutic process can be discussed as well as what is expected form the parent/s of legal guardians during the therapeutic process and the extent of their possible involvement.
Hereafter, a session with the adolescent is arranged. According to the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, a minor over the age of 12 can give consent for their psychotherapy if they are of sufficient maturity and mental capacity to understand the benefits, limitations and risk to treatment. Therefore, if the adolescent is brought to psychotherapy by the parents or legal guardians, he/she has the right to give consent for therapy.
Providing adolescents (just like any other person using psychological services) the opportunity to decide about their willingness to consult a psychologist, deciding on a psychologist and to take part in their own therapy independently, allows the teenager to develop skills which promote independence and identity. With this in mind, the involvement of the parents or legal guardians in the adolescent’s therapy is strictly with the consent of the adolescent and when indicated to be in the best interest of the adolescent’s mental, emotional and physical well-being.
Psychotherapy with adolescents can help teenagers improve their overall emotional and social functioning in their home, family, school and peers/friendship groups.
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