I see many adolescents between the age of 12 and 21, where school/learning problems, parent-child conflict, depression, video game and drug addiction, and anxiety are the most common issues. Adolescence is the phase where the child’s capacities can vary the most; therefore the treatment approach is customized accordingly. Some teenagers (especially younger ones) may find it challenging to discuss their problems verbally for an extended length of time. With these teens, I utilize games (cards, board games) to engage the child in a preferred activity, to create rapport, and to establish a “third object” that we can focus on while simultaneously talking about real events in their lives. This is a form of play therapy for adolescents that can be highly effective.
As the child develops, play often recedes in importance and verbal expression occurs more easily. This also happens naturally as the teen develops through adolescence. With other teenagers (especially older ones), play may not be needed and these treatments have much in common with adult therapy. The emphasis with verbal teenagers is on providing a safe place and to be an empathic listener, to ask questions and ask for clarifications that help elaborate the narrative, and to point things out that the teen may not have considered. As with any patient, the therapist is an advocate and a fan of the child’s strivings and accomplishments, and a relationship of playfulness, warmth and trust grows over time. Similar to child therapy, working with the parents of the adolescents I help is an important aspect of the treatment.