What You and Your Distressed Teen Need to Know About Counseling

September 12, 2017


Blog part II of "How Parents Can Empower Teens to Seek Counseling"


When attempting to help your adolescent act on their need for counseling, it can be helpful to understand that counseling is a process…


It took a while to get in this hole, it will take more than one session to get out.


One of the most disturbingly common experiences I’ve had with distressed teens is inconsistency in treatment. Not because of the teen, but oftentimes because the entire family system does not make treatment a priority. The barriers to scheduling can include (but are not limited to):

  • a teen’s extracurricular activities

  • a teen without a driver’s license is often reliant on their parent’s transportation

  • many parents have more than one child and/or more than one job

  • many teens may live at more than one location, such as in join custody scenarios

The scheduling takes work! Moreover, life happens and that one to two times per week that the family worked so hard to find suddenly doesn’t work out. But here’s the thing, your child’s wellbeing MUST take precedence.


Taking your child to counseling may not feel like a life or death choice, but in Colorado Springs, we are finding more and more instances of suicide that escalated far before anyone might have predicted.


As a counselor, I practice what I preach. I regularly go to counseling and a support group. I stay consistent, so when emergencies pop up, I can reschedule or cancel without much of a problem. The days when I feel like I don’t really need to go often end up being the most productive sessions because I am in a good place and can work hard in session.


Consistency is key.


Counseling sessions account for so little of a client’s time each week. Conversely, there are hundreds of hours each week that a client can be implementing what they discovered in session. Without consistency in attending sessions, it can be difficult to follow through on this implementation. Making therapy consistent can also begin to lay the framework for the client that all of their self care must be consistent in order to be efficient and effective.


Consistency —> Efficient and Effective


Don’t count your eggs before they hatch.


Whatever consequences drove you or your teen to counseling are probably not the root issue; they are probably the symptoms of something bigger and deeper. Think of the consequences as a highlighter of an underlying issue rather than the issue itself. Part of counseling is figuring out what life would need to look to in order to feel good about tapering down sessions or discharging from treatment. It is essential not to move too early, because a big part of the change process is not just learning how to make positive change, but also sustain that positive change over time and through upcoming challenges or disappointments.


Goal 1: Initiate change. Goal 2: Sustain change.


Clients tend to heal when their life begins to look drastically different than when they came in.


For teens, this may look like:

  • figuring out how to accept and cope with their inner world

  • cultivating healthy friendships

  • being able to cope with the people they are “stuck” with, such as classmates, coworkers and relatives

  • having healthy adults who can mentor them (paid or unpaid)

  • fostering a life that is challenging in ways that feel reasonable and exciting

  • figuring out how to have boundaries, rest and take time for self care

  • finding purpose and meaning in this life

  • helping others

When a client’s life begins to provide for them what they need for sustainable growth, they might be ready to discharge and try to take on the world with the support of their new community and lifestyle.



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5373 North Union Boulevard, Ste 103
Colorado Springs, CO 80918