And now we welcome a New Year –
a year that is full of things that have never been.
Rainer Maria Rilke
The students were listening intently, like me, hanging on every word:
“….and then I decided that I wanted to tell other people- I’ve changed, and I needed therapy to do that. I couldn’t do it alone.Things were SO MUCH worse before I figured out that I wanted to be here and do this thing called life.”
The group was silent for a second and then broke out into clapping. A few people expressed gratitude and inspiration for her story. She smiled and shook her head, the emotions flashing across her face. They reminded me of fireworks; brilliant, powerful, mesmerizing. I sat, taking in my own swell of emotions, a feeling full of satisfaction, gratitude, and plain wonderment. She did it.
When I first met her, there was no way of knowing that the person she was to become, the person who had just presented some of her art therapy pieces that she had created in our sessions to a university class, would be this unrecognizable to the person she used to be. She figured out how to re-assemble her life, which had broken mentally into shards of a thousand pieces, back together so it could hold friends, a stellar report card, and dreams for a life after high school. There was room for the pendulum swing of emotions and negativity (there had to be), but only just. And she did it the hard way, one sharp piece at a time, with each piece’s emotions and memories to be sorted through. It took well over a year of weekly therapy to go from hiding from life to embracing everything it had to offer.
We all arrive neurologically hardwired for relationships, and all of us have lived through the most essential lesson-how to ask for our needs to be met, and how they were and were not met by our caregivers. And, because of internal and external factors, it’s most likely that there are both positive and negative experiences for everyone in that process.
The beauty, to me, of being human is our potential to be creative and receptive to this lesson over our lifetimes. To me, this is what therapy is about-having a place to acknowledge and accept what we don’t know about ourselves, being open and graceful and curious about learning what that is, and getting better at meeting our needs.
Therapy for teens is most powerfully about self advocacy that, when put into motion, realizes potential.
Adolescent therapy to support mental health can be needed for so many reasons. Adolescents are moving through a rich dynamic time of life in which they are shedding childhood and charging furiously headlong into adulthood. Their physical, social and emotional, and cognitive development unfolds rapidly yet can vary widely in each of these domains, making it hard to feel balanced and emotionally regulated.
Remember, though. Change is MOST possible when we feel uncomfortable.
All of us, teens included, have to experience how their current thought process, choices, and circumstances no longer fit. Therapy is a place that can create a reflection time for these changes, a place to reset and re-connect to everlasting values that are hard to remember otherwise. Therapy for teens can be a place to remember the playfulness of childhood and how easy and natural emotional expression used to be, and to recycle these natural urges in a way that is updated and useful for the person they are and the adult they are becoming. Therapy is a place to properly mourn the inevitable losses that accumulate from change, an emotional closet-cleaning of sorts. Therapy encourages teenagers to make space for the new, like driving, dating, jobs, new kinds of affection or intimacy, confidence and capableness.
And lastly, therapy is temporary. No matter how many pieces your child’s life may seem to be in, to you or to them, therapy for an adolescent should have an end. This isn’t the end of growth, change, and insight, or the one and only time they may seek therapy out, but rather a way to mark an incredibly important passage, a new readiness to embark for the the place that is “full of things that have never been”.
In the spirit of welcoming in change: you may want to know more about therapy and if it’s right for your teen. Schedule a free twenty minute consultation today to find out more about how therapy can support your teen and family. And remember, I’m parenting right alongside you.
Photo by Hunter Bryant on Unsplash