Your Teen Needs Counselling?
By Gary Direnfeld, M.S.W.
teens can be tricky business. The call is invariably from an exasperated
parent who no longer can tolerate the behaviour of their son or daughter.
The teen is presented as out of control. There may be concerns of
drugs or alcohol; school performance; and/or the influence of the
peer group. The teen may be described as depressed, anxious, angry
or even suicidal.
parent wants the counsellor to meet with their son or daughter.
The subtext is a parent wanting the counsellor to talk some sense
into their child. The hope is that the counsellor can wag an even
bigger finger in front of the teen for an effect more profound than
that of the parent or miraculously get the teen to open up.
fingers doesnt work. If the teen isnt talking to their
parents, then dragging them off to the counsellor as an agent of
the parent likely wont work either. If the teen does meet
first with the counsellor and does talk, what is often heard is
a litany of complaints about the parents. The counsellor is next
in the middle between parents and teen playing he said, she
said. So what is a parent to do?
are advised to meet with the counsellor together, ahead of their
son or daughter. This achieves several objectives:
Parents can provide a detailed description of their concern and
the history of the problems. The counsellor then has a broader perspective
to understand the issues than what the teen would likely provide.
Some teens (like adults) view counselling as stigmatizing. The counsellor
may be able to avoid this by arriving at a clinical diagnosis of
the problem. This means that on the basis of the parents description,
the counsellor may come to an understanding of the problem and can
direct the parents accordingly. If the counsellor can offer meaningful
direction without even seeing the teen, then the teen may be spared
feeling stigmatized. If need be though, the counsellor can still
meet with the teen directly.
The parents will have had the opportunity to check out the counsellor
and determine if they are comfortable trusting their son or daughters
care to this person. Not all counsellors are alike and the parents
may prefer the approach or values of one counsellor to another.
parents must understand that the counsellor doesnt live with
the teen. The parents do. Even though the focus of what brought
the teen into counselling may begin with their behaviour and problems,
at some point the counselling must take focus on a positive direction
and look for solutions with parents as partners. The solutions should
include not only what not to do, but include clear direction for
what to do. Dwelling on the problems will leave participants immersed
in the negative, living in the past. Refocusing and developing positive
strategies for improving relationships and behaviour can redirect
both parents and teen to positive ends.
if you are looking for counselling for your teen:
Meet with the counsellor first.
Determine if your teen needs to be seen in discussion with the counsellor
at this meeting.
Remember, the counsellor doesnt live with your teen. Counselling
may be directed to help parents better guide, manage or influence
If your teen does attend counselling, your participation remains
After determining and addressing the problems, the focus must shift
to positive working solutions that are future oriented and facilitate
If ever you are uncertain, ask questions!
goal: Relief from distress and well-adjusted teens.
Direnfeld, M.S.W. is a social worker in Ontario, Canada, and an
expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and
family therapy, custody and access recommendations. Services include
counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
For more information, visit www.yoursocialworker.com
or call (905) 628-4847.