Psychologists working with adolescents
Written by Dr Hieu Tran | Clinical Psychologist
Adolescence is such an important period in development, it is marked by simultaneous and significant physiological, psychosocial and cognitive changes. Amidst these changes, adolescents are grappling with identity formation, peer pressure, academic stress, and, at times, mental health challenges. It’s understandable why navigating this phase can be both confusing and demanding for a young person. It is a time of immense growth, self-discovery, and adaptation, which is why it can be a great opportunity for adolescents to develop the life skill of seeking help and support from loved ones and professionals to navigate this crucial phase successfully.
Simultaneously, as a child progresses into adolescence, it is normal for their loved ones around them to be frequently confronted with a range of changes in their roles and relationships. For parents, guardians and caregivers this may be adjusting to their adolescent growing sense of self and identity, which may conflict with personal values and/or already set family values. For some, those caring for a young person are also continually learning to shift from their conventional caregiving roles towards more of a supportive and advisory role as adolescents increasingly seek their independence and decision-making. Communication hurdles are also common, where adolescents often become more discreet or selective in their communication, sharing fewer details about their lives, emotions, and experiences, which can prove frustrating for parents, guardians and caregivers accustomed to closer engagement. Additionally, managing big emotions where adolescents’ mood swings and intense emotions can leave those around them bewildered, as they witness sudden transitions between affection, anger, or sadness. Often these shifts and transitions can cause distress both for the family and the young person.
Our psychologists are thoughtful and passionate about working with adolescents and families to help them navigate through these challenges, develop effective life skills, and encourage healthy emotional and psychological development. The team is trained to work with young people individually as well as alongside parents, guardians, schools and the environments that the young person interacts with.
Here are some issues we can support with:
- Developmental Challenges: Adolescents go through significant physical, emotional, and cognitive changes. Psychologists help them navigate these changes and understand their identity, relationships, and goals.
- Mental Health: Adolescence is a critical period for the emergence of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Psychologists provide assessment, support, and intervention.
- Behavioural Problems: Adolescents may exhibit challenging behaviours like refusal to attend school, impulse control concerns, substance abuse, dangerous behaviours to self and others, lying, stealing, and aggressive behaviour. Psychologists work to understand the underlying causes and implement effective interventions.
- Academic Performance: Psychologists help adolescents manage academic stress, improve study skills, and address learning disabilities to optimise their educational outcomes.
- Family Dynamics: Adolescents often experience conflicts with parents and siblings. Psychologists assist in improving family communication and dynamics.
- Identity: Psychologists help adolescents explore and develop their identity by providing a supportive and reflective space for self-discovery and assisting in the understanding of their values, beliefs, and roles.
- Emotional concerns: This may include anger outbursts, an increase in stress and hypervigilance, depression, or suicidal thoughts.
- Socialisation and school concerns: This may include trouble making friends or maintaining friendships, bullying, or challenges with learning, attention, and concentration.
- Health and wellbeing concerns: That can include changes to eating and sleeping patterns, physical symptoms linked to emotional distress, and poor self-care.
- Other psychological concerns: This can include hallucinations (voices and visions that no one else can experience), seeming out of touch with reality, increased suspicion about the world, and obsessive/repetitive behaviours.
Here at Foundation Psychology the team is deeply committed to the well-being of adolescents, and our approach to working with this age group is marked by developing a therapeutic relationship that is grounded in building trust and guided by evidence-based interventions.
We understand that adolescence can be a challenging and transformative period, filled with unique struggles and uncertainties. Therefore, our psychologists place a strong emphasis on creating a trusting and compassionate environment where adolescents can openly express themselves without fear of judgment. We recognise that building this trust is the essential first step toward meaningful progress.
Our interventions are carefully tailored to meet the specific needs of each adolescent. As such, our work can be short-term or long term, with regular check-ins as to how the process is going. We acknowledge that every young person we see is unique, we utilise evidence-based approaches that are proven to be effective, while also remaining flexible and adapt to the unique circumstances of each adolescent. Whether it’s addressing issues related to anxiety, depression, academic stress, or identity exploration, we have a diverse range of therapeutic techniques at our disposal to provide the most relevant and personalised support. Strategies may include cognitive-behavioural therapy, acceptance commitment therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, art or play therapy, and more.
Collaboration is at the core of our practice. We firmly believe that adolescents are not passive recipients of therapy but active partners in their own growth and healing. Our psychologists work collaboratively with adolescents, valuing their perspectives and input throughout the therapeutic process. We aim to empower them with the skills and insights needed to navigate the challenges of adolescence and build resilience for the future. We are aware that our young people engage in multiple environments, whether it be work, school and family. As such, we work with the individual young person with a holistic understanding and curiosity of the people and places important to them. This can mean supporting the family, school, or other relevant connections to the young person to make changes, as well as supporting the young person at an individual level.
At Foundation Psychology, we are dedicated to fostering a supportive, caring, and respectful environment where adolescents can flourish. Our psychologists are committed to helping young individuals find their path toward emotional well-being, personal growth, and a brighter future. Your adolescent’s mental health and happiness are our top priorities, and we are here to guide them every step of the way.
What treatment can include:
Assessment: We can conduct assessments to identify emotional, cognitive, and behavioural challenges with adolescents. This may involve interviews, standardised tests, and observations.
Counselling and Therapy: We can provide individual or group therapy to help adolescents manage emotional challenges, build coping skills, and improve their mental well-being.
School Collaboration: We often collaborate with schools to address academic and behavioral issues, ensuring that adolescents receive appropriate support and accommodations.
Preventive Services: We can offer guidance on issues like bullying, peer pressure, and safe sexual practices to promote healthy decision-making.
Career and Future Planning: We can help adolescents explore career options, set goals, and make informed choices about their future.
Parental Support: We work with parents to enhance their understanding of adolescent development and provide guidance on effective parenting strategies.
What parents/guardians can do to help:
Supporting adolescents in therapy can be crucial for their emotional and psychological well-being. Here are some ways parents can effectively support their adolescents in engaging with therapy:
Recognise changes: This can include picking up on shifts in levels of irritability, increase in physical symptoms, changes in eating behaviours, shifts in academic performance, changes to sleep patterns, increase in substance use, engaging in risky behaviours, and withdrawal from friends and family. You don’t have to be an expert on how to work with these, but noticing changes in patterns can open up a conversation and avenue to seeking professional support.
Open Communication: Create a safe and nonjudgmental space where your adolescent feels comfortable discussing their thoughts and feelings. Encourage them to express their concerns about therapy, and listen actively to their feedback.
Encourage help-seeking behaviour: Encouraging a young person to seek support can be an important part of normalising that everyone can go through challenges from time to time. Express that you are here for them, and encourage them to talk to a professional who works specifically with young people.
Encourage them to find the right fit: Therapy is most beneficial when people have a genuine rapport with their therapist. Encourage your young person to find the one they can feel safe and establish a connection with.
Educate Themselves: Take the time to learn about the therapy process and the specific therapeutic approach being used. This will help you better understand what your adolescent is going through.
Respect Privacy: Understand that therapy is a confidential space for your adolescent to explore their thoughts and emotions. Respect their privacy and do not press for details about their sessions unless they choose to share.
Show Empathy and Support: Let your adolescent know that you support their decision to seek therapy and that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Be empathetic and validate their feelings, even if you don’t fully understand or agree with them.
Be Patient: Therapy is a process, and positive changes may take time. Be patient and realistic in your expectations for progress.
Model Self-Care: Set a positive example by practicing self-care and healthy coping strategies in your own life. Adolescents often learn by observing their parents’ behaviour.
Be Flexible: Be open to adapting your parenting approach based on the guidance of the therapist. Flexibility can promote positive change in the family dynamic.
Monitor Progress Together: Regularly discuss with your adolescent and the therapist how they are progressing in therapy and whether any adjustments to the treatment plan are needed.
By actively supporting and engaging with your adolescent’s therapy process, you can play a vital role in helping them achieve their therapeutic goals and navigate the challenges they may be facing.